Skip to main content

The Annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture 21-22 with Tim Brook

Portrait of Professor Tim Brook
September 28, 2021

Government for the People: Troubling Legacies of the Confucian Statecraft Tradition

The Annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture will be given this year by Tim Brook, University of British Columbia October 28, 2021, at 4:45 p.m. ET

Americans are familiar with Lincoln’s “of the people, by the people, for the people,” just as the Chinese are familiar with Sun Yatsen’s “three principles of the people.” They are parallel discourses of government, but rise from different traditions and anticipate different outcomes. On the Chinese tradition of government for the people, no-one writes more clearly than Qiu Jun (1421-1495), chancellor of the National Academy and compiler of the authoritative handbook of state administration. Caught between the models of Great State ambition and Confucian self-cultivation, Qiu put Confucian philosophy to work so that the state acted for the people—but not of them or by them. If he deserves our notice, it is because even today his vision shapes Chinese perceptions of good government in ways that surprise and trouble.

Please register in advance. A confirmation email with details will follow.

Bio: Timothy Brook is a historian of China whose work has focused on the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) but extends to issues that span the period from the Mongol occupation of China in the 13th century to the Japanese occupation of China in the 20th. In addition to serving as the general editor of Harvard University Press’ History of Imperial China, he has published extensively on China in the world. A co-edited volume on the inter-polity relations of Inner and East Asia, Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2018. His most recent book, Great State: China and the World, appeared in Britain and France (the French edition under the title of Le Léopard de Kubilai Khan) in September 2019 and on this side of the Atlantic by HarperCollins in March 2020. The French edition was awarded the Grand Prix des Rendez-vous de l’Histoire in October 2020. 

The Annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture began in 2015 in honor of Hu Shih, the world-changing philosopher and statesman’s 100 anniversary of his graduation from Cornell. Each year leading scholars of Chinese and East Asian studies are invited to give a lecture on critical issues in their field of research.  The full series of speakers can be viewed here on our Vimeo channel or on Cornell's eCommons archive.

Additional Information


  • Democratic Threats and Resilience