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Chinese Philosophy and Semiotics

Date:2005-11-04 00:00Author:youzhengli
Chinese Philosophy and Semiotics * You-zheng Li ____________________________________________________________________________ *) This is a MS version of the article which is published in: Two Roads to Wisdom: Chinese and Analytic Philosophic


Chinese Philosophy and Semiotics *
You-zheng Li


*) This is a MS version of the article which is published in: Two Roads to Wisdom: Chinese and Analytic Philosophical Tradition, edi. By Bo Mou, Open Court, Chicago, 2001
      The term „Chinese Philosophy“ (CP) as a modern discipline about ancient Chinese philosophy has been established during the 20th century by modern Chinese philosophers and foreign sinological scholars through the comparative studies of the Chinese humanistic classics and Western philosophy. At present, its composition has already obtained a general recognition today not only in sinology but also in general philosophy. This discipline has become one of the pedagogical and academic professions in current academia, maintaining its established scholarly-institutions and programs which, as in other disciplines, have created its own technical criteria and aim for scholarly activities. From a professional point of view, any questions concerning CP can be raised and solved within its currently fixed academic framework. Nevertheless, CP has recently aroused a wider attention outside its professional field, and its intellectual worth have been further explored from some new angles beyond its conventional scope of discussion. This paper attempts to reevaluate the intellectual potential of CP from a semiotic perspective.
The current scholarship of CP roughly consists of three major parts: The ethical, the life-philosophical and ontologico-metaphysical. Compared with their Western counterparts, the epistemological, scientific and aesthetic sections of CP seem relatively less inspiring. In CP, more attention has been paid to the ontological-metaphysical aspects shaped by the traditional Taoist and Buddhist philosophical speculations. This first part seems to be more easily communicated with, or more similar to, its Western counterpart, but the semantic-rhetoric divergence between the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions make their mutual effective communication really difficult. The second part is taken from philosophy and literature alike. But the Chinese life-philosophical texts sound more literary than philosophical. It is this literary type of Chinese life-philosophy has aroused a wider interest among Western readers who are not necessarily familiar with professional philosophy of any kind. It is the third part--Chinese ethics-- which has obtained a much higher estimation of Western ethics scholars who may find the Chinese ethical experience can be quite well appreciated from an empirical and realistic point of view, although its philosophizing seems less elaborated, compared with the Western ones.
In addition, a complete understanding of the composition of CP  is far from being a mere philosophical discussion; in fact it involves different aspects such as semantic organizations, social/scholarly institutions, scholar’s motivations, intellectual condition of the audience, cultural structures, politico-historical contexts,  and the traditional academic functions in Chinese history. Therefore precisely speaking, „Chinese Philosophy“ is not yet a really well-organized discipline within the current academic world. As it is commonly said in China, „philosophy, history and literature belong to one family“. Moreover, the classifications of academic learning in Chinese and Western traditions are essentially divergent.[1] The compositional comparison between Western and Chinese philosophies should be made in reference to the central epistemological structure of modern academic system.
1.      Chinese-Western Comparative Philosophical Studies
     In review of the development of philosophy in China during this century we find most Chinese philosophers have exhibited an interest more in Western philosophy than in the Chinese one. If Chinese philosophy refers to all philosophical studies in China today, it will cover much more content than CP, which is defined as a special modern discipline about ancient Chinese philosophy. CP has indeed played an important role in the modern studies of the traditional Chinese humanities at home and in Sinology, or China studies, in the West. With different reasons and motives these two fields of CP studies have communicated to each other closely for the past twenty years, and both being scholarly related to a new discipline-- comparative philosophy. In a narrow sense, the modern content of CP has been established with reference to the Western philosophical model. In a wider sense, however, following the development of the Chinese-Western comparative studies, the theoretical part of CP has been always reorganized with respect to its Western counterpart. Furthermore, the both fields of CP studies have been recently involved into the wider academic interaction to other scholarly branches as well.
