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:

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.









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:



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: Therefore I will only give updated information on the aspects that I found changed, when I visited the archive in February and March 2018.

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A Short Guide to Visiting the Capital Library of China

by Z. Lu (Researcher, CSMC, Universität Hamburg)

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