Walking with Aristotle: The Role of Friendship in the Time of the Novel Corona Virus Pandemic by Barbara Bundy, PhD

Dr. Bundy with 2 of her 3 Grandchildren

Barbara Bundy is a retired university professor of comparative literature and administrator who lives in Asheville, NC.. She retired after 43 years as a university professor and administrator in higher education.

She was president of Dominican University of San Rafael and taught on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Cruz and at the University of San Francisco, where she was the founding executive director of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies.


Hats off to my long-time esteemed friend from The 1990 Institute, Billy Ming Sing Lee, for the creative work he has done on friendship and “friendshipology” and for establishing this website as a public forum for the continuing exchange of ideas about the intercultural role of friendship.

I believe passionately that there is a critical role that friendship and friendships can play in helping us navigate the current crisis environment of the global Covid-19 pandemic.  Friendship also can play an important role in building solidarity for the international movement for racial justice inspired this spring by the tragic death of George Floyd, due to police brutality, thanks to the leadership shown by the Black Lives Matter movement in seeking racial justice for Floyd and other Blacks killed as a result of racism in our society.  

So how does friendship figure as a healing force in our current climate of deep distrust in institutions, especially government?   Many of our institutions have failed us, and we perceive them as the problem rather than the solution to the challenges facing us right now.  We are clearly in need of “a new friend” to trust as we rebuild and reimagine our institutions for the future.

It is heartbreaking to me to see a lack of commitment in so many of my fellow humans right now to protect others and themselves from Covid, which happens whenever an individual chooses not to wear a face mask in public.  This single act bespeaks a lack of trust in the common good, the global commons, and the public square. We are definitely witnessing a decline in publicspiritedness and seem to lack the willingness to see someone “other” than ourselves as…well, as friend.  To be sure, the geopolitical trends of populism, nationalism, and isolationism that have been sweeping the globe the past several years do not favor trust and cooperation among countries or individuals.

Enter our old friend Aristotle, great teacher and scholar of years past in Greek antiquity.  Friendship as described by Aristotle offers us a bridge to restore the global commons and the public good and to create a more just interracial and intercultural community that is sustainable in the future.  He believed that the best type of friendship is disinterested, i.e., not for personal gain, and is based on moral and ethical values; the truest form of friendship, he said, is a function of “virtuous” human character put into practice.  This type of friendship, unlike other types, is not based on transactional values and is not transient in nature. Friendship, Aristotle argues, enables one person to relate to an ”other” as if the other were familiar and a part of one’s own self.

Let us walk with Aristotle in the present time, viewing the challenge to contain the worst pandemic in our lifetimes and to reckon with the dark side of our American past. Perhaps he can be of help in our effort to reckon with racial and other forms of systemic injustice that have  continued to disadvantage Blacks and other minorities since before the Civil War and also since slavery was legally abolished at the close of the Civil War.

One reason Covid-19 is spreading out of control in the US at this time (almost five million cases at this writing and almost 160,000 deaths) is that individuals are not pulling together to practice the health safety guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control, namely the simple act of wearing a protective face mask in public; social distancing; and repeated washing of hands with a disinfectant. Some people have resorted to violence when asked by businesses, e.g., to wear a mask when they enter a store, or an airplane, or asked by others who share the public space to wear a mask to protect against the transmission of Covid.

A few words about the crisis environment in which we find ourselves in August 2020 as the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to escalate worldwide to dangerous proportions since it first was transmitted in the US in January 2020.  In the US alone over four million cases have been identified through testing, with the count soon approaching five million and with a staggering 157 thousand deaths to date.  The US has the highest number of cases of Covid-19 in the world while we constitute only four per cent of the world’s population.

We desperately need to practice the “as if” philosophy of Aristotle in our current situation so that we can take the actions sorely needed to unite rather than further divide people and cultures in this time of the coronavirus.  Only such unity will help us to stem the tide of this and future pandemics, to stop environmental degradation, and to find friendly solutions to enable us to sustain and steward ou environment for future generations; and to find solutions to the systemic racism that currently divides us and privileges white people over people of color.

