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On the Founding and Historical Heritage of ISCP

1975- Present

Chung-Ying Cheng
Founder and Honorary President,  ISCP


The seedbed for the formation of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) was the Fourth International East-West Philosophers Conference which took place at University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Summer of 1964. At the conference, those senior in the rank who represented the Chinese tradition were Professors Wing Tsit-chan, Thome Fang, Mei Yi-chi, Tang Chun-yi, and Hsieh Yu-wei. Among the younger generation were myself, Drs Shu-hsien Liu, Huang Shui-chi and Philip Huang.  As both participant and host I invited all Chinese philosophy scholars to gather and talk about the role and the future development of Chinese philosophy in the setting of contemporary Western scholarship. I proposed that we formed an informal association for the purpose of establishing contact and rendering mutual support in matters of teaching and developing Chinese Philosophy. At the same time I planned also to organize and found a formal society for Chinese Philosophy for promoting study and research in Chinese philosophy on an international basis.


The difficulties for forming a cross-national association or society with practically no support must be recognized at that early time. However, I decided to first contact people doing Chinese philosophy in US and to publish a Chinese Newsletter as a means of maintaining communication.  This turned out to be a challenging operation for at that time because there were practically no professional philosophers teaching Chinese philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at any university in USA. I collected up to 18 scholars teaching Chinese thought in History Department or in Department of Asian Studies throughout US and listed our membership as 35 members by including scholars from Taiwan and Hong Kong including our participants at the 4th IEWPC.

Convinced that Chinese Philosophy has a great potential for developing human self-understanding and understanding of humanity in a global community of scholars and philosophers, I edited and produced an informal publication titled Chinese Philosophy Newsletter in 1965 which was continued and circulated until 1969. This set the stage for my founding of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy in 1973.




In publishing my Chinese Philosophy Newsletter from 1965 to 1969,  fortunately I was able to enlist the help of   a young Taijichuan Master, Mr. Peng Tzuyou to do handwritten copy work  and Stencil printing after I produced relevant reports and did the proper editorial work. I published the Newsletter intermittently for five years before I formally registered for the formation of an official Society for Chinese Philosophy as a non-profit corporation. I hired a former judge Mr. Lum to do the official registration work at the Government Regulating Agency at that time. On June 16, 1975, the Society for Chinese Philosophy was officially born with the File Number 28885D2.. Knowing that it was difficult to have our members to meet on yearly basis as an assembly I decided that we should have annual group meetings at American Philosophical Association (APA)-Eastern Division, but we should have international conferences every two years on a selected university campus in US or elsewhere. This turned out to be a wise decision because we can use APA annual meetings as a venue to promote our Society and recruit new members of the Society and then to use the International Conference to build our strength and to promote Chinese Philosophy as a discipline and as a philosophy trend on the world philosophy scene. The strategic importance of this policy must be appreciated in the context of an environment in US in the 60Å¡ where the title “Chinese Philosophy” as a theoretical discipline was not recognized in the listing of specializations of APA, whereas “Chinese philosophy” as a historical discipline was taught in the name of Chinese thought or Chinese intellectual history in various Non-Philosophy Departments. For a long time I was one of the very few who taught Chinese Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy. It must be noted in this connection that University of Hawaii at Manoa was the first University in US to authorize teaching of Chinese philosophy in its Department of Philosophy as early as 30s.


Two years prior to the founding of the Society, I founded and started in 1973 to publish the Journal of Chinese Philosophy for the purpose of providing academic support for the campaign to recognize Chinese Philosophy as a specialized field of study and teaching in the Discipline of Philosophy in US and in the world. As a result, in 1983 APA began to list Chinese Philosophy as a subject of specialization in Philosophy and in the same period the Society was granted full Membership in the International Federation of Philosophy Societies (IFPS). As the President of the Society I was invited to organize the first Round Table on Chinese Philosophy in the 1983   XVII World Congress of Philosophy by Professor Cauchy, the President of the Congress.


1-6 International Conferences

Our 1st International Conference was held in June 1978 on the campus of Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, with Professor Lik-kuen Tong as the Chair of the Local Committee for the Conference. Lik-kuen who got  his Ph. D. degree in philosophy from New School for Social Research in New York  was very enthusiastic about supporting our conference. Earlier in 1977 Lik-kuen suggested to me that we added the term “International” to the title of our Society. I took this suggestion and incorporated the added word in an amendment to our registration in Honolulu on November 17, 1977.   From 1978 on, our Society has become known as International Society for Chinese Philosophy or ISCP.

