Brief Report to Professor Léon Vandermeersch’s Lecture: Quelle Conception de L’histoire S’est-elle Construite dans la Pensée Chinoise? (7/24/13)

On the afternoon of July 24th, distinguished French sinologist Léon Vandermeersch delivered a speech on historical ideas in Chinese thinking, invited by Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University. Léon Vandermeersch was Professor of Chinese in Université de Paris 7 Denis Diderot. Now he is Researcher of cole des hautes études en sciences socials (EHESS) and Director of Ecole Francaise d’Extrême—Orient (EFEO). He had long taught the history of Confucianism in EHESS, and held the position of  Director until retirement. Léon Vandermeersch is currently the Corresponding Member of L’Institut de France and Professor of EHESS. He dedicated himself to Chinese culture studies, and won a Stanislas Julien prize, known as sinology’s “Nobel Prize” in 1980.

In the lecture, Professor Léon Vandermeersch pointed out that the origin of Chinese culture stemmed from a natural religion, Shamanism, which then evolved into shamanic culture represented by astrology, which was expressed by ideograms, thereby formatted the related thinking patterns. Due to this origin, Chinese though emphasizes mutual induction between things with common structures. He suggested that one might conclude, from the perspective of historiography, that Chinese history attaches great importance to correlative reasoning in understanding each moment in the integrated flow of events. By contrast, Western culture derived from supernatural theism, a culture that developed from a theology formed under the influence of phonographic writing systems has emphasized causal thinking patterns. Professor Léon Vandermeersch holds the perspective that each civilization has its unique sense of existence, and innovation within any civilization is not supposed to and cannot diverge from the core of tradition. However, it is proper to bring forth new ideas on the basis of tradition to contribute to the entire human race. On the meanwhile, progress and innovation of a civilization can hardly do without learning from other civilizations.