Out of the shattered fragments of modern knowledge a new world must be built, and the East and West must build it together.
Thanks to visionary cosmopolitans like Lin Yutang and Richard Wilhelm I got a sense of the breadth and depth of China’s intellectual reservoir. For me the examination of Chinese thinking, of their specific approaches and interdisciplinary methods of resolution remain an inexhaustible source of inspiration. To make these thoughts better known and – in the best case – applicable to others has always been the guiding theme for my work with regard to China and its people.
Masterminds and Models
Lin Yutang (1895-1976) was a tireless writer and translator. During his time - dominated by wars and turbulences - he promoted the beauty and wisdom of Chinese philosophy and literature, driven by his concern to increase the understanding between the East and the West.
I think the word “understanding” is a great word. It asserts the kinship of all mankind, both in its love for truth and beauty, and in its folly and its foibles.
Thanks to his outstanding gift for languages he made Chinese classics accessible for the Western world and complemented them with his own commentaries and observations from his travels to the U.S., France and Germany.
Lin’s European counterpart was Richard Wilhelm (1873-1930) who served as a theologian and teacher in Qindao, a city on China’s Northeastern coast. Wilhelm’s translations of the work of Confucius, Laozi or the „I Ching“ (The Book of Changes) are still considered exemplary. Also for Wilhelm his work served as a tool of opposition against the troubles of his time: Only one year after his arrival in China in 1899, the Boxer Rebellion broke out; and the Japanese occupation following the First Sino-Japanese War made his work as a teacher almost impossible.
Our time is somewhat terrible. Everything that is dignified and steady seems to crumble and dissolve. But even if the mortal part of Confucius might disappear in this new world: the immortal part of his work, the big truth of harmony between nature and culture will remain; and it will spur a new world-view and figuration of humanity.