Online Lecture:

Zbigniew Wesołowski SVD: “The Place and Role of Sino-Confucian Culture and Confucianism in World History according to Liang Shuming’s Thought on Life”

International Symposium on “Confucianism in Europe and America: History and Meaning (儒学在欧美的传播及其当代意义)


Institute for International Communication of Chinese Culture and Beijing Foreign Studies University


Liang Shuming’s understanding of Chinese culture, which he conceived of as Sino-Confucian culture, and his understanding of Confucianism differ from common and familiar understandings in the Sinological-academic world. It seems that the best way to understand Liang Shuming is in terms of his search for an authentic existence. Liang is really a multi-faceted personality which reveals itself in his thought and action. His thinking predominantly grew from his life-world, and this world faced a threefold crisis, i.e., his individual crisis (Liang as a particular human being), a national crisis (Liang as a Chinese, a human being belonging to a particular human culture) and a universal crisis (Liang as a part of humankind). As to Liang’s understanding of Sino-Confucian culture and Confucianism, the author of this contribution has come to some basic results: 1) The perspective of Liang’s understanding of the place and role of Sino-Confucian culture has its objective historical reasons; 2) the perspective of Liang’s understanding of the place and role of Sino-Confucian culture has his personal and subjective reasons; 3) basic elements of his understanding of life and culture were life’s will with its three directions: 1) to demand and to go forward; 2) to adjust one’s own intentions, to hold the golden mean; and 3) to turn back and to move backwards; besides there is a necessity of human life to deal and solve a threefold problem; 4) weishi-Buddhist epistemology as an instrument for understanding the essence of human culture complements the first three basic elements; 5) the soteriological Buddhist perspective of dealing with and solving the threefold problem of human life as overcoming the dual attachment; 6) Liang assigned a special place and role to Sino-Confucian culture and Confucianism as the second stage in the world history; 7) In his work Zhongguo wenhua yaoyi, this Sino-Confucian culture made some “wonderful” cultural shifts: According to Liang, in Sino-Confucian China a) morality was substituted for religion; b) the concept tianxia was substituted for the state; c) customs were substituted for law; d) feelings were substituted for force/coercion, e) diversity in occupations were substituted for social classes, and f) the individual was substituted for social organization [Confucian familism; collectivism]); 8) according to Liang, Sino-Confucian culture is a result of its prematurity/precocity (Dong–Xi wenhua ji qi zhexue), or in other words, the early manifestation of (moral) reason (Zhongguo wenhua yaoyi); 9) the author of this contribution understands Liang’s cultural thought as a kind of “Sinodicy” (Huazhenglun 華正論) as a philosophical theory of the justification of Chinese culture; 10) Liang saw signs and ways of a contemporary Confucianization of world culture (an imminent renaissance of Sino-Confucian culture worldwide; an on-going Confucianization of Western philosophy; a Confucianization of religion in the future of humankind; a prediction of the love between man and woman as being the most formidable problem of the imminent future of mankind); 11) the present economic and international rise of communist China does not conform with Liang Shuming’s great vision of Sino-Confucian culture.

100 years have elapsed since Liang Shuming held his lectures on Eastern and Western Philosophies and their cultures in Zouping, Shandong. All in all, he was a man of pithy but in-depth insights and of prophetic intuition.