            On the whole, the Chinese-Western comparative studies, including the philosophical one, have been established on the basis of the traditional Western scholarly model, especially its scientific part. That means most Chinese scholars engaged in the studies have already accepted the Western analytical tradition to approach their own cultural heritage. Over the Chinese intellectual history in the 20th century there have always been two divergent directions in studying the traditional Chinese cultural/academic history: The linguistico-historically directed (yu-shih-pai) and the philosophically or metaphysically directed (hsüan-hsüe-pai) approaches. In essence, the linguistic-historical school involves not only the related special subjects in Chinese classics but also its methodology. For the traditional Chinese textual criticism (kao-jü-hsue) seems to be in accord with the scientific spirit. Therefore, concerning the modern methodology in CP, there has emerged a double confrontation in this comparative field: That between the scientific and the metaphysical, and that between the Chinese and the Western metaphysical. In a broader sense, the situation also exists in the present China studies in the West. Because most part of sinological studies belongs to the former type.
            Thus, Chinese-Western comparative philosophy in the narrow sense has formed a special field involving more complicated backgrounds.This special field or discipline about the special comparative philosophy was first presented by the earlier New Confucianist philosophers of this century. Precisely speaking, we should not call these earlier studies as the genuine comparative research, for the involved comparative work was only the reorganizing or reediting of the Chinese philosophical material in terms of the Western terminological and disciplinary systems. The more serious comparative studies of the subject were made later by the Chinese philosophers who belonged to the second generation of that school. Its typical trait was expressed by the tendency that they tried to combine the Western philosophy-disciplinary model and the Chinese metaphysical/ontological subject matter in a comparative framework. When the Chinese philosophers of the third generation of the school and others with the similar tendency have got trained and taught in the West, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the comparative work has been internationally spread, making the new discipline CP further redefined in the West. On the other hand, the comparative studies are still faced with the double confrontation: That between the Chinese and Western philosophical approaches and that between the Western-philosophical and Western interdisciplinary directions. With respect to the latest stage of this comparative philosophical studies, the difficulty could be made less severe if we can selectively deal with the content of CP out of a practical purpose. Or, if we only consider how to promote our educational or academic programs according to the currently feasible standards, the actual situation itself can provide the workable criteria for increasing academic benefits of any kinds by any acceptable means. The current volume does not belong to such kind of practical efforts. Instead, we intend to reconsider CP problems from a theoretical point of view in terms of the entire present-day  humanistic-scholarly situation.
            The contemporary efforts towards reinterpreting the traditional Chinese philosophy, either in China or in the West, is an attempt to reorganize the traditional Chinese philosophical history in terms of the Western academic framework; namely, to rearrange and reorder the original Chinese thoughts following the Western academic models. Thus, the reorganized Chinese philosophical textual materials may function as a sketchy representation of the related Western philosophical part. A typical example was presented by Mou Tzong-san who, in reference to the Kantian conceptual system, still insists on the original Chinese way of reasoning. (Cf., Mou 1991, p.115-117). For example, he put the Kantian and the Chinese parts into a tripartite stage of ethical reasoning: The intelligent, metaphysical and humanist intuitive stages, attempting to find the similar metaphysical efforts in the Sung ethical philosophy. On the other hand, however, they only arrange different discussions of Chinese and Western  philosophies to appear in the same textual work without forming a genuinely theoretical dialogue between the two. nevertheless, Mou maintained clearly that „the bridge of the Chinese-Western philosophical communication should be based on Kantian philosophy“. (Mou 1985, xiv) In his opinion, Chinese and Western philosophies tend to be in harmonious relationship (ibis). The kind of works appears as a  comparitive theoretical analysis of the two philosophical systems but in fact a mere coexistence of the two separate demonstrative