Feng Youlan(1895-1990) was twentieth-century China's leading original philosopher as well as its foremost historian of Chinese philosophy. He is best known in the West for his two-volumeHistory of Chinese Philosophy,which remains the standard general history of the subject. He is also known for a series of books in which he developed a philosophical system combining elements of Chinese philosophy, particularly Neo-Confucianism, with Western thinking. In his preface toThe Hall of Three Pines,Feng likens his autobiography to accounts written by "authors of ancient times, [who] on completing their major works, often wrote a separate piece to recount their origins and experiences, giving the overall plan of their work, and declaring their aims."
The Hall of Three Pinesbegins in the 1890s, during the Chinese empire, and extends to the 1980s. According to Feng, "No age before was swept up in such a maelstrom of convoluted change." The son of a district magistrate, Feng left his home in 1910 at the age of fifteen to study in the provincial capital of Kaifeng and later at the China Academy in Shanghai. During the warlord and Kuomintang years, he graduated from Peking University, obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy under John Dewey at Columbia University, and became a professor of philosophy at several of Chin's most prestigious universities. Fleeing the Japanese invasion, Feng, along with many of his university colleagues, moved south to Changsha and Kunming. After Japan's surrender, he returned to teaching in Beijing and there witnessed the chaos of the Kuomintang-Communist civil war. Feng suffered the fate of many prominent intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution and was rehabilitated after Mao's death. His remaining years were spent in Beijing, at his long-time residence, The Hall of Three Pines, where he continued to work despite the gradual loss of his eyesight. Feng completedThe Hall of Pinesshortly before returning to the U.S. to receive an honorary degree from Columbia in 1982.
The book is divided into three parts: The first is entitled "Society," which Feng describes as a record of his environment. "Philosophy" concerns Feng's work as an original philosopher and historian of Chinese philosophy and includes extensive excerpts from his own writings and discussions of these by himself and others. The final section, "Universities," is a discussion of education and delves into details of Chinese academic affairs.
The Hall of Three Pinesis a monumental work of personal and intellectual history spanning nearly nine decades in the life of modern China's one great philosopher.
Subjects: Philosophy, History
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