With empathy for the “other” that friendship cultivates, perhaps we can move beyond the current pandemic to support one other in reimagining many of the destructive attitudes and practices that have led to the current brokenness of our world as a cooperating organism.  Today’s environment is unlike anything we have ever experienced since the 1918 Spanish flu and the Black Death of the fourteenth century that killed some 25 million people. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic we are also experiencing a collapsing economy and massive unemployment, which is causing evictions and homelessness; and already thousands are suffering from food insecurity.  Moreover, we face the greatest climate crisis of our lifetimes in the ensuing years and do not have a plan in the US for addressing this crisis because the current administration in Washington is anti-science, anti-environment and isolationist and has severed US engagement in many of the US-led multilateral institutions that contributed to building a prosperous liberal post World War II order that benefited so many in the day when. 

The national (and now international) protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic death from police brutality of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis have inspired the most diverse movement in American history in support of racial justice for Blacks and other people of color, all of whom have for too long been the victims of systemic racism. The BLM movement is a force for unifying us and unlike the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, which I participated in, this time not only Blacks and whites are working together but also Asian Americans, Latinx, Native Americans and others.  This is a profound moment of reckoning with our racist past as a slave-owning nation, the reckoning that never fully happened following the equal rights legislation enacted after the Civil War and even with the Voting Rights Act passed under President Lyndon Johnson.

To relate the current moment in history to my own youth growing up on the South side of Chicago in the 1940s and 50s and coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, society then was divided along hard and often hostile lines between Blacks and whites.  Racial tensions ran sky high due to systemic racism that disadvantaged Black communities, depriving them of equal opportunity for education, health care, competitive paying jobs, fair housing and often of a living environment free of dangerous chemicals that often caused  deaths among the Black community.  The schools were segregated in my lower middle class neighborhood so that I never had the opportunity to be friends with Blacks or any Minorities until I was in the tenth grade and was among the first group of teens to attend a brand new, experimental public high school, John Marshall Harlan High School.

At Harlan High I spent some remarkable years as we, a half Black and half white student body, were enrolled, and the friendships and activities in this amazing environment were ours to create.

I cannot express how my friendships with my Black friends at that time changed my young life and set my heart on fire to work for civil rights, knowing through my own friendships and experience that we were all as if Black, and we were all as if white, equal as friends and fellow human beings. There was only one thing left to do following that experience when I went to college and that was to work for civil rights and fight for equal justice for Blacks.  But in contrast to our moment for change right now, in the 60s we did not have the advantage of a truly diverse society with hands of many colors as we do today, and I find this difference of great encouragement for producing systemic change—an unexpected opportunity afforded us by an otherwise disastrous plague.

We are all in search of a better “new normal” that is more just for everyone and based more on spiritual values and friendship and less on the materialistic values that have in large part brought us to our current crisis point.  The novel coronavirus pandemic has stripped away our illusions about what really matters and given us the opportunity to evolve into higher beings with a deeper sense of the sacredness of  environmental justice, racial justice, and economic justice for all.

We are all friends and “as if” Black at this moment in history, just as all of us are “as if “ the hundreds and thousands of people who have unfortunately died from the novel coronavirus.   If Aristotle were walking with us today, would he wear a mask? Absolutely, for the common good first and for his own health safety second !


“Reflections on a Dream” by Mike Hsieh – August 2020

Son Mason, Daughter Karina, Mike and Tonia

I have a recurring dream… I am back in college and I go back to my dorm room to find complete strangers there. Where are my best friends Woody, Bill, Steve, Tom and Ed with whom I shared four wonderful years playing poker late into the night instead of studying for exams, debating politics over stale beer and pizza, road-tripping to an all-female college to DJ at dance parties? They are nowhere to be found.  

In my dream I am my age today (62) surrounded by other students in their late teens and early twenties. Why am I here? I had graduated over 40 years ago and I am back in school again? I’ve been there/done that. What is there for me to learn this time around? I feel lonely and lost, desperate to find someone whom I recognize, someone that I can call a friend.

At this point I typically wake up in a panic, followed by a wave of relief and joy with the realization that this is just a dream. Thank goodness my real life is filled with people whom I love and love me in return. I am not alone in this world to fend for myself without anyone to cover my back. I have a small circle of close friends with whom I can share my greatest joys, my deepest disappointments, my treasured hobbies and recreations. We have vacationed together every year for the past 35 years.

Nevertheless a few months will go by and I will have this dream again. My wife Tonia suggests that perhaps imbedded in this dream there is a lesson, something that I have not yet learned which is why it keeps coming back. I take her advice to heart and do some self-reflection.

