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Citation & Speeches




Citation written and delivered by Professor Cheng Kai Ming, Professor, Chair of Education, The University of Hong Kong

Redefining Scholarship
Today, we gather here to celebrate the appointment of the inaugural University Laureate at the University of Hong Kong: Professor Jao Tsung-I. The University Laureate, the most prestigious academic honour that the University can bestow, is an appointment in recognition of genuine scholarship at its highest level of achievement.

Professor Jao is an exceptional scholar whose intellectual profundity and academic repertoire extend far beyond the confines of any honour bestowed upon him. I would therefore venture to say respectfully, in Latin, ‘Laus minor est admiratione, admiratio non par ingenio.’ [Any phrase would fail to do full justice to our admiration, and any admiration would be less than he deserves.]

When it comes to Professor Jao’s celebrated gifts and works, hardly any biographical account about him would itself suffice. The numerous awards and honours conferred on him can only begin to exemplify the wisdom in this distinguished scholar. His lifelong passion for art and culture has found expression in over a thousand publications, as well as in his poetry, calligraphy and paintings. More than eight decades of relentless academic pursuits have also led him to transform and pioneer studies of many disciplines.

Over Professor Jao’s ardent research hovers a mind of immense clarity and sensitivity, culminating in ground-breaking contributions covering such broad and diverse areas as history, archaeology, literature, culture, education, religion and art. He is also an acclaimed expert in finer specialist areas including the study of Confucian Classics, Buddhist scripts, oracle bone inscriptions, historiography, epigraphy, folklore, historical musicology, linguistics, comparative cultural studies, translation and history of fine arts. In particular, it was thanks to his pioneering research on Dunhuang materials that Dunhuang studies has been firmly established as a major discipline in modern sinology. As he navigates between specialization and the wider academic domain, his diligent and dedicated approach to learning is to work tirelessly and zealously until all within his purview is revealed, beyond dogma and orthodoxy.

Professor Jao is indeed a specialist in each of these areas, but he is confined to none. He reminds us of the notable figures from the European Renaissance: he is one such master making his mark, yet in the 20th and 21st Centuries, yet nurtured by traditional Chinese culture. His scholarly inquiry into the many fields of humanities has embarrassed the boundaries of disciplines – artificial and superficial as the boundaries may be – and calls for a redefinition of the notion of scholarship.

Renowned for his prolific and authoritative works in Chinese studies, Professor Jao is often commended as an accomplished sinologist and an ambassador of Chinese civilization. In fact, he is proficient in many languages and well versed in ancient and modern, as well as Asian and Western, scholarship. Among his famous works are his Sanskrit studies and Babylonian epics. His abiding enthusiasm for scholarship has taken him beyond the dichotomies of the insider and the outsider, and beyond the vantage points of a native Chinese and a western observer. Over the decades, he has fostered close exchanges with eminent scholars in the international academic community, and has generously provided guidance to their younger generation of scholars. His influence and generosity know no geographical bounds either.

One may go even as far as attributing his wisdom to his self-education, starting from the unusual family library of over 70,000 volumes, in his childhood. The traditional Chinese modes of study and the expedition among the vast sea of Chinese classics have cultivated in him the intellectual capacity for developing the knowledge and wisdom that he has illustrated. His achievements almost hint at a certain degree of dispensability of contemporary formal schooling.

Within Professor Jao’s erudition lies a heart which is pure and serene, driven by curiosity, dedicated to true understanding and unencumbered by any difficulty. There is no barrier to learning, just as there are no obstacles in his mind. The purity of his spirit resides in his calligraphy, paintings and poetry; his literary and artistic creativity is but part of him as a scholar. He is also a qin player of the first rank, appreciative of how different art forms resonate with each other. To him, truth is not only about hard facts, but there is richness embedded in the aesthetic. Perhaps inspired by his understanding of Buddhism, Taoism and ancient Chinese cultures, Professor Jao gives generously without condition or calculation. To him, there are only friends and no enemies; there is only harmony and no hatred.

Sapientia et Virtus, the motto for the University of Hong Kong, literally mirrors the Chinese mingde gewu (明德格物). Through his meticulous and rigorous research, such as his application of western and scientific methods to ancient Chinese materials, Professor Jao has enriched and expanded the conception of research. In seeking the true meaning of scientific understanding, and in interpreting and explaining the objective world, he exemplifies the essence of gewu. His virtuous character, integrity and generous disposition illuminate the human virtue: Professor Jao is an outstanding scholar who embodies the essence of mingde.

