Chung-ying Cheng (1935-2024): A Life Dedicated to East-West Scholarship

Born in Nanjing on November 8, 1935, Professor Chung-ying Cheng’s early life was shaped by the upheavals of the Chinese civil war, which led his family to relocate to Taiwan in 1949. In the following year, he enrolled at Taipei Jianguo Senior High School. He then furthered his education at National Taiwan University (NTU) in 1952, majoring in foreign languages and literature.

In 1956, Professor Cheng was admitted to the Institute of Philosophy at NTU, where he studied under the guidance of Professor Fang Dongmei (1899-1977). His classmates included future scholars Shuxian Liu and Fu Weixun. During this time, he developed a deep interest in the works of Plato, Nietzsche, Bergson, the Hua-yan school of Buddhism (Du-shun), and the Book of Changes.

Professor Cheng’s academic excellence earned him a scholarship to the University of Washington in 1957, where he earned an M.A. degree in philosophy. He received further postgraduate scholarships from prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, Cornell University, and the University of Illinois. Opting for Harvard, he completed his doctoral thesis, “The Inductive Logic of Peirce and Lewis,” in 1963 under the mentorship of Professor W. V. O. Quine. While at Harvard, he also attended John Rawls’ course on the Theory of Justice.

In the fall of 1963, Professor Cheng joined the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. He has been a full professor since July 1, 1974. Describing him solely as a specialist in Chinese Philosophy would be an understatement since his mastery extends across all Chinese schools of thought, both ancient and modern, including Buddhism. He has also made significant contributions to American philosophy, metaphysics, comparative philosophy, and philosophy of hermeneutics (he pioneered onto-hermeneutics).

Professor Cheng served as the founding editor of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy. In 2023, the journal commemorated its 50th anniversary with four special issues featuring world-renowned Eastern and Western philosophers. In addition to his role as the Founding President of the “International Society for Chinese Philosophy,” Professor Cheng continued to serve the Society as an Honorary President until his death. Furthermore, he established the “International Society for Yijing,” the “International Association for Onto-Hermeneutics,” and the “International Association for Confucianism.”

Regarding honors, Professor Cheng was bestowed with an honorary doctorate from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1995. He also holds Honorary Professorships from two universities in China and one in Poland. Listing all his fellowships and grants would be exhaustive, but notable ones include awards from the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, the Stanford Institute in the Philosophy of Science, and the Fulbright Foundation.

With 42 books and numerous peer-reviewed book chapters and articles published in both English and Chinese, Professor Cheng was bestowed with the prestigious title of “Light of China 中国之光” in 2016. This recognition is arguably the highest honor attainable in the field of Chinese Studies.

Before his retirement on June 30, 2024, the Department of Philosophy invited Professor Cheng to deliver one last lecture in a field of his choice on Friday, April 19, 2024. The topic he gave himself was “Knowing the Future: Based on Yijing’s Theory of Situational Meaning” (Dr.-Chung-ying-Cheng-Sp24.pdf ( Dean Peter Arnade and Professor Tamara Albertini (Chair) marked the event by addressing his extraordinary scholarly trajectory and world-wide renown. Also, Professor Cheng was presented with a bronze plaque that will be placed on his office door in recognition of his scholarly achievements. The lecture was followed by a reception in honor of his remarkable 61 years of service to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, during which faculty and students talked stories. Our graduate students expressed their gratitude for his mentorship by creating a virtual wall of pictures (Dr. Cheng’s Kudoboard | Kudoboard).

Faculty, students, and staff are saddened by Professor Cheng’s passing. It occurred just two days after his official retirement, preventing him from enjoying the emeritus status the UH Department of Philosophy unanimously requested on his behalf.

Professor Chung-ying Cheng is survived by his wife and soulmate, Linyu Gu, as well as four children and grandchildren.

Tamara Albertini Chair and Professor of Philosophy

19 thoughts on “Chung-ying Cheng (1935-2024): A Life Dedicated to East-West Scholarship

  1. The last time that I spoke with Chunying was at the East-West Philosopher’s Conference. It was during lunch on May 30th, and I remember that his son took a photo of Chungying and me together. Chungying and I agreed that we would talk after the conference, but unfortunately, we never got the opportunity. I tried calling him in early June but did not get through. I think he may have fallen ill during that period.

    Chungying was always very kind and generous to me. I remember how welcome he made me feel when I first arrived at the Philosophy Department in Fall, 2012. In fact, Chungying was the first faculty member I met with on campus, during my interview for the assistant professor position in March of 2012. He picked me up from Lincoln Hall of the East-West Center, where I was staying, and took me to breakfast. He immediately made me feel at ease, as we engaged in a wonderful (nearly three-hour-long!) conversation that morning, a conversation that ranged from issues in the Philosophy of Language to Social Ontology to Ethics to Confucian Philosophy. I came away deeply impressed by Chungying’s vast knowledge and humanity that day.