Underpinning this dream is a deep-seated fear of losing what is the most valuable to me in my life, my dearest friends. I have always known that friendships can deteriorate over time with neglect. Therefore I make a special effort to stay in touch either physically, verbally or via text/email messages. Shared experiences are essential in maintaining the bonds of friendship.

So what would it take to break these bonds that have been forged over decades of friendship? The withholding of love, compassion or sacrifice due to selfishness or self-preservation.

I have been blessed with the good fortune of living in a rich country during a period of peace and prosperity with the benefits of a good education and rewarding career. My friends and I have never had to confront the challenges of poverty, ill health or debilitating misfortune. In one of my favorite movies The Big Chill, a chill always goes up my spine when the character Nick exclaims to his best friends from college:

“Wrong, a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier berth than we did. It’s not surprising our friendship could survive that. It’s only out there in the real world that it gets tough.”

What if the real world that my friends and I had met was not the United States but a developing country in which we had to fight for precious resources to survive or to advance? How might we have behaved with one another then? Would we be able to lean on each other in times of desperation and suffering?

People who have been convicted, faced social ostracism or encountered crippling disabilities have said that during those difficult periods you find out who your true friends are. My close friendships have never been put to such tests and I hope they never will. However, the question remains: will I be there to assist my friends if it puts me and my family in jeopardy?

I would like to think so, but to be honest I don’t really know until I am actually in that situation. Perhaps not knowing is what haunts me which is the lesson behind this recurring dream. If I don’t know how I would behave as a friend in the face of danger and peril, then I need to experience what it feels like to be totally alone in the world. Feeling that pain of isolation will hopefully fill me with courage to act as the true friend that I would like to think I am.


 Michael is the Founder and President of Fung Capital, a venture capital firm investing in early-stage technology companies. He has been married to his best friend Tonia for 33 years and father to two wonderful children, Karina and Mason. Most recently Michael co-founded Roses in Concrete, a public charter school serving primarily students of color in East Oakland. He and his wife started Karma Pictures, a media company developing feature films telling Asian American stories. He served on non-profit boards such as Center for Asian American Media, Head Royce School, and Center for the Pacific Rim at USF. Michael has a B.A degree from Harvard College and an MBA degree from Harvard Business School.


“Bosom Friend” by Harry Tu – August 2020

Jizheng Harry Tu. Born in Shanghai, China,1933. Came to the U.S. in 1980. Now retired and living in California..


The Webster Dictionary’s definition of “bosom friend” is “intimate or confidential friend.”

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition is “A very close or intimate friend.”

The Cambridge English Dictionary’s definition is “a friend that you like a lot and have a very close relationship with.”

The Urban Dictionary defines the term as “An intimate friend; a really kindred spirit to whom you can confide your inmost soul. Very hard to find.”

I like the last one.

An English-Chinese Dictionary would usually translate it as “知心朋友” (zhī xīn péng yǒu), which back translates literally as “a friend who knows your heart.”

Just as in English, where there is more than one way to describe  a bosom friend, e.g. “kindred spirit”, or “soul mate”, etc., in Chinese there are also several terms that express the same meaning as “知心朋友”.

“知心朋友” is an expression used in spoken (vernacular) Chinese. In classical Chinese, the Chinese used in ancient times for written works, expressions were abbreviated to their bare minimum, because paper hadn’t been invented, written works had to be carved on bamboo slips. That means a lot of carving and a lot of bamboo, plus the space to store these works. The classical Chinese phrase for “知心朋友” would become “知友” (zhī yǒu), omitting the two middle characters; “知交” (zhī jiāo), replacing “友” (friend) with “交” (association, relationship); or “至交” (zhì jiāo), replacing “知” (know) with “至” (extreme, utmost), note the same spelling of “知” and “至”, but different intonation).

There is another, I think, more elegant expression in classical Chinese for describing a special friendship — “知音” (zhī yīn), a friend appreciative of one’s music.

And there’s a story behind it. This happened during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.E.). Yú Bóyá (俞伯牙), a qín (ancient Chinese zither) player, was playing his instrument. Zhōng Zǐqī (鍾子期), a woodcutter returning from work, heard Boya playing, and remarked that Boya’s tune was “lofty as the towering mountains”. Then Boya changed his tune, and Ziqi remarked that his music was “magnificent as the flowing waters.” Whatever Boya played, Ziqi would grasp the former’s feelings. They became “知音” (zhī yīn) (a friend appreciative of one’s music). When Ziqi died, Boya felt that no one else could understand his music, so he broke his qin and cut the strings, and never played again. Thus the term zhi yin has been carried forward till this day.


