96 year old Professor William Theodore de Bary has been awarded the Tang Prize in sinology to recognize ‘his pioneering contributions in Confucian studies.’
The leading expert has seen his career span over seven decades, and is still currently teaching at Columbia University, New York. “He has written and edited more than 30 books, with many of them making groundbreaking contributions that provide both enlightening insight and honest critique into Confucianism,” states Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), Chairperson, Tang Prize Selection Committee.
Professor De Bary played a key role in creating a field of study around neo-Confucianism in the West as well as Confucian intellectual history. His current research focuses on comparing Western and Eastern civilisations and identifying their areas of compatibility.
In one of his books, “Nobility and Civility: Asian Ideals of Leadership and the Common Good” Professor De Bary states that utilizing only a Western perspective as a compass for civilization is not consistent with multiculturalism. He further argues that Eastern civilisations hold deeply ingrained independent traditions that are not suitable to Western model’s of development.
He believes that different cultures need to engage in open communication with each other to identify common ground, support the value of humans rights and resolve key issues facing the world today.