Angus Graham Memorial Lectures 2010 – 2016

Back in 2002 I graduated from SOAS, University of London. My favourite classes were Classical Chinese. In the year that followed I aspired to continue with graduate studies of the classical pharmacopeia, pre-modern Chinese texts about medicinal plants, gardens, and possibly fauna too. But they are demanding subjects, and I couldn’t cut the mustard. Off into radio land with me.

Imagine the pride when, in 2010, I was able to apply my radio skills to a project of my former teacher, now Professor, Bernhard Führer. He started a series of flagship lectures, and accompanying seminars, named in honour of a great SOAS teacher of Classical Chinese, the late Professor Angus Graham. And I could record the lectures and make them available online! This is did with the guerrilla online radio station at SOAS,, and its successor SOAS Radio.

To mark the start of the series, I also produced a feature about Professor Graham himself. I was rather proud of it at the time, though now I feel buffeted by excessive Radiolab-effect.

Angus Graham: A Profile

We hear from his daughter, Dawn Graham-Baker; Professor Henry Rosemont; Professor Hal Roth, Professor Roger Ames; Professor Carine Defoort,
Professor Christoph Harbsmeier, Professor Robert E Gassmann; and Dr Lars Laaman.

“The old adage is Confucian scholars would read Confucius on top of their desks and Zhuangzi, Taoist, rather eclectic underneath”: Lars Laaman.

“We would just go on into the night… my time with him in 1979 was wonderful, we would do Chinese all morning, do philosophy all afternoon and just walk the streets of London and talk and eat and drink and talk about everything in the evening”: Henry Rosemont. This spirit was resurrected during the 2010 A C Graham Memorial Lecture series.
The music included Ketawang Pusparwana, tabuh gari, the monks of the Baiyunguan temple in Beijing, David Byrne, and Chu-chin-Chow by Michael Collins.
Our tea-riffic grad student was Daniel Eng.
The World War II siren sound came from Guitarguy1985 on the freesound Project.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.
The lectures themselves mostly require a certain amount of background in classical Chinese thought or literature. And, it strikes me now, the introductions give an overview of how my presentation has changed in the four years!


Coming to Terms with De
Professor Emeritus Robert H Gassmann was the first AC Graham Memorial Lecturer.
In this public lecture, he presents a Deconstruction of ‘Virtue’ and an Exercise in Scientific Morality. The outcome is a novel and well-evidenced translation for the word 德 (dé),conventionally rendered as “Virtue”.
The abstract of the lecture is available on the SOAS website.
The audio here also has accompanying stills, as an ‘enhanced podcast’, meaning some of the slides can be reproduced on-screen.
Recorded at SOAS, in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, on 23 February 2010. The lecture series was supported by The London Confucius Institute.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.


A Taoistic Sense of Social Responsibility

On 21 February 2011 Professor Liu Xiaogan brought his audience insight from studying Chinese philosophy to scientific experimentation, liberalism, medical ethics, revolution in North Africa, serving the people, sagely leadership, and moral standards, and leadership.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.

Ziran or Nature: in the Laozi and Contemporary Usage

In his examination of a term that appears a handful time in the Taoist text Laozi, Professor Liu Xiaogan takes us through Hobson, Russell, and the influence, through translation, of English and Japanese on the Chinese understanding of the term Ziran. Naturally he points out the difficulties of comparative discussion, with a philologist’s eye.
By Professor Liu Xiaogan of the Chinese University Hong Kong, delivered in SOAS on 23 February 2011, as part of the Angus Graham Memorial Lecture Series. Find out more on the SOAS website.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.


Do the Ten Mohist Thesis Represent Mozi’s Thought?

In the first Angus Graham Memorial Lecture of 2012, Professor Carine Defoort of the University of Leuven presents a case to overturn an accepted norm of how ten thesis or dogmas – presented now as chapter titles – define the work of the philosopher Mozi. The lecture sheds new light on early Mohism and our preconceptions when reading early sources. Delivered at SOAS on 21 February 2012. Find out more on the SOAS website.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.

