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Chinese Studies Research Group seminar (2)

Date: 5 November 2007 Time: 2.00 - 3:30pm

Dr. Cao Qing from Liverpool John Moors Universiy will talk on:The Discourse of Tianxia: Soft Power in Traditional Chinese Foreign Relations

Over two millennia the Chinese state maintained the largest empire in Asia, sustained not by a mighty army but a moral regime of Confucianism. Through a skilful play of the soft power of cultural influence, China managed to survive successive foreign invasions, expanded its cultural influence into its peripheral societies and established a cultural supremacy through the practice of a tribute system. Correspondingly a Sino-centric moral world - tianxia - is imagined by the Chinese intellectual elite. Such a conception of tianxia was radically altered only in the mid-19th century when China failed to resist Western colonial encroachments. This presentation maps China's traditional concept of tianxia through discourse analysis of a popular story in the classic Chinese novel Romance of Three Kingdoms (San guo yan yi). It focuses on 'discursive formations' constituted by a series of Confucian notions about tianxia as encoded in the narrative, such as wen, wu, xia, yi, and huairou. Through a structuralist analysis of narrative (Propp and Levi-Strauss) as a powerful means to realise a moralist discourse, the presentation examines the central Confucian values imbedded in the popular culture, and relates them to the wider strategies of the Chinese state in dealing with the 'other'. It concludes with some observations about connections between the current foreign policy rhetoric and the cultural traditions of a moralist tianxia order.

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Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Linguistics and English Language


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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