Lessons in New Sinology

In China Heritage we celebrate the vital aspects of the Chinese tradition both by introducing readers to Nouvelle Chinoiserie 奇趣漢學, as well as by adding to our long-term advocacy of New Sinology 後漢學, which we first articulated in 2005. Previously we have illustrated this way of appreciating contemporary China in the context of the tradition in the series New Sinology Jottings 後漢學劄記. We also publish translations related to contemporary Chinese politics and culture.

What’s useful about New Sinology? As we have previously observed:

Today’s corporatised education system too often leaves students of China well versed in the professions, but unable to understand with ease and fluency the wellsprings of what China is today. Deprived of the broader linguistic and cultural context, they are ill-equipped to understand, translate or engage with such daily essentials as online discussions, coded commentaries or sometimes even newspaper headlines, let alone the myriad traditional concepts used by Chinese thinkers, politicians, economists and strategists in articulating China’s sense of itself and its new place in the world. …

New Sinology advocates an approach to contemporary China that appreciates the overculture of the dominant Chinese Communist Party and what, through ideology, its policies, the mass media, the education system and its internal and global propaganda efforts the Party promotes as Official China. It also inducts those engaged with China into the particularities of Translated China, that is the versions of China advocated by the Party authorities through their selective approach to and interpretation of the Chinese world, be it in the contemporary context or that of the tradition or the twentieth century.

On New Sinology

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Today, the Xi Jinping-era version of The China Story claims to be the sole legitimate way to understand China, both present and past. Many writers, journalists and academics, be they inside China or overseas, strain to hear, report, create stories or translate the polyphony of voices, the jostling of ideas, aspirations and the melding of the traditional with the contemporary that can inform an engaged yet independent appreciation of the Chinese world unencumbered by Communist Party dogma. It is the task of China’s Communist Party organs like People’s Daily to corral a Chinese multiverse that is constantly threatening to break out of the prison of words. Through our advocacy of New Sinology we hope to aid and abet people to appreciate better the limits of that party-prison.

In the following lessons, we also discuss the kinds of literary-historical-intellectual 文史哲 usage and allusions used in contemporary writing that add both literary validation and strength to prose that appeals both to the heart and the mind of the Chinese world. Merely to mine this kind of writing for transient and ill-conceived political purposes, or to fail to appreciate the broader cultural, social and political ambience that it reflects — one far beyond the limited purview of the Communists and their immediate critics — is to overlook an essential part of Chinese cultural expression.

— The Editor


Lessons in New Sinology