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Welcome Message from Dr. Hiroshi MATSUMOTO, president of Kyoto University

Date : December15 (Thu)-16 (Fri), 2011
Venue : Kyoto University
Clock Tower Centennial Hall
Registration Free of Charge


The 1st AEARU Symposium on the Culture of Chinese Characters will be held at Kyoto University from December 15 (Thu) to 16 (Fri), 2011. The symposium aims to approach the topic of Chinese characters from a very diverse range of disciplinary perspectives, and we are eager, therefore, to welcome researchers from any disciplinary background, including the humanities and social sciences, and natural sciences.

Chinese characters, which have been used as a writing system throughout East Asia for over three thousand years, have a unique and fascinating history. Unlike many other writing systems, which originated as ideographs but gradually evolved into phonetic alphabets, Chinese characters have maintained their intrinsic ideographical meanings. To this day, for example, although the spoken pronunciation of characters varies between languages, a vast portion of the East Asian population will see the character山, and know instantly that it means “mountain.” In the past, those familiar only with phonetically written Latin-based languages could scarcely imagine that such an advanced level of communication could be achieved between people with no mutually understood spoken language.

The countries of East Asia used the common writing system as a means to facilitate the diffusion of their rich and sophisticated cultures. The Chinese character writing system can be regarded as a major cultural foundation of thought, history, philosophy, science and politics in the East Asian region. The characters also had a considerable influence on the way that Western culture was received, adapted to, and transmitted in the Asian region.

The characters have demonstrated a remarkable potential as a common language – transcending limitations of time, geography and fields of scholarship. In the present day, the development and spread of information technology has further increased that potential, and I feel that the time is right for it to be fully acknowledged and explored. We aim to bring together scholars with diverse backgrounds, and through discussions revolving around the common element of Chinese characters – their relationship to various fields, such as philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and information technology – we hope to find hints of a new overarching wisdom, akin to the ancient Confucian concept of muhon no gaku (務本之学) – focusing on the fundamentals to comprehensively understand the true nature of things.

How should the significance of the ancient – and yet modern – interface of Chinese characters be perceived and understood? What should be their role in contemporary society, and how should they be developed in the future? I hope that this symposium will serve as a platform for scholars and institutions of those countries with the deepest connections to the culture of Chinese characters to build collaborative research relationships which will benefit international society.

The 1st AEARU Symposium on the Culture of Chinese Characters has been made possible thanks to the generous help and support of many people and organizations. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of the symposium’s participants, and to the members of the Association of East Asian Research Universities (AEARU), as well as the scholars and experts who provided invaluable advice and guidance during the symposium’s planning and preparation. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation (JKATF).

This symposium is the 17th in a series of international symposia which have been held by Kyoto University at various venues around the world over the past decade. I very much hope that you will join us for two days of enjoyable dialogue, discovery and friendship.

Hiroshi Matsumoto
President, Kyoto University


The Association of East Asian Research Universities (AEARU)

Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation (財団法人 日本漢字能力検定協会) 漢検ロゴ

The Kyoto University Foundation (財団法人 京都大学教育研究振興財団)

For inquiries, please contact:

The International Affairs Division, Kyoto University