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Hall of Three Pines

An Account of My Life

Feng Youlan & Denis C. Mair

Publication Year: 2000

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-volume History 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 to The 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 Pines begins 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 completed The Hall of Pines shortly 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 Pines is a monumental work of personal and intellectual history spanning nearly nine decades in the life of modern China's one great philosopher.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v

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Translator's Preface

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pp. vii-x

Feng Youlan (Fung Yulan) was the first person in the twentieth century to combine a thorough knowledge of Chinese thought with a formal academic grounding in Western philosophy. From this special vantage point, he wrote the first comprehensive history of Chinese philosophy...

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Author's Preface

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pp. xi-xii

Authors of ancient times, 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. This was appended to their larger work in the manner of “A Personal Account of the Grand Historian” in...

Part One: Society

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Chapter One. The Late Qing Period

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pp. 3-35

I was born on December 4, 1895 (the sixteenth day of the tenth lunar month, in the year of yiwei) 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...

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Chapter Two. The Period of the Republic

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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,...

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Chapter Three. The PRC Period

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pp. 134-201

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...

Part Two: Philosophy

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Chapter Four. The Twenties

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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...

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Chapter Five. The Thirties

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pp. 221-252

My main work in the 1930s was the writing of my two-volume History 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....

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Chapter Six. The Forties

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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), and A New Understanding of Language (1946). The uprootedness...

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Chapter Seven. The Fifties and Sixties

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pp. 287-310

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....

Part Three: Universities

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Chapter Eight. Beijing University

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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...

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Chapter Nine. Qinghua University

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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...

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Chapter Ten. Southwest Union University

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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...

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Chapter Eleven. Conclusion

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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...


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pp. 375-392


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pp. 393-409

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862732
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824814281

Publication Year: 2000