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Philosophy of Chinese Civilisation

Project Leader: Dr Hester du Plessis & Prof Thaddeus Metz

Project Coordinator: Jeffrey Sehume

Faculty of Humanity
Project started

June 12 2013

Estimated end date:

December 03 2014




The Philosophy of Chinese Civilisations: The rise and decline of civilisations


The Philosophy of Chinese Civilisations seeks to study the ebbs and flows in the evolution of Chinese society and the factors that have impacted on this. The research is meant to draw lessons firstly on, the significance of structured thought in societal organisation and secondly, clarifying processes responsible for impelling nations to attain higher realms in political, scientific, social and economic development and progression.           

Objective of the Research

The research focuses on identifying socio-political, philosophical and cultural factors in both ancient and modern China, which saw to the rise of the Chinese nation-state as a leading global force in past centuries, its decline and its current achievements. 

China’s relations with Africa are an important point of deliberation in a world competing for shrinking natural resources. Attendant questions relate to whether Sino-African relations can be posited as a natural consequence of geography, interrupted by European colonisation; and whether mutually beneficial relations can and are currently being forged.


While China is widely tipped to become an economic superpower, question remains to account for why China did not assert itself in wider geographic context during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 CE) as Europe did from the 15th century and North America has since done from the middle of the 20th century.


Philosophical underpinnings and implementation of Confucianism or Asian values in Chinese society, politics, state organisation, ethics, and economics during the various historical phases will be comparatively examined. 


In this context, the research will interrogate the question whether culture and value systems contribute much to the long-term development trajectory of nations and regions.       


Project Team

Yacoob Abba Omar, Acting Head: Faculty of Humanities (MISTRA)

Jeffrey Sehume, Senior Researcher and Project Co-ordinator (MISTRA)

Mr Jinghao Lu, Frontier Advisory (Sinology)

Mr Erwin Pon, The Chinese Association in South Africa (TCA)

Dr Martyn Davies, Frontier Advisory (Sinology)

Ms Hannah Edinger, Frontier Advisory (Sinology)

Prof Thaddeus Metz, Univ. of Johannesburg (Philosophy Dept)

Prof Ma Yu, Rhodes University (Confucianism)

Prof Gauhar Raza, NISCAIR/CSIR India

Dr Hester du Plessis, HSRC

Dr Yongjun Zhao, Groningen University

Prof Marius Vermaak, Rhodes University

Ms Melanie Yap, Researcher

Mr Yin Yali, Chinese Embassy

Mr Wang Guiping, Chinese Embassy

Mr Richard Poplak, Researcher Sino-Africa Relations

Mr Joel Netshitenzhe, MISTRA

Mr Kevin Bloom, Researcher Sino-Africa Relations

Prof Anthony Mbewu, Government Printing Works

Dr Shadreck Chirikure, UCT Archaeology Department

Ms Medeine Tribinevicius, Researcher Sino-Africa Relations

Project Photos