The Centre for Research on Chinese Civilisation is the legacy of a team formed in 1973 for the scientific cataloguing and study of the Dunhuang documents brought to France at the beginning of the 20th century by Paul Pelliot and now kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) (manuscripts, printings and other written materials) and the Musée Guimet in Paris (paintings). The cataloguing of Chinese documents of the BNF collection, which was handled by the Centre for Research team, was completed in 2001 with the publication of Volume VI (the BNF handled the publication of Volume II). The catalogue of Dunhuang paintings in the Paris collections was separately published in France and Japan.In parallel to and following this work, the members of the team undertook the Herculean task of thoroughly examining all fifty thousand Dunhuang documents kept in China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan, as well as those manuscripts discovered in the region of Turfan and other sites of Chinese Turkestan. This field of research represents a major part of the Team’s activities. These documents, in written or painted form, whose number is endlessly increasing due to new archaeological discoveries, have totally renewed our knowledge concerning medieval China in terms of the economy, society or regional history, as well as the history of art, religion, science, and technology. These materials, which remained largely unexploited for a lengthy period, have, in recent years, been pushed to the forefront of research, to the extent that approximately fifteen thousand works and articles have appeared in Chinese and Japanese within this field now called “Dunhuangology”. The Centre’s contribution to this vast domain is considered vital, and most of it has been translated into Chinese and other languages of scholarship in the area.
For the past ten years, the Centre has widened the scope of its research, evolving into a “general laboratory”. Considering the rich diversity of its members’ talents and its international renown, it is currently one of the major centres for Sinological research in France and the only unit attached to the CNRS that covers key areas of ancient and medieval Chinese studies (including the early modern period).
- Manuscripts and Inscriptions
- Chinese Religions : Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism
- History of the Imperial period
- History of Art, Archaeology and Material Culture
- History of Literature and Literary Practices
For the most part, the specific character of the research conducted within the UMR lies in the direct use and exploitation of sources and primary materials, whether they be manuscripts, artefacts or archaeological discoveries, as well as fieldwork relating to religion. This approach, stemming from the team’s initial work on the Dunhuang manuscripts, which consisted of conducting research on first-hand documentation, plays a consolidating role within the UMR.