Billy’s Comments: Harry is my cousin-in-law , married to my cousin Yihua Li. He is one of the most interesting persons to talk to – full of passion and has deep knowledge in both Eastern and Western Cultures.


FF Moments In Bro. Louis Chan’s Travels – Billy Lee – August 2020

Louis Chan is one of the most loyal FF Fraternity Brothers that I hold dearly. Louis and Ivy are residents in the beautiful city of San Francisco.  They have been married for 43 happy years, and have a son and a daughter.  Now retired, their days are filled with volunteer work, and reading up on history and literature. They also have a passion for traveling, a curiosity to learn about other places, and enjoy immersing in different ways of life. But most significantly they consciously try to extend, expand, and nurture FF Friendship and Bonding whenever possible – taking advantage of special locations on unique occasions.

In 1984 he traveled to HongKong to attend a FF Reunion where he reunited with manyformer Montreal FF Brothers. Bro. Louis graduated from McGill University in Montreal.

In 1992, Louis visited Bro. Billy Lee and Sister Lucille in Rome, Italy. A special memory was touring the Vatican with Sister Lucille and actually saw The Pope – John Paul II.

In 2009, they visited Istanbul, Turkey, and met up with Bro. Bill Chen and Sister Sandra.Bro. Bill treated them to a sumptuous dinner at the festive Taksim Square.

In 2014, they traveled to Shanghai to celebrate the establishment of FF’s Shanghai Lodge. They participated in a post FF Reunion tour, saw Bro. I.M.Pei-designed museum in  Suzhou, and the famous Leifeng Tower in Hangzhou.

In November 2015, they made a trip to India, with Sister Ancilla Kwok and her friend, Rosemarie Chung. Highlights were the Taj Mahai Jama Masjid Mosque, in Delhi, and the Amber Fort in Jaipur and the magnificent Temple of Khajuraho.

New Years Eve 2017, FF Reunion in HongHong again. A Post Reunion tour of Guangzhou was enjoyed together with a number of Brothers, Sisters, and Friends, including Bros. Audie Chang from S.F. and Patrick Yau from NYC. A boat ride along Pearl River was most memorable. BTW, they visited Aiqun Hotel, the tallest Building in 1937 – designed by Louis’ uncle Wing Chan, also a FF Brother 1929.

April 2018, a stop over in Shanghai again and met up with the young but dynamic FF Shanghai Lodge. Visited Hangzhou again and met up with Bro. David Guo and Sister Lan. The Guos showed them Nine Creeks Smoke Trees and the famous Long Jing Tea Center.

November 2019, last day in Chengdu, they learned from Bro. Billy’s email that Bro. Mike Shiu and Sister Jean lived there. Immediately contact was made and they had a wonderful get together.

Later that year 2019, they visited Tianjin and FF Founding Bro. Wellington Koo’s Home at 267 Hebei Road in the historic “ 5 Great Avenue District : built in 1927. That was an incredible FF Moment for Louis, indeed.

I learn from Louis that in a Fraternity or Friendship organization, the more one reaches out to the other members and share positive experiences together the deeper and more meaningful bonding one receives in return. Traveling has made Louis a much more interesting conversationist, and history when made relevant adds magic to realization. Also, photography really helps in recording happy moments and telling good stories.

Below are a few of Bro.Louis’ photos:

Top:  FF.Group in front of Leifeng Tower, Hangzhou – Louis with Billy in Rome, Italy – Louis with Bill and Sandra Chen in Istanbul

Middle: Louis at Bro. Wellington Koo’s Tianjin home – Cruise on the Pearl River, Guangzhou – Louis and Ivy with Mike and Jean Shiu, in Chengdu

Bottom: One of Brother Louis and Sister Ivy’s favorite photos in Europe



As an Architect, I learned from I.M.Pei that Design Concept provides theUnderlying Spirit, but as Mies said “ God (or Beauty) is in the Details ( HOW it is actually constructed or articulated ).  An article In N.Y.Times’, Smarter Living section by Anna Goldfarb, wrote about “How to Reach Out to A Friend Who Is Having a Difficult Time”. With advice from esteemed psychologists and psychiatrists, she wrote about HOW to choose the right time and moment to capture the best effects, HOW to cultivate the right atmosphere and mind-set so that the Friend will feel comfortable opening up, and what words and tunes to employ to achieve some success.

