Constructing a Chinese Hermeneutics and Forming a Chinese School

Social Sciences in China Review

No.1, 2019


Constructing a Chinese Hermeneutics and Forming a Chinese School


Editor’s note: Since the reform and opening up, with the introduction of contemporary Western hermeneutics into China, hermeneutics has increasingly become the methodological basis for various disciplines. However, existing studies are carried out mainly within Western interpretation traditions or contexts. Chinese scholars expect to draw wisdom from Chinese traditional cultural resources and build China’s contemporary hermeneutics on the basis of absorbing the theoretical achievements of Western hermeneutics. On Dec. 17, 2018, the symposium on “the Construction of Chinese Hermeneutics: Approaches and Methods” organized by the Chinese Social Sciences Press was held in Sanya. At the symposium, the approaches and methods used in the construction were discussed from the perspectives of literature, historiography, and philosophy, and emphasis was placed on how the construction of a Chinese hermeneutics could be possible.

Issues such as the hermeneutic theory of Chinese literature and art, the grand narrative in world history, concept creation in historical interpretation, the publicity of interpretation, the neglected approaches of Chinese hermeneutics, and the change in direction of Chinese classical interpretation were discussed. The editorial board of Social Sciences in China Review selected a few speeches, changed them into papers after authors’ revision, and published them in this column to share with readers.

Professor Zhu Xiaoyuan from the Department of History of Peking University pointed out that since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the development of world history in China has experienced three stages: the exploration of laws, knowledge-based world history, and research-based world history. Now it is entering the fourth stage, namely the hermeneutics of world history. China is rich in historical thoughts, many of which are methodologically applicable to the hermeneutics of world history in China. Chinas world history must be read and written by Chinese scholars, based on history, driven by real needs, and use specific analysis to destabilize Western-centric theory to make Chinese voices heard in world history studies.

Professor Meng Zhongjie from the Department of History of East China Normal University, from the dimension of the history of concept creation, used the “pilot concept” in Koselleck’s hermeneutics to demonstrate that in the popularization of an interpretation a long process is required before people can embrace a concept. When some important concepts in interpretation eventually form a “collective unit,” they can be transformed into the basis for today’s public interpretation. The rapid development of current technology may accelerate the evolution of the pilot concept. Perhaps we do not need 100 years to achieve a popularized interpretation, but it still takes time to digest.

Professor Gan Chunsong from the Department of Philosophy of Peking University believes that since ancient times Chinese hermeneutics has not been unpopular. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism in Chinese traditional culture have elements of hermeneutics. In modern China, scholars have also pursued an interpretation of the Confucian tradition at different levels, but they may also have different compulsory interpretations and depart from the subject. The key is the decisive role of the interpreter’s position in interpretation. The true interpreter should consciously get rid of the value projections of “emotion” and “respect” and treat texts with an objective and scientific attitude. The construction of the hermeneutic system, how to treat the ancient Chinese interpretation tradition, how to treat the transformation of the interpretation system caused by the academic transformation in modern China, and the analysis of the role of the interpretation subject are all important for us to analyze the possible development direction of Chinese hermeneutics.