Professor Jao taught at the University of Hong Kong from 1952 to 1968, where he started his study of Dunhuang. He has been with the University since the launching of Petite Ecole in 2003. His appointment to the University Laureate is a symbol of not only celebrating the achievements of a prominent academic, but also that of reinvigorating and reinterpreting the university motto. His spirit will ever illuminate the academic community at the University of Hong Kong.


SPEECH (Summary)

Excerpt from the Speech written and delivered by Professor Xu Jialu, President, China Institute of Culture Limited

Great culture, great scholar

I am honoured to be here, as one of the members of ad hoc committee established by the University for the nomination of the University Laureate, at this happy occasion to congratulate Professor Jao in person on being bestowed the prestigious award of ‘University Laureate’.

What we are celebrating today are not just Professor Jao’s achievements. We are in fact expecting a great Chinese cultural renaissance prophesied through the appearance of such a great scholar as Professor Jao. His life-long academic endeavours have proved to be inspiring to all contemporary and rising Chinese academics on what a scholar and a human should be.

With his encyclopaedic scholarship, Professor Jao’s knowledge in many areas is unparalleled in scope and depth. His thorough studies in Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, and his research on Sino-Foreign Cultural Relationships are unprecedented.

Confucius said, "Let the will be set on the path of duty. Let every attainment in what is good be firmly grasped. Let perfect virtue be accorded with. Let relaxation and enjoyment be found in the polite arts."
 [孔子說:“志於道,據於德,依於仁,遊於藝。”] (English translation: James Legge)

I think Professor Jao is the only scholar to possess the rules for an ideal man of honour as defined by Confucius above.

Professor Jao is a master of traditional calligraphy, painting, and playing Guqin, which are the arts to express one’s thinking. His calligraphy and painting are the real expression of his thorough reflection on the trinity of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. The polite arts, though treated as minor by many academics, are in fact an important factor, in addition to knowledge and reasoning, for becoming a great scholar.

Professor Jao is indeed deserving of this honorable inaugural University Laureate award, and I would also like to thank the University for such visionary act, which contributes to the nation and academia.

My heartfelt thanks to Professor Jao for his contribution to the academic field in China and the world, and my best wishes to him for good health and academic vigour.


Written and delivered by Professor Lee Chack Fan on behalf of Professor Jao Tsung-I, Director, Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole

Vice-Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Members of the HKU Family, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am immensely honoured and deeply humbled by the bestowment of the University Laureate on me this afternoon. As the slide show earlier indicates, I have a long and extremely beneficial association with the University of Hong Kong, spanning more than sixty years. One can perhaps write a book on this long association, but let me cite herein two examples of how the University of Hong Kong has made a huge impact on my scholarly pursuit all these years.

As we all know, the University of Hong Kong is an international university with global distinction. The international character of our scholarly pursuit actually went back a long time. It provides our teachers and research scholars with full exposure to research studies and source materials in different countries. Such an international dimension is extremely important in breaking new grounds in scholarly research. Thus, in the early 1950’s, when I was teaching at the Department of Chinese, and was initiating my research studies on the Dunhuang manuscripts, I was able to gain access to the original Dunhuang manuscripts in the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, etc. This subsequently led to my series of articles and books on Dunhuang studies. Without the free and open environment of the University of Hong Kong and its international network, such scholarly pursuit would not have been possible.

The other example is the University’s establishment of the Jao Tsung-I Petite Ecole a decade ago. The Petite Ecole now publishes two first-tier journals on sinology studies and Dunhuang studies respectively, along with numerous research papers annually. As well, it receives numerous invitations for exhibitions of Chinese paintings and calligraphy annually, from various parts of the world. In essence, the Petite Ecole has become a pioneering institute for the study of Chinese culture and art, with a strong international network. Again, all these would not have been possible without the visionary leadership and strong support of the University.

I am therefore deeply grateful to the University of Hong Kong for playing such an instrumental role in my scholarly pursuit all these decades. The University has become a truly world-class institution, with a firmly established research culture and conducive environment that has benefitted our faculty members immensely, myself included. I am enormously grateful to the University and to you, Vice-Chancellor, for building such a research culture and environment, and for your tremendous support all these years. Please accept my heartfelt thanks and salute. Thank you kindly.