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[Beijing Forum 2015] Panel III -- Cross-cultural dialogues (Session 4)

NOV . 11 2015
Peking University, Nov. 8, 2015: On Nov. 8, the last session of the panel “Constructing a Road for Peace: Historical Responsibility and Multiple Memory” was held at Moonlight Hall of the Yingjie Exchange Center of Peking University. The Session was co-hosted by Huang Kewu at Academia Sinica and Zhang Daqing at Peking University, which Huang commented as well-timed cooperation right after the significant meeting of the two leaders across the Taiwan Strait.
Prof. Dong Yue at the University of Washington started with the lecture “Cross-cultural Understanding and Dialogic History.” Based on her research on Joseph RLevenson, a famous Jewish-American scholar on Sinology, Dong talked about the relation between Levenson’s Jewish ethnicity and his opinions on Confucianism. She said, Levenson’s responses to Confucianism were based on both the internal impact of his Jewish identity and the external problems universally shared in the age of cosmopolitanism.
Dong pointed out the methodologies of comparison and dialogic history as the distinct features of Levenson’s Sinology. Levenson related Chinese social situations under Europe expansion and expansiveness to Jewish historical circumstances, while distinguished the trajectories of Confucianism and Judaism in the two corresponding situations. Dong commented on Levenson’s idea of “Museumification” of Confucianism, the reason of the “death” of Confucianism in terms of its source of authority and the tradition in relation to the action it could evoke.
Dong refuted the idea that Levenson’s methodology derived merely from empathy, which suggested the loss of the researcher’s own identity and perspectives. She regarded Levenson’s research as an extension, which was rooted in his Jewish tradition, yet still completely present in the subject in question.
In the end of her speech, Dong focused on the importance of dialogic history study. She said that neither a China-centered history nor Orientalism should be the proper approachfor cross-cultural studies.
In the discussion, Dong responded to Prof. Mao Haijian from the Unisersity of Macau that Levenson’s ideas on Confucianism centered mostly on systematic aspect. His understanding on Confucianism could hardly be regarded as an exhaustive one, yet the shocks it brought to the academia kindled a “paradigm shift,” which was indispensable to Confucianism study as well as cross-cultural studies.
The second speaker, Prof. Hugh Shapiro at the University of Nevada, gave a talk on “The Rise of Global Medicine: Biomedicine and TCM.”
He began with several illustrations that indicated the fundamental differences between Chinese medicine and Western medicine in terms of their distinct views on anatomy and on the core of the body (heart as the core in Chinese medicine vs. brain in Western discourse). He elaborated the differences with an introduction of the genealogy and interrelatedness of the two sets of medical lexicons.
Prof. Shapiro said, the overlong discussion on the tradition of western medical terminology in China showed the dynamism and the instability of the lexicon that originated and developed over time.
He adopted various sources from China, Japan and Western over centuries, and took the concept of “nerves” (Shenjing in Chinese pinyin) as an example, which was transported from western to Japan and finally to China.
Prof. Shapiro said, “neurasthenia,” an epidemic generated under the pressure of urbanity, capitalism, women’s right movement and other social forces, was never quintessentially American. He showed the spread of this first global epidemic of the twentieth century, the process of which finally terminated in the alternative term “depression” and the like, which in China ended under the alert against the US mercenary pharmaceutical companies.
Prof. Shapiro ended the lecture with a short video clip that he made, which illustrated an interesting misperception in the past that attributed nervous/brain problems to kidney failure.
After the two lectures, professors of the previous sessions joined in the discussion and finally drew a conclusion to the panel.
Reported by: Wu Zhangxinan
Edited by: Zhang Jiang