SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

A Taoistic Sense of Social Responsibility

Professor Liu Xiaogan (Chinese University Hong Kong)

Date: 21 February 2011Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 21 February 2011Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Vernon Square Room: V111

Type of Event: Lecture

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The term Taoistic sense of social responsibility is a popular version of Laozian or Laozi’s 老子 sense of responsibility. The term derived from the thought of the Laozi text. Although it might sound strange for those who already have a general impression about Taoistic passivity, the derivative is based on close textual reading and comprehensive analyses of theories in the Laozi or Daodejing 道德經, especially the Laozi’s terms of profound virtue (xuande玄德), civilized naturalness (ziran 自然) and non-direct action (wuwei 物為). A typical expression of Taoistic responsibility is that a sage should support myriad beings in their natural development without taking daring and audacious action toward all creatures.

The Taoistic concept of social responsibility purports an ideal social order and harmony without coercion and oppression and features three principles:

  1. The concern of a responsible leader should focus on myriad things (wanwu 萬物) including mankind in the world. We may call it “patient-oriented responsibility.” This is significant because leaders of our modern society are, contrary to this idea, primarily concerned with their own achievements during their term in office.
  2. A Taoistic leader should practice the principle of all-inclusiveness without distinguishing between groups of people and communities for any reason.
  3. The all-inclusive principle requires a neutral political and moral stance.

Liu Xiaogan 劉笑敢is currently the director of the Research Centre for Chinese Philosophy and Culture, and a professor at the Department of Philosophy, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Before joining CUHK, he taught and conducted research at Peking University, Harvard, Princeton, and the National University of Singapore.

He is the author, editor, and contributor of numerous books and journals in Chinese and English, including Laozi Gujin 老子古今 (The Laozi from the ancient to the Modern: comparative studies of the five versions, including introductory analyses and criticism), Classifying the Zhuangzi Chapters, Daoism and Ecology, Companion to Daoist Philosophy (in progress) and “From Bamboo Slips to Received Versions: Common Features in the Transformation of the Laozi” (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 2003).

He has received awards and prizes for teaching and research excellence in Beijing, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Quite a few of his works have been translated into English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.


All Welcome; the lecture is open to the public, no booking is required.


Bernhard Fuehrer,

Sponsor: London Confucius Institute