Memorial Tributes for Professor Vincent Shen
Many of us have memories of Professor Shen that we would like to share. Some of us are gathered together at the department, but many members of Professor Shen’s community are across the globe. This is an online space to come together to share memories.
Please fill out this form to contribute your reflections. Tributes will be posted here online, or if you’d rather the department send your tribute privately to Professor Shen’s family, we will do so. Please indicate your preference on the form.
Memories and Reflections
Jesssica Tsui-yan Li
That afternoon, while I was preparing for my last few lectures of the fall term, I learnt that Professor Vincent Shen had passed away in the morning of November 14. My eyes were full of tears. Sitting at my desk contemplating my academic career, I realized how sad it was not to be able to see him again.
I first met Prof. Shen in 2002 in the office of Prof. Johanna Liu, my Ph.D. thesis co-supervisor. Prof. Shen shook my hands and greeted me as if I were someone of importance. His kindness meant a lot to me. This first encounter left a lasting imprint in my heart.
One of my best memories about knowing Prof. Shen was that he was always prepared to give you a hand. When I received a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, I had to look for a supervisor in an institution different from the university where I earned my doctoral degree. Prof. Shen generously offered his help, which opened a door of great opportunities for me. After graduating for a few years, I was still struggling to look for a tenure-track position. Prof. Shen not only wrote reference letters for me, but also lifted my spirit with great encouragement. He said to me on the phone: “Jessica, you will shine in your career.” I was so moved by his simple but powerful words. It was his faith in me that helped me move forward.
Prof. Shen has left behind a very significant legacy on Chinese Philosophy. I am particularly impressed by his ideas on the meaningfulness of life for Chinese diasporas. In 2014, I organized a research workshop on “Cultural Translation and Chinese Canadian Studies” at York University. I invited Prof. Shen as one of the plenary speakers. He gave an inspiring and memorable lecture. By incorporating Charles Taylor’s concept of “politics of recognition,” Prof. Shen argued that a life of mutual enrichment was crucial for Chinese diasporas in leading a meaningful life in a multicultural context.
I will always remember Prof. Shen’s teaching and kindness with great affection. However much I like my work, it’s the people I meet that really matter. Prof. Shen was very special. I’m really going to miss him.
Jessica Tsui-yan Li, Ph.D.
Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics
我第一次知道老師的名字，是在臺灣師範大學教育學系碩士班第一學期的「教育研究法」課程上。在那堂課的分組報告中，有位同學提到維也納大學華爾納教授（Fritz Wallner, 1945-）的「建構實在論」（Constructive Realism），我覺得很有趣，課後便把《建構實在論》找來看，而老師為該書作序，這是我接觸老師文字的開端。其後，我由於修習其他課程時閱讀資料上的理解需求，讀了老師《現代哲學論衡》部分章節。
我一直希望出國念書。在政治大學哲學系博士班學習的第一個暑假，我考慮申請國科會博士生出國研究計畫，我向林安梧老師提到這個想法，恰好當時老師在臺灣，我在林老師的安排與陪同下，於2006年7月29日中午在臺灣師大綜合大樓的餐廳裡見到了老師。我向老師提出自己想了解北美漢學研究現況或探討儒學的宗教性，老師建議我可先試著使用外語撰寫論文投稿期刊，以及閱讀諸如Philosophy East and West、Journal of Chinese philosophy上的論文，觀摩學者們的寫作方式，並希望我回頭用英文簡短寫篇研究計畫，他看過後再給我建議。然而在約莫一周後，由於種種考量，我寫信告訴老師自己打算暫緩申請出國研究一事，老師則回覆我：「謝謝告知你深思之後的決定，將來如果時機成熟，想來多倫多研究，請隨時告知，我將樂意從旁協助。」我本以為，與老師之間的互動大概就到此為止了。沒想到就在同年年底，老師來信詢問我是否願意幫忙柯雄文教授把他的《君子與禮》翻譯成中文並出版。我收到信後，一方面因為老師想到了我而感到意外驚喜，另一方面又擔心自己可能沒有能力獨自翻譯一本書而猶疑踟躕。我考量再三之後，決定接下這項任務，也從此開始不時與老師有信件往返。其間，老師還向美國雷德蘭茲大學（University of Redlands）姜新艷教授推薦我協助翻譯柯雄文教授的〈原則：裁決的前提〉（Principles as Preconditions of Adjudication）一文，後來收入姜教授主編的《英語世界中的中國哲學》。
不久後，我考取教育部公費留學資格，因那段時間對英國宗教哲學家約翰‧希克（John Hick, 1922-2012）思想有著濃厚興趣而選擇到英國伯明罕大學神學與宗教學系攻讀博士學位。我沒想到的是，我的副指導教授（co-supervisor）鄧守成先生（Mr. Edmond Tang）與老師是故交，兩人相識於比利時魯汶大學，我和老師可以說是以另一種形式再度相遇了。我得知兩位老師之間的情誼後，便寫信告訴老師，並轉達了鄧老師的問候。我偶爾會從鄧老師那邊聽到他與老師之間的故事。記得有一次我們和來訪的中國學者們到伯明罕附近的林間漫步，鄧老師說到他和老師在魯汶的一個冬天裡的一段趣事。那日他們外出，外頭白雪皚皚，老師想起古人關於煮茶「香味欲全須小雪」之類的說法，遂有日後或可引雪水煮茶的雅趣。但現在的汙染嚴重，雪水如何飲得？於是作罷。
The texts posted on the Memorial Page of the Department of East Asian Studies after Professor Vincent Shen’s untimely death are a strong testimony to his importance as a great scholar but also to his kindness and generosity.
