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  • Remembering Jiyuan Yu
  • Chenyang Li (bio)

Jiyuan Yu 余纪元, professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and Executive Director of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP) since 2012, passed away on November 3, 2016, after a two-year battle with cancer. His passing is a major loss to many, especially to the international community of Chinese and comparative philosophy.

Born in China, Jiyuan was among the first batches of students entering universities after the Cultural Revolution. One of the youngest of his university peers, he developed a keen interest in Greek philosophy and went overseas to study at the University of Guelph and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1994. After a three-year research fellowship at the University of Oxford, Jiyuan settled in Buffalo and taught in the University's Philosophy Department until his untimely death.

His friends and colleagues remember Jiyuan as a warm and gifted person, an ingenious and productive philosopher, and a dedicated public servant in scholarly communities of Chinese philosophy. As a scholar, his greatest contribution to philosophy has been in the area of comparative study of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy, especially of Aristotle and Confucius, the two greatest thinkers associated with philosophy of moral virtues. His seminal work, The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue (New York: Routledge, 2007) has been the most cited work on the topic. His book on Plato's Republic, "Li xiang guo" jiang yan lu 《理想国》讲演录 (Beijing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxue Chubanshe, 2011) has been among the most frequently read philosophy books in university libraries in China. To his students, Jiyuan was a friendly and inspiring teacher, a role model in the pursuit of wisdom.

I had the good fortune to get to know Jiyuan in the 1990s and to become good friends with him subsequently, especially since he became the vice president (2010–2011) and then president (2012–2013) of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP). He single-handedly organized and hosted the 18th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy in Buffalo, New York, in 2013. During his years of service as the Executive Director of the ISCP, I served as the vice president (2014–2015) and then president (2016–); we worked closely on behalf of the organization. Being on a team with Jiyuan was a delight. He was attentive and effective in managing the daily operation of the organization and maintained a high level of professionalism in his capacity as the organization's key officer. [End Page 955]

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After his diagnosis of cancer in 2015, Jiyuan went through a series of treatments while he continued to teach and to serve as the director of the Confucius Institute at his university. On numerous occasions when we talked, including during my last visit at his home in April 2016, he always held an optimistic and uplifting attitude in the face of cancer. For him, fighting illness was a philosophical endeavor, along with teaching, reading, and writing philosophy. Jiyuan was an exemplar for many, in scholarship, in teaching, and in life. He is and will continue to be dearly missed.

At the 20th International Conference on Chinese Philosophy held at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore on July 4–7, 2017, over 200 participants observed a moment of silence in memory of their beloved late colleague. Three special panels were held in Jiyuan's memory, respectively by his former students at the State University of New York at Buffalo, former colleagues of Shandong University (his undergraduate alma mater), and of Renmin University of China (his postgraduate alma mater). [End Page 956]

Chenyang Li

Professor of Philosophy at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and President of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy



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