Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

On-cho Ng

Professor of History, Asian Studies and Philosophy
102 Old Botany Building
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Curriculum Vitae

On-Cho Ng


BA, University of Hong Kong, 1975
MPhil, University of Hong Kong, 1981
PhD, University of Hawaii, 1986


I specialize in the intellectual history of late imperial China. With abiding interests in Confucianism as a dynamic and multifaceted tradition, my work is situated at the intersection of various fields: history, philosophy and religious studies. Apart from Cheng-Zhu Confucianism in the Early Qing: Li Guangdi and Qing Learning (2001), and Mirroring the Past: The Writing and Use of History in Imperial China (2005), I have edited several volumes, and published dozens of book chapters and articles in a variety of academic periodicals, including Journal of the History of IdeasJournal of Chinese ReligionsPhilosophy East and WestJournal of Chinese Philosophy and Journal of World History. I am completing two books. The first is tentatively entitled, “Qing Thought as a Period Concept: Intellectual Trends in Late Imperial China.” I just published a 15,000-word essay, “Qing Philosophy,” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019):1-55 (, which is a blueprint of the book. The other book is on the jinwen (New Script) classical commentaries in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China. While the work is primarily an investigation of the distinct hermeneutical disciplines and philosophical concerns of a Confucian exegetical tradition, it also explores the interpretive possibilities opened up by contemporary Western theories of reading.

Here at Penn State, I serve as Head of the Asian Studies Department. I also work with various academic publishers and organizations in multiple editorial and administrative capacities. I am co-editor of the book series on ‘History of Chinese Thought,’ National University of Taiwan Press. I serve as Associate Editor and Book Review Editor with the Journal of Chinese Philosophy, and sit on the editorial board of Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.  I am vice-president of the International Association for Yijing Studies (Beijing), and a member of the Steering Committee the ‘Confucian Tradition Group’ of the American Academy of Religion. For almost two decades, I have been chairing and co-chairing the University Seminar on Neo-Confucian Studies at Columbia University.

Recent Publications:

“Poetry, Literature, Textual Study, and Hermeneutics.” In Philip J. Ivanhoe, ed. Zhu Xi: Selected Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. 70-89.
“Qing Philosophy.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2019):1-55. 
“Confucian Exegesis, Hermeneutic Theory, and Comparative Thought.” In Ming Dong Gu. ed. Why Traditional Chinese Philosophy Still Matters: The Relevance of Ancient Wisdom for the Global Age. New York: Routledge, 2018. Pp.118-132.
“Representations of Kongzi as the ‘Uncrowned King’ (suwang) in some Qing Exegeses.” In Paul Golding, ed., A concise Companion to Confucius. London & Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. Pp. 286-304.
“Thinking Across Cultures: Western Hermeneutics and Chinese Exegesis.” In Bruce B. Janz, ed., Place, Space and Hermeneutics. Dordrecht and New York: Springer Publishing, 2017. Pp. 519-531.
“Empires in Asia: New Perspectives.” With Erica Brindley. Verge: Studies in Global Asias. 2.2(October 2016):vi-xiii,1-220.
“Intellectual Trends in Late Imperial China.” In Tim Wright, ed. Oxford Bibliographies in Chinese Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.
“Enshrining the Past in the Present: Moral Agency and Humanistic History.” In Chün-chieh Huang and Jörn Rüsen, eds. Chinese Historical Thinking: An Intercultural Dialogue. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht/Taipei: National Taiwan University Press 2015. Pp. 159-170.

Awards and Services:

Co-editor of book series, ‘History of Chinese Thought,’ National University of Taiwan Press (2009 - present)
Associate Editor and Book Review Editor of the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (2001 - present)
Visiting Fellow, Research Centre for Chinese Philosophy and Culture, Chinese University of Hong Kong (2006)
Visiting Professor, City University of Hong Kong (2005)

Recent Courses:

HIST 580 - Pre-Modern China

HIST 585 – Culture and Society in Late Imperial China

RLST - Introduction to Chinese and Japanese Religions

HIST 175 - Modern East Asia

Research Interests:

Intellectual history of Late Imperial China, from sixteenth to early nineteenth century; Confucian and comparative hermeneutics; Confucian religiosity; Chinese historiography