I came to know Professor Shen thanks to my colleague Yolaine Escande who is one of the most active French researchers in the field not only of Chinese Art but also in that of intercultural relations between China and the West. As a philosopher with an anthropological outlook I admired Professor Shen’s extensive scholarship in western philosophy as well as his ability to establish links between Chinese thought and western traditions. The way he did this has always been, and remains up to this day an inspiring example for me. Escaping the opposed threats of chauvinism end exoticism he firmly held together the shared human ground of the two traditions without leveling their differences. His was truly a universal mind in the goethean and humoldtian tradition. His death is a great loss for intercultural philosophical scholarship and thought, but his work will live on.
In my memory and in my soul Vincent Shen is inseparable from Johanna Liu.
Chère Johanna, je suis très attristé d’apprendre la mort de Vincent et je pense à toi dans cette dure épreuve. Accepte mes condoléances les plus sincères. Vincent était non seulement un grand philosophe mais aussi un homme de bien.
Jean-Marie Schaeffer, Directeur d’études, EHESS, Paris
HUANG Kuan-Min 黃冠閔
T. K. chu
I remember Vincent:
在2013 的 ISCP Buffalo 開會時，他 講解老、莊，振振有詞，現身說法，亦如他所說的莊子《逍遙遊》(Chapter 1 of Zhuangzi, “Wandering in Freedom”) 之鵬：
「鵬之背，不知其幾千里也；怒而飛，其一若天之雲。」 ([In the Northern Ocean there is a fish, the name of which is Kun,— I do not know how many li in size. It transforms into a bird with the name of Peng,] the back of which is (also)— I do not know how many li in extent. When this bird rouses itself and flies, its wings are like clouds all round the sky.)
今天（2018年11月14）上午在微信中，突然看到友人发布的沈清松先生辞世的消息。乍看之下，我完全不能相信。因为就在10月2日，我们还刚刚有过邮件往复。那是因为他知道我正在和欧洲友人合编Bloomsbury Companion to Global Justice East and West，询问我此书的进展情况，并应我之情，向我推荐韩国和越南的撰稿人。并且，就在9月初的通信中，我还邀请他明春再次驾临浙江大学，主讲人文讲座。信中我还向他报告了《人文学衡》辑刊首期出版的进展情况。因为在这份即将出版的中英双语人文学报中，沈先生正是当初我邀稿而欣然予以支持的撰稿人之一。而就在6月中旬，出版社编辑就沈先生大作中几个注释的问题核实，我转发给他之后，沈先生很快就详细回答了编辑的疑问，解决了问题。就在如此的情形之下，我怎么可能相信沈先生突然离去了呢？
今年6月中旬，国际中西比较哲学学会在海宁举办2018年的年会，这是学会首次在中国举办较大规模的会议。我在筹备会议之初，即打算邀请沈先生担任主题发言人之一。此类会议一般至少提前半年以上发出通知（call for submissions），接受参会学者的论文题目和提要，由学会的Board评议后选出参会的论文，然后再通知论文作者，发出正式邀请。至于会议的特邀主题发言人，就要更早发出邀请了。这恐怕已成为国际学界的惯例。不过，因为诸多条件限制，这次会议从筹备到召开，时间稍显仓促。邀请发给沈先生时，距离会议召开时间已经不宽裕了。但沈先生不但欣然接受，而且很快邮件发来了两个题目供我选择。当我建议他选择“Fulfilling the Desire for Meaningfulness: with a Focus on Confucianism”作为讲题时，沈先生也完全接受，毫无异议。并且，在整个会议期间，沈先生全程积极参与。可以说，对于这次会议的成功举办，沈先生给予了极大的支持。会议间歇、用餐和最后的晚宴，我和沈先生有过多次促膝交谈。记得他还说，已经做好准备，退休后要回到台湾，那里人气比较旺，对老年人有好处。回想当时的情景，至今仍历历在目。突然之间，竟然阴阳两隔，如何能不让人难以接受和唏嘘不已呢！
Sean M. Smith
I will always remember the first day of Chinese Philosophy with Vincent Shen. He began the class with the opening passage of the Chuang Tzu:
In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is K’un. The K’un is so huge I don’t know how many thousand li he measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is P’eng. The back of the P’eng measures I don’t know how many thousand li across and when he rises up and flies off, his wings are like clouds all over the sky. When the sea begins to move, the bird sets off for the southern darkness which is the Lake of Heaven.
He gave us a moment to read it through and then asked the class if anyone wanted to take a stab at explaining what they thought the passage meant. I shot my hand up and launched into an overlong rambling tirade about how each of the animals is well-adapted to its surrounding, representing a kind of harmony in nature amidst articulate differences. He was very patient, but when I wrapped up (much to the relief of the class, I imagine), his only response was: “This passage is about change.”
He went on to explain his take on the differing motivations of philosophy in Ancient Greece and China. For him, Greek philosophy was a project motivated by curiosity and wonderment. For the Chinese, it began from strife and emergency. I’ve always found this helpful in my own thinking, to be an self-aware as possible about what is motivating the question being asked, not just the question itself, or its possible answer. I tell this story in almost every class I teach.
I took two more classes with Vincent as an Undergraduate at the University of Toronto. The second was a 3rd year Phenomenology course. He had us read Husserl, Heidegger, and his mentor Paul Ricoeur. This class changed my life. I took this course during a time of unprecedented difficulty. I was extremely alienated from my family, I was living my with dying Grandmother, and I had no idea what to do or how to help (turns out I couldn’t, she died not long after I moved in with her). I survived the tumult of this period through a religiously serious study of the texts of that course. I devoted myself to Husserl and Heidegger and at Vincent’s suggestion Dan Lusthaus’s book Buddhist Phenomenology. It was in these extremely dark nights cloistered at home with Husserl’s Ideas II and Division I of Being and Time, that I first started to grasp the majesty of philosophy and decided on one such night that I would devote my life to its study.
