A new dialogue centre at Fudan University

by on Friday, 26 February 2010 8624 hits Comments
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In January 2010, the School of Philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai officially founded the Xu Guangqi Matteo Ricci Research Center for the Dialogue among Civilizations and Religions, abridged as Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute. Located within the premises of Fudan, the launching of the new center coincides with two world-class events:

- Shanghai World Expo will showcase the contribution that Shanghai, home of the scholar and statesman Xu Guangqi, can make to the global quest for a renewed model of sustainable development and cultural diversity;

- 2010 is also year of celebration in the honour of Matteo Ricci, who died on the 11th of May 1610.

The Xu-Ricci Dialogue Research Center is thus named after the Shanghai-born scholar and statesman Xu Guangqi (1562-1633) and the Jesuit sinologist Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), whose friendship pioneered the dialogue pursued between China and the West in modern times.

In recent years several academic institutions have been created to focus on 'dialogue' from a trans-disciplinary perspective. 'Dialogue' can be related to conflict resolution, global issues and peace building; it might be related to negotiations on salary, work safety or social advantages between entrepreneurs, the State and civil society at large; it often centres on interactions among cultures, religions and even civilizations. In such a case it is concerned both with substance (dialogue on certain topics considered as particularly sensitive and contentious) and methodology (ways of fostering a respectful and fruitful dialogue and to foster procedures akin to the purpose for which dialogue is engaged).

The Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at Fudan University inscribes itself within this tradition of trans-disciplinary research. At the same time, it develops a few characteristics linked to its setting and its origin:

- The Institute is part of Fudan University School of Philosophy. As such, it aims at focusing on epistemological issues: 'Dialogue' corresponds to an array of philosophical styles, exemplified in the Socratic, Confucian, Indian or scholastic traditions, to name just a few. In other words, the research on 'dialogue' raises questions linked to the relationship between 'styles of communication' and 'categories of truth.' These questions are formalized differently according to times and cultures – and this variety of forms and procedures is part of the study program of the Institute.

- At Fudan University, the School of Philosophy includes a department of religious studies, the development of which has proven to be particularly vigorous. Therefore, the Institute wishes to serve in a special way the qualitative progress of religious studies at Fudan. It does so by focusing on 'religious dialogue' as an academic topic. Its point of departure is that the study of the interaction between different religious and spiritual traditions is particularly fruitful for understanding the nature, history and dynamics of each tradition when independently considered. Furthermore, in a period where the religious landscape of China is changing rapidly, the interaction (or lack of it) between the different religions of contemporary China has become a topic of special relevance. This requires a pragmatic approach to religious dialogue rooted into social sciences, humanities and field research.

- By referring to the friendship that developed between Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci, the Institute is indeed making a statement: Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci fostered a cross-interpretation of different canonical traditions, namely the Confucian and Christian ones; they anchored their common quest into their shared passion towards scientific truths; ultimately, their dialogue flourished into a deep and genuine friendship, which reminds us of the humane dimension of all the dialogical endeavours in which we engage.

- Founded during the year of Shanghai World Expo and the 400th celebration of Ricci’s death, the Institute aims at modestly contributing to the ongoing dialogue between China and the rest of the world. China’s spiritual, religious and cultural resources are continually reinterpreted when meeting with other traditions, and similarly, they challenge and reinterpret the ones they meet with. Such a process receives special significance at a time where the global community has to share and redistribute the entirety of its resources – material riches, knowledge and spiritualities – so as to answer the challenges that determine its destiny.





Last modified on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 15:53
Li Tiangang (李天綱)

Professor Li Tiangang was born in 1957 in Shanghai. He is professor in the Faculty of philosophy of Fudan University, which is also his alma mater. Among the positions he has held previously to his current one, he has been a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He has been invited for short terms teaching or research positions in Hong-Kong, Canada, France and the United States. His numerous publications include books on hermeneutics, Ming dynasty intellectual history and Shanghai history.

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