One year after President Xi Jinping wrote to the editors of the Journal of Literature, History and Philosophy, Benjamin K. Hammer, executive chief editor of the journal's English version, still remembers the content of the letter clearly and has set Xi's expectations as his mission.
"He called on us to forge ahead, and especially to carry Chinese traditional culture forward overseas," Hammer said, adding this is the mission for the editors of the journal during the 21st century.
Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, wrote to the journal in May last year, commending them for making great efforts to spread Chinese culture and develop better academic research. He said that high-quality academic journals should remain true to their aspirations, take the lead in innovation, produce high-level research, support the growth of high-caliber academic talent and promote academic exchange between China and the world.
The Journal of Literature, History, and Philosophy was first published by Shandong University in May 1951 and was the first liberal arts academic journal to be produced by a higher education institute since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. It is now the country's oldest comprehensive academic journal of the humanities and social sciences. The English version was founded in 2014 to cater to overseas scholars. Hammer was invited to work as an editor as a result of his deep, professional knowledge of Chinese.
The 45-year-old demonstrated an interest in Chinese culture as he was growing up in the United States. He studied Mandarin and kung fu as a student at American University in Washington DC.
After graduating, Hammer came to study in China. He received his master's degree in Chinese classical philology from Shandong University and earned a doctorate in the same field from Peking University. He then returned to SDU, where he now works. "For about 20 years, there has been a trend toward people at schools, organizations and institutions demonstrating great interest in Chinese studies because they want to know more about China, but it's not easy for them to get firsthand materials," Hammer said.
The English version has helped build a bridge between scholars in China and the world, creating a global platform to exchange ideas. "As more and more people around the world begin to study Chinese, we hope that the dialogue on Chinese studies is not confined to foreigners and that Chinese scholars will be extensively involved, as well," he said, adding that the English-language version of the journal will be published on a quarterly basis starting next year, one more issue than currently.
Great changes have taken place in the province, he said. "But one thing remains－the passion, the love and the teachings of Confucius and Mencius embodied in local culture."