Art by Lauren Martin


Notice the Friend’s Signs and Degree of Distress – Health, Workplace stress
           or Financial, etc.

Tread Carefully – depending on your relationship – assure confidentiality

Check your own state of mind – fit to help others ?

Pinpoint Concerns without Imposing.

Share Struggles – comforting

Do not Judge – Proper questions that will open up conversation .
       Examples:  “ Any especially difficult things bothering you lately ?”

Be Empathetic – Validate your friend.  The most helpful thing that you             
        can do for each other is knowing that you are sharing the burden  

Suggest Support –  For complex problems recommend reaching out for
         professional help, or religious consoling as appropriate.

Last but not least , Follow Up –  Continued support and continued Caring.


‘I BELIEVE’ – A worthwhile message about Friendship and the Ebb & Flow of Relationships – by an Unknown Author

There is lots of truth and wisdom here.

I Believe…
That just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other.
And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do love each other.

I Believe…
That we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I Believe….
That no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe….
That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I Believe….
That it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I Believe…
That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe….
That you can keep going long after you think you can’t.

I Believe….
That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I Believe…
That either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I Believe…
That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe….
That my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time

I Believe….
That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be
the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe…
That sometimes when I’m angry, I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe….
That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had, what you’ve learned from them and less to do with  how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I Believe…..
That it isn’t always enough, to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I Believe…
That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I Believe….
That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are,
But, we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe….
Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I Believe…
That your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don’t even know you.

I Believe…
That even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you –
you will find the strength to help.

I Believe…
That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.


I Believe…
That you should send this to all of the people who you believe in, I just did.

The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything they have.


Friendship Story by Rick Chong – July 2020

Rick Chong is currently an independent financial consultant working in San Francisco.  Over the past 20 years, Rick has been active in the Silicon Valley venture capital business, first as a General Partner of Sycamore Ventures and later as a Director of Pac-Link Ventures.  He was formerly CFO of JL McGregor & Co. LLC, a start-up investment bank focused on investment s in China.  He served for several years as CFO of Amber Kinetics, a utility grade energy storage company based in Silicon Valley & the Philippines.  

Rick Chong

Rick is the Chairman Emeritus of the California Asia Business Council, a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Affairs Council, and past Treasurer of the Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco.  He has also served as Chairman, President and a member of the Board of Directors for the 1990 Institute.  He has guest lectured at Stanford University, University of California Davis and University of San Francisco.   Rick received both his M.B.A. and undergraduate degrees from Stanford University.  He has been married to Beverly Chong for 37 years, and together with her has proudly raised two wonderful daughters, Alyssa and Stephanie.   They have lived in Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and San Francisco together.  


I was born & raised in the United States.  Identifying as nothing but middle American, I still recall the first time that my parents moved our family to Asia and how much I didn’t want to be there.  Even after living in Taiwan & Hong Kong for a total of 6 years before my senior year of high school, I still couldn’t speak Mandarin or Taiwanese, ate mostly American food, and hung around with the other students from the United States. 

Finally, on my father’s third assignment to Taiwan, he had enough of living in Tien Mou, which had become the ghetto for the American military back in the 70’s.  For the duration of my senior year of high school, he instead chose to have our family move to downtown Taipei where it was no longer possible to live in the American expatriate bubble.  Eager to continue to play basketball, I soon learned that there was an unsanctioned outdoor high school pickup game at the hospital nearby our downtown Taipei home.  Everyday after taking the bus home from school, I would climb over the wall and join other teenage boys playing basketball.  The only issue was that none of them knew how to speak English and I couldn’t speak Chinese, so it wasn’t easy making friends.  Still, there was one teenager who consistently reached out to me.  His name was Su Chung-Hwei.  Since he couldn’t speak much English, I just called him “Su”.  My siblings & parents loved getting to know a boy named Su. 

Photo of Su in the Taiwanese military

Many times, after basketball, Su would take me out to eat & drink at the local food stalls and show me what it was like to be a teenage boy running around Taipei.  He taught me how to cuss & swear in Mandarin, and I reciprocated by teaching him how to cuss & swear in English.  We soon became inseparable even though we couldn’t discuss much except short phrases about basketball, food & electronics.    

