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Can China Think?

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Anne Cheng

Introducing Anne Cheng

Pierre Corvol
Traduction de Liz Libbrecht

Texte intégral

1Dear Colleague,
Dear Anne Cheng,

2Studies on China have enjoyed a prominent position at the Collège de France for several years now. The Chair of Intellectual History of China that you are inaugurating today is strengthening that position.

3Your life and studies are characterized by both Chinese and French culture. You point out that it was at school in the French Republic that you learned critical thinking, particularly in history and philosophy. After graduating from the École normale supérieure and Université Paris 7 (Denis Diderot), you were initiated into research in sinology by the most eminent French, European and Chinese specialists. You taught at INALCO and at the École des hautes études en sciences humaines et sociales, and in 2005 were appointed senior member of the IUF.

  • 1 Paris, Collège de France and Institut des hautes études chinoises, 1985.

4Your first book, Étude sur le confucianisme Han : l’élaboration d’une tradition exégétique sur les classiques, published in 19851, characterized then already the approach that you subsequently adopted in all your work: specialized, technical study of Chinese written tradition and thought, and of the history of Chinese thought in the Han period covering four centuries, when it was still close to its origins and sufficiently elaborate to constitute a tradition.

  • 2 Entretiens de Confucius (complete translation of the Lunyu, with introduction, notes, maps and chro (...)

5Wanting to transmit thought that is known only superficially, you translated the famous Entretiens de Confucius2 with clarity and elegance, and embarked on what could be called the postmodern revival of Confucianism, along with the ambiguous interest it holds in certain countries.

  • 3 Éditions du Seuil, 1997.

6Basically, it is the issue of identity in China today that you are addressing when you examine a host of, sometimes contradictory, ideas, thoughts and references to the past. It is the “dilemma between tradition and Westernization” that you consider in Histoire de la pensée chinoise3, a book spanning three millennia of rich intellectual activity yet profoundly embedded in this century. You do so with the modesty characterizing you, in this respect following Confucius who, in your translation, says: “Me, possess knowledge? Far from it! But should the humblest of men come to me with a question, I am prepared, without necessarily having an answer, to consider it from every angle until I have exhausted the subject”.

7As Professor Pierre-Étienne Will, presenter of this Chair, has said, you seek to “make the texts speak, to deconstruct the traditions and their recent avatars. You examine uncertainties, orthodoxy yesterday, identity today”. It is all of this that your teaching will enable us to benefit from at the Collège de France.

Notes

1 Paris, Collège de France and Institut des hautes études chinoises, 1985.

2 Entretiens de Confucius (complete translation of the Lunyu, with introduction, notes, maps and chronology), Paris, Seuil, 1981 (2nd revised edition, 1985; new edition, “Textes sacrés de l’humanité”, 1992).

3 Éditions du Seuil, 1997.

© Collège de France, 2013

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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