    Like the first time I met Chungying, many of our philosophical conversations took place over meals. We had many meals together, getting together usually once a semester. On campus, we would usually go to Bale. If we went off campus, we would go to Dew Drop In or Maple Garden, and in the last couple of years, he preferred Hana No Sato and Yum Yee Kee. I value those conversations, which taught me much, not just about Philosophy but also the history of the discipline and the history of my own department.

    I have been more astounded by his intellectual energy and insight in the past twelve years when I have been Chungying’s colleague. From Chungying, I learned much about Chinese philosophy, and also how to do philosophy. The distinctive manner in which he was able to bridge and synthesize disparate traditions of thought (analytic, continental, Chinese, and Western) was remarkable and serves as an important model for those working in cross-cultural philosophy.

  2. From 1990s, I personally knew Professor Chung-ying Cheng and made substantial communication and interaction with him mainly in academics and also in other sides. I have benefited greatly from him. In my judgement, the most prominent characteristic of Cheng’s academics is spanning the boundary between Western and Chinese philosophies, and the boundary between the analytical and the continental philosophies. In all these fields just mentioned, Cheng has been a great expert, and made his own systematic contributions. We, especially I myself, will remember him forever, and study his philosophy, teaching and personality forever!

    CHEN Bo
    Chair professor of humanities and social science at Wuhan University
    Titulaires Member, Institut International de Philosophie (Paris),
    Titulaires Member, Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences (Bruxelles),
    My Philpeople page:

  3. 驚聞成中英先生逝世,不勝嗟哉哀哉痛哉傷哉!余與先生相交近三十年,論道談學,心推意慕,以為其哲學成就世莫有能及者。今哲人往,天地崩矣,無人相討論,無人荷指責矣。雲山寂寂,江水冷冷,天地垂淚,悲斯人矣。遂檢出舊文一篇,銘刻舊憶並永思焉。以為先生駕鶴西去,其學其文足可不朽,雖俗學㳽眼泛爛,亦能定世人心志矣。嗚呼哀哉!尚饗[合十][合十][合十]

  4. 贵州省儒学研究会沉痛悼唁美籍华人美国夏威夷大学终身教授成中英先生唁电

    会 长(签章):黄诚

  5. 世界哲学家成中英表叔因病逝世,侄儿袁观山等家人心情悲痛万分。逝者已逝,但其精神永远留存于我们心中,成为照亮我们前行道路的明灯。

  6. 曹峰唁电


    中国人民大学哲学院教授 曹峰

  7. I have known Professor Chung-ying Cheng for over 25 years. In my impression, he was almost always working, reading, thinking, and writing, and I rarely saw him rest. It is very unfortunate that he did not get to enjoy a longer retirement, but as far as I know, he always lived by the saying, “Is it not a pleasure to learn and practice what is learned in a timely manner?”

  8. I knew Professor Chung-ying Cheng for the first time in the 1980s when I was a PhD candidate in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. He was very active in communication between Chinese philosopher and Western philosophers in various fields of philosophy. He made a great of contributions to contemporary Chinese philosophy by establishing his onto-comsological hermeneutics and the theory of existence based on Yijing philosophy from the ancient Chinese tradition. He is the one among the well-known worldwide distinguished philosophers today. We will remember him for ever and continue his enterprise of dialogues among different philosophical traditions.

  9. 唁 电




  10. Even though I didn’t have an opportunity to take courses with Dr. Cheng at Manoa, that does not mean I haven’t benefited from his mentorship. Many of our intellectual conversations took place at conferences from APA, ISCP to EWPC, and I was always amazed by Dr. Cheng’s encyclopedic knowledge of both the West and the East philosophical traditions. Just like many of the Manoa alumni, I myself is a product of Dr. Cheng’s tireless instructions beyond the classroom teachings at the Sakamaki Hall. Dr. Cheng’s scholarships will for certain continue to guide the field of Comparative Philosophy as the best of its kind.

  11. I took Prof Cheng’s introductory course on Chinese philosophy during my first semester at UH in Fall 1973. I had taken a course in the field at college but Prof Cheng made so many cross-cultural philosophical reflections that I could feel comparative philosophy percolating beneath his direct look into Eastern philosophy. Later, I realized that as a Westerner I needed these comparative connections and insights to ease my way into Eastern thought, which turns out to be greater than its appearances under comparative lenses. Through the ’70s I took a number of Prof Cheng’s seminars, West as well as East, which were explorations of the subjects, rather than recitations of accepted views. I especially appreciated his seminars on the Yijing, Song-Ming Lixue, Zhu Xi, Li and Qi, which were seminal for my own subsequent work. Since my thesis ideas tended to be modest, he told me he liked to postulate bold theses, for even if they couldn’t be fully demonstrated they would generate fruitful results, positive and negative–and advance knowledge. He was inspiring in that regard.