After that year in downtown Taipei, I went off to attend Stanford University as a freshman.  Each summer, I would return to spend time with my family back in Taipei and always looked up Su.  His English continued to improve, my Mandarin got better, and we started to hold dance parties together, swim at the local club, run around Taipei electronics stores and always manage to find pickup basketball games.  Our friendship deepened as our mutual language skills improved.  We shared in each other’s highs & lows.  I watched Su get into National Taiwan University and then get drafted into the Taiwanese military. 

Eventually, Su did come to the U.S. and today runs his own very successful garment importing business in Los Angeles.  He took the English name “Daniel” but I remain one of the few people who still call him Su.  I consider Su one of my oldest and dearest friends.  I don’t get much chance to see him in person these days with him living in  Southern California raising his family, and my family being up here in Northern California, but when we have the chance once or twice a year, it’s just like blasting into the past and re-living our youth. 

I’ve learned that friendship is really a result of acceptance – appreciating differences and finding mutual passions.  Su & I communicated in our odd language born of sports, movies, and chasing girls.  Over the years, Su would become fluent in English, and I would become fluent in Mandarin which has allowed us to deepen our friendship, but it was the initial acceptance by Su of a foreign kid on his basketball court that opened the door to a lifelong friendship.


Phil Chun Explores More Deeply Into Friendship & Friendshipology – July 2020

His note to Billy on July 22 :

Hi Billy,

How have you been? Tennis? Hoping all is well in the Lee family. 
I was thinking about “Making Friends” the other day and thought of the below. As you well know, in the age of Covid 19, making new friends will be a bit more challenging. You may add this to your website if you like. 
Be safe, Phil

”My Friend”
Because of our past, we are friends. Maybe it was the hobbies and interests that bonds us. It could be the weakness within us that we seek in each other’s strengths. Us, thinking alike and often finishing each other’s lines conjures familiarity. We can always count on each other. The color of your skin is unlike mine brought curiosity or of the same, brought commonality. We got each other’s backs. We never surprise each other, we expected it. We are a brother/sister from a different mother. We shared each other’s joys and sorrows. Our opinions are understood never to hurt but to be helpful. Yes, it is all of the before mentioned that made us friends. Thank-you for giving me permission. It was that very act that spawn our’s and all friendships. 
“Every day is unique and special”.


A Friendship Story of “High Mountain-Running Water” in Ancient China – by Wang Lili – Ningbo, China – July 2020

During the Warring States Period in ancient China, there was a man named Boya Yu who played the Qin (a kind of string instrument in China) very well.

One day when he was playing the Qin in a remote forest, a woodcutter named Ziqi Zhong came by. Boya used music to express his thoughts on climbing mountains. Ziqi would chime in and suggest,” As lofty as Mount Tai “.

Boya used his music again to express the running water. Ziqi complemented: “What a mighty river it is !” What Boya placed in music, Ziqi always responded with powerful understanding. Thus the two became bosom friends.

Later, when Ziqi died, Boya lost his bosom friend and was extremely sad, he threw his Qin away and vowed never to play again.

From this historical story, a special term “知音(zhi-yin)” in Chinese is thus created, which could be translated as “recognizing your music, inner feelings and potential impacts.”

This term “high mountain-running water” in Chinese is often used today to suggest the rare fortune of having friends who can really appreciate your passion, recognize your talents and endeavors, and further encourage and inspire you to reach a higher level.


Billy’s Comments: Prof. Wang Lili was the first Vice President of Ningbo University and an esteemed Material Scientist in China. He was responsible for getting me back to teach Architecture at Ningb U. in 1991. He is certainly one of my most admired, respected, and loved cousins – we are related as his maternal grandmother was the youngest sister of my paternal grandfather. I requested that he write something for my Friendship & Friendshipology Website, and within a week I received his response:

“Dear Ming Sing, It’s quite difficult for me to write a story about ancient Chinese Friendship in English as you requested. I tried my best due to the deep Friendship between you and me. I wrote a story here about “High Mountains and Running Water “Please see the attachment. I hope you like it. Cheers, Lili”



Wang Lili (Lili WANG, Lilih WANG), male, born in 1934, the Professor and Honorary Director of the Mechanics and Materials Science Research Centre at Ningbo University in China. Since 1956, he has worked in Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences; Institute of Chemical Machinery; University of Science and Technology of China. In 1985 he participated in the founding of Ningbo University and served as vice President. He was the Chairman of the Explosion Mechanics Committee of CSTAM, and has been the Chairman or Co-Chairman of several international conferences.

