China Studies versus Sinology

Wang Ronghua

Chief Advisor, Beijing Budding Flower International Cultural Promotion Co., Ltd.

¡¾Abstract¡¿ The speaker tries to give, in his talk, definitions to sinology, Chinese studies and China studies. He also challenges the concept of ¡°New Sinology¡±. He believes China studies should be carried out on two levels, the grass root level and the professional level. In his view the most imperative thing to do at the academic level is to produce some monumental works, and serious thoughts should be given to why monumental works have not been produced. He held that for academic workers the ability to communicate in foreign languages with foreign counterparts is most important.

¡¾Key Words¡¿Sinology; Chinese Cultural Studies; China Studies; ¡°New China Studies¡±; monumental works. I congratulate on the successful convening of this important conference. We would have a better world if China can understand the west better and if the west can understand China better. I wish to present some of my thoughts on the issue of China Studies versus Sinology.

My first thought is that caution is needed when we use the term ¡°sinology¡±. A widely accepted definition of the term is: academic studies about China done outside China in the fields of linguistics, literature, history, philosophy and other disciplines in humanities, which also include such special fields as D¨±nhu¨¢ng Studies and archaeology. I wish to add one more condition, which are the contents of the subject matter being studied are things happened before the end of the Second World War, in order to distinguish it from ¡°Chinese Studies¡±. In Chinese we used to call it ¡°h¨¤n xu¨¦¡±.

In its 400 years and more, sinology has produced such luminaries as James Legge, Herbert Allen Giles, Edouard Chavannes, Abel Remusat, Stanislas Julien, Paul Pelliot, Marcel Granet, Henri Maspero and Helmut Wilhelm to name a few. Regardless of their objectives in their studies, might it be for the convenience of their missionary work, or for their sheer pleasure, regardless of criticisms on them from their peers both in or outside China, the made the products of Chinese civilization available to the west. We are indeed deeply indebted to them who opened up a window in the west for views of China.

Sinology has never been a popular discipline in the west. Those who engage in such studies must have mastered some related basic skills, such as the languages or research method. Aside from Chinese, some sinologists also mastered Mongolian, Manchuria and Tibetan.

The proficiency of classic Chinese of some sinologists is surprisingly superb. Paul Pelliot once remarked, ¡°The unbroken history of China in the past 30 centuries and more is so deep and magnificent, is more than a discipline of its own. Only those who have been properly trained and immersed in it for a long time are able to carry out such studied.¡± Take the Swedish sinologist Bernhard Karlgren, who published in 1940 "Grammata Serica, Script and Phonetics in Chinese and Sino-Japanese". Famous Chinese historian F¨´ S¨©n¨©an (¸µË¹Äê) said in the forward in its Chinese edition, ¡°despite the fact that his own method made his huge success, one of the main reasons of his success was his followed the conclusions of the research by Chinese phonetic scholars.¡± Aside from his mastery of a number of local dialects, he also understood the rhyming in Chinese poetry. He was the one who proofed that the author of ¡°The Spring and Autumn Annals with Zuo¡®s Commentary¡± was not from States Qi or Lu. Now I wish to say a few words about ¡°Chinese Studies¡±, which were pioneered by John King Fairbank, and sponsored at the beginning by the US Defense budget for purpose of gathering information about the enemy countries, in particular during the period of the Korean War. Such studies are mainly in the fields of sociology, politics, economics and anthropology.

Such studies are aimed at the understanding of present day China. There are now many Chinese Studies Centers in many universities in the world. In Chinese we may call it ¡°zh¨­ng gu¨® xu¨¦¡±. So, in this sense, John King Fairbank is a master in ¡°Chinese Studies¡±, and he should not be regarded as a ¡°sinologist¡±.

There have been conferences on sinology. Not too long ago, there was one convened in Beijing. Honestly speaking, when I went through its agenda and judging from its contents and topics, which included ¡°The Trend and Prospects of New Sinology¡±, ¡°China¡¯s Path and World Economic Order¡±, ¡°Cultural Differences and the Orientation of International Politics¡±, ¡°Traditional Ethics and the Future of Mankind¡± and ¡°Translation of China¡¯s Classics and Its Significance Today¡±, such a conference should be termed ¡°Chinese Studies¡±.