I remember quite vividly Vincent’s preparatory lecture on Heidegger. He explained to us that Being and Time is a singular work of philosophy that needs to be read on its own terms. Thus, he suggested proper lighting, a glass of wine, an extended period of time set aside for the experience. Vincent was a man of deep learning, cultured taste, and infinite warmth. He was attempting to share with us a potential for textual engagement. I can’t help but wonder if the post-capitalist hyper-productivity model of academic success that we philosophers seem to live by couldn’t benefit from some reflection on Vincent’s methods of reading.
I did well in the Phenomenology course and a friend of mine and I both approached Vincent to do Independent Studies with him. My friend undertook a translation of the Heart Sutra. I wrote about the phenomenology of time experience in the Lotus Sutra. We met with him every two weeks in his Robarts Library office. He was patient and kind. Probative. It became clear as we continued that he thought quite highly of both of us. Learning to see myself through his positive regard was seminal in my development as a person. It was the first time in my life that I had felt really seen, accepted, and respected by someone I admired and aspired to emulate. I had always been an eccentric person who struggled to have harmonious relations with friends and family. Vincent was the first authority figure to not just tolerate me because of competence, but to embrace and accept me because of my potential.
At the end of the project, Vincent was so pleased with our work that he and his wife took my friend and I out to dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant in the heart of downtown Toronto. It turns out that I was the only vegetarian in our small group. Vincent insisted on ordering all of the food (my friend and I didn’t know what we were doing), and ordered all vegetarian so I could try everything. It was a small gesture but a meaningful one.
In and around this time, I had made the determination to start trying to meditate more seriously and had signed up for my first 10-day silent vipassana retreat (the first of many to come). In one of our final meetings for the Independent Study project, I spoke with Vincent about my trepidation. He said to me that, “When you enter into consciousness, the world can change.” To this day, whenever I sit on retreats, I remember this locution of ‘entering into consciousness’ as a kind of mantra to remind me to stay within and to practice with diligence and gratitude.
The time between the end of my undergraduate and graduate school was trying. It took me many years of applying before I was accepted to U of T for my Ph.D. During that time, I fell out of contact with Vincent. My research interests shifted and there was less reason for us to be affiliated, at least on a scholarly level. Shortly after I joined the Department as a graduate student, I ran into Vincent in the copier room. When I informed him of my acceptance into the program he was so thrilled. He had this super warm way of showing his positive emotions. When he shook your hand he would grab it with both of his so that his left hand sat softly on top of the handshake. He took my hands that way then and there and told me he was so happy that I had finally been accepted (I had been rejected twice before) and that it was good that someone as devoted as me had finally been given an opportunity to show their quality. It really meant the world to me. In spite of all the years between our last meeting, it was as if no time had passed at all.
I did not have the opportunity to take classes with Vincent as a graduate student. The only other time I saw him before his demise was at the Department’s annual book release party. He had published a book in Chinese on comparative philosophy. It is normal for Professors to give a short explanation of what the book is about to the rest of the Department. Vincent decided that it was best to give a mini-lecture on the connection of pre-Socratic philosophy, Aristotle, and classical Chinese philosophy to the entire Department. There were a number of pauses in which folks tried to applaud him to silence. He refused and kept going. It was rather marvelous. It’s hard to quite put into words the enjoyment I felt as Vincent gave the entire Department a lesson on cross-cultural philosophy. Even though I didn’t ever see him again, it is a pleasing way to remember my first mentor.
When I heard of his passing, I was forced to recognize that I had not seen or spoken to Vincent in many years. In spite of this, I felt and continue to feel a tremendous grief. It is visceral. It had been some time since I had cried deeply. I did so when I heard that he had died. Vincent’s Introduction to Chinese Philosophy class was my first contact with Buddhist philosophy. His Phenomenology class my first contact with that venerable tradition. I am now nearing the end of my first term as an Assistant Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at the Philosophy Department that was founded by the man who edited the volume on Chinese Philosophy that Vincent assigned to us in that first class. I had been meaning to write to him for some time to inform him of this. I never got around to it. I never thanked him for what he did for me. I never told him how his playful warmth, his sincerity and generosity were utterly formative for me, how his confidence in me, his clear enjoyment of my presence in his office, helped me find a confidence I was struggling for. I regret it deeply. There are some debts that can never be repaid. I am feeling the weight of such a debt today. My gratitude to him is without limit. May he rest in peace.
Sean M. Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
When I think of Prof. Shen I hear the unique timbre of his voice, the bright energy of his vibe, his animated way of discussing philosophical ideas–leaning forward and engaging, leaning back and receiving–and his wonderful laugh. I think of him, in other words, and feel his presence.
He was a terrific mentor, and was pivotal in getting me to start thinking more about my own life as an intellectual: my purpose, my passion, and why I was reading and reflecting on the great philosophical texts of the Chinese tradition at all. At a time when I was getting obsessed with details of textual analysis and historical investigation, he urged me to take a more expansive view of the texts, and to recover the sense of wonder and awe I had when I first encountered them as an undergraduate. He was persuasive in shifting me back to more philosophical readings because he himself embodied that sense of wonder and awe, that feeling of excitement at thinking through the Masters.
On a more personal level, he was kind, supportive, with a wonderful knack for remembering past episodes and a desire to sustain the realness of our relationship, even when our interactions had grown infrequent.