His research interests are stress-wave propagation, dynamic response of materials and structures, rate-dependent constitutive relation of materials under high strain rates, dynamic fracture, adiabatic shear localization, damage mechanics and impact engineering. To this subject, he has contributed immensely, with more than 300 papers. His books entitled “Foundations of Stress Waves” and entitled “Dynamics of Materials” are widely used in China as textbooks for graduated students since 1980s and the corresponding English editions have been published by Elsevier.

Over the past 60 years, he cultivated a number of outstanding students (including academicians in China) engaged in this field.

His scientific research achievements have won the National Science and Technology Conference Award, The Gansu Province Science and Technology Achievement Award, the Zhejiang Province science and technology Award, the Ministry of Education natural science first prize. In 2013, he won the Second Prize of National Natural Science (the first prize is vacant).


Sympathy and Understanding Build Bridges Between China and America – by Ban Wang -July 2020

Billy’s Comment : Indeed, Prof. Wang’s ideas apply to Building Friendship Globally – Person to Person, People to People, as well as Country to Country.

Prof. Ban Wang – Stanford University

Perceptions and relations between America and China have gone through good times and bad, depending on the geopolitical barometers. In 2001, the US intelligence plane intruded into China’s air space and got intercepted and forced down by a Chinese plane, aggravating mutual tension and sable rattling. Since then, America’s strategic pivot to the Asian-Pacific regions, the ongoing trade war, the conflict over the South China Sea and Hong Kong, and the Covid-19 crisis are now fueling the tension to a boiling point. But a moment’s reflection should quiet the horrible drumbeat: the US and China are inextricably interdependent and interconnected. All the existential anxiety about mutual threat and zero-sum game cannot diminish the prospect of the intertwined fate of the twin in the same boat. You do not have to look further than Stanford to realize how much mutual learning and joint ventures are going on between the two countries. China and US. are involved in deep partnership in many areas: economy, trade, technology, health care, supply chain, the environment, etc. A strike at the other means shooting at one’s own feet.

The destiny of America has intertwined with that of China—a record of curiosity, sympathy, and understanding. America came into being, they say, because Christophe Columbus discovered America. Actually, it was the search for sea routes to China that the explorer stumbled on the new world. At his death Columbus still believed that the American continent was Asia. An American minister wrote 400 years ago, “We people of America may be said to owe to China the discovery of our continent. I often advise my students, you come to Stanford not just to learn computer science and to embark on a tech project. You come here to build bridges between Chinese and American people.  One of the most effective ways is cultural and intellectual exchange and learning from each other. Students and scholars are in a good position to carry out and fulfill that noble mission. If the governments of two countries often face off in confrontation, the people of two countries have always sympathize, connect, and befriend each other.  

Sino-US cultural exchanges date back to the dawn of modern China. In 1901, Lin Shu, a well-known writer, translated Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin and commented on the tragic fate of black slaves that paralleled Chinese subjugation under colonialism. Titled 黑奴吁天录 (black slaves’ outcry for justice from Heaven), the translation invests the American novel with a classical Chinese call for Heavenly justice.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin was adapted to a spoken drama by an overseas Chinese student group in Japan, headed by Li Shutong. In the Lu Xun Academy in Yan’an during the revolutionary years, George Washington, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman and many other Americans were admired as heroes for building a democratic nation and modern culture. Some American even joined the ranks of Chinese fighters in the War of Resistance against Japanese invasion.  In the 1960s, Chinese support of the Third World movement resonated with America’s civil rights movement, and the Martin Luther King assassination in 1968 sparked huge street demonstrations for days in Chinese streets against racism. Reading King’s “I Have a Dream” and reciting Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech were a routine practice for English learners in China. The Chinese leadership and people understood very well what the multi-ethnic, civil rights groups in America were fighting for: minority rights, human rights, the call to end the Vietnam War, and demands for social, gender, and racial equality.

By the time Nixon visited China and the Sino-US diplomatic normalization in 1972, many Chinese began to study English the way they had studied Chairman Mao’s little red books. National and provincial radio stations broadcast English lessons day and night. I learned my first English lessons mostly by listening to Voice of America. Based on a very popular English conversation primer English 900, the lessons were broadcast from VOA’s station in Hong Kong, usually in the midnight.  At the risk of being accused of listening to the “enemy” radio, I got up in the dark of night, wrapped myself up with a quilt, and listened to the lessons, almost suffocating inside. There was no headphone at that time.

