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Confucius Institute Mourns the Loss of Professor Jiyuan Yu

The Confucius Institute at the University at Buffalo mourns the death of Professor Jiyuan Yu,  a world-renowned professor of philosophy and director of the  Confucius Institute at University at Buffalo. Professor Yu passed away Thursday, November 3, 2016, at the Hospice in Buffalo, New York. He was 52.

Obituaries in Chinese and photos from Professor Yu’s life have been compiled by friends in China and can be read at this link.

Professor Yu will be remembered at a memorial service celebrating his life and accomplishments on Friday, February 3, 2017, 3:00-4:30 pm, in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts, with a reception to follow.

Professor Yu was an outstanding director of UB’s Confucius Institute. Under his leadership, the Institute developed a stronger academic focus, with many of its activities and resources directed toward promoting programs for UB students, faculty and the UB libraries, while still maintaining the Institute’s commitment to providing Chinese teachers for local schools.  He was a kind, generous and highly ethical man and a noted scholar in his field.  He will be greatly missed by us all.

Born in China, Professor Yu was considered a prodigy. At the age of 15, he was admitted to Shandong University, one of the best universities in China, to major in philosophy. After completing his undergraduate degree, he went on to pursue his Master’s degree at Renmin University in Beijing. In 1989, he left China to study at Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa in Italy.  He received his doctoral degree from the University of Guelph in Canada. After a three year post as research fellow at the University of Oxford in England (1994-1997), he joined the Department of Philosophy at UB in 1997.

Dr. Yu was a renowned philosopher, thinker, and gentleman, but foremost a teacher, scholar, and leader. He received the University’s Exceptional Scholar (Young Investigator) Award in 2002, the College of Arts and Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002, and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2010. He was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2003-4, and a Fellow at the UB Humanities Institute in 2008. He was also a Changjiang Professor (a highly esteemed title given to young accomplished scholars by the Chinese Ministry of Education) at Shandong University (Jinan, China).  For the past few years, he has served as Director of the Confucius Institute which, under his leadership, has contributed greatly to building a cultural bridge between China and the United States, and particularly the Western New York region.

Dr. Yu devoted his life to scholarship and service in the field of philosophy. His primary areas of research and teaching were Ancient Greek Philosophy and Ancient Chinese Philosophy. He served on many editorial boards, including History of Philosophy Quarterly, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, World Philosophy, Frontiers of Philosophy in China, and the Chinese translation of the Complete Works of Aristotle. He was a member of the Advisory Committee for the program of the American Philosophical Association and a member of the American Committee of the Philosophy Summer School (Chinese-English-America). He was President and Executive Director of the International Society for Chinese Philosophy (ISCP: www.iscp-online.org).

His contributions and accomplishments in Philosophy were outstanding. He was a prolific writer. His major publications in English include five books: The Structure of Being in Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2003); The Ethics of Confucius and Aristotle: Mirrors of Virtue (New York/London: Routledge, 2007); The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (co-authored with Nick Bunnin, Oxford: Blackwell, 2004); Rationality and Happiness: from the Ancients to the Early Medievals (co-edited with Jorge Gracia, University of Rochester Press, 2003) and Uses and Abuses of the Classics: Western Interpretation of Greek Philosophy (co-edited with Jorge Gracia, London: Ashgate, 2004).

Professor Yu’s books in Chinese include: Aristotle’s Ethics (Renmin University Press, 2011); Plato’s Republic (Renmin University Press, 1st edition 2008, and 2nd edition, 2011); A Dictionary of Western Philosophy: English and Chinese (co-authored with Nick Bunnin, People’s Press, 2001); Frontiers in Western Philosophy (co-ed with Zhiwei Zhang, Beijing: Renmin University Press, 2008); The Complete Works of Aristotle (Chinese Translation), vol. 1 (with Miao Litian, etc. Beijing: Renmin University Press, 1991); Plato and Aristotle (with Tian Shizhang, Taipei: Book Fountain Press, 1992); and Greek Philosophy (with Miao Litian, Renmin University Press, 1991). In addition, he has published nearly 70 refereed journal articles and book chapters in English and Chinese combined.

During his days combatting colon cancer, Dr. Yu used his philosophical wisdom to keep a very positive view of his life. “When it comes, it comes,” said Dr. Yu. “As a philosopher, I’ve been very calm. Doctors find it amazing” said Dr. Yu, in a conversation with a close friend, “What’s important is not to live but to live well. To live well means to live happily.” Family and friends found a smile on his face when he bid goodbye to his life on earth.