Historian Lin Yu-sheng, a specialist in the history of Chinese thought, made his first visit to the Tang Prize Foundation Wednesday (April 20), where he met with Tang Prize Foundation CEO Jenn-Chuan Chern to weigh in on the prize’s category in Sinology. That a prize in Sinology was founded in Taiwan is no coincidence, argued Lin, since Taiwan has long been an outlier in the field. He also believes that founding such a prize is significant not only for Taiwan, but for the international field of Sinology.
Sinology is not the only category praised by Lin. As any constitutional democracy must establish rules of fair play for its society, Lin argues that rule of law is also important. Tang Prize CEO Jenn-Chuan Chern agreed, adding that legal and systematic mechanisms for ensuring the welfare of a society are at the core of the Rule of Law category.
On the topic of prizes in general, Lin analyzed what allows a prize to endure the test of time. The key to staying power in an international prize, said Lin, is whether its recipients’ accomplishments tally with reality and the prize’s intention. According to Lin, the Tang Prize fits these requirements for the thoroughness and exactitude it brought to selecting the very first recipients. Lin adds that if the prize is able to sustain this level of rigor, it will impact both Taiwan and the world.
Lin, lifetime member of Taiwan’s Academia Sinica and Emeritus Professor of the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is in close company with the inaugural recipient of the Tang Prize in Sinology, Yu Ying-Shih. Both are scholars of intellectual history. Both studied and taught in North America. Both are known proponents of freedom. When asked of Yu’s accomplishments at the announcement in 2014, Lin remarked that “to this day, no one has been able to surpass Professor Yu.”