I served as the President of ISCP for 8 years from 1975 to 1983 and had organized and presided over our Bi-annual   International Conferences from 1978 to 1989.   The 2nd International Conference was held in June 1980 on the campus of the College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, where Chang Chung-yue, a young Chinese member of the  Department of Philosophy in the College of Charleston, was the Chair of the Local committee. The 3rd International Conference was held in early August 1983 on the campus of Victoria College of University of Toronto with Professors Julia Ching appointed as the Local Chairperson. It is to be noted that it is the first time we stepped out of US to hold our International Conference and it was at this Conference Professor Antonia Cua was elected President for the Society for next two years and I was named the Founder of the Society and  Honorary President (Professor Wing-tsit Chan was also Honorary President).  Our 4th International Conference was held in July 1985 on the campus of State University of New York at Stony Brook due to the excellent coordination of Professors Walter Watson (Local Chair) and  Robert Neville (Sponsor) who provided efficient and strong local support. It was in this Conference that we had for the first time participation of scholars directly coming from Chinese Mainland.   In June1987 we held our 5th International Conference at University of California at San Diego for which Professor Sandra Wawrykto at State College of California at San Diego, was appointed the Chair of the Local Committee. As President elected in 1985, Professor Lik-kuen Tong gave his Presidential Address in this very exciting Conference.

In  June 1989 we had our 6th International Conference on the campus of University of Hawaii at Hilo, a conference for which Professor John Hsueh-li Cheng in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at UH-Hilo was appointed as the Chair of the Local Committee. It is the year where the Kilauea Volcano erupted in the Island of Hawaii and Hsueh-li arranged a truly memorable visit for the participants to the Volcano Park to witness the lava flow.


7-12 International Conferences


In 1990 I contacted Professor Wolfgang Bauer at Munich, Germany and asked whether he would sponsor our 7th ISCP International Conference in connection with Munich University in Southern Germany. It was nice of him to fly over  to Honolulu to discuss this possibility and then quickly let me know about his positive decision after he went back to Munich. We had then our 7th International Conference in Summer of 1991. One memorable thing to mention is that Professor Bauer had been able to provide 22 grants for 22 Chinese mainland scholars for their round air travel fares and about 5 days room and board. This was one of the most generous conferences I have ever attended. I was deeply impressed by the show of artistic talents of Professor Bauer at our concluding banquet in a Chinese Restaurant on the top of an Island Hill in Starnberger See near Tutzing.   In the business meeting in this 1991 Conference, both China and Taiwan bade for hosting next conference and it was agreed that we would have our next conference in China first and then would have our next next one in Taiwan. With this spirit of cooperation we had our 8th International Conference at Peking University in July 1993 with Professor Tang Yijie presiding over the Conference as the President of ISCP and Professor Chen Lai as the Local Committee Chair.  There are many good things to say about our first conference in Beijing. It marked for the first time the Chinese official recognition and acceptance ever extended to an International Conference in Chinese Philosophy, and the great success of the Conference resulting from good cooperation of Peking University, Nankai University and Wuhan University was truly remarkable.

In 1994 Professor Robert Neville was elected President of ISCP.    Following the good example of Professor Bauer, he was able to secure over 20 grants for our colleagues in China to attend and participate in the 9th International Conference which was held at Boston University. With its near 200 participants it was the largest gathering for the Conference up to date and we had for the first time (thanks to Neville’s efforts) an official delegation from Russia, representing the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It was in this Conference I was presented a Degree of Honoris Doctrois from the Institute of the Academy.

Before Taiwan was ready for the next conference I   negotiated with Professor Song Suk-ku, the President of Dongguk University in Seoul to be our next conference sponsor. With the help of Professor Kwang-sae Lee at Kent State University of Ohio, our Society’s Treasurer, I was able to have the Professor Song to agree to sponsor the conference with appropriate required provisions for our Chinese delegation from China.. We had our 10th International Conference in July 1997 (a very hot summer) in Seoul on the campus of Dongguk University.