discourses in the same texts. Talking about Sung Neo-Confucianist philosophers, Chan Wing-tsit said, „The important thing to note now is that they put the whole Confucian system on a metaphysical foundation and a rational basis“. (Chu Hsi & Lü Tsu-chien 1967, xviii) In result, this development of Neo-Confucianism of the Sung, as a result, seems to bring about an apparent reason for modern scholars to interpret CP in terms of Western philosophy. While as a matter a fact, the metaphysical part of CP is far from being logically commensuarable to its Western counterpart. It is indicated that what we obtain through reading such comparative discourse is basically similar with what we read  purely in the original Chinese contexts; namely, the added Western interpretations do not increase substantially our understanding of the related Chinese discourse, although there are certainly some instructive results helpful to our understanding of the original works. This is because modern Chinese mind with scientific common sense has a higher capability of performing the analyzing and synthesizing processes which could more clearly represent the structure and function of the original discourse. The point, however, is that this kind of comparative studies does not increase or enrich our philosophical understanding or spiritual inspiration. If we find something metaphysically attractive, that might be mainly due to our acceptance of the Western metaphysical model which is logically more persuasive indeed. The similar thing seems to happen to the Chinese historians as well who employ modern scientific knowledge to reorganize traditional Chinese historiographic discourse. Nevertheless, the achievements of modern Chinese historians are more positive, first because they keep a critical attitude to their scholarly object and purport to more scientifically explore the nature of the original discourse without sharing its original ideological stance. In contrast, the New-Confucianist philosophers closely share the same ideological position of the traditional Chinese philosophy; what they have pursued is not  something scientifically re-presented; instead, they try to ascertain and strengthen the original values and modes of thinking in the classical texts by means of comparative analytical methods. The fact is that the two procedures of the scientific analysis and the spiritual reformulation are essentially divergent in nature; the both do not necessarily support each other, either logically or emotionally, despite a textual coexistence  of different argumentative discourses. Thus, on the one hand, Western philosophy does not need any additional theoretical support from the Chinese metaphysics; and, on the other hand, Chinese philosophy also does not epistemologically need the logical or aesthetic backing from its Western counterpart., premarily, because these two sets of discourses belong to different academic institutional systems. Due to various reasons, a modern Chinese or sinological mind can accept the two different philosophical systems at the same time, while what is added to the comparative discourse is only the historical message of alien philosophical experience for the modern mind. As regards Chinese philosophy, it keeps its traditional intellectual autonomy consisting of various levels such as the linguistic, logical, aesthetic, social, political and historical ones. Its „meaning“ involves  different semantic and intellectual layers; and it can only produce its spiritual inspiration or realize its values to the sufficient extent within its own traditional cultural context, historically or in imagination.
            This comparative work of philosophy between the Chinese and western is basically a development in the scientific era; or precisely, a result of a spiritual confrontation between the scientific and the traditional-Chinese cultural trends. In general, the Chinese-Western comparative philosophy is confronted with a three-fold difficulty: The scientific, philosophical and spiritual. All  three aspects involve our present task of evaluating the significance of Chinese philosophy in modern social and intellectual contexts. The meaning, function and value of any philosophical tradition are determined in its own cultural, social, intellectual and academic contexts. Different from the traditional Chinese  learning, Western humanistic thoughts are essentially in consistence with the modern scientific world. There has been a basic intellectual continuity between the ancient, modern and contemporary thoughts and scholarship in the western history. For the Chinese, however, there has been an absolute „epistemological break“ between its tradition and its modernity. We need a special hermeneutics, rather than a mere literally comparatively „short-circuit“  to deal with this cognitional gap. And semiotics is just one of the effective approaches to handle the epistemological breaks caused by different cultural patterns.
