General presentation

The Chinese Civilization team of the East Asian Civilizations Research Centre gathers around thirty of the Centre’s permanent members and thirty doctoral and post-doctoral students. The majority of the permanent members are professors from the Université Paris Cité and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) and researchers from the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), working mainly on ancient, medieval and pre-modern China, as well as on the contemporary period. Their fields of study include:

  • Manuscripts and inscriptions
  • Chinese religions: Buddhism, Taoism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism
  • History of the imperial period
  • Art history, archaeology and material culture
  • History of literature and literary Practices

What the research of the Chinese Civilization team shares in common is the direct use and exploitation of primary sources and materials, be it manuscripts, artefacts and archaeological relics, or fieldwork in the area of religion studies.


Each year, the team organizes workshops and symposiums, and it hosts around ten invited talks given by internationally renowned specialists in the field of Chinese studies, running the gamut of disciplinary approaches.
 The team’s document collection is held in the team’s working room, at the Collège de France, in the library of the Institut des hautes études chinoises, as well as in the library of the department of East-Asian Languages and Civilizations (LCAO) at l’Université Paris Cité. The China team’s library now includes more than 3500 titles, in Chinese, Japanese, French, German and English, mainly on Chinese manuscripts and epigraphy. All of the works in this collection are available in the online catalogue of the Collège de France.


Académie Chinoise des Sciences Sociales (CASS), Institut d’archéologie

Centre for the Studies of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), Universität Hamburg

China Agricultural Museum, Pékin

Dunhuang Research Academy

Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung (IKGF), Erlangen

Institut für Orient und Asienwissenschaften, Université de Bonn

Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Pékin

Irasia, Université Aix-Marseille

Palace Museum (Beijing)

Turfan Studies project (Turfanforschung), Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (BBAW)

Fudan University (Shanghai)

Université de Genève, Département d’études est-asiatiques (ESTAS)

Leiden University

University of Milano-Bicocca

Wuhan University, Center of Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Capital Normal University (Beijing), Chinese Poetry Research Center

Renmin University (Beijing)

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The members of the Chinese Civilization team supervise doctoral students from the École Pratique des Hautes Études, under the specialisations ‘Religions and Thought Systems’ and ‘History, Documents and Texts’, as well as from l’University Paris Cité, under the doctoral programme ‘Language, Literature and Image: Civilisation and Humanities’ (ED 131).
They also teach courses in the framework of two specialised Master’s programmes in Asian studies in Paris:


In 1982, Michel Soymié created and led a research team (‘Équipe de recherches sur les manuscrits de Dunhuang et matériaux connexes’), whose principal role was to continue and complete the drafting of the Catalogue des manuscrits chinois de Touen-houang (Pelliot collection in the National Library). This team, which he led until 1992, also maintained the records of the reproductions of Chinese paintings from Dunhuang kept in the Guimet Museum (Les arts de l’Asie Centrale. La collection Pelliot du musée Guimet, 1995-1996). Parallel to this work, the team members were engaged in the intensive exploitation of all fifty thousand Dunhuang documents preserved in China, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan, as well as manuscripts discovered in the Turfan region and other sites in Chinese Turkestan. This remains a major pillar of the team’s activities. Covering very different specialities, from ancient literature to Buddhist and Taoist texts, from cosmology to medicine, the analysis of these manuscripts demands competency in the areas of religious and social history, material culture, codicology, and science and technology. Work on the Dunhuang documents enabled team members to tackle new fields of study, especially thematic ones, to work on manuscripts from other sites such as Turfan or Douldour-âqour, and also on the collections of prints belonging to various major European institutions. Around this core group of famous pioneers in Dunhuang studies, the team has since grown: Chinese history studies have developed, and new fields of research have emerged –archaeology and epigraphy, pre-modern, modern and contemporary literature –- all while conserving its original strengths and, notably, a strong component in the field of religious studies.