The Hall of Three Pines

The Hall of Three Pines: An Account of My Life

Translated by Denis C. Mair
Copyright Date: 2000
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Hall of Three Pines
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6273-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Denis Mair
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Feng Youlan
      (pp. 3-35)

      I was born on December 4, 1895 (the sixteenth day of the tenth lunar month, in the year ofyiwei) in my grandfather’s house in the town of Qiyi, Tanghe County, Henan Province. My grandfather Yuwen, whose courtesy name was Sagely March, had three sons, of whom my father Taiyi, or Marquis of Trees, was second. The uncle older than my father was Yunyi, or Crane Pavilion, and the younger one was Hanyi, or Cool Pavilion. My father became a doctor of letters in the twenty-third year of the Guangxu reign (1895), and my two uncles were both bachelors of...

      (pp. 36-133)

      Not long after summer vacation, the Revolution of 1911 began. The Wuchang Revolt accomplished its purpose in one stroke, and the Qing government, finding itself at a loss, sent the Beiyang Army, headed by Minister of War Yinchang, to put down the rebellion in the North. Yinchang led his army to Xinyang and stayed put there, not even daring to cross the border into Hebei. The whole nation was reeling from these earth-shaking changes. Every day brought news of rebellions in all the provinces, but we did not know what was true and what was not. The students in the...

      (pp. 134-202)

      Following the withdrawal of Fu Zuoyi’s forces and before the arrival of the Liberation Army, there was something of a power vacuum in the area around Qinghua. Nevertheless, society was remarkably well ordered, and the people were content with peaceful pursuits. The Qinghua campus was calm, and life went on as usual for faculty and students. After a few days, the Liberation Army moved into Haidian at last. They did not enter Qinghua but only set up a guard post at the gate, with a Liberation Army comrade standing guard. Students and faculty from Qinghua hurried to Haidian to welcome...

      (pp. 205-220)

      I began my studies against the backdrop of changes instituted by the reform faction of the late Qing dynasty. The foremost reform was to abandon eight-legged essays and examination poems in favor of essays on policy. Actually the essays on policy were only another form of eight-legged essay. At any rate, I was spared learning the traditional eight-legged essays. I started reading articles translated from the Western press and studying a little of what was called “new learning,” or “Western learning.” Like those who went before me, the aim of my studies was to “win preferment through scholarship.”

      At seventeen...

      (pp. 221-252)

      My main work in the 1930s was the writing of my two-volumeHistory of Chinese Philosophy.Since I commenced work on this in the late 1920s, my account begins with the late 1920s. Along the way I speak of the state of research into the history of Chinese philosophy at that time.

      During the New Culture Movement of the May Fourth period, an epoch-making book in the study of Chinese philosophy was published. This was the first volume of Hu Shi’sOutline History of Ancient Chinese Philosophy.Hu Shi came to Beijing University in 1917, where he taught a course...

      (pp. 253-286)

      In the ten uprooted years of my life during the turmoil of the Anti-Japanese War, I wrote six books:A New Philosophy of Principle(published in 1939),New Discourse on Events(1940),New Social Admonitions(1940),A New Inquiry into Man(1943),A New Inquiry into the Tao(1944), andA New Understanding of Language(1946). The uprootedness and turmoil did not interfere with my writing. The vicissitudes of a nation and the transformations of history were what opened my eyes and gave me impetus. Without this impetus, these books would not have been written. Even if they had been...

      (pp. 287-310)

      On july 8, 1957, theGuangming Dailypublished an article of mine entitled “On the Inheritance of China’s Philosophical Legacy.” The main portions of the article are as follows:

      Over the past few years, the teaching and research of the history of Chinese philosophy have taken an overly negative approach to China’s ancient philosophy. With all this negation, there is not going to be much left to inherit. I feel that we should seek a broader understanding of China’s philosophical thought.

      In order to fully understand certain propositions in the history of China’s philosophy, we should pay attention to the...

      (pp. 313-331)

      Before the Ten Years of Chaos, Beijing University president Lu Ping advanced his program for running Beijing University: “To carry on the heritage of the Grand Academy, to learn from the Soviet Union, and to draw on the knowledge of England and America.” After the outset of the Great Chaos, his program was criticized, and it was taken as one of his crimes. I, too, had said that the history of Beijing University should begin with the Grand Academy of the Han dynasty, but the criticism was not leveled at me.

      I said that the history of Beijing University should...

      (pp. 332-348)

      In 1908, the American government agreed with the Chinese government (the Qing dynasty government) to return to China the so-called excess funds from the Boxer Rebellion reparations. These funds were to be used by the Chinese government to send students to study in America. In 1909, the Qing government set up an “Office for Study in America,” which was to be in charge of sending students to America. From 1909 to 1911, three groups of students were chosen for study in America, among them Hu Shi, Mei Yiqi, and Zhao Yuanren. People at Qinghua think of the students in these...

      (pp. 349-364)

      The anti-japanese war was a high point of the anti-imperialist, anti-feudalist struggle of Chinese society. The victorious conclusion of this war, and of the War of Liberation, marked the emergence of Chinese society from its semi-feudal, semi-colonial status. With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese people finally stood on their own feet. In this process, Beijing, Qinghua, and Nankai Universities joined together and maintained adequate standards of education under the adversities of war, carrying on the tradition of May Fourth. This was the historical significance of Southwest Union University.

      During the period of the Changsha Provisional...

      (pp. 365-374)

      Of the four points commemorated on Union University’s memorial tablet (see Chapter 10), three have been swept into the past by the changing tides of history. Only “the new fate of our ancient state” has not been relegated to the annals of history: What is more, it is still the starting point of a new era. Victory in the Anti-Japanese War merely laid the foundation for the renewed life of our ancient nation. On this foundation, a structure of unprecedented magnificence is yet to be built. This was what I meant by my words in the text of the memorial:...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 375-392)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 393-410)