Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inside Peking University - Public Lecture on 'Shengren'

WESTERN 'China Studies', and by this I mean the army of scholars dedicated to the Westernization of Chinese history and thought, steals its victim’s ideas, buries its socio-cultural originality under sophisticated layers of biblical and philosophical European translations and interpretations. China is not alone. Foreign ideas and thoughts everywhere are quickly translated or re-named in order to claim ‘Deutungshoheit’ – a German words meaning "having the sovereignty over the definition of thought."

In contemporary ‘China studies’ 99% of its scholars are what I call 'language imperialists'. It is plainly their best career option, and there is no blaming them for that. To be true, most of the sinologists describe China in Western terms, using European categories and taxonomies. Good examples are “democracy,” “human rights,” “freedom,” religion,” “philosophy,” and infinite more.
As a result of language imperialism the China that you were told is essential Chinese-free. This is good for the West, so, naturally, Western scholars are rewarded with Western fellowships, academic chairs, publishing contracts, prizes, awards, and numerous other academic distinctions and accolades. In other words: they are celebrated in their cultural circle like conquerors.
"The East-Asian shengren have been misjudged by Western scholars for over 350 years and conveniently translated as “philosophers” or “saints”, which is wrong. The shengren are above philosophy and beyond religion. It is time to revive an old Asian tradition." (Shengren, 2011)
Foreign history is thus slowly digested into the ‘Story of the Victorious’. Foreign taxonomies are discontinued, foreign words are shunned, and foreign categories are erased and purposely omitted. It doesn't have to be this way forever. Seeing cultural originality as a form of copyright, and looking at vocabularies as a (natural) resource of this culture, China could easily promote its own names, titles, and brands.

Image credits: The Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University - The Future of Global Language and The Rise of Chinese Terminologies, Oct 2013