2.      Chinese  Character-Semantics
     Divergence of Chinese and Western academic classifying systems in connection to their mentality patterns, linguistic systems and cultural traditions have produced different semantic organizations for their respective academic discourses. From Locke to Saussure it has been well known that the stable links between the referent, idea, meaning , sound and name guarantee a  constant semantic connection between the signified and the signifier. The innate link between meaning and sound naturally limits the number of  semes of a word. The specialty of Chinese culture and its philosophy is firstly expressed in its linguistic and semantic organizations, namely its character-centrist writing system. This system brought about a special trait for Chinese: The form of writing is prior to that of sound and meaning. A single written unit (character) can be correspondent to several or numerous sounds and their related meanings almost in an irregular way. One character with its pictoriographic origin could keep an imagistic constancy because of a stability of the sketchy structure of  basic strokes of a character. Such an independent written entity surviving cross history had become a „sign“ which can carry different meanings with related different sounds in its various contexts.One written character is not the representative of one idea or concept; instead it can be the sign for different ideas. This structure of one-visual-sign vs. multiple meanings is obviously different from the Western sound-conceptual correspondent pattern. A character can be used by different people to Cf., different things and signify different meanings in a quite flexibly associative way. By comparing those different meanings of the same character we should say there are different uses of the same sign, but not that one conceptual unit or category presents different varieties of a certain meaning or a certain „philosophical category“. If so, what Tang Chün-yi discusses in his work on a Chinese history of philosophical concepts about the categories „Tao“ or „li“ (the principle) does not involve some single categorical set but rather involve merely different uses of the same character. Those signified-meanings and represented-objects do not exist in a logical relationship to each other; there is an etymological flexibility in its historical formation. The so-called Chinese-Western philosophical-categorical comparison will be faced with the same problem. Chinese philosophical concepts exist neither in a logical hierarchy nor in a semantic consistence. In fact, we can hardly trace back to a conceptual lineage of a character-word. Tang obviously confuses the pragmatic uses of the character Tao with the implied meanings in his interpreting the different meanings of the same character or word as being logically linked to each other. Or, it seems that the category Tao developes itself in different stages, such as those expressing „fortune of heaven, virtue, heart, ritual, Tao of heaven, Tao of earth, Tao of human and the Tao“. (Tang  1976, v1., 10) In fact, the word Tao is taken by him just as the designation of a general term like„principle“ „truth“ or „philosophy“. The general term itself becomes a universal concept possibly connected to different theoretical systems according to the pragmatic convenience or habits. As a matter of fact, the term Tao is only a character which can be used in different ways. First, the meaning of a concept represented by a written sign is not  simply implied in that sign; any meaning is the combinational result of the sign and its linguistic/cultural context. It is a resultant effect of interaction of the character and the one or several of its possible contexts.  The situation becomes even more complex with respect to the structure of the character-meaning. According to modern semantics there is a division between denotational and connotational aspects of the meaning. The connotational system of Chinese is much more complicated than the Western ones because of its much higher associative flexibility. The identity of the total meaning of a character in a concrete contextual hierarchy can be both multiply and hetereogeously defined, containing a flexible combination of different denotational and connotational elements. That means, when fixed by a single or a complex context one character can present not only a one or several definite senses, it presents a meaning-hierarchy consisting of different semic qualities which play different parts in the signifying processes. And that Chinese semantics is characterized by its richer connotational potential means that, when an abstract concept is signified by a character in a concrete context, there could be also several other connotated meanings functioning at the emotional, volitional, rhetoric and other layers. All of these meanings represented or aroused by a single sign can function simultaneously with different reserves of meaning-effects. A qualified reader can thoroughly accept the related meaning-complex of a character or a sentence containing that character through his plentiful reading-practice. Different from the Western logical-centrist conceptual organization, Chinese philosophical terms carry many other semantic aspects besides the logical one. If according to a Western logical-directed classifying system to interpret Chinese philosophical concepts, their non-logical parts of the total meaning will be easily or unavoidably excluded or neglected. Following such a logical procedure we can certainly get a more clearly defined conceptual organization while at the same time losing many other related meaningful elements. The fact is that, in the mode of Chinese philosophizing, all sorts of meaningful elements involved work together in various changeable semantic  networks, producing multiply synthetic semantic effects.
