World Report

For the Record: Semiotics in China

Compiled by Paul Bouissac from information received from Hu Zuanglin, Ding Ersu and Takashi Fujimoto

There are currently four semiotic associations in the People's Republic of China, which originated, over the last twenty-five years, from different disciplinary and institutional contexts. The Chinese Association for Logical Semiotic Studies was the first semiotic organization to be founded in China when a subcommittee of the Chinese Association of Logic was entrusted with this task in 1979. One of its founders was Professor Li Xiankun from Wuhan University (Department of Politics) who became one of the Vice-President of the fledgling new association. It has now a large membership made of scholars from many universities, who, for the most part, were trained in Chinese and teach in departments of philosophy, history, political sciences and Chinese literature and linguistics. It holds annual meetings and occasionally publishes semiotics series. It was one of the sponsoring organizations of the recent International Beijing conference.

The National Chinese Research Association for Language and Semiotic Studies was created in the early 1990s by a subcommittee of the Chinese Association for Comparative Literature chaired by Professor Wang Ning. Its members come mainly from departments of English and Linguistics. A distinguished linguist from Peking University, Professor Hu Zhuanglin, was elected as its President during the first meeting of the association at Suzhou University.

The East Asian Association for Semiotic Studies emerged from interactions among philosophers from China, Japan and Korea who met in Wuhan in 1992. The project was further discussed at the 5th congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, in 1993 in Berkeley (USA). Founding members of the Chinese Association for Logical Semiotics were actively involved in this initiative, in particular Professor Li Xiankun, from Wuhan University where the first meeting of the association was held.

The conference on "Chinese Semiotics and Interdisciplinary Methodology in the Human Sciences"(Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, September 20-24, 2002) and the international congress on "Semiotics and the Humanities" (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, March 25-29, 2004) were the latest efforts aimed at organizing semiotic research in China. Both events were fostered by members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, (CASS), more specifically the Center for World Civilization Studies. These projects also involved the College of Arts of Zhejiang University, the Institute of Chinese Intellectual History at Tsinghua University, The Chinese Society for Logic-Semiotic Studies, and the Chinese Society for Historical Theory. It appears that the latter endeavor, which was organized in collaboration with the International Association for Semiotic Studies, is more broadly based from the point of view of disciplines and political geography.

(compiled by Paul Bouissac from information received from Professors Ding Ersu, Hu Zuangling, Takashi Fujimoto)

The East Asian Association for Semiotic Studies

By Takashi Fujimoto

The creation of an East Asian Association fot Semiotic Studies (EAASS) was first discussed at a semiotic seminar organized by Professor Li Xiankun (Hubei University, P.R. China) and Professor Hyakudai Sakamoto (Aoyama-gakuin University, Japan) at Hubei University in Wuhan (Hubei Province), October 27 - November 3, 1992. Professors Jerzy Pelc (Warsaw University, Poland) and Gerard Deledalle (Perpignan University, France) had been invited to join the discussions in their capacity as members of the executive committee of the International Association for Semiotic Studies. All the initiators of this project were members of the department of philosophy in their respective universities The project of establishing a new association was discussed during the seminar but its official creation was postponed to the next meeting which was scheduled to take place a few years later.

EAASS was founded in 1997 at the second semiotic seminar that was held in Shanghai, October 20-23, at East China Normal University. It had also been organized by Professors Li and Sakamoto in collaboration with Professor Shen Jianying. Some members of the IASS participated in the events, including Professors Pelc, Jeff Bernard and Gloria Withalm.

Prof. T. Fujimoto
Prof. Zhu Zhifang

The third seminar took place at the Binhu Hotel in Wuhan (Hubei Province) on October 4-7, 2002, under the auspices of Wuhan and Nihon Universities. It was coordinated by Professor Zhu Zhifang (Wuhan University).

The President of the EAASS is Professor Hyakudai Sakamoto (Aoyama-gakuin University, Emeritus). The Vice-Presidents are, for Korea, Professors Kim Chie Sou (Ewha Womens University) and Park Ynhui (Simmons College, Boston, USA); for China, Zhu Zhifang (Wuhan University) and Huang Huaxin (Zhejiang University); for Japan, Takashi Fujimoto (University of Tokyo, Emeritus) who is also Acting General Secretary. Further meetings of the association are currently being planned.