He’s gone too soon.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
The City University of New York, Graduate Center & Baruch College
I remember meeting Vincent for the first time during an interreligious encounter in central Taiwan, during the year 1994. I was immediately struck by his warmth, kindness, by a mind that was both empathic and critical, and by so many other qualities which I would learn to appreciate even better along the years.
Vincent opened up to me a number of venues in comparative as well as in contemporary Chinese philosophy.
And he was always ready to give a helping hand. Whatever I was asking him for – a talk at the Taipei Ricci Institute, a preface for a book, a contribution to Renlai monthly, a channel for publication, the participation in a conference in Beijing or elsewhere…. – he always responded with as much kindness as efficiency. Including the last time I met with him in 2016, when I invited him to participate in a workshop at Fudan University.
And of course the great joy was to share with him on life, philosophy, faith and art…. The love of the Divine and the love of the Human were totally harmonized in Vincent’s heart and mind….
To Johanna, to his family, to his friends, colleagues and students, I just want to say that Vincent is alive – he is with us and is present through our continuing love and friendship.
A Dieu, Vincent !
Benoît Vermander, s.j.
C’est avec stupeur et chagrin que j’ai appris le décès de Vincent.
Vincent, pour le peu que j’ai eu la chance de le connaître, c’était la vivacité d’esprit, l’ouverture envers les autres, l’envie de devenir meilleur à son contact et le partage de l’humour et de la bonne humeur.
Notre rencontre a eu lieu à l’occasion du congrès de la philosophie chinoise à Paris. En quelques minutes, et autour d’une bonne bouteille, et grâce à sa magnifique maîtrise du français toutes les barrières furent abolies et un début d’échanges particulièrement fructueux commençat.
Je n’ai pas assez de mots pour t’exprimer toute ma tristesse et toute mon amitié.
Gabriel et Liyan s’associent à moi pour te présenter toutes nos condoléances.
Prof. Shen was my most beloved and highly respected teacher at EAS. I was very fortunate having taken all Chinese classical literature and philosophy courses instructed by him. He was an extraordinary knowledgeable philosopher and scholar who penetrated Eastern and Western intercultural philosophy. His philosophical insight into Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and Hundred Schools had inspired me to appreciate the meaning and philosophy of life.
The passing of Prof. Shen is indeed an irreplaceable loss. He will be forever missed. With deep condolences, I have written a memorial couplet (輓聯) for Prof. Shen.
沈清松 教授 千古
For Prof. Vincent Shen in eternal repose
His studies penetrated the Three Teachings,
our master has passed the torch of learning down to us,
we will remember him always as the paragon of Shen Garden.
His thoughts joined with the Hundred Schools,
our philosopher has left us so suddenly,
his voice lingers in the emptiness behind the scholar’s screen.
受業 劉智豪 敬輓
With deep condolences from your student Dabbie Lau
**(translated by Prof. Graham Sanders, Department of East Asian Studies)
Professor Shen was one of the most stimulating and generous teachers I have ever met. As a graduate student at the University of Toronto, I took his seminar on the Zhuangzi. Professor Shen’s deep and comparative insights from Buddhism to European philosophy made me understand and appreciate that work in new ways. I was also fortunate to read the writings of Ming and Qing Chinese Christians under his guidance. I fondly remember sitting in his office, lined with books ‘East and West’, discussing what Chinese in the seventeenth century made of Christianity, and chatting about life generally.
Professor Shen’s intellectual excitement and generous spirit always helped me to see more and to want to know more. May we do our best to share those qualities too.
Portland State University
I was the President of East Asian Studies Student Union (EASSU) 2007-2008 when Prof Shen became the Chair of the Department. I remember him being genuinely supportive of our activities and our attempt to engage undergrad students in East Asian Studies. As an undergrad, approaching a busy professor was an intimating and anxiety-provoking occasion. But I remember the warmth that permanently surrounded Prof. Shen when we tried to set up meetings with him, which made us at ease. Rest in peace, Prof. Shen.
Professor Vincent Shen was one of the kindest people I encountered in my days as an undergraduate. He always had time for his students and always listened with a sense of warm curiosity and would take an active interest in their development. He was inspiring not only in the way he would generously share his knowledge with others but you could also tell how deeply he cared for his students. He will be well and truly missed. I remember during my time as an executive of the East Asian Studies Students’ Union, Professor Vincent Shen was a consistent supporter of our events, aims and aspirations. He injected his enthusiasm in everything that he did and I will always be grateful for those memories.
I took Professor Shen’s course in second year on a whim, and he opened my eyes to an entirely new world of philosophy which I realized was criminally underrepresented in this university’s academic discourse. He always taught with incredible expertise and wit, and even after his course was over, I went and read the Confucian classics just for fun. Needless to say, they are less enjoyable without Professor Shen helping you interpret them.
I took his class on Daoism this term with fond memories of his last course, and again, he inspired me to look deeper into the works of Zhuangzi, who I now consider one of my favourite philosophers from any tradition. My philosophical understanding of the world is so much richer thanks to him. I wish I had learned more from him, but I will treasure what he did teach me before he passed. He was a giant. His warmth, humour, and genius will be remembered by this student, and undoubtedly all who sought to learn from him.
Rest in Peace, Professor.
