Friday, February 15, 2013

Centre for Latin Studies, Beijing

I sometimes half-jokingly tell people who ask me about being a Latin teacher that it's a growth industry. While Latin teaching is a small field, and student numbers are not likely to explode overnight, it's true to say that the study of the classics is having something of a revival, and that there is a wealth of opportunities for young teachers.
Nevertheless I was surprised to hear about the recent establishment of the Centre for Latin Language and Culture in Beijing of all places. It turns out some of the first Europeans in China were Jesuit missionaries, who recorded their thoughts and observations in Latin, much of which is both unpublished and untranslated (as far as I can tell).
Here's a bit of information about the centre (taken from this document, which is worth looking at for some of the pictures alone):

"Latinitas Sinica" (Centre for Latin Language and Culture in China) is the name of a study centre established at the prestigious Beijing Foreign Studies University, the Chinese university specialized in foreign languages and cultures and officially opened on June 15th, 2012...
The reason why the Sinology Center has a particular interest in Latin is due to the historical fact that much of the Western material about China, at least until the end of 18th century, was written in Latin.

In the last years some very significant Master and Doctoral Dissertations discussed at the Sinology Center were based on original material – often unpublished manuscripts – written in Latin.

Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci, Philippe Couplet and innumerable other early sinologists wrote about China in Latin.

As the Sinology centre aims at a thorough knowledge of Western studies about China, it cannot neglect the vast amount of historical material produced in Latin.

For this it was necessary to have students and scholars specialized in, or at least familiar with, this language...

Latinitas Sinica is a specialized institution dedicated to the study and promotion of Latin Language in China by:
  • Supporting the learning and teaching of Latin Language in China;
  • Promoting research in China in the field of Latin Language and Culture;
  • Researching the area of Latin Sinology;
  • Researching the area of Early Latin to Chinese Translations;
  • Offering to Chinese society various services related to Latin Language and Culture, being a reference for institutions around the world interested in Latin Language in China;
  • Publishing every year an issue of a "Journal of Latin Studies in China".

1 comment:

jd said...

The concept of there being a Latin language centre in Beijing isn't truly that foreign (pardon the awful pun).

Although many may argue, Latin is still a central language in the world in so many ways. It is the language of law, medicine and science, and is universal for that reason. It is the language of serious academic pursuit and will always be viewed as the language for both the upper class of society, as well as the more educated. In a highly educated society and a culture which prizes knowledge, why would Latin not be given strong emphasis?

Not to mention, particularly in this economic and political climate, the concept of studying the past and studying history (particularly the dense history that is the history of Rome) is important. For those who do not understand the past are doomed to repeat it.

- J