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Memorial for Dr. Yang Hengda

It is with great sadness that TBC reports the passing of Dr. Yang Hengda, who was a great leader, academic, and friend. Professor Yang had an incredible impact on The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies and the world of literature, having translated many works by Friedrich Nietzsche and written many works of his own. He died July 12, and services were held July 27.

“Professor Yang was truly a part of TBC from its very conception,” TBC founder Fr. Ron Anton S.J. said in a statement, sharing that the two of them had met well before TBC was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, while Prof. Yang was at Towson University and Fr. Anton was at Loyola University Maryland. “When I first came to China to try to start a study-abroad program for students in Jesuit universities, Professor Yang was teaching at Renmin University. He worked with me in setting up TBC and was our very first faculty member.” Professor Yang, Fr. Anton also notes, was “an invaluable help in navigating the Chinese university system.”

“Not only was he an excellent teacher,” Fr. Anton said, “but was also an immense aid to so many students at TBC over the years. On occasion he would speak of his life from the hardships of the Cultural Revolution, to being able to go over to the US to teach, to being a key part of TBC. He will be greatly missed by decades of students whom he influenced and by many, many TBC staff to whom he was an invaluable colleague.”

Prof. Yang at TBC around 2004

Howard Hao, TBC’s longest-tenured professor whose involvement with TBC also began over 25 years ago when he was a graduate student, shared his memory of Prof. Yang. “He was not only a respected mentor and friend to me, but also my first Chinese senior. He was there from the beginning and helped TBC through many moves and changes, and it was through him that TBC was able to move to its current home at the University of International Business and Economics.”

Howard credits Prof. Yang with helping him build not only his sense of identity but also his character. “Under his leadership, both TBC and I flourished,” he said. “I came to learn more about my outlook on life, values, and the world I see as I worked alongside him. I still remember his hoarse voice and wish I could have seen him just one more time.”

Professor Yang was 74. A man of many accomplishments, Prof. Yang was particularly renowned for translating the 26 volumes of the Complete Works of Nietzsche, his studies of Kafka and Hemingway, and his organization of the first World Sinology Conference in 2007. He was passionate about Chinese and Western exchange, which was evidenced in both his work in literature and at The Beijing Center.