By the time Nixon visited China and the Sino-US diplomatic normalization in 1972, many Chinese began to study English the way they had studied Chairman Mao’s little red books. National and provincial radio stations broadcast English lessons day and night. I learned my first English lessons mostly by listening to Voice of America. Based on a very popular English conversation primer English 900, the lessons were broadcast from VOA’s station in Hong Kong, usually in the midnight.  At the risk of being accused of listening to the “enemy” radio, I got up in the dark of night, wrapped myself up with a quilt, and listened to the lessons, almost suffocating inside. There was no headphone at that time.

In my undergraduate years in Beijing Foreign Language Institute in the 1980s, things American swept through colleges and society. The English Department, the largest of all, was nicknamed “British Empire” for its capacity of the winner in sports, theater activity and other contests. But few English majors liked the Oxford or Queen English taught by British teachers. Instead, most students would favor American teachers, listen and imitate the accent of VOA. Everybody tried to sound like the Yankees.  It was China’s honeymoon with America, which was an image for young people to dream and to strive for.

But America was also marred with flaws unworthy of the democratic principles. The TV series Roots, a saga of the slave trade, Africans’ journey to America, and racial exploitation and oppression in plantations, left a deep impression on me. That did not stop us from admiring America’s “power.” Watching the movie Rambo: The First Blood, we all became big fans of the macho hero played by Sylvester Stallone. But Prof. David Crook, a Canadian anthropologist and “foreign expert,” came out and put up a small poster on our classroom building to dissuade us from this deplorable mindset. We were being poisoned by imperialist ideology, he protested. Professor Cook urged us to be critical of the film, which was a propaganda of American military action in Vietnam and colonial conquest.

After graduation in the mid-1980s, most of my classmates chose to come to America to study or work. Those early birds were the envy of all. 

Since then, America has presented a mixed image to the Chinese people.  China, on the other hand, also has also been cast in mixed images: it is either a monstrous capitalist juggernaut or an evil Communist power. Recently the Cold War narrative of China and US. Is being updated, fueling the conflict and misperception. Academic area studies during the Cold War targeted specific geographical areas of strategic relevance to the US, presuming an authoritarian rule behind the iron curtain. This approach says, here we had democracy; over there was totalitarianism. This rigid divide blocks mutual understanding and communication and mystified people about the values and goals shared by all Chinese and Americans; it leaves people mystified as to why Chinese have long loved for Martin Luther King and held up so many Americans as champions of democracy and as icons for China.

Today, what fatally obstructs mutual understanding, sympathy, and communication is the myth of the absolute difference that divides America and China and places them in different universes. The myth declares that two countries have entirely different cultures and systems, that the difference is so huge that the two countries cannot co-exist under one eaHeaven and on planet Earth. This is a lie. The history of China-American cultural and intellectual exchange has constantly proven it to be a lie. People of both countries have always been able to understand and sympathize with each other and share certain values–as human beings and even in their distinct identity as Chinese and American. The Chinese revolutionaries admired George Washington, Martin Luther King; Chinese citizens applauded and supported America’s civil rights movement and anti-racialist movement. Chinese English learners love and appreciate a vast array of American writers, Hollywood and pop songs. Chinese consumers love myriad things American from Apple I-phone to cars. So, what is the real difference?

For people trapped in the myth, China’s lockdown and ubiquitous masks in response to the Covid-19 reflects its deeply entrenched “cultural difference” rooted in totalitarianism and conformism, which are unacceptable to freedom loving Americans. This irrational obsession with “cultural difference” is destroying the fabric of the global community and leading to more disasters and hatred, until people realize that lockdown and masks are not about Chinese culture or the American way of life. These public health measures are human and universal; they reach into a deeper and ancient core of human civilization that transcends the so-called cultural, national or political differences. It is a human civilization rooted in moral empathy, obligation, and care for your own safety and the safety of your neighbors.


Ban Wang is William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies in East Asian Languages and Cultures and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. His major publications include The Sublime Figure of History (1997), Illuminations from the Past (2004), History and Memory (Lish yu jiyi) (2004) and China in the World: Culture, Politics, and World Vision(forthcoming 2021). He has edited 8 books on Chinese film, memory studies, Chinese studies in the US, the Chinese Revolution, socialism, and the New Left, including Chinese Visions of World OrderTianxia, Culture and World Politics (2017). He has taught at SUNY-Stony Brook, Harvard, Rutgers, East China Normal University, Yonsei, and Seoul National University.