Fei Lan (蘭菲）
第一次見到先生是零二年的初秋。他的辦公室在Robarts 14 樓。換乘了兩次電梯，出了電梯我又迷了路。先生已經在辦公室等我了，我有點不安。不過，先生慈眉善目，說話溫厚風趣，一臉笑吟吟的樣子，對先生我頓時有一種親近感。但看見他的屋裡四處是書，書從書架，桌子溢到地上，我心裏害怕起來，擔心他問我什麼，我都不知道。我感佩先生淵博的學識！跟先生交談，他觸類旁通，信手拈來，談古論今，縱橫中西。
在後來的歲月，和先生談得最多的是「他者」。我關注人的欲望如何彰顯他者的問題，並將這個議題落實到對清代大儒戴震和當代猶太思想家列維納斯的比較研究中。我的學術轉向深受先生學術思想建構的影響。他強調比較的意義不在比較中西哲學的異同去做出優劣的論斷。在全球化時代，比較是為了進一步彼此互動、交談，相互燭照、豐富。他認為文化互動不應該設定一個最後的整合。先生頗具創造性地提出「外推」(strangification) 的觀念，以其弘廓的視野和胸襟構築跨文化哲學 (intercultural Philosophy)。外推，即不囿於封閉的自我，而是原初慷慨走出，向其他的陌生人開放，邁向多元的他者。在先生看來，慷慨即外推的驅動力及其倫理核心價值所在。先生在其學術研究與寫作、教學、和生活中均孜孜踐行其外推的理念和原則。他的一生即是他所崇尚的慷慨之美德的寫照！
雖然已經畢業離校，這些年來還是習慣了有問題就求教先生，有困難就求助於先生，和他分享我的憂樂。記得有一年我教授《老子》，開篇就被難住了。我寫信問他：為甚麼 “无欲以观其妙。常有欲以观其徼 ”？“欲” 到底怎麼解？ 他回覆說：我這樣斷句： “故常无, 欲以观其妙。常有, 欲以观其徼。” 原來，一個逗點之差，我完全沒有領會老子關乎“有” “無” 的哲學深意。 先生在信中寫到：老子開篇談的是道及其兩個本體的存在形式：無和有 (Dao and its two ontological moments, wu and you)。道首先表現為無限的可能性，也即無，但無不是空無，因為它是有待實現的可能性；而有即是實在，存有，本質，實體，身體。在無限的可能性中，身體的實現彌足珍貴，因為不是所有的可能性都能成為現實。所以，道家的智慧就在於珍惜你所擁有的，譬如身體，但同時敞開自我，面向無限的可能性。師者，傳道，授業，解惑也。先生傳授我知識，亦給予我智慧。他教會我以溫愛、開放、豁達的心面對我周遭的世界。
Yvonne Jia-Raye Yo
Dear Professor Shen,
It is very hard to believe you have left us so sudden.
You are a beloved teacher, a true gentleman and a role model to me.
Your generosity and kindness will be missed and remembered forever.
Your wisdom and philosophy, too, will be passed down through words and actions.
May your soul rest in peace.
Professor Shen Qingsong is a friend and respected teacher whom I have known for many years. I know him first at the International Chinese Philosophy Conference organized by Taiwan Political University. At that conference, he was the soul figure. I was deeply impressed by his knowledge and views. Later, as a result of joining Father McLean’s International Philosophy of Value Society, there were more contacts with Mr. Shen. As a well-known international scholar, As a famous international scholar, Mr. Shen not only has high philosophical attainments, but also is very enthusiastic about communicating with Chinese scholars. On many occasions, he has promoted Chinese scholars to the world and world scholars to enter China. It is hard to imagine that Mr. Shen will not be seen in international exchanges in the future. It is a great loss for the Chinese philosophical circles as well as for the international philosophical circles. We will cherish the memory of Professor Shen and thank him for his outstanding contributions to Chinese philosophy. Professor Shen will live in our mind forever.
Professor Shen, though you left us far too soon, the memories I have of our time together will never fade. You were a wonderful teacher. a brilliant scholar, and a genuine human being. The world needs more people like you!
Chinese University of Hong Kong
Professor Shen was an incredibly warm and brilliant professor who I always remember. In the first lecture of his class on Classical Confucianism, he re-affirmed my love of the study of Chinese philosophy through his explanation of the way it is studied and how it can remain relevant today. He was always interested to know more about the students in his class, remembering to always follow up on previous conversations he had had with them and making sure they were okay. I will always remember his warm voice and lecture style, encouraging us to engage closely with our texts and to always question translation decisions.
Even though I only knew him for a short period of time, I am honoured to have been one of his students.
May his memory be a blessing.
Vincent was the person who first brought me into the department and showed me I had a place here. Throughout my first years in Toronto, he repeatedly went out of his way to help me make the challenging transition from being a grad student to becoming a new professor. I will always be grateful to him for his kindness and generosity, and I know that I am just one of many, many people for whom Vincent has left a tremendous impact on their lives.
A la mémoire de Vincent Shen
Et pour ma chère Johanna, pour Séraphine, et pour Yun :
Merci, cher Vincent, pour tout ce que tu nous as apporté.
Vincent Shen (Shen Tsing-song) était un savant hors pair, l’un des plus grands philosophes chinois de sa génération ; il occupait la chaire Lee sur la pensée et la culture chinoises de l’université de Toronto (University of Totonto Lee Chair in Chinese Thought and Culture) au Canada, après avoir enseigné près de vingt ans à l’université Nationale Cheng-chih à Taipei (Taïwan). Il a publié et édité de nombreux ouvrages en anglais et en chinois, ainsi que des articles en français, a été professeur invité à l’EHESS à Paris (France), à l’université catholique de Leuven (Belgique), à l’université de Vienne (Autriche), à l’université de Leyde (Pays-Bas), et dans de nombreuses universités chinoises.
Vincent Shen incarnait l’homme de bien confucéen, il s’est dévoué toute sa vie à la diffusion de la pensée et de la culture chinoises dans la sphère internationale.
