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LUCIP Forum: A Comparative Study of Zhuangzi, Fang Yizhi, and Heidegger’s Views of Life and Death

Thursday 20 October 2022
Centre for Intercultural Philosophy events 2022
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


A Forum Hosted by the LUCIP and the Birmingham Centre for Philosophy of Religion
Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation Global Philosophy of Religion Project

Thursday, Oct. 20th, 10:30 am-12:30 pm Dutch time
Thursday, Oct. 20th, 16:30 pm-18:30 pm Beijing time

Zoom link:  https://universiteitleiden.zoom.us/j/62925598952?pwd=cjlkQ09PUjNPdXd2MmMrM0g2eFU4Zz09
Meeting ID: 629 2559 8952
Passcode: Lucip@1020

Organized by:
Yuanping Shi, Ph.D. Student, Leiden Institute for Philosophy
and Prof. Douglas L. Berger, Director, LUCIP

Translated by:
Li-fan Lee, Ph.D. Student, Leiden Institute for Philosophy

Professor Wu Genyou

Forum Talk

Wu Genyou, Professor and former Dean of the School of Philosophy, Dean of the Advanced Institute of Civilization Dialogue, Director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy and Cultural Strategy, Wuhan University


Wu Genyou is the director of the Academic Committee of the Ministry of Humanities and the International Confucian Federation. He is also the China Vice President of the Philosophy History Society and editor-in-chief of "Comparative Philosophy and Comparative Culture," among other titles. His research interests range from the philosophy of Ming and Qing dynasties and modernization, comparative philosophy, the philosophical thoughts of pre-Qin scholars to China’s political philosophy and the freedom in Chinese and Western intellectual history. He is the author of China’s Intellectual History of Society (Wuhan University Press, 1997), The Comparison and Accommodation between Chinese and Western Philosophy (Wuhan University Press, 1997), Theories of Pre-Qin Scholars (Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 1998), The Early Evaluation of Modern System of Values: from Li Zhi to Dai Zhen (Wuhan University Press, 2004) and Chinese People’s Concept of Freedom—the Performance and Charm of Freedom(Guangxi People’s Publishing House, 2002).


In the seven “Inner Chapters” of the Zhuangzi, not only the ideas of equalizing life and death and “respecting Dao and obeying life” can be found, but also a pursuit of methods on “how to overcome human beings’ fear of death,” methods such as “fasting of mind”, “putting life and death outside of oneself” and “forgetting”, aiming to achieve a state of “unity with Dao” and “sitting in forgetfulness”. Fang Yizhi, on the one hand, sees “the question of life and death” as “the paramount world-awakening ritual bell”, with which he warns those in secular society who are either caught up in their daily lives or indulging in the land of wealth and tenderness, asking people “not to waste life in vain and treat death carelessly” in their real life in order to make one’s own life in tune with Dao. On the other hand, he also asks people to observe the life and death of all people through a reflection on the life and death of the individual self, and to take the death of their parents seriously, in order to transcend the individualistic caring for one’s own life and to equalize life and death of Zhuangzi. In the cultural context of modernity, Heidegger proposes “Being-towards-death” to the individual to transcend “das Man”, in order to realize the meaning of life as existing in this world in order to embody the property of freedom of man through an opening of life’s possibilities. Zhuangzi, Fang Yizhi, and Heidegger are in this historical meeting of the past, present, as well as East and West. While Heidegger and Fang Yizhi did not know each other, they both had a better understanding of Zhuangzi than of each other. By bringing them together to discuss the important question of “life and death”, it is hoped that their insights will enlighten us who live in the present to treat this life of ours properly, to excel at not wasting life in vain and not treating death carelessly.

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