Dr. Yi Wu practices what he preaches, or rather, teaches. His approach to his teaching, and his life, is very much in alignment with the principles of the Chinese philosophies he teaches. As head of the philosophy department at Taiwan University, Yi Wu had the opportunity to continue teaching there, and likely become well known in a country where scholars are accorded a high status.
Instead, he decided to take on the challenge of an unknown country and language, and an uncertain professional life to come to the U.S. so that he could be exposed to new ideas. The kinds of questions students ask require him to look more deeply at teachings he has studied and practiced for decades. For example, he said, "In my classes in China, no one ever asked about the meaning of the term 'nature' in the study of Lao Tsu's work; here, they want to know, exactly what does 'nature' mean?" The different cultural context challenges him to examine ideas and terms that have become second nature to him from a different perspective, and he likes that challenge.
Dr. Wu, who came to the Institute in 1980, has a quick sense of humor: his eyes suddenly twinkle, and he breaks into contagious laughter - a true sign that he has integrated the principle of taking oneself lightly. The comments of one of his students, Sheri Ritchlin, are typical of the high praise one hears when the conversation turns to Yi Wu. She says, "I think everyone who knows Dr. Wu loves and respects him. Not only does he have an astounding knowledge of philosophy, but also he is a man of true wisdom, sincerity, and integrity. Several years ago I heard that he was declared a 'national treasure' as a distinguished scholar of ancient culture and a sage."
For many years, a group that included his students at CIIS met weekly at the home of Dr. Wu's family (he has five children). They called the gathering "The Mind of Concerned Tea," and they discussed aspects of Chinese thought and culture over traditional meals prepared by Dr. Wu and his wife. Yi Wu has written more than seventeen books (in Chinese and English) and is very well known in China for his writings on classical Chinese philosophy. His work includes commentaries on Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, a book on Zen koans, and a new approach to the I Ching as both a philosophy and an oracle.
Yi Wu earned an M.A. (1964) and a national Ph.D. (1970) from the University of Chinese Culture, Taipei. Dr. Wu was the chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chinese Culture for seven years. In English, he has published Chinese Philosophical Terms (1986), The Translation of the Book of Lao Tzu (1989), The Mind of Chinese Ch'an (Zen) (1989), and Concerned Mind Tea (The Mind of Chinese Philosophy) (1992). One of his books, The Story of Chinese Philosophy, is also translated in Korean.