Mais surtout, Vincent était un homme de cœur ; quiconque a eu la chance de le fréquenter, d’échanger avec lui, de travailler avec lui, ou simplement de vivre auprès de lui le confirmera : il savait écouter, se mettre à la portée de ses interlocuteurs, quels qu’ils soient, prodiguer des conseils avec bienveillance. Il était une des très rares personnes, à ma connaissance, qui mettait véritablement en pratique les principes et valeurs qu’il prônait et défendait, avec simplicité et aisance. Tel un sage confucéen, ou un « saint » taoïste, ou un bodhisattva, Vincent Shen était une personnalité qui rayonnait sur son entourage et qui, par sa seule présence et par sa générosité, réconfortait ou encourageait.
Le cœur de sa réflexion philosophique n’était-il pas ce qu’il appelait « l’étrangification » (waitui外推), c’est-à-dire la capacité d’aller vers ce qui nous est étranger pour nous « étrangifier » à notre tour ?
Il n’est guère étonnant qu’il ait été invité dans le monde entier, tant pour son érudition qui était loin de se limiter à la philosophie ou à la sinologie, que pour sa capacité à comprendre et à dénouer les situations les plus complexes. Vincent Shen ne ménageait pas ses efforts.
Vincent Shen nous a ouvert la voie, à nous de le prendre pour modèle et de poursuivre son œuvre.
In (awkward) English:
In memoriam, for Prof. Vincent Shen
And for my dear friend Johanna, and her children Seraphine and Yun:
Thank you, dear Vincent, for all you gave us.
Vincent as not only an outstanding scholar, one of the greatest Chinese philosophers of his generation, who held University of Totonto Lee Chair in Chinese Thought and Culture, after having taught Chinese philosophy for 20 years at Taiwan National Cheng-chi University. He published and edited many books in English and in Chinese, and even several papers in French. He was invited professor in Paris Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS, France), Leuven Catholic University (Belgium), Vienna University (Austria), Leiden University (Netherlands), and in many Chinese universities.
Vincent embodied the Confucian “man of good”, he devoted his whole life to the spreading of Chinese thought and culture in the international sphere.
But over all, Vincent was also a man of heart; anyone who had the chance to meet him, exchange or work with him, or simply live with him will confirm this: he had the skill of listening, of being able make himself understood by his listeners, whoever they were, and to provide advice with humanity. As much as I know, he was one of the very few who really put into practice the principles and values he advocated and defended, with simplicity and easiness. Such as a Confucian sage, or a Daoist “saint”, or a Bodhisattva, he was a radiating figure for all those around him, and, by his only presence and his generosity, encouraged them.
Wasn’t the heart of his philosophical reflections what he called the “strangification” (waitui), that means the capacity to go towards what is strange and different, so to “strangify” ourselves too?
Therefore, its no surprise Vincent was invited all over the world, for his remarkable scholarship, far beyond philosophy or sinology, and for his capacity to understand and resolve complex situations too. Vincent spared no efforts in this issue.
Vincent opened the way for us, let us take him as a model and follow his path.
Sheng Ping Guo
It was very sad to hear this news.
I have had a half of hour that made me could not do anything but memorize Professor Vincent Shen’s kindness, support, and help to me. He taught me a graduate course and edited my course paper in his book:
Sheng Ping Guo. “Christ’s Kenosis in Christianity from a Perspective of Sunyata in Chan Buddhism: Explanation and Addition to Masao Abe.” In Chinese Spirituality and Christian Community: A Kenotic Perspective, edited by Vincent Shen, 103-117. Washington D.C.: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2015.
Still, he wrote so many letters for my scholarship and fellowship applications during the past five years. One of those successful applications was the CCKF-ERCCT Doctoral Research Fellowship 2017-18 of the University of Tuebingen. As current consultant and once member of my PhD Theological Studies Supervisory Committee, in recent three years he always provided guidance to my exploration especially my choice of the dissertation topic, currently titled “Mandate of Heaven: The Bread of Life Christian Church (Ling Liang Tang 靈糧堂) as Independent Chinese, Chinese Diasporic, and Sinophone Christianities in the Global Landscape (1942-2017).” These years I had so many times to report, ask, and talk with him, and I got so much wise advice, brave encouragement, and spiritual power from him from time to time.
My condolence is deep from my heart now and will continue a long long time. Prof. Shen is a master scholar, an excellent teacher, and a gentle and good Confucian-Christian with characteristics of kindness, grace, and mercy. He is my friend and helped too much in many aspects of my life. He brought happiness and joyfulness to my hard academic journey and our community at the University of Toronto and the professional fields. He devoted himself to the academic family here as possible as he could until his last minute of life like a candle lighting for us.
I would always remember him and miss him. Due to attending the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, from November 17 to 20 for presentation of my paper, I could not participate the funeral service of Prof. Shen on Monday, November 19, 2018, at 10 am at St. Basil’s Church, Toronto, but I would pray for him and for his family, especially Professor Johanna Liu.
PhD Candidate, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
CCKF-ERCCT Research Fellow 2017-18, University of Tuebingen
Dr. Derong Chen
A Great Confucian Gentleman
—–In memory of My Teacher Professor Vincent Shen
As one of Professor Vincent Shen’s graduate students, I was deeply shocked by the unofficial information that “Professor Shen has passed away”. I strongly refused to believe what I heard. The notice from EAS Department of University of Toronto convinced me that he really left us forever, my heart was completely broken and my deep sorrow was far beyond my words.
Professor Shen joined in EAS Department of University of Toronto as Lee Chair Professor in 2000 and he generously accepted me as his PhD student in the same year; since then his invaluable supervision had guided me to complete my PhD dissertation and then granted me the PhD degree in 2005.