It was the first time for me to come across with the term ¡°New Sinology¡± when I was reading the documents of the conference. I could not find any explanation of the term. I don¡¯t understand why this term is formally accepted by the conference. If those who use this term wanted to aim their studies at present issues in both China and the world, that would be the task of ¡°Chinese Studies¡±; if they refer more to new methods to be employed, that would not change the nature of the subject matter. What surprised me even more is that there is even a training program for foreign applicants under the title of ¡°New Sinology¡±; most subjects in the plan should be classified as ¡°Chinese Studies.¡±

Now, let¡¯s come to China Studies, in Chinese we call it ¡°gu¨® xu¨¦¡±. It is much younger than Sinology, only less than 200 years old. You can say it is the equivalent of Sinology inside China. It is true there have been different definitions of China Studies, for instance, Zhang Taiyan £¨ÕÂÌ«Ñ×£©defined it as indigenous studies of the country; WuMi £¨Îâåµ£©termed it as the total sum of China¡¯s academics; and Ma Yifu £¨ÂíÒ»¸¡£©defined it as the study of six arts, or six books, namely ¡°The Book of Songs¡±, ¡°The Documents of History¡±, ¡°The Book of Rites¡±, ¡°The Book of Music¡±, ¡°The Book of Changes¡± and ¡°The Spring and Autumn Annals.¡± It might be simple and clear if we define China Studies as ¡°the studies of why China is China and Chinese are Chinese¡±. The subject matter of study should not be divided according to western disciplines, but according to our traditional categories of ¡°classics, history, maters and collections.¡±

China Studies should be carried out at two levels. The first level is the grass-root level, or the general public, including students at primary and middle schools. We are so overwhelmed with joy at the news that China Studies textbooks were formally published and distributed as of last September by the People¡¯s Education Publishing House. This is exactly 100 years after Cai Yuanpei £¨²ÌÔªÅࣩ, in the capacity of the minister of education, issued the order to stop teaching canons and classic at all level of schools in 1912. We are so grateful to the National Center of Culture and Arts in China Studies who physically compiled the textbooks in their 8 years of efforts, which was included in the 11th Five-Year Plan by the Ministry of Education.

The publication includes ¡°How Should Sons and Brothers Behave¡±, ¡°Three-Character a Line Chant¡±, ¡°One Thousand Character Verse¡±, ¡°ABC of the Sound Meters in Chinese Poetry¡±, ¡°Analects of Confucius¡± and ¡°Analects of Mencius¡± in the primary education; it includes ¡°The Art of War¡±, ¡°The Great Learning¡± and ¡°Doctrines of the Mean¡± in the junior middle school level; It includes ¡°The Best of Ancient Writing¡± and ¡°Dao De Jing¡± in the senior middle school level. It also includes something about the Tea culture, Peking Opera and etc. The objective of this set of textbooks: To establish fine behavior norms; to understand profound philosophy thoughts; to learn morality and code of conduct; to cultivate noble and graceful taste.

The English teacher of our last Emperor, spiritual friend of the Chinese nation Reginald Fleming Johnston once said, ¡°It will be an evil day for China-and not for China only but for the whole world¡ªwhen they (the altars of Confucius) grow stone cold.¡± We can now tell him that moral education in Confucian doctrines has come back, and he may close his eyes and rest in peace for we shall keep the alters warm. At the professional or academic level, the most imperative thing to do is to produce some monumental works like Wang Guowei¡¯s £¨Íõ¹úά£©¡°Survey of the Traditional Singing Drama in the Song and Yuan Dynasties¡± and Lu Xun¡¯s £¨Â³Ñ¸£© ¡°A Brief History of Chinese Novels¡±, which have been regarded as a pair of jade stone in the history of Chinese arts and literature, or a work like Chen Yinke¡¯s £¨³ÂÒúã¡£©¡°Fate of the Re-Born¡±, which was read four times in one year by Guo Moruo £¨¹ùÄ­Èô£©, who wrote seven commentaries on Chen¡¯s book. Has there been such a work of similar magnitude since the ending of the Cultural Revolution? And we have neglected its existence? If not, we have to ponder why. The one of the reasons I can think of is that we have not done enough to enhance the ¡°Independent Spirit and Freedom of Thinking.¡± We should create an ambience for such a work to appear. We should also ask if our academic strength has been too scattered. Another factor would be the lack of force of critiques, which would bring to everyone¡¯s attention with its proper valuation of a master piece and give serious criticism when necessary to ensure a healthy academic environment. The other important matter facing us is that communication capability should be enhanced. Workers in China Studies find it normal to think that you should speak like us since you are studying us. In the foreword in the inaugural issue, the ¡°World Sinology¡± said, it would use Chinese language to conduct dialogues among different cultural background and systems and to build a bridge for international sinology.

There are a few other journals, which don¡¯t even provide a table of contents in English, for instance ¡°International Studies of Confucianism¡±. We presume most of those who work in sinology would speak or read Chinese. The question is how many are involved in sinology in the entire world? How big is the sinology bridge? We believe in the parlance that the more indigenous the more international. This conclusion can only be true when things indigenous are being understood. The knowledge of China should reach out to much more people in the world.

There should be initiatives to train more researchers in foreign languages, so that they could exchange ideas directly with their counterparts in other countries.

There should be a contingent of our own translators from Chinese into other languages. Translation departments in various language schools may give more attention to the train more translators from Chinese into other languages. It is worth to consider even to set up a discipline of ¡°Translation of China¡¯s Classics¡±.

Thank you for your time.