The Future of International Dunhuang Studies: Japanese Roots?

The “new trend of world academics” that emerged in the early 20th century-Dunhuang Studies, has a history of research for a hundred years. Although there has not yet been a veritable “Academic History of Dunhuang Studies” published, many scholars have done a lot of basic data collection, sorting, analysis, and preliminary theoretical discussions and content assumptions. Even preliminary writing attempts and public opinion shop work.

“International Perspective” and “Cultural Academic Background”

In view of the fact that Dunhuang Studies is “the new trend of academic world today”, its rise and development are closely related to the expedition to the Western Regions in the second half of the last century, the Northwestern survey and the diffusion and research of related cultural relics. Therefore, the construction of the academic history of Dunhuang Studies must have a broad” “International perspective” and “cultural academic background”.

It is necessary to recognize and value the subjective and objective facts and negative influences of Dunhuang documents and cultural relics that were discovered, looted, and dispersed under a special international and domestic background.

It is also necessary to recognize and value the important contributions made by foreign scholars in the rise and development of Dunhuang Studies, especially the prominent role of Japanese academic circles in promoting the formation of Dunhuang Studies;

Finally, it is quite necessary to recognize and value Chinese scholars consciously discarding Narrow nationalism and enhancing national self-esteem and self-improvement, and striving to catch up with the great contributions to Dunhuang studies;

Scholars must recognize and attach importance to the promotion of international cultural and academic exchanges and mutual learning for the vital significance of actively promoting the development of Dunhuang studies.

First, is Dunhuang, located in the “throat of the Silk Road”, it is the “only” of several ancient civilizations in the world. Under the background of the integration of civilizations, what kind of academic “character” or “speciality” does Dunhuang Studies have? The relationship between Dunhuang studies and Turfan studies, Western Xia studies, Tibetan studies, Qiuci studies, and currently collectively referred to as “Silk Road Studies”, is also an academic background that should be carefully studied.

Second, Dunhuang Studies is “a Chinese scholarship that is internationally renowned”. The meaning of “Chinese scholarship” is not narrow, Conservative and exclusive, but open, innovative, and eclectic. That is, in foreign countries, Dunhuang Studies is an important part of “Sinology”; in China, Dunhuang Studies is a “new Guoxue” with a distinctive content and style of the intersection of Chinese and foreign cultures, that is, worldwide “China Studies”.

It is also in line with the background that a strong wind of innovation was blown into the Chinese academic and cultural circles at the beginning of the 20th century.

This ethos is not unrelated to Europe and the United States, and it is also closely related to Japan after the Meiji Restoration. Similarly, the rise of Dunhuang Studies has greatly promoted the development of “Japanese Chinese Studies” and made it the core content of Japanese Oriental Studies. Here, it is inevitable that Japan’s “Tokyo Literature School” and “Kyoto School” are also involved. Their respective academic backgrounds are influencing and contributing to “Japanese Dunhuang Studies” and even international Dunhuang Studies. Or have they been complementary and integrated, and are inseparable? This should also be a topic of great interest in academic circles.

Another example is the study of the history of Dunhuang studies in France. Of course, it is inseparable from the close connection with the history of Sinology at the French Academy and the Bosch and academic background. It can also be explored in relation to the “Almanac School” that emerged in France in the late 1920s. In the founding period of Dunhuang Studies in China, Yu Xu (or “sublation”) of the Qianjia Textual Research School, the promotion of the “dual evidence method”, Western art, anthropology, archeology, iconology and comparative research, etc. With the introduction of methods, has the academic achievements of academic masters such as Wang Guowei, Luo Zhenyu, Chen Yinke, and Chen Yuan become an academic and cultural background that cannot be ignored in the study of Dunhuang Studies? This is not only about “international vision”, but also about the inheritance of “national studies”. It must be studied in depth by sinologists.

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