It will not be enough to praise my Professor Vincent Shen by using tones of words. As an academic supervisor of students, his wide and deep research of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism was unlimited sources for students who studied Chinese philosophy, and his profound knowledge of Western philosophy was boundless sources for students who conducted comparative studies. At the stage of world-wide academic world, he was an active philosopher in Chinese philosophy and an outstanding scholar in Western philosophy, he devoted himself to build up a bridge between Chinese culture and Western civilization.
Professor Shen was also a thoughtful advisor of students’ life. As a great Confucian scholar, he strictly practised Confucian doctrine “Benevolent men love people”. He loved his parents, his family and his all students, because a big “LOVE” always existed in his mind. Based on my best knowledge of him (with his strongest recommendation, I started teaching at another campus of University of Toronto since 2008 till now, so I had the opportunity to continue learning from him and had the chance to know him in person), my teacher Professor Vincent Shen, he perfectly carried out his filial duties as a son, he exemplified himself as a kind parent of his children, he performed as a great husband and worked as a father-like teacher. He deserves a title GREAT CONFUCIAN GENTLEMAN written in capital letters.
Professor Shen’s lovely voice and happy countenance, his untiring and sincere teachings, and his kindness and open-mindedness will consistently inspire us to continue our studies and guide us to achieve our academic goals as well as the goals of the life as humans.
Derong Chen, PhD and PhD
Sessional Lecturer III
Department of Language Studies
University of Toronto Mississauga
Professor Shen’s example as a teacher and a scholar was marked by his incredible kindness and generosity, as well as his wisdom and breadth of learning. I first contacted Vincent when I was a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, hoping that he would join my dissertation committee for a project on freedom and toleration in ancient China and early modern France. I did so with some trepidation, fearing that he would decline, either because I was outside of his department or because of my subject matter. I need not have worried on either count. First, because no subject pertaining to the history of philosophy or religion was truly outside of the scope of his interests, and he could move easily between discussions of classical Daoism and European skepticism. Second, because Vincent generously shared his time and his expertise with those who sought his help. He not only agreed to join my committee, but also helped me to begin a concurrent degree in the Department of East Asian studies in order to receive the training that I would need in order to carry off the project.
To attend one of Professor Shen’s classes was to take a journey through the history of thought, Eastern and Western. His courses could have provided a university education in themselves, covering medieval Buddhism, twentieth-century Confucianism, ancient Daoism, and much more. Each course drew upon Vincent’s vast knowledge of philosophy and religion, and I often found myself having to look up some German or Greek phrase that he had quoted from memory during the session. It was always clear, however, that this was more than just an academic exercise for him, and that he was ultimately encouraging his students to take seriously these traditions as attempts to understand human experiences that we too share. I suspect that this is part of the reason why he attracted such a wide variety of students from around the world—because he was speaking about concerns that transcend our cultural differences.
In his scholarly work, Professor Shen emphasized the significance of generosity for learning, and his relationships with his students manifested this conviction. He always took the questions raised by his students seriously, whatever their background or training. In spite of his numerous professional responsibilities and the time that he must have devoted to writing given his expansive oeuvre, he was always available to provide assistance. He had a keen awareness of the human side of academia. I am particularly grateful for his words of advice and encouragement while I was dealing with the challenges of the academic job market. His sense of humor and his personal warmth always made time spent in his classroom a pleasure. In one of his many essays, Professor Shen wrote that “one becomes truly great only by being generous, to one’s people and to many other peoples in the world” (“Optimal Harmony, Mutual Enrichment, and Strangification,” 119). I, and his many other students, have reason to be grateful that he worked so hard to achieve this lofty standard.
Thank you for illuminating my voyage of life when I almost lost myself.Just as Marcel Proust said, it’s you, as a charming gardener, that made my soul blossom. My appreciation is more than any words that can say. Rest In Peace.
Professor Shen was a generous teacher and a true philosopher. His inspiring lectures keeps guiding and motivating me and many other students to determine academic goals and ways of life. And more importantly, he practiced what he preached. And in this way he deeply encouraged many helpless students: knowledge and learning are not empty analysis, but the warmth and power of mind. I sincerely believe that Professor Shen’s students will pass on his spirits and devotion to the Chinese philosophy, and he will forever be in our hearts.
With his heartfelt care to students, his remarkable devotion to teaching and research, and profound erudition in a wide range of fields, Professor Shen was a real gentleman and a model of a scholar. I was fortunate to have studied Chinese philosophy with Professor Shen as an undergraduate student at U of T. It was truly an honor and a privilege. His generous support for students and his rigor of scholarship leave an indelible impression on me. His charisma and integrity will continue to inspire me and always be remembered.
Xiangnong (Herbert) Hu
I studied under Professor Shen’s supervision and guidance as an undergraduate student in East Asian Studies between 2011 and 2015. I took all the courses that were instructed by Prof Shen during that period of time, including an independent study. In 2014, Prof Shen kindly asked me to work as an assistant in his conference “Sound, Image, and Text in East Asia,” which was a chance that I never expected to have as an undergraduate student. After becoming more acquainted with him after that conference, I always go to his office to chat with him, from academic concerns to personal life matters. For me, Prof Shen is not just a Confucian gentleman (Junzi) that everyone should model upon, but also like a kind and knowledgeable grandpa that I have never had. Before I left UofT, Prof Shen signed one of his books for me and wrote down a sentence from Zhuangzi, which says “Yongzhibufen, Nainingyushen” (keeps the will undivided and concentrates on the spirit). I still keep this as my motto and read it whenever I feel tired of my study.