In July 1999, eventually, we were able to come to Taiwan for our 11th International Conference under the sponsorship of National Chengchih University in Taipei, secured by Professor Vincent Shen, who was elected earlier the President of ISCP during that period of time. Our trip to the Mountain Ali to watch sunrise marked the high point of our post- Conference activities. More than 30 participants, the largest ever, came to participate in the Conference from the other side of the Taiwan Straits.

In 2001 we came back to Beijing for our 12th International Conference with the strong support and great design of Professor Fang Keli of the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who was our 12 thPresident of the ICSP. This conference was the culmination of our 24 years devotion to international conferencing, representing a cycle of 12 signs under the Chinese lunar-solar calendar. Not only the conference was generously provided for but the re-organization and election of a new generation of Officers for the Society made the Conference a Conference for Regeneration and Empowerment of the Society, and consequently a Conference for Regeneration and Reinvigoration of Chinese Philosophy. It symbolized an arrival of a new age and a new century for the development of Chinese philosophy and its spirit.



With profound gratitude and acknowledgement to our former Presidents, coordinators and local chairpersons, members and friends for our past successes, we are now looking forward to the 2003 13th International Conference in Stockholm under our current President, Professor Torbjoern Loden at University of Stockholm, Sweden, and beyond that, the 2005 14th International Conference in Sidney, to be coordinated by Dr. Karyn Lai at New South Wales University, Australia. This new prospect for ISCP means a new prosperity for the development of Chinese philosophy in the   world. It also means that our new generation of Chinese philosophers and philosophers doing Chinese philosophy, whether Chinese or Western or Eastern, will have an extremely challenging and bright future and opportunity for their dedication and their contribution to be made.


Appendix A
Declaration of the Purpose and Objectives of ISCP in 1985 ISCP Charter:

The International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) is a non-profit tax-exempt organization formed for the purpose of uniting persons engaged in the study and research on Chinese philosophy and/ or interested in promoting the study and research of Chinese Philosophy in academic circles. The Objectives of ISCP are:

  1. To support, sponsor or co-sponsor local, national and international conferences, seminars, workshops and the like on Chinese Philosophy solely or in cooperation with local, national and international academic or educational institutions;
  2. To sponsor or co-sponsor philosophical, educational, educational or cultural activities which would promote understanding, study and research in Chinese Philosophy as a Philosophical Discipline;
  3. To endorse and promote distribution of the international research academic quarterly known as the Journal of Chinese Philosophy ;
  4. To support and sponsor research projects in Chinese Philosophy and a series of publications in Chinese Philosophy;
  5. To support publication of a Newsletter for the members of the Society.


Appendix B 
Declaration of Five Theses on the Importance of Chinese Philosophy, Distributed at  17th World Congress of Philosophy, 
MontrealCanada 1985*

  1. Chinese Philosophy as a Tradition is intrinsically valuable as a vehicle of human self-understanding and human self-realization;
  2. Chinese Philosophy as a Tradition can be developed analytically, critically and creatively on both rational and practical levels;
  3. The Chinese Philosophy Tradition is essentially concretion/ process/ humanity/community-oriented. It can complement and can be complemented by the Western Philosophy Tradition which is essentially abstraction / substance/ objects/individuals-oriented;
  4. Chinese Philosophy with its Holistic Metaphysics of Harmony and Polaristic Dialectics of Harmonization can provide a spiritual guidance as well as a pragmatic c procedure for problem solution or conflict resolution in this scientific-technological era;
  5. Chinese Philosophy as a Tradition and as a Discipline should be universally recognized as an important asset of the mainstream of world philosophy and be seriously taught in both China and West for the common good of humankind.



* In August 1985 I organized, participated in, and presided over the first Roundtable on Chinese Philosophy and World Philosophy on behalf of ISCP at the 1985 Montreal World Congress of Philosophy at the invitation of Professor Cauchy who was then the President of the World Congress. I   formulated and pronounced this Declaration of Five Theses on the Importance Chinese Philosophy for the Roundtable and distributed it in the Congress, Le Palais des Congres de Montreal . This Declaration of Five Points had been also used as a base and source of inspiration for the founding of the International Yijing Society in 1985 with the support of many delegates from many countries in the Congress.