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Invitation to an International Conference

Cultural Tradition and Social Progress



Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

Fudan University
Shanghai University

Shanghai, P.R. China

June 29-July 1, 2004



 The issue of Chinese cultural identity and the progress of its people is not new to China. Indeed it can be said to be the fundamental and sometimes tragic issue of this great nation for over a century. Now it returns and in especially positive and hopeful form.


No longer is it a desperate question of whether the nation can care for its people and stand with honour among the nations. As we enter the newly global age China emerges as a great – potentially the greatest industrial and economic power, its cities and infrastructure are being totally rebuilt and it foresees playing its rightful creative role in international relations (see Yu Xintian, Cultural Impact on International Relations: Chinese Philosophical Studies, XX).


What appears to be emerging now, as in many nations around the world, is the issue of what we want to make of ourselves, what we want to become; what role in this should be played by our cultural heritage less as coming from the past than as our present responsibility  to reshape and pass it on as guide and inspiration for the life of subsequent generations.


This will require hermeneutic understanding of the nature of a culture and a tradition, scientific understanding of the nature of society and its transformation, and philosophical insight into the relation of the two as the responsible work of a great people.


Yet in this no people is now alone. We live in a world of intensive interaction: economic and political, informational and cultural. Will there be room for each and all, or will the homogenizing impact of this interchange bleach out the humane elements that have given quality to life? Can the heritage of each contribute to a future that is more rich for the progress of all? If it seems certain that the success of each people will depend upon their ability to relate creatively to others, what capabilities does the Chinese tradition bring to this challenge and how can these be creatively applied?


New opportunities and responsibilities open before us – which is as it should be. The purpose of this conference will be to explore these with appropriate philosophical means in order to generate the insight needed for the path ahead.








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