After I graduated from UofT, Prof Shen supported my applications to graduate schools with his strong letter of recommendations twice. He originally was going to support me again for my PhD application in this December, but unfortunately his support and wishes can only come from heaven now. In the last email he sent to me, which was on 4 November, Prof Shen said: “Xiangnong, I’ll be pleased to write for you. I’ll send the letter when you notify me and give me the address. Vincent.” I will keep this email as a precious gift, which will let me remember a great philosopher and teacher who has spent his lifetime to take great care to his students.
John CHENG Wai Leung
Prof. Vincent SHEN, my Ph.D. thesis supervisor was really a well-educated scholar and kind-hearted gentleman. He is really missed. May God who is living Love and Mercy give him everlasting repose in Heaven!
Professor Shen always had a kind and thoughtful word for you. He was a generous teacher and colleague. Professor Shen was the East Asian Library’s passionate long-time supporter. His legacy will remain and be remembered dearly.
— Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library
As a student studying statistic and envrionment in University of Toronto, I never thought Philosophy can be this important and interesting after the first time met with Prof.Shen one and half year ago. The first time I met Prof.Shen was during my third year in University of Toronto, and his course of PHL237 as introduction in Chinese Philosophy is really a the key of starting my interest in Chinese philosophy, and even taking me into the study of East Asian minor as a part of my special interest.
In this year, I’m the last group of student for Prof.Shen in his PHL337 class as studying his selected topic in Daoism, and I never ever thought the class in 2018.11.29 was the last time we see Prof.Shen in life. After hearing the new of Prof.Shen passed away in early Tuesday morning, I literally starting to have tear dripping and it is absolutely shocking to me as losing a person that is more than an instructor in academic for me. Prof.Shen, he has contributed his entire life with his passion in teaching and Chinese philosophy, as his student, he is not just a professor in the school, but a life guidance that teach you what is humblness and respect throughout all the contacts. It is a harsh feeling when looking into Prof.Shen’s comment in my paper that just recieved 2 weeks ago, and realizing he is not going to make such comment again for the paper in front of me, my mind is fulfilled with sadness.
I’m truely glad and honored to be a student for Prof.Shen, and I will never forgot his words as the instruction towards my future life.
KaiYuan Chen 2018.11.16
学生 陈恺元 2018.11.16
Helen Xiaoyan Wu
I was saddened to learn that Vincent had passed away on November 14. My deepest sympathies go out to Johanna!
Vincent and I were colleagues for seven years between 2000 and 2007. I do remember him as a most brilliant scholar and a kind-hearted person. The various talks he gave, including those at the Inter-universities Seminars on the Dao of the Chinese Language and Culture, left a lasting impression on me.
May Vincent rest in peace.
Shirley Ou Yang
I met Prof. Shen in the second years of my university in Taiwan. His Metaphysics course was an unforgettable course for me. The course not only established my world view as a junior student, but also had a life-long impact on my life and my study. In particular, educated in a non-Christian tradition system, I benefited from Prof. Shen’s Metaphysics course because he opened a door for me to know more about God (Divine Being) and man (human being), and their relationship. Different from most courses in college, his Metaphysics course never place human rationality in the center, but set a good foundation for us to ponder upon what the essence of a humble human being truly is and his position before creator and other creatures. In an age of post truth, people tend to do homage to new technology and easily confused about diversified misinformation, Prof. Shen’s Metaphysics will continually inspires and instructs this and future generation. He have fought the good fight, finished his course, and set a good example for many. May you rest in the arm of our Heavenly Father, thank you for your brave and fruitul life, Prof. Shen.
Prof. Shen is one of the most generous teachers I have ever met. I thank him for his patience, his intelligence, and his caring for all of us.
I have known Prof. Shen only for two years, but he has changed me, irrevocably. When I was a freshman, life in university overwhelmed me desperately. At that time, I doubted my ability to accomplish anything. Prof. Shen helped me when I need it most. Without his patience and support, I could not get out of depression by myself and decided to get back on my feet.
When I heard the sad news of his passing, beside unbelievable, there were so many thoughts and memories that raced through my head, the very first thought I have is about his email address; it was so familiar to me because he was so supportive. I even get used to receiving his reply in one hour, no matter where he was, when did I send out the email. To me, it feels like a natural phenomenon that he is always there for us. Even when now, I still secretly expect a reply from him. Many of my friends and I experienced caring and support like a parent from him. The enthusiastic energy and caring he put into helping us are unspeakable. I treasure his every word and help he has ever given to me.
Academically, Prof. Shen strived relentlessly to guide us toward a unique understanding of how much people could be and think… His lecture raised my interests in Chinese philosophy, and I will continue to learn more in the future. Not only his works inspired me a lot, but his generosity as an individual also taught me how to be a better person. I could not express my gratefulness to him.
I have so many things and memories, but it is hard to express them all. Overall, I glad that I took his classes. He was my favorite teacher, and will always be. Again, thank you, Prof. Shen.
I took Professor. Shen’s PHL237 and PHL337. After the end of PHL337, I received an email from Professor Shen. He asked me if I would be interested in also taking his 338 course in the coming year. However, I was about to graduate at that time. I told Professor. Shen, and he said congratulation to me and wished me a brilliant future….
I emailed Professor Shen When I was still confused about ren,yi and li, and he replied me back the email so quickly and thoroughly. It all feels like yesterday. It was one of the last course I took in my university life, and it was a course I will never forget.
Professor Shen was the best professor I’ve ever met in my whole life. We are all so lucky to have the chance the know Professor Shen.
您的学生 – Yijia