New Sinology Jottings

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These works are in the style of ‘jottings’ 筆記 or 劄記, a genre familiar to readers of traditional Chinese prose. I call these essay ‘New Sinology Jottings’ 後漢學劄記 in keeping with the concept of New Sinology, the study of and engagement with the Chinese and Sinophone worlds that has its origins in the late-Ming dynasty.

Regard for cultural and literary traditions, be they living, imagined or confabulated, is not merely the concern of power-holders, gate-keepers or fundamentalists. The world of letters, and the ideas, writings and art works that connect the modern reader through a skein of words and sensibility to the past, is open to all. The essays, along with the poetry, art work and calligraphy, collected here reflect an approach to China’s present and past in which the key is ‘comprehensive understanding’ 通, and appreciation.

These Jottings are written in the spirit of New Sinology, encouraging an understanding of the Chinese world that does not artificially sequester an appreciation of culture, thought and religion from an understanding of politics, society and economics. It is a form of Sinology that has evolved during the present era of reinvented Chinese traditions; it is an approach that constantly recalls the diverse strains of history and culture that underpin the multiverse of China, a polyphonous world that the party-state of the People’s Republic attempts to dominate, silence, corral or eliminate.

New Sinology Jottings are not some kind of self-indulgent chinoiserie or post-imperial gewgaw. Their aim is not to provide readers with a light dusting of China literacy. Rather they take China past and China present seriously as they help readers appreciate, in a modest fashion, the skein of influences, ideas and traditions that continue to enliven the Chinese world. We hope also that these ruminations on China’s tradition of wen shi zhe 文史哲 (literature-history-thought) resonate with the reader’s understanding of other global cultures.

— Geremie R. Barmé, EditorChina Heritage


Essays


Introductions