RVP International Conferences

About RVP Regional Network Publications Annual Seminars International Conferences Board Members Associate Membership Newsletters Support Contact


Invitation to an International Conference

Chinese Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change


A 2001 Set of Joint Colloquia in China



An active program of annual colloquia and publication has been realized for the last 10 years in Shanghai and even longer in Beijing. It is time now to establish this more firmly and integrate other regions of China.


Chinese Historical Context


China has one of the most ancient of the world’s civilizations. This has been honed through millennia to a high and rich sense of humane social life. It is rightly so deeply appreciated that being Chinese in not only a destiny to which people are subjected, but an identity of which they are proud and protective.


At the same time the history of the last century has been written largely in terms of efforts to modernize this great civilization: not to abandon it but to enrich it by inviting in, typically, Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy. This has led to long speculative debates over which is substance and which is means, as well as great practical efforts to move ahead in response to the needs of so vast a people.


Perhaps at no time has there been greater actual transformation than in the last decade in the standards and styles of life. Expectations leap forward and the shape of cities and towns are transformed, while new challenges to public welfare, employment and education emerge within. Correspondingly, its material base and national dignity depend upon its economic and cultural interaction with other peoples in an increasingly global world.


As with any reality – organic, mechanical or social – as the tempo and depth of this internal and external change increases there is ever greater dependence upon its guidance system. A society depends upon the values of its people which shape their vision of what is desirable through the many changes, and their choice of which patterns of behavior lead toward this goal.



Objective of Present Project


For this, scientific reflection is required in order to understand more adequately the values and pattern of a country’s culture, the significance of the internal transformative factors and the implications of influences from other cultures. While other sciences identify what is possible, philosophy is concerned with what is desirable and how present imperatives can be integrated within a broader context in a way that enables them to have positive, rather than negative effect. Such a philosophical and social study of the pattern of cultural transformation in China today is the goal of the present project.


Moreover, as this is a matter of the emergence of the creativity of the Chinese people as a whole it is necessary to engage in this the capabilities of the various parts of China, both to draw upon the experience of local cultures and to stimulate this level of reflection on the transformation of life in these days.


Finally, this cannot be achieved in single stroke, but must be so structured as to enable an ongoing process of reflection and publications as the circumstances of Chinese life unfold.


The objective of this project is then to develop a set of continuing research teams, linked for mutual critique and extending across China and into the future.


Method and Experience


The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy (RVP) developed a series of 10 colloquia in Eastern Europe before `89. This developed into sets of teams which meet regularly for mutual critique in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia and have published some 17 volumes of studies.


A coordinated series of related colloquia on cultural heritage and contemporary change has been in progress in China for the last 15 years. This began with the Philosophy Department of the University of Peking in 1987 and has consisted of 20 colloquia with also the National Academy of Social Sciences, the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Fudan University. Some 15 volumes have been published in this series.


The topics of these colloquia began with the classic issue of the modernization of Chinese culture and moved progressively, with the evolution of the challenges being faced by China, through such themes as "The Humanization of Technology," "Economics and Ethics" and "Culture and Spiritual Values". Held alternately in and around the perimeter of mainland China, this has been as well a key means to follow and draw upon the experience of other Asian countries in facing these problems. For instance, in this series in December 1999 a set of 6 colloquia were held at as many university centers in India in search of the Hindu roots of Chinese Buddhism.


In this way the approach of this set of colloquia in China has been developed, tested and perfected through long and successful experience in China and beyond. It is time now to stabilize this work by developing a set of research teams across China similar to that in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The present program is designated then not as an event of one month, but as the solidification of 15 years work into a network extending from Beijing to Xinjiang and back to Shanghai.



Colloquia Program for 2001


Number and Location: This project envisages a set of eight two day colloquia, each at a different university center. Two each in Beijing and Shanghai and four spread across the country at e.g., Wuhan, Chengdu, Xian, Urumqui. 

Size: Experience demonstrates that small colloquia at which all can join around the same table for extended and in depth discussion is most apt for entering in depth into an issue and generating creative insight. 

Participants: To help seed and unite these discussions a set of five to six scholars from other countries will visit the set of university centers in sequence over a four week period. In each colloquium they will be joined by five to six professional colleagues in philosophy and allied topics according to the theme.

Theme: The general theme is "Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change". Each colloquium will be a sub-topic of this in order to enable the theme to be richly and integrally explored in its many aspects. The specific sub-topics will be worked out in consultation with the interests and research of the local teams.


Schedule and Sub-topics:



21-22 Shanghai (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences): "Comparison of Chinese and Asian Cultures"

24-25 Shanghai (Fudan University): "Cultural Tradition and Contemporary Change in the Process of Education"

28-29 Wuhan (Wuhan University): "Religion and Philosophy"



2 - 4 Chengdu (Sichuan University): "Unity of Chinese Cultures and Minority Identities"

7 Xian (Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences): "Features of Classical Cultures and Minority Identities"

12 Urumqui (Xingjiang University): "Culture and Cooperation between Peoples"

14-15 Beijing (Chinese National Academy of Social Sciences): "Cultural Heritage: Resources and Limitations"

18-19 Beijing (People's University of China): "Citizen Participation and Civil Administration"


Publications: A set of volumes will be published from these conferences both in Chinese for distribution in Asia and in English for distribution to other parts of the world. It will be desirable that each colloquium be the occasion of the development of a volume by the team of local scholars. Upon receipt of an English speaking manuscript the CRVP will take care of the expenses of editing, bringing it to print and distributing it to 350 university libraries throughout the world (especially in the second and third world), as well as through the usual book channels.


In sum, the RVP has over 15 years of proven and productive experience both in and beyond China in bringing together teams of scholars at leading Academies and Universities to analyze and prescribe for the progress of cultures in times of change. The goal of this project is to extend and solidify this cooperation across China through a set of colloquia in the Spring of 2001.







(all the materials on this website are copyrighted © by the council for research in values and philosophy)

Gibbons Hall B-20, 620 Michigan Avenue, NE, Washington, DC, 20064; Telephone: 202/319-6089; Email: cua-rvp@cua.edu; Website: www.crvp.org