Interview with the Philosopher Chen Shaoming

Chen Shaoming 陈少明 is one of the most influential contemporary philosophers in China. He was born in Guangdong in 1958. After training in history (1978–1983) in Guangzhou, he then studied philosophy at Sun Yat-sen University 中山大学 (1983–1986) where he stayed on as a teacher. Since his appointment as professor in 1997, he has been a guest professor at several universities: Harvard University (1998–2000; 2008), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (2002), and Taiwan National University (2009). In 2015, he was honoured with the Yangtze Scholar award (长江学者), one of the highest accolades in Chinese academia. His research focuses on the Zhuangzi and the Analects as well as on Late Qing dynasty scholarship. In his works, he tries to extract conceptual tools from classical texts to answer contemporary philosophical questions. He is the author of several books including ‘Discussion on Making All Things Equal’ and Its Influence (2004) and Chinese Philosophy: Reflections on the Methodology of Chinese Philosophical Research (2015). For a more detailed bibliography of Chen Shaoming’s works, some of which have already been translated into English, see below.

This is a translation of an interview with Chen Shaoming, conducted by Chen Bisheng and published in the journal Academic Monthly 学术月刊 (no. 1, 2007, pp. 148–152), under the title “Searching for diversity in Chinese Philosophy” 《探求中国哲学的多样形态》.

Continue reading

Conference: “Sovereignty and imperial patronage in China (XIIIth-XXth century)”

The International Conference “Sovereignty and imperial patronage in China (XIIIth-XXth century)”, organized by the École pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and the Palace Museum Research Center for Tibetan Buddhist Heritage, will be held in Beijing, inside the Forbidden City, from October, 25th to 27th, 2018.
The program of the conference and the abstracts are available on the following website: https://imperial-patronage.efeo.fr.

Chinese-European Lecture Series 2018/19

Chinese Manuscript Cultures in the Age of Print

This year’s lecture series organized by the European Centre for Chinese Studies (Beijing), jointly formed by the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and Germany’s Max Weber Stiftung (MWS), continues the cooperation with the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It is well-known that printing technology was invented in China centuries before its introduction in Europe in the 15th century. In recent decades research on the history of the book in China has become a vibrant field of its own. However, this research has tended to focus largely on the printed book, even though the persisting role of manuscripts in the period after the invention of printing technology is acknowledged. This is probably in part due to the still widely influential deterministic model of a progressive transition of media (orality–manuscript–print). The huge amount of extant manuscripts dating from the period after the invention of printing, however, tells us that this evolutionary model is inadequate. Manuscripts continued to be widely produced and used well into the 20th century.

The emergence of new media, as in the case of the printing technology or the currently emerging digital media, obviously does not entail the complete demise of older media. It seems to rather result in a change of how and in which areas older media continue to be used. Instead of a clear break we must acknowledge a long-lasting simultaneous existence of new and old media. In case of manuscript and print in China we are dealing with a time span of more than 1000 years. There is good reason to even assert that this period is not over yet since manuscripts are still being produced in China today.

Moreover, manuscript and imprint did not merely coexist side by side but also strongly influenced each other. This is evident, for instance, from the characteristics of the in China once dominant woodblock-printing, which shows a much closer relation to manuscript than does moveable-type printing. At a larger scale, we might ask what effects the introduction of printing technology had on the production of manuscripts in terms of format and layout?

While there is a longstanding tradition in studying manuscript cultures prior to the invention of print, for which there exist well established fields (i.e. Dunhuang studies and the study of bamboo, wood and silk manuscripts from early China), the study of manuscript cultures in the age of print is still at an infant stage.

Initial studies have identified aesthetic, economic and religious factors for the persistence of the manuscript in the age of print. However, we are still far from having a complete picture of the lasting Chinese post-print manuscript cultures. What were the specific areas in which manuscripts persisted and was it always for the same reasons? How did the evolving print culture interact with existing manuscript cultures? What can be said about the interdependence of the two? What changes may be observed in the relation between imprint and manuscript during their long coexistence?

The lecture series will bring together contributions dealing with various manuscript cultures (religious, artistic, scholarly, medical, literary, commercial etc.) from different periods of the printing age. Thus, fostering the study of manuscript cultures in the age of print and helping us realize the lasting importance of an ostensibly outdated media. At last, learning about the manuscript’s fate in the age of print may also lend us some hints for understanding the current emergence of digital media and major challenges this poses for traditional print culture.

