UK Happenings

Symposium to Explore Confucianism in Contemporary Culture


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 11, 2013) — The University of Kentucky Confucius Institute (UKCI) and the Berea College Asian Studies Program will present a free symposium on Confucianism in today's society. "Confucianism and Contemporary Culture: Media, Politics, Society, Spirituality" will be presented Nov. 15-16, at the Niles Gallery, located in the UK Lucille C. Little Fine Arts Library and Learning Center.

The cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism can be defined as a worldview, a social ethic, a political ideology, a scholarly tradition and a way of life. Often viewed as a philosophy and even a religion, Confucianism was propagated by Confucius in sixth–fifth century BCE and followed by the Chinese people for more than two millennia. While it has changed with time, it is still the substance of learning, the source of values, and the social code of the Chinese and also a major influence in other Asian countries, particularly Korea, Japan and Vietnam.

"Confucianism and Contemporary Culture" will feature several panel presentations, a film screening of "Hé nǐ zài yīqǐ" ("Together") and a keynote address by On-Cho Ng, director of the Asian Studies Program at Penn State University. Ng's presentation is titled "Interpreting Confucianism in the West." The event will also include several Q-and-A sessions with the symposium's featured scholars. Other scholars presenting at the Confucianism and Contemporary Culture" are:

  • Huajing Maske, director of UKCI;
  • Jeffery L. Richey, associate professor of religion and Asian studies at Berea College;
  • Julia K. Murray, professor emeritus of art history at University of Wisconsin-Madison;
  • Kenneth J. Hammond, professor of history at New Mexico State University; and
  • Mayfair Yang, professor of religious studies and East Asian languages and cultural studies at University of California-Santa Barbara.

The symposium will run 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Niles Gallery.

"One of the goals of UKCI is to enhance China studies program at UK. 'Confucianism and Contemporary Culture Symposium' is an example of such endeavor -- to bring a cohort of distinguished scholars to discuss China related topics right here at UK. We hope the UK students and faculty will take full advantage of this truly extraordinary opportunity. I think the students will enjoy Chen Kaige's award-winning movie 'Together,' to be introduced by leading Confucianism scholar Jeff Richey from Berea College," Maske said.  

Keynote speaker Ng specializes in the intellectual history of late imperial China. With abiding interests in Confucianism as a dynamic and multifaceted tradition, his work is situated at the intersection of various fields: history, philosophy and religious studies. Apart from "Cheng-Zhu Confucianism in the Early Qing: Li Guangdi and Qing Learning" (2001), and "Mirroring the Past: The Writing and Use of History in Imperial China" (2005), he has edited several volumes and published scores of book chapters and articles in a variety of major academic periodicals, including Journal of the History of Ideas, Journal of Chinese Religions, Philosophy East and West, Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Journal of World History.

Currently, Ng is completing a book on the jinwen (New Script) classical commentaries in 18th and 19th-century China. While the work is primarily an investigation of the distinct hermeneutical disciplines and philosophical concerns of a Confucian exegetical tradition, it also explores the interpretive possibilities opened up by contemporary Western theories of reading and understanding.

Ng also works with various academic publishers and organizations in multiple editorial and administrative capacities. He is co-editor of the book series on ‘"History of Chinese Thought" and serves as associate editor and book review editor for the Journal of Chinese Philosophy. Ng sits on the editorial board of Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy and is a member of the steering committee of both the Confucian Tradition Group and Religions in Chinese and Indian Cultures: A Comparative Perspective Consultation Group of the American Academy of Religion. For a decade, Ng has chaired the university seminar on Neo-Confucianism at Columbia University. 

A gateway for Chinese language, culture and art to the people Kentucky, UKCI provides leadership, support and coordination for Chinese language and programs in K-12 schools as well as on UK's campus; assists in establishing and maintaining faculty and student exchange between Colleges of Fine Arts; conducts Chinese language and cultural exchange; and promotes education about China on campus, across the Bluegrass region, and throughout the Commonwealth.

The Asian Studies Program at Berea College is a multidisciplinary approach to studying the cultures of Asia. Asian studies graduates develop a broad understanding of Asian cultures, preparing alumni to be able to apply their knowledge and skills in a wide variety of non-academic enterprises as Asia becomes more important on the national and international stages. Past graduates have gone to graduate or law school, have become teachers in Kentucky high schools, and have become English teachers in Asia, among other pursuits.

MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Hale, 859-257-8716;