Prof. Yu Ying-shih, the great historian-scholar, Academician of the Academia Sinica, former Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Doctor of Laws, honoris causa of CUHK, passed away on 1 August in the US at the age of 91. The news drew an outpouring of grief, remembrances and tributes from intellectuals across the strait as well as the international sinology circle. The University is deeply saddened by Professor Yu’s passing and extends sincere condolences to his family.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Prof. Alan Chan paid tributes to Professor Yu: ‘Prof. Yu Ying-shih devoted his life to academic excellence. He was widely recognized as one of the most prominent historians of his generation and had made lasting contributions to the study of Chinese history and culture. With a deep connection to CUHK, Professor Yu was an alumnus of New Asia College. He later returned to CUHK to head New Asia College and served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. On behalf of all the members of the University, I extend our deepest condolences to Professor Yu’s family and my sincere respect for his dedication to scholarship and his contribution to the University.’
Professor Yu’s family hailed from Qianshan, Anhui province and he was born in Tianjin in 1930. He was admitted to New Asia College in 1950 under the tutelage of Dr. Ch’ien Mu, and in 1952 became a member of New Asia College’s first graduating class. After graduation, he went to the US to continue his studies, and became a student of Prof. Yang Lien-sheng. He received a doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1962 and seven years later became a professor of Chinese History in the same university. In 1973, Professor Yu returned to CUHK to head New Asia College and also served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University. He resumed teaching at Harvard two years later.
As Pro-Vice-Chancellor of CUHK between 1973 and 1975, Professor Yu was instrumental in starting numerous projects in the broad fields of Chinese studies. He himself provided the living link between various academic disciplines. As chairman of the 1974 Working Party on Educational Policy and University Structure, he helped formulate a number of recommendations which were subsequently taken by the Fulton Commission of 1976 as major points of reference. In recognition of his outstanding academic achievements and invaluable contribution to the development of the University, Professor Yu was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa by the University in 1977.
Professor Yu’s erudition defied description and disciplinary boundaries. Although he specialized in Chinese history, he also published extensively on Chinese philosophy, literature and art, as well as the history of the Chinese intelligentsia, aside from being the author of the widely acclaimed Trade and Expansion in Han China. In commendation of Professor Yu’s contribution to the study of history, his alma mater, New Asia College, along with Chung Chi College, established the Yu Ying-shih Lecture in History in 2007, which invites a distinguished historian each year to deliver lectures and seminars on an interesting topic in history.
Professor Yu was emeritus Gordon Wu ’58 Professor of Chinese Studies, emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University, associate professor at the University of Michigan and Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale University. Lauded and respected for his prodigious knowledge of Chinese history, culture and philosophy, he was bestowed with a number of academic honours, including being elected a Member of American Philosophical Society in 2004 and receiving the Tang Prize in Sinology in 2014. In 2006, Professor Yu was named the recipient of the John W. Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the study of humanity, making him the first ethnic Chinese to receive the honour.