  12. We express our deepest condolences
    for the untimely death of Professor Chung-ying Cheng. We express our condolences to his family, relatives and friends. May his memory not fade away in the hearts of all who remember him.
    Gulmiza Seitalieva, PhD, Associate Professor, Head of Philosophy Department of the International University of Kyrgyzstan

  13. I benefited greatly from taking Prof. Cheng’s class on the Yijing as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii. When much of academic consensus dismissed the Yijing as merely “mythic,” prof. Cheng took the text seriously in its traditional status as the first among the classics. Prof. Cheng’s hermeneutic approach to the Yijing has been greatly inspiring to me and has impacted my own research.

    I would also like to thank Prof. Cheng for having invited me to attend international conferences when I was a graduate student.

    I am grateful to have known Prof. Cheng and thank him for all his guidance, both directly and indirectly.

  14. 唁 电


  15. 唁 电


  16. Professor Chung ying Cheng
    I was new to the East West Center and University of Hawaii Philosophy Department in 1963. I was doing my PhD in philosophy. I took a course from Professor Chung ying Cheng on American Philosophy. He was newly hired as a young man who had obtained his PhD from Harvard University under the guidance of a famous logician Quine. His vast knowledge about the dispute between Charles Peirce and William James intrigued me. He was so thorough about American Philosophy of Whitehead, Royce, James and Pierce that I loved taking this course with him. Though he had a thick Chinese accent when speaking American English, I was sold to learning from him the Chinese Philosophy of Loa Tzu and Chuang Tzu as well as Confucius. I was inspired by Prof. Cheng’s knowledge and wisdom about Chinese thinking as a graduate student, therefore, I took thorough notes on everything he was saying in the class. Since, as a person he was so laid back, I felt comfortable approaching him during his office hours. Because of thorough lectures, I decided there and then that when I become a professor in the future, I would write a book on explaining the message of Loa Tzu and Chuang Tzu to the world. That dream of mine became true when in 1992 Warner Brothers was creating a series of 20 episodes of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues with David Carradine speaking words of wisdom from the Tao Te Ching. Warner Brothers approached me and I translated some of the lines containing wisdom from the Tao Te Ching spoken by David Carradine. That was my service to Prof. Cheng. I used his notes from the class on Chinese Philosophy and made a good use of them in the teaching of my own courses on Indian and Chinese Phlosophy. When University of Hawaii presented me with the honor of their prestigious Distinguished alumni award, I dedicated to Prof. Cheng. Besides me, since he had taught thousands of students in his 61 years of distinguished teaching career, we are grateful to him. He will be remembered by all of us who had the opportunity to listen to his wisdom which revealed his scholarship as well as his understanding of the East West culture. He will live in the mind of his students and colleagues as a wise philosopher and a gentle human being.

  17. Dear Professor Chung-ying Cheng,

    Now you are in Heaven, or you are together with Confucius. No matter where you are, you are in our memories, together with us on the earth when we recall you, in our hearts and minds.

    Thank you for your generosity, kindness, and insightful thoughts. MAHALO!
    It was a great pleasure to talk with you during the 12th EWPC 2024. It is a great pity not to have the chance to talk with you more in person in the future.

    Hawai’i is a beautiful and joyful place, a place of peace and life, a place that held East and West philosophers to shake hands for more than 80 years.

    I promise you that I will include Wang Yangming in my future research proposal.
    I promise you that I will always keep a close eye on the creative merging of Eastern and Western philosophies.
    I promise you that I will devote my life to my dream when I know it at fifteen years old.
    I promise you that I will respect you and regard you as my personal advisor.

    Last, allow me to compose a poem for Thou in our cherished Chinese language:



    Xijia Wang
    Post-Doctoral Fellow and Assistant Researcher (2020-2024)
    Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies,
    Peking University

  18. I had the good fortune to be colleagues with Chungying toward the end of his distinguished career at UH Manoa. As neighbours in Sakamaki Hall, we would discuss comparisons between ancient Greek and classical Chinese philosophy; a broad and deep scholar, I had much to learn from him in both. At a talk in honour of his retirement, Chungying spoke of his initial desire to study philosophy to become wise and courageous. A model of intellectual energy, I suspect his passion never ceased. He will be missed.

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