China Heritage is a continuation and expansion of the China Heritage Project established by Geremie R. Barmé in 2005 and the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly, which appeared under the auspices of that project from 2005 to 2012.
China Heritage, which was launched in December 2016, is also the online home of The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology 清漪書院, which is based in South Wairarapa, New Zealand. (In te reo Māori the word ‘wairarapa’ refers to glistening waters or waves, translated here as 清漪 qīng yī, ‘clear and rippling waters’. The Wairarapa region is named after Wairarapa Moana, a large lake south of the town of Featherston.)
The main menu of the China Heritage site is divided into four sections:
- About consists of an introduction to the site; an essay on the rationale of this project; material related to New Sinology; and, an overview of the Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology
- Features highlights six aspects of contemporary China, as well as the compendium ‘Other People’s Thoughts’
- Topics provides links to the main themes investigated in China Heritage
- Archive introduces those who have contributed to our endeavour
China Heritage Annual, a ‘sororal site’, was launched in March 2017. Envisaged as a separate site building on the thematic work of China Heritage Quarterly (2005-2012) the annual themes of China Heritage can be found under ‘Topics’ in the menu bar. Similarly, A New Sinology Reader which explores the ideas first proposed by Geremie R. Barmé with the founding of the China Heritage Project in 2005, and which informed the creation of the Australian Centre on China in the World in 2010 is available in Readings in New Sinology, a section of this site.
The origins of China Heritage go back to 1980 when Geremie Barmé and John Minford encountered each other at The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. John was completing his doctoral research on (and translation of) the last forty chapters of The Story of the Stone under the supervision of Professor Liu Ts’un-yan 柳存仁, while Geremie was back at ANU to take part in an intensive Japanese language course after a six-year absence studying in the People’s Republic of China and working in Hong Kong. They met at a seminar given by visiting translators and writers from China, including Geremie’s Beijing friends Yang Hsien-yi 楊憲益 and Gladys Yang. It was on that occasion that the Yangs encountered the writer Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys), Geremie’s Chinese teacher and future PhD supervisor.
Thereafter, John and family moved to Tianjin where John worked as a ‘foreign expert’ at the Tianjin Foreign Languages Institute and, at the end of 1980, Geremie went to Japan to continue his studies. In 1983, by which time John had been invited by Stephen Soong 宋淇, an old friend of Professor Liu’s, to become the Director of the Translation Research Centre at Chinese University of Hong Kong and editor of Renditions 譯叢, they collaborated on a special issue of Renditions dedicated to contemporary Chinese literature and what they would dub the ‘Chinese commonwealth’ (not dissimilar from the philosopher Tu Wei-ming’s 杜維明 concept of ‘Cultural China’ 文化中國). That issue of the journal, designed by John, was titled Trees on the Mountain (Renditions, Nos. 19 & 20, Spring and Autumn 1983), a title inspired by ‘Gradual’ Jian 漸, Hexagram LIII of the I Ching, which consists of two trigrams representing Wind and Wood on the Mountain (艮為山，巽為木).
In 1985-1986, John invited Geremie to join him in editing Seeds of Fire: Chinese Voices of Conscience, a volume of translations and essays published by Far Eastern Economic Review that reflected the cultural maelstrom of 1980s’ China, including Hong Kong and Taiwan. Following the repression of student demonstrations in late 1986 and the purge of ‘bourgeois liberalism’ in early 1987, a revised and expanded edition of the book was published by in New York by Hill & Wang. After the 4 June 1989 Beijing Massacre, John and Geremie were invited by their US publisher to produce a new book, which they called New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices. That volume was completed by Geremie with Linda Jaivin and published in 1992. Those three volumes — Trees on the Mountain, Seeds of Fire and New Ghosts, Old Dreams — along with lives spent pursuing research, teaching, writing and translation work all contributed to the founding of the China Heritage Project in 2005 and the creation, in 2016, of China Heritage.
China Heritage advocates a New Sinology 後漢學. This is an approach to the Chinese and Sinophone world that builds on traditional Sinological strengths while emphasising a learned engagement with the complex and shifting realities of contemporary China, and the Chinese commonwealth (Hong Kong, Taiwan, the People’s Republic and the global Sinosphere).
In 2010, the ideas motivating New Sinology underpinned the founding of The Australian Centre on China in the World 中華全球研究中心 at The Australian National University by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Geremie R Barmé, and with the support of the university’s vice-chancellor, Ian Chubb. It also informed the Centre’s research agenda and The China Story Project (2012-2016) which, for a time, allowed for the practical application of New Sinology to the study of things Chinese.
China Heritage was designed by Callum Smith, under the guidance of Geremie R. Barmé, who conceptualised the site and its contents.
The featured art work on the original masthead of the site was a photograph of West Lake, Hangzhou at Solitary Hill 孤山. It was made by the New York-based photographer Lois Conner, a friend who contributed generously to the China Heritage Project from its inception in 2005, as well as to The China Story Project from 2012 to 2016.
In 2022, the masthead of China Heritage features a work made by Lois Conner at Lu Shan in Jiangxi province (see Prologue 真面目 — The True Face of Mount Lu, 1 January 2022).
The leitmotif of China Heritage is the word-idea 遺 yí. On the masthead the character 遺 yí is written in the hand of Li Huailin 李懷琳 of the Tang dynasty. This calligraphic motif was suggested by Callum Smith. Our version of 遺 yí is taken from Li’s grass-script 草書 transcription of a ‘Letter to Shan Tao’ 與巨山源絕交書, a famous epistle written by Xi Kang (嵇康, 223-262 CE), one of the outspoken Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove 竹林七賢. Xi Kang’s letter frames the essay ‘On Heritage 遺’, a statement about the rationale of this website and The Wairarapa Academy for New Sinology.
The China Heritage Project and China Heritage Quarterly evolved together as part of an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship, which I held at The Australian National University (ANU) from 2005. Callum Smith’s work on the China Heritage website in 2016 was also made possible by that grant.
Without long years of support from ANU and the Australian Research Council, my work on New Sinology and China Heritage would not have been possible. In particular, I would acknowledge Ian Chubb, Mandy Thomas, Claire Roberts, Bruce Doar, Sang Ye 桑曄, Judith Pabian, Gloria Davies, Jude Shanahan, Daniel Sanderson, Duncan Campbell, John Minford, Lois Conner, Jeremy Goldkorn, Linda Jaivin and Kevin Rudd for their encouragement and contributions to the first ten years of New Sinology. In creating China Heritage Nancy Chiu and Celiya Yang were also constant in their support.
I am also grateful to Ryan Manuel, a former colleague at the Australian Centre on China in the World, for introducing me to Callum Smith, the designer of this site. In 2015, Callum worked with me on his Honours Year thesis, China’s Shanzhai 山寨 Entrepreneurs: Hooligans or Heroes?
In 2016, Callum agreed to help me create the China Heritage website which we launched on 15 December 2016 when I presented a keynote address titled ‘Living with Xi Dada’s China — Making Choices and Cutting Deals’ at the conference ‘Political Enchantments: Aesthetic practices and the Chinese state’ organised by Gloria Davies and Christian Sorace in Melbourne, Australia.
The serif typefaces used on this site are part of the overall tradition-inspired, black and white style of China Heritage. Trajan is used for titles, Caslon for content and STKaiti, or Huawen kaiti 華文楷體, for Chinese. China Heritage site uses ‘traditional’ or non-simplified Chinese orthography 正體字, as opposed to the ‘crippled characters’ 殘體字 mandated by the Beijing authorities.
— Geremie R. Barmé
Wairarapa, New Zealand,
December 2016 (updated June 2022)