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Welcome to ERICFacility.org, which provides educational resources on Chinese studies.

History of Chinese Studies and Sinology

Chinese Studies originally meant official institutes of the government. It began to signify a discipline dealing with all aspects of Chinese art, culture, and tradition after the western culture was introduced around 1920s. It was soon popular and pursued by contemporary Chinese scholars. In mainland China, however, Chinese studies was explored after the ten-year Cultural Revolution.

Another word related to Chinese studies is sinology. Though sometimes equal to each other, they are actually different. A scholar of Chinese studies uses Chinese as his tongue, and he should master Chinese history, classics, ancient literature, and so on. Such a scholar often impresses people that he can freely use the ancient Chinese language (complex), whose style is a supplement to modern Chinese. While a sinologist is a foreigner. With good command of Chinese, he can read and understand Chinese literature and other materials. He is enthusiastic about Chinese things and tries his best to introduce them to his fellowmen with his work, especially translation work.

Sinology began about 1600 with the missionaries, such as Father Iakinf, Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J., Fr. Adam Schall, S.J. and others that went to China and studied language, cultures and beliefs. They translated some parts of Classical Chinese literature into Latin and other Western languages, and the Bible into Chinese. They also wrote many letters from China that were avidly read when China began to be considered politically or economically interesting.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, other missionaries such as James Legge (1815–1897) pushed for sinology as a discipline in Western universities. In 1837, the Reverend Samuel Kidd (1797–1843) became England's first professor of Chinese. Secular scholars gradually outnumbered missionaries and in the 20th century sinology slowly gained a substantial presence in Western universities.

In Japan, Sinology was established with an effective combination of traditional Confucian study and Western Sinology. It was later reorganized as a part of Oriental Studies.

Scope of Chinese Studies

Strictly, Chinese studies hasn't formed a unified definition within the academe. But it is generally accepted that it involves traditional culture, learning, and science, taking Confucianism as the dominant thought among all schools. It covers medicine, drama, painting and calligraphy, astrology, maths, and many other topics, and all these are both the contents and extensions of Chinese studies.

As a course (or major), Chinese studies comprises the subjects of philosophy (Confucianism as the mainstream), history, religions, literature, etiquette and custom, textural research, versions comparison, and so forth. Philosophically, Chinese studies mainly includes pre-Qin thoughts, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, among which Confucianism stands a dominant position. According to the Four Sections of Books, i.e. Complete library in the Four Branches of Literature, Chinese studies contains four parts: Confucian classics, history, thinkers of schools, and literature, with inclination towards Confucian classics and other thoughts of schools, especially the former.

ERICFacility.org introduces Chinese studies to the Four Sections of Books, with complements of Drama, Music, Wu Shu, Cuisine, Folk Custom, Wedding and Burial, and Etiquette.

Current Situation of Chinese Studies: Dilemma

Chinese studies is reviving in recent years, partly as a result of that people are afraid of losing it. When many scholars advocate that pupils be nourished by traditional Chinese culture at an early age, some experimental schools echo with curricula that add and increase the hours for classics reading. Besides, the pupils can choose to learn skills like traditional music performance and chess playing (mainly go) after school. While some educators worry that learning classics will take up too much time of pupils and that it's still doubt that it's more useful than learning English, which can begin as early as at kindergarten.

Though Chinese studies gains a high social focus, and even enters into schools and institutes, to learn it or not is a dilemma for many people, including students at the first-rank colleges. When China is engaged in its economy, there are few jobs related to Chinese studies. That leads people to think Chinese studies of no practical use. In fact, each year, many graduates of Chinese-related majors see a hard time to land their jobs, and many of them finally have to shift to other areas. Besides, the media and the entertainment industry seem to create an atmosphere easier and less cultural, so as to please as many audiences as possible, which delivers the sense that Chinese studies no longer belongs to this time. And some people even hold Chinese studies as totally a throwback. While many students wish to go abroad for a better development; they can speak fluent English and read Shakespeare well, but may have no idea of the basic idea of Confucius. In spite of all these, there is a common belief that it is needed and essential for a Chinese to learn some Chinese studies. But the belief is always beaten by the more powerful reality. To find a way to use Chinese studies, maybe that's the outlet.

Baidu.com, a famous Chinese language search engine, launched near the end of 2005 a special Chinese studies channel, in which you can search out and read classics on line. Though its expertise and business intention are universally questioned and the language is in Chinese only, the attempt is an offer-up to the nationwide popularity of Chinese studies.