Institute of Chinese Studies Distinguished Scholar Lectureships – Prof. Anne Cheng: ‘Has China always been the “Middle Kingdom”?’


12 Apr 2024


4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Tea reception starts at 3:30 p.m.)


Lecture Theatre, G/F, Institute of Chinese Studies, CUHK


Prof. Anne Cheng

Biography of Speaker:

Anne Cheng was trained in European and Chinese intellectual history at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, at Oxford and Cambridge in Great Britain, and at Fudan University in Shanghai. After an academic career as a research fellow at CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research), then as a Professor at INALCO (National Institute for Oriental languages and Civilizations), she currently holds the Chair of Chinese intellectual history at the Collège de France where she was elected in 2008.

Her main publications include a complete French translation of the Confucian Analects and a History of Chinese thought which has won several awards and has been translated into numerous languages. She has also authored a great number of articles and chief-edited several collective volumes on Chinese philosophy and Chinese thought, past and present. Since 2010, she has been directing a bilingual series of works written in classical Chinese and translated into French at Belles Lettres in Paris.

Synopsis of Lecture:

The quest for the original texts related to Buddhist teachings is assumed to be the chief motivation for Chinese monks to take the long and perilous pilgrimage to India in the early centuries A.D.. Among the disputed issues in these monks’ written testimonies is one that points towards “competing geographies” between China and India. In these sources India emerges as the very centre of civilization, with the result that China’s traditional centrality is shifted to the periphery, giving rise to uncertainty about what was meant by Zhongguo: should it be taken to designate the “Middle Kingdom”, or Madhyadeśa, the “Central Country” in the north of present day India, namely the sacred land of origin of the Buddha?


Co-organized by Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient