New edition makes Chinese history easy for foreign scholars

By Wang Kaihao In Jinan (China Daily)

Updated: 2015-09-02

As interest in China grows around the world, especially in the West, scholars at home are trying to help their foreign counterparts better understand Chinese history.

The first step in that direction is to overcome the language barrier, says Zhang Haipeng, head of the Association of Chinese Historians.

Thirty Years of Chinese History Studies-a book that covers imperial and modern China, up to the initial stages of the economic reforms - has been translated in English.

It was unveiled by the publisher, China Social Science Press, at last week's 22nd International Congress of Historical Sciences held in Shandong province's capital, Jinan.

Written by 22 authoritative voices on different periods of Chinese history, the book reflects the achievements of the country and the rapid changes in its societies.

The Chinese edition of the book was published in 2008.

Zhang, the book's lead author, considers the English version "a milestone in Sino-foreign academic communication of historiography".

In 2005, when the same congress was held in Sydney, scholars from different countries felt it was urgent to have more academic writing on Chinese history in foreign languages to promote conversations between Chinese and overseas academia, Zhang says.

"When we held academic meetings in Beijing, we also found overseas scholars knew little about our research methodologies."

Zhang explains the book also extends to some interdisciplinary studies. It, for instance, provides an overview of Chinese historical geography, and religious and scientific history.

He believes Chinese historians need "to break through the single-line narrative mode, in which history is represented merely as political history and revolutionary history, and greatly expand our research horizon."

Zhao Jianying, who heads China Social Science Press, says: "We've endeavored to translate many overseas historiographical writings into Chinese. These books greatly enrich our own scholars' research methods.

"However, it's better to go the opposite direction. Overseas academia needs to know about development and creativity of Chinese historiography nowadays."

He says the book represents the highest level of historical studies on the Chinese mainland.

French historian Robert Frank, secretary-general of International Committee of Historical Sciences, strongly recommends the book to Western historians.

"When you talk about a nation's history, you also have to insert it into a global perspective. That means you need to integrate the history of others (in such studies)," he said at the seminar in Jinan.

As an expert on World War II, he is also interested in the book's relevant contents. He point sout some French historians are breaking down Eurocentrism in their recent publishing and consider World War II to have started in 1937, when China's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression(1937-45) broke out, rather than in 1939.

Frank also expects Chinese historians to have less Sinocentrism in their studies.

He says there will be debates in such pursuits, which are needed.

"What matters more in the study of history is the questions, not the answers," he says.

wangkaihao@chinadaily.com.cn

New edition makes Chinese history easy for foreign scholars

(China Daily 09/02/2015 page20)

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