News from the USCCA and the church in China

The Logos and the Dao: John C. H. Wu’s Catholic Witness to China's Spiritual Traditions

John C. H. Wu was a jurist and scholar whose life spanned a remark-able period in the history of China and it relationship with the West.

In a lecture sponsored by the China Association and given at Santa Clara University in April 2019, Professor Robert Gimello spoke about the contributions of this ambassador between cultures and traditions.

Vincent Wu, grandson of John C. H. Wu, and Managing Director of the John C. H. Wu Institute, joined the event.

Prof. Gimello's talk and an overview of the insightful writings of Wu may be found below.

The dao

In Chinese thought the Dao is the inner principle of all things, present in all but transcending each and every. In the Gospel of John, the Logos is the Word, spoken by God, by which God constitutes all that is. What do these lines of thought have to do with one another? Is one right and the other wrong? Are they saying the same thing but with different imagery?

In his day, renaissance scholar John C.H. Wu was able to explore the underlying points of contact between Chinese and Western spirituality, as well as the differences that allowed one to illuminate the other. A great figure of twentieth century thought during an important period of encounter between China and the West, his insights continue to inspire us today.

In his reflections on John Wu, famed international scholar Robert Gimello provides an introduction to his life and work. More, in a day when many increasingly find differences threatening and divisive, Gimello draws on John Wu to show what Christians can learn from Chinese thought. Rather than difference being a threat, it can open up new perspectives within one’s own tradition.

About John C.H. Wu (吳經熊)

Born in 1899, during the last years of the Qing Dynasty, John C. H. Wu (吳經熊) is best known as the principle author of the Constitution of the Republic of China. A convert to Catholicism, he also served as China’s first ambassador to the Holy See. Wu translated one of the most famous and challenging of Chinese philosophical works, the Dao De Jing, and provided commentary to make it accessible for a Western audience. He also wrote about the spirituality of Therese of Lisieux, as well as the convergences between Chinese and Western spirituality. A true renaissance man, John C. H. Wu’s life and thought spanned whole eras and cultures.

About Robert Gimello

Robert M. Gimello is Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, and a Fellow of the Liu Institute for Asia & Asian Studies. Most known for his study of medieval and early modern Buddhist thought, Gimello’s contributions have informed Catholic theological perspectives on Buddhism. He has taught at Harvard University, Dartmouth, the University of Arizona, UC Santa Barbara, and even several Buddhist universities abroad.

When Professor Gimello was an undergrad at Seton Hall University, he was a student of John C. H. Wu. In regard to giving this talk, Professor Gimello writes, John Wu “was for me a crucial formative influence on my development as a scholar, a model of Chinese learning, and an inspiring example of the ways in which learned respect for Asian thought and religion can be combined with faith in Christ. My debt to Wu cannot really be repaid, but I am glad of the chance to make at least a gesture in that direction by offering a lecture in your new series.”