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China’s self-identity as a modern civilisation

By ucyow3c, on 24 February 2014


Written by Bobby Xinyue (UCL Greek & Latin)

How can the translation of a single word sum up the cultural history of a nation?

In the inaugural lecture of the Centre for Research into Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) Professor Wang Mingming of Peking University argued that the way in which the word “civilisation” was translated into Chinese and understood in Chinese history is typical of the fluidity of civilisations — the bringing in of the outside.

Thomas Cole, 'The Course of Empire – Destruction' (1836)

Thomas Cole, ‘The Course of Empire – Destruction’ (1836)

Wang Mingming’s illuminating lecture was prefaced by a mission statement from one of the co-directors of CREDOC, Professor Maria Wyke (UCL Greek & Latin), who outlined that the objective of the centre is to bring together colleagues around the world to compare and explore the geographical, material, cultural and ethnic structures of civilisations, and to probe the relationships between all these throughout the history of mankind.

Professor Wang’s lecture, entitled ‘To learn from ancestors or to borrow from the foreigners? China’s self-identity as a modern civilisation’, demonstrated precisely how the centre’s objective could be achieved.