Mission of the “Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute”


In recent years several academic institutions have been created to focus on “dialogue” in a trans-disciplinary perspective. “Dialogue” might have to do with conflict resolution, global issues and peace building; it might be related to negotiations on salary, work safety or social advantages between entrepreneurs, the State and civil society as large; it often centers on interactions among cultures, religions and even civilizations. In such a case it is concerned both with substance (dialogue on certain topics considered as particularly sensitive and contentious) and methodology (ways of fostering a respectful and fruitful dialogue and to foster procedures akin to the purpose for which dialogue is engaged).

The Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at Fudan University inscribes itself within this tradition of trans-disciplinary research. At the same time, it develops a few characteristics linked to its setting and its origin:

* The Institute is part of Fudan University School of Philosophy. As such, it aims at focusing on epistemological issues: “Dialogue” corresponds to an array of philosophical styles, exemplified in the Socratic, Confucian, Indian or scholastic traditions, to name just a few. In other words, the research on “dialogue” raises questions linked to the relationship between “styles of communication” and “categories of truth.” These questions are formalized differently according to times and cultures – and this variety of forms and procedures is part of the study program of the Institute.

* At Fudan University, the School of Philosophy includes a department of religious studies, the development of which has proven to be particularly vigorous. Therefore, the Institute wishes to serve in a special way the qualitative progress of religious studies at Fudan. It does so by focusing on “religious dialogue” as an academic topic. Its point of departure is that the study of the interaction between different religious and spiritual traditions is particularly fruitful for understanding the nature, history and dynamics of each tradition when independently considered. Furthermore, in a period where the religious landscape of China is changing rapidly, the interaction (or lack of it) between the different religions of contemporary China has become a topic of special relevance. This requires a pragmatic approach to religious dialogue rooted into social sciences, humanities and field research.


* By referring to the friendship that developed between Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci, the Institute is indeed making a statement: Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci fostered a cross-interpretation of different canonical traditions, namely the Confucian and Christian ones; they anchored their common quest into their shared passion towards scientific truths; ultimately, their dialogue flourished into a deep and genuine friendship, which reminds us of the humane dimension of all the dialogical endeavors in which we engage.

* Founded during the year of Shanghai World Expo and the 400th celebration of Ricci’s death, the Institute aims at modestly contributing to the ongoing dialogue between China and the rest of the world. China’s spiritual, religious and cultural resources are continually reinterpreted when meeting with other traditions, and similarly, they challenge and reinterpret the ones they meet with. Such a process receives special significance at a time where the global community has to share and redistribute the entirety of its resources – material riches, knowledge and spiritualities – so as to answer the challenges that determine its destiny.