Abstract: The China–Europe encounter is regarded as an auto-process of interpretative configuration which gradually forms a certain self-system that possesses sufficient transcultural generativity to communicate, understand, interpret, and go beyond the original sources of the one and the other. Its continuation depends on a degree of hetero-identity, and with the contributions of a ‘double agent’ this historical encounter has created a third kind of shared spiritual commonwealth which belongs to China and Europe. The article demonstrates a flow of history in a scrolling picture: 16th–18th-century ‘holy men’ in encounter with a spontaneous awakening to question universal values, accepted or rejected; 19th–20th-century ‘heroic men’ in encounter, accompanied by combats between sovereign states; the later 20th-century ‘economic men’ in encounter, sniffing out cultural differences and dominated by quantitative thinking after the end of the Cold War (Yu 2001); and the 21st-century emerging ‘ecological men’ who encounter a general planetary crisis. Echoing the topology of encounters in the common history of China and Europe are three historical dreams: the 17th–18th-century universal-value dream, the 19th–20th-century national-state dream, and the 21st-century human symbiotic dream. It first analyses the intensive interactions between China and Europe during the period of the ‘Chinese Rites Controversy’ in the 17th and 18th centuries. She puts forward the concepts of transcultural generativity and a shared spiritual historical common wealth. It then skips the second encounter to draw parallels between the first great debates on seeking universal values 300 years ago and the current criticism of universal values by the ‘awakened Lion China’. The author applies the concept of liminality to treat the cross-field of China–Europe encounters as a non-structure and a permanent transition. She points out an interesting fact: the Communist Party of China adopted from Europe has turned a ‘short-term’ liminal transition into a ‘long-term’ structure. She refers to the ‘total history’ of the Annals and calls for a common Europe–China transcultural history. In the last section she forms a contrast: the universal values of 300-year-old Enlightenment thought with the ‘Chinese values’ advocated in the great propaganda of the ‘China dream’. Finally, the author suggests that, faced by today’s reality of vital interdependence, a dream of national prosperity could only come true by admitting the reality of a sole human community, and metamorphosing itself into a symbiotic dream of the Earth.
Keywords: Transcultural generativity, cultural cross-fields, liminal flexibility, liminal space, permanent transition, agent of in-between, China–Europe Encounters, symbiotic dream
Shuo Yu 于硕, Professor in historical anthropology, Founding Director and European Representative of the Centre for China-Europe Transcultural Communication at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She was a co-founder of the China–Europa Forum and served as its first Coordinator General. She taught at Renmin University of China before going to France in the early 1990s and lived there for more than 20 years while studying and teaching transcultural anthropology. She applied Edgar Morin’s complex thinking (pensée complexe) to her transcultural operation of Europe–China dialogue and put forward a theory of cross-fields (champs croisés) of three China– Europe Encounters.
Cite this article
Universal dream, national dreams and symbiotic dream: Reflections on transcultural generativity in China–Europe encounters
Journal of China in Comparative Perspective
Vol.1 Issue 1. 2015, p39-76