印刷时代的中国写本文化

欧洲汉学研究中心(北京)由法国远东学院和德国马克斯韦伯基金会联合组建,今年我们继续与中科院自然科学史研究所合作,为大家带来新一轮讲座。

众所周知,印刷术在15世纪被介绍至欧洲,在此之前几个世纪,中国就已经发明了印刷术。最近几十年,中国书籍史研究已经成为一个活跃的领域。尽管人们也承认印刷术出现之后写本依然继续扮演了重要角色,然而书籍史的研究对象还是更多倾向于印刷品及其文化。这可能部分归因于人们受到了媒体渐进式变迁的确定性模式(口头—写本—印刷品)广泛的影响。然而,现存的大量写本都是在印刷术时代才出现的,它告诉我们这个进化论模式并不充分。直到20世纪,写本仍然得到广泛的生产和使用。

新媒介的出现,比如印刷技术或新近出现的数字媒体,显然并不会导致旧媒介的彻底消亡,看起来新媒介使得旧媒介继续使用的方式和领域发生了变化。我们必须承认新、旧媒介之间有一段长期持续的共存期,而并非截然分明的断裂。以中国的写本和印刷品为例,我们面对的是持续一千多年的一段历史。我们有很好的理由断定这个时期至今尚未完结,因为在当下的中国依然在不断产生写本。

而且,写本和印刷术在过去并不仅是并肩而行,同时还强烈地相互影响。比如说,从中国曾经盛极一时的木版印刷术来看在这点上表现得很明显,雕版印刷术与写本之间的关联比与活字印刷术的关联更紧密。在更大的范围上说,我们也许应该提出一个问题:随着印刷技术的引入,它在格式和排版上对写本产生了什么样的影响?

研究印刷术发明之前的写本文化已经有了长久的学术传统,且已存在较完善的领域(比如敦煌研究、中国早期简牍和帛书研究),而印刷术出现后的写本文化研究尚属萌芽阶段。

最初的研究已经确认了写本在印刷时代持续存在的美学、经济和宗教原因。然而,我们对于中国印刷时代的写本文化的延续还没有一幅完整的画面。写本存留下来的具体领域有哪些?留存下来的原因都是一样的吗?在不断进化中的印刷文化如何同已存的写本文化互动?对于两者之间互相依赖的关系我们有什么要说的?在印刷品和写本长期并存期间,我们将发现它们之间的关系会发生什么变化?

本系列讲座计划将印刷术出现以后不同时期的多种写本文化(宗教的、艺术的、学术的、医学的、文学的、商业的等等)予以综合呈现。希冀以此培育对印刷时代写本文化的研究,并且帮助我们认识一种表面上过时的媒介的持续重要性。最后,通过研究印刷时代写本的命运,这也许能够为我们理解当下数字媒体的兴起给传统印刷文化带来的巨大挑战提供一些启示。

Call for Applications 2018: Travel Grants for Research in China

Apply now for travel grants to do research in China. The Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad (MWS) – awards travel grants once a year, with the generous support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The grants will be awarded to scholars from sinology or related subjects of any nationality, whose professional qualification phase (PhD and postdoc) is concerned with Chinese history, language or culture in the broadest sense and for whose research a stay in China is indispensable. Every year, two travel grants will be awarded for a period of research of up to three months, for the purposes of fieldwork, archive and/or library research in China, preferably in Beijing. An affiliation to a university or (research) institution in the German-speaking area should be given.

The deadline for applications is 12 October 2018.

Further information:
https://www.maxweberstiftung.de/en/foerderung/travel-grants-for-china.html

 

 

A Short Note on Working in the Beijing Municipal Archive

by Elisabeth Forster (Research Assistant, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

The Beijing Municipal Archive (Beijing shi dang’an guan 北京市档案馆) stores, as the name suggests, materials pertaining to Beijing as a city. It has materials on both the period before 1949 and after. Arunabh Ghosh has already written a very informative review of this archive  on Dissertation Review, based on his experiences in 2011: http://dissertationreviews.org/archives/643. Therefore I will only give updated information on the aspects that I found changed, when I visited the archive in February and March 2018.

Continue reading