China is an ancient country, steeped in a rich culture, with a global reach and increasing influence. Our nominated fellow, Prof Hans van Ess, is eminently qualified and placed to promote its culture and history to the world. He is a widely acknowledged China expert who has held the chair in sinology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU) for the past 21 years. Prof van Ess trained in Shanghai and Hamburg where he obtained his Ph.D. followed by a postgraduate fellowship at Fudan University between 1986 and 1988. He has held the presidency of the influential Max Weber Foundation since March 2015. He also holds the position as Vice-President of International Affairs at LMU. The author of several books on Taoism, Confucianism and the study of politics and historiography in ancient China, he has been promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of Germany and China as a teacher and scholar.

Of particular relevance to contemporary China is his analysis of how Confucianism can bridge the gap between classical scholarship and modern society. As a renowned teacher, Prof van Ess conducts his classes in a highly interactive style, much like Confucius did more than 2500 years ago, and Socrates in ancient Greece. His students actively participate in deep discussions, without teacher-imposed dogmatic judgments. His approach to sinology is harmonious with the mood of the modern age. As a dynamic speaker, and patient mentor, it is little wonder that this approachable teacher is hugely popular with his students. He is a model teacher for a liberal arts college such as UIC, with his student-centric teaching, international orientation and humanistic focus.

Academically, Prof van Ess is a highly active scholar who is also an internationally recognized expert on Mongolia and Turkey, speaking and teaching their languages. Interestingly, both are belt-and-road countries. Apart from the study of Confucianism, Taoism and ancient Chinese historiography, Prof van Ess’s research interests encompass Central Asian studies. Prof van Ess is on the editorial board of several scholarly publications including the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

Inspired by his multicultural intellectual interests, his former and current students are able to exert a global influence. Dr Katharina Yu, Director of International Development Office at UIC is an eminent example. From her, we learn that his students have fondly referred to the good professor as a “superman” for his ability to be a doting father to his children whilst simultaneously working hard to meet the requirements of the ultra-demanding German Habilitation, a qualification that is a pre-requisite to university teaching at the lecturer and professor levels.

Under Prof van Ess, the Institute of Sinology at LMU is flourishing. His students are doing seminal work, from the study of Chinese theatre and Chinese literature in the 20th century, through the Mongolian correspondence between Tibet and the Qing Dynasty in the early 18th century, to the rebuilding of the Song Dynasty in Hangzhou. His leadership in the field is producing significant results; this augurs well for the future strength of sinology in academia. The professor is currently researching the dynastic history in China’s first century B.C., including its tradition of history writing. Widely respected for his ability to bridge ancient civilization and contemporary society, Prof van Ess is an outstanding scholar with a deep historical knowledge and cultural sensitivity that better facilitates global understanding and awareness through the sharing of our human heritage.

Mr Chairman, in view of Prof van Ess’s distinguished academic achievements and his dedication to the cultural exchange and friendship between the peoples of Germany and China, it is my privilege to present him to you for the award of an Honorary Fellowship.