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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

10 May 2018
Prof. Roel Sterckx, Joseph Needham Professor of Chinese History, Science and Civilization, is giving the Chen Yinque Lectures at Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou).
  • Tuesday, 8th May, 2018: Animals in Ancient China: from Malraux to Dong Zhongshu

    In his much acclaimed novel The Temptation of the West (La Tentation de l'Occident), Andre Malraux (1901-76) stages a fictitious correspondence between a young Frenchman travelling through China in the 1920's, and his young Chinese friend who is visiting Europe at the same time. In one of the letters, the Chinese correspondent comments on the relationship between a painter and a cat that forms the object to be painted. He tells his European correspondent: ''The idea of species is for you [Europeans] quite abstract; it allows you to classify; it is a means toward knowledge. In us [Chinese] it is closely connected with our sensibility.". In this lecture we will explore to what extent Mahaux's hypothesis could make sense by examining portrayals of the human-animal relationship in early Chinese texts.

  • Thursday, 10th May, 2018: Technology and Metaphor in Early Chinese Philosophy

    Early China's masters of philosophy frequently use metaphors and analogies to formulate their philosophical arguments. Often readers regard these as purely literary devices. In this lecture Professor Sterckx suggests a different approach and argue that figurative language belonged to the normal register of tools used to analyse and describe the world, including technical knowledge. he starts from the premise that the technical (or ''scientific'') and the philosophical (or moralistic and political) are not necessarily mutually exclusive and will show that metaphors can be interesting not only for their symbolical or referential potential but as a source of technical and social information. I will illustrate this with passages that deal with agriculture in Warring States and early imperial texts.

  • Thursday, 17th May, 2018; Physiocrats or Confucians? Perspectives on Wealth Creation in Ancient Chinese Thought

    In the eighteenth century, the French court physician and economist François Quesnay (1694-1774) and his followers. argued that economic power should derive, first and foremost, from agriculture. In his Despotisme de la Chine (1767) Quesnay admired the Chinese for making farming the predominant mode of production. China, he alleged, had taught its people the natural law of economy since antiquity. But does this picture accurately reflect the world of ancient China? In this lecture, Professor Sterckx explores Warring States and Han perceptions of wealth and poverty, including how early China's thinkers reflected on the workings of the market and how ideas about labour and the professions influenced their views of human psychology.