(born 1472, Yuyao, Zhejiang province, China—died 1529, Nanen, Jiangxi) Chinese scholar and official whose idealistic interpretation of Neo-Confucianism influenced philosophical thinking in East Asia for centuries. The son of a high government official, he was both a secretary to the Ministry of War and a lecturer on Confucianism by 1505. The next year, he was banished to a post in remote Guizhou, where hardship and solitude led him to focus on philosophy. He concluded that investigation of the principles of things should occur within the mind rather than through actual objects and that knowledge and action are codependent. Named governor of southern Jiangxi in 1516, he suppressed several rebellions and implemented governmental, social, and educational reform. By the time he was appointed war minister (1521), his followers numbered in the hundreds. His philosophy spread across China for 150 years and greatly influenced Japanese thought during that time. From 1584 he was offered sacrifice in the Confucian temple under the h1 Wencheng (“Completion of Culture”).
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Tu was born in Kunming, Yunnan Province, Mainland China in 1940. He obtained his B.A. (1961) in Chinese Studies at Tunghai University in Taiwan and earned his M.A. (1963) in Regional Studies (East Asia) and Ph.D. (1968) in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard University. Tu taught at Princeton University (1967-1971) and the University of California, Berkeley (1971-1981) and has been on the Harvard faculty since 1981.
Tu was a visiting professor at Peking University, Taiwan University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the University of Paris. He holds honorary professorships from Zhejing University, Renmin University, Zhongshan University, and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. He has been awarded honorary degrees by Lehigh University, Michigan State University at Grand Valley, and Shandong University.
Tu was appointed by Kofi Annan as a member of the United Nation's "Group of Eminent Persons" to facilitate the "Dialogue among Civilizations" in 2001. He gave a presentation on inter-civilizational dialgoue to the Executive Board of UNESCO in 2004. He was also one of the eight Confucian intellectuals who were invited by the Singapore Government to develop the "Confucian Ethics" school curriculum.