Instruction Dialogues in the Zhuangzi: An “Anthropological” Reading

In the final Angus Graham Memorial Lecture of 2012, Professor Carine Defoort of the University of Leuven examines the idea of how the master teaches his students, in the Zhuangzi. She starts with reference to how her teacher, Angus Graham, himself taught Zhuangzi. Delivered at SOAS on 23 February 2012. Find out more on the SOAS website.

Download mp3. Also available on SOAS Radio.


Tao Qian and Lie Zi

Professor William Nienhauser, from the University of Wisconsin, delivers the Angus Graham Memorial Lecture 2013, at SOAS.

He looks at Tao Qian and Lie Zi, via Shakespeare and Robert Frost. Find our more about the series and this lecture on the SOAS website. And more about Professor Nienhauser.

Download mp3.


In the second A C Graham Memorial Lecture 2014, Professor Roger T Ames of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i discusses both a textual examination of the Zhongyong and what it says about comparative philosophy, and how it offers hope while we face climate change.

The annual A C Graham Memorial Lectures are jointly organised at SOAS by the Early China Seminar at the Department of the Languages and Cultures of China and Inner Asia, the SOAS China Institute and the London Confucius Institute. Recorded on 21 February in SOAS by Delores William. Find out more about the lecture here on the SOAS website.

Download mp3.



Manuscript Culture in Early China, Graham vs. excavated texts
In the first A C Graham Memorial Lecture of 2015, Professor Michael Nylan of University of California at Berkeley discusses the development of books as cultural objects, and looks at the literacy of leaders, as well as comparing the libraries of pre-modern China with the Great Library at Alexandria.

A C Graham (d. 1991) parsed texts, including the Zhuangzi, in terms of “school” affiliations. The wealth of excavated materials publicized since the 1980s, however, shows first, that “school” affiliations are anachronistic for the pre-printing era; second, that intertextuality more likely relates to distinctive features of manuscript cultures, as opposed to print cultures; and third, that many of the masterworks and Classics once dated confidently to the Chunqiu and Zhanguo (i.e., pre-unification) periods were compiled in late Western Han, during two decades’ work forming the palace libraries (26-6 BCE).
Delivered Tuesday 5 May 2015 at SOAS.

Download mp3.



Some Limitations of Pre-Buddhist Chinese Rhetoric, Syntax and Semantics. In the second A C Graham Memorial Lecture 2016, Professor Christoph Harbsmeier compares some aspects of the expressive power of classical Chinese with that of Latin and Greek, while also touching on questions of translatability and logic across German, English, and Russian. Find out more about Professor Harbsmeier and his talk on the SOAS China Institute event page.

Download mp3.


Related Early China Seminar, Non-ACG Memorial Lecture

Confucian Role Ethics: A Challenge to the Ideology of Individualism
Professors from Brown and Hawai’i returned to their old school – SOAS – to present a contemporary way based on Confucian Role Ethics, taking in the 99%, relationships, work and more. Professors Henry Rosemont Jr. and Roger T. Ames studied at SOAS in the 1980s with the late Professor Angus Graham, and took part in the Early China Seminar on 23 May 2012. Find out more on the SOAS website.

Download mp3.

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  1. Thank you for continuing to post these lectures. I found the earlier Angus Graham lectures on the SOAS Radio site, and was wondering why they stopped at 2012. Philosophy is so much better as spoken word than written text!

  2. Connor Walsh

    Thanks David – and, agreed all round!
    It’s a shame we couldn’t get them up on SOAS Radio, but maybe in the future that will restart. I know it’s not ideal to have them off in this backwater, but better than nothing! And feel free to use the download links to save your own copies too :-)

  3. Deborah Woolf

    Yes I agree… I even emailed and asked SOAS radio why they no longer had recordings of the Angus Graham lectures… no reply!
    I think these are GREAT and have listened to them repeatedly, having new insights every time, so I am eagerly awaiting the next series for 2017.
    Thank you Conor.

  4. Connor Walsh

    Hi Deborah,

    Good news on that front–the SOAS China Institute has now given these lectures a new, more formal home, on their webpages: I will continue to update my own list here too, but of course SOAS provides a much more robust web presence for them, which is great!

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