Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, VOL 20 (1) 2012

My Humanist Detour from China to the United States

Wendy Liu
Issued Date: 9 Oct 2013


I would describe myself as an accidental humanist, if not atheist. That was very much how I felt when I found myself on June 4, 2010, standing at the podium of the sixty-ninth annual conference of the American Humanist Association. I was receiving the Humanist Pioneer Award. But what did I do to deserve the honor? The golden letters on the beautifully crafted award said: “To Wendy Liu for her pioneering work that advances Humanist values and critical thought through cross cultural perspectives on American Society.” The “pioneering work” presumably meant my writings on US-China relatedtopics, especially the collection of essays on my understanding of America from a Chinese and non-religious angle. As an aspiring writer, I was happy to be recognized for anything, not to say that particular angle. But that angle, with which I stumbled my way to the San Jose conference, was not an accident. It had come a long way with me on a journey starting in Xian, China, my hometown. Talking about Xian, the terracotta warriors of Qin Shihuang, the first Emperor of China, would probably come to one’s mind. Visitors have marveled at the work of ancient artisans, especially the rendering of individual facial features of the clay soldiers in eternity. In contrast to that humanistic touch was the cruelty of Emperor Qin, who ordered that upon his death the entrance to the underground mausoleum be sealed on completion, entombing the laborers inside to keep it secret.1 This is a brief but telling picture of humanism vs. tyranny in China–the once-upon-a time China.

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DOI: 10.1558/eph.v20i1.57


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