Intellectual History of China


The Chair in Intellectual History of China was founded in 2008 to complement the Chair in History of Modern China, which was held by Pierre-Etienne Will from 1991 to 2014. Its main mission is to be active in the field of so-called “Sinology”, which may be considered a French invention as Europe’s very first Chair dedicated to Chinese studies was established at the Collège de France as early as 1814.

Up to the mid-20th century, the discipline was very much modelled on classical antiquity studies (essentially Greek and Latin), with a primarily philological approach. Starting in the post-war years and the 60s and 70s, the scope of knowledge and competencies about the Chinese world has expanded into human and social sciences; it can no longer afford to follow a methodology restricted to textual sources only. The issue of continuity or discontinuity between the so-called “traditional” or “classic” China and the “modern” and “contemporary” China now pervades all study: it has therefore become necessary to examine ancient materials not only through scholarly and exegetical reading, but also through their multiple appropriations and reinterpretations in China and the world today. This is what the Chair aims to achieve in every aspect of its diverse activities.