Yu Ying Shih Acclaimed Sinologist Recipient of Tang Prize

2014.08.21
  • Yu Ying-shih, 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Sinology
  • Yu Ying-shih, 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Sinology
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Renowned professor and sinologist Yu Ying-Shih will go to Taiwan in September to claim his Tang Prize in the sinology category on the 15th. Speaking on the importance of the humanities, Yu praised the award’s commitment to rewarding such research all over the world. Mentioning that sinology has experienced an explosive growth to the level of global relevance, Yu hopes that the field will continue to remain culturally prized, and not affected by utilitarianism. The Tang Prize committee held Yu’s bright 60-year career in sinology in great esteem. Yu published 59 books and more than 400 papers, with an emphasis on Chinese history and culture from his original and pioneering perspectives. Numerous academics within east-west circles refer to him as the 21st century Dean of Chinese history, with the World Journal also profiling him as an example of Chinese success.Yu pointed out that there are plenty of awards in China and abroad for similar fields of study, but most of them are oriented in sociology. He recently received the Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity from the Library of Congress, but as a historian rather than a sinologist. It is therefore more important for him to win the Tang Prize, which recognizes sinology research in a way many western countries with an interest in work on Japan and China do not.Yu believes that the distinguishing feature of modern sinology is precisely its global reach. In the 1920s and 30s, for example, people had vastly differing views on where the center of sinology study was - some even said it was in Paris or Tokyo. The international nature of the field renders these national boundaries irrelevant. Modern sinology also focuses not merely on China’s history, but on its current social structures and ethnic groups, philosophy, and numerous other angles which attracts interest and attention from the United States, Japan, and Europe. For young students interested in sinology, Yu suggests that they understand the field is not a fast track to wealth and prosperity, but more a labor of love. During his upcoming trip to claim the award, he will also visit Taiwan’s Academia Sinica for a forum with numerous other sinologists, with more than 600 people expected to attend. Pointing to a report from the New York Times on the modern value of philosophy, Yu hopes that will help encourage young students to embrace the humanities.Yu initially expressed concerns to Tang Prize CEO Jesse Chern about the more politically sensitive subjects that he might touch on in his upcoming speech, such as his opposition to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule, which is brought to him up even by Chinese students in the United States. Generally shying away from political issues, though, Yu tells those students the same thing Chern told him: that the environment will be open-minded and unrestricted. Yu will also take the opportunity to mention some of Taiwan’s own high quality of humanities, while mentioning that many talented mainland researchers cannot publish or express their work because of government restrictions. Having once studied in Beijing himself for half a year, Yu disapproves of yet admires some of his fellow students who joined the Communist Party out of an idealistic enthusiasm. Yu turned down recent invitations to speak at universities in Hong Kong and China, despite central leadership approval. Though not officially affiliated with the Taiwanese government, Yu remains proud of his native land, one that broke free of millennia of the Chinese dynastic cycle of government, a place for free expression where values and humanities are looked upon favorably.

Originated from August 16, 2014 World Journal.