Established in Taiwan, the Tang Prize has grown to be one of the most prominent awards in the world. From June 18 to 21, the 2020 Tang Prize laureates will be announced in 4 press conferences starting at 10 a.m. Taipei time (GMT+8) each day and livestreamed on its official website: https://www.tang-prize.org/en/first.php. While previous laureates are mainly from America, Europe and Japan, the diversity of the countries where the latest winners are located demonstrates how the prize has transcended geographical, cultural, racial, language or religious barriers. Some of them have achieved international recognition. Others are fervid activists striving for their noble ideals. What brings them together is the simple belief that what is virtuous is what benefits us all. Therefore, their pursuit of this virtue, not always attracting great publicity but always worthy of great admiration, perfectly epitomizes the theme of the 2020 Tang Prize: for a world of virtue.
The havoc wreaked by Covid-19 has woken us up to the most urgent, existential crises mankind faces in the 21st century, all of them inextricably linked with the prize’s 4 award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology and Rule of Law. The appearance of a new virus has prompted us to seek sustainable ways to develop a harmonious relationship with Mother Nature; progress made in biopharmaceutical research indicates when we can have a vaccine to fundamentally stymie the spread of the virus; Sinology opens the door for us to China’s rich history and literature, where the concept of the golden mean that guides our philosophy of life is enshrined; Rule of Law alerts us to the inadequacy of our mechanism of international cooperation and urges us to reflect on the conflicts seen between different political cultures and between different institutional arrangements.
Named after the Tang dynasty, China’s own golden era, the Tang Prize wants to highlight the values the dynasty is characteristic of, a tolerant attitude toward cultural heterogeneity fostered by incorporating the West into the East, and it is only through the integration of mankind’s achievements in sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and the rule of law can lasting peace prevail in a community, a society, a country and benefit any individual living on the planet. As early as 30 years ago, Dr. Samuel Ying, founder of the Tang Prize and chairman of the Ruentex Group, has started to invest in education and has foreseen the importance of this integration. For this reason, he established the Tang Prize Foundation in 2012 and created these four categories, in the hope that those who have made invaluable contributions to the world, especially experts and scholars who dedicated their life to finding solutions to all kinds of complicated problems, can be duly rewarded.
Previous Tang Prize laureates come from a variety of backgrounds: in Sustainable Development, the prize has been awarded to the godmother of sustainable development, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway) in 2014, the godfather of energy efficiency, Arthur H. Rosenfeld (US) in 2016, and eminent global warming scientists James E. Hansen (US) and Veerabhadran Ramanathan (US) in 2018. The medal in Biopharmaceutical Science went to two authorities on cancer immunotherapy, James P. Allison (US) and Tasuku Honjo (Japan) in 2014, three pioneers in CRISPR gene-editing technology Emmanuelle Charpentier (France), Jennifer A. Doudna (US), and Feng Zhang (US) in 2016, and three leading lights in targeted cancer therapy, Tony Hunter (UK/US), Brian Druker (US) and John Mendelsohn (US) in 2018. Inaugural Sinology laureate was Yin-shih Yu (US). “Confucius of the West”, William Theodore de Bary (US) won the 2016 Sinology prize, which was then accepted by doyen of Tang poetry Stephen Owen (US) and acclaimed expert on China’s socioeconomic history Yoshinobu Shiba (Japan) in 2018. Justice Albie Sachs (South Africa) was awarded the inaugural Tang Prize in Rule of Law. Sachs presented the award to former UN Special Representative for International Migration, Madam Justice Louse Arbour (Canada) in 2016, and again to world-renowned legal philosopher Joseph Raz (UK) in 2018. While their lifelong devotion to their specialist fields won them a Tang Prize, the deep insights they offered to the world have also enabled us to examine critical contemporary issues from a more comprehensive point of view. Which outstanding individual or organization will be named the 2020 Tang Prize laureates? Hold your breath and you won’t be disappointed.
Laureates in each category receive NT$40 million (approx. US$1.33 million) cash prize, NT$10 million (approx. US$0.33 million) research grant, a medal made of 99.99% pure gold and designed by Japanese designer Fukasawa Naoto, and a diploma. The 2020 Tang Prize week will begin on September 20.