            Modern Chinese philosophers have tried to reorganize and reformulate the traditional Chinese philosophical discourse, attempting to make it play an effective role in modern social and academic communication. As a result, what they attempt to do amounts to disconnect the semanticly synthetic texts from their original historical-cultural contexts. The disconnecting process occurs in two aspects: The significational and contextual alike. In fact, there are several kinds of significational institutions of Chinese philosophic discourse such as the verbal, conceptual, disciplinary and cultural. The last one is by no means less important in forming the meaning- effect of Chinese philosophic discourse. The modern scholars of the comparative philosophy would say that they will never neglect the alien semantic organization and the related cultural contexts in their reinterpreting activity. For those qualified comparativist scholars, what they do in their scholarship may be only the creation of a double reading process: On one hand they form a singly realized process of comparative reading of different texts and on the other they employ the implicitly parallel strategies of reading the compared texts in terms of both Chinese and western cultural and academic codes. The so-called comparative study is in essence only a co-presentation of the two different sets of academic rules. They are qualified in reading the both but not necessarily qualified in establishing the rational linkage between the two. Or, they get used to maintain a parallel habit of reading different textual systems in the same psychological process. In other words, there is still lacking of the effective theoretical dialogue between the Chinese historical and western modern discourses during the single-psychological but double-logical process. For the latter, the two logical systems cannot really support or be interconnected with each other at the theoretical level, particularly the parts concerning rhetoricly and pragmaticly semantic elements which are more closely rooted in the respective cultural contexts.
            In one of  my former essays about Chinese semantics of the character-centrism, I explain why modern Chinese can exactly maintain Western scientific-conceptual system through systematically changing the single-character concept to the double-character one. If one character A contains one set of dictionary-semes (a, b, c,...) and another one B a different set (a’, b’, c’...), then  their semantic intersection as a two-character concept C formed by connecting the two characters A and B can largely decrease the related number of semes involved. (Cf., Li 1997(4), 127) Prior to any contextual semantic limitation, the two-character concept-system has already systematically restricted and fixed the semantic organization of Chinese words. This transition from the earlier single-character concept system to the modern two-character one had accompanied the earlier period of modernization of Chinese intellectual life. A two-character concept brings about the intersection of the two seme-sets, and accordingly the number of  semes of the resultant set can be reasonably decreased; namely its dictionary-meaning potential can be more effectively restricted and defined. Thus, the two-character concept system provide the modern Chinese thinking with a more effective vocabulary tool without changing its original character-writing stratum which can continue functioning as the basic semantic mechanism for effectively reading the traditional texts consisting of single-character concepts.
            The one-character concept system based on the Chinese written-character system has established a special argumentative rhetoric characterized by its multi-semic-layer vocabulary and signification; namely, besides the logical layer, there are also emotional, volitional and aesthetic ones simultaneously converging on the same character-word. The one-character word containing a rich set of semes can be used to convey multiply synthetic semic compound with the logical one as the central  in the argumentative genre. However, the argumentative communication in ancient texts are related to a synthetically formed semantics; that leads to the argumentative genre conveying extra meaning effects of the non-argumentative layers as well. The Chinese philosophical genre typical of this kind thus indicates a more complicated meaning effects than the Western counterpart. As a verbal carrier of the logical ideas, Chinese philosophical discourse indicates a weaker inferential power but a richer emotion-volitionally stimulating power than the Western philosophical discourse. Or, the two „philosophical“ discoursic systems function in quite different ways even merely with respect to their dictionary-semantic organizations. This divergence becomes more obvious while involving different aspects of the academic and cultural backgrounds. When Chinese philosophical discourse is reformulated according to the stricter logical standards used in Western philosophy, the other important semantic layers will probably lose effects or at least be seriously suppressed. In the extreme case, some  CP texts reorganized in terms of  the Western semantic and disciplinary institutions might look like „fish tries to survive in the land“.
            That’s why modern Chinese scholars can much more precisely translate Western theoretical texts into Chinese than the ancient Chinese scholars translated Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese.  With respect to our present topic, it is primarily a comparison between the ancient Chinese and Western scholarly-semantic systems. Mou Tzong-san and Tang Chün-yi  may keep a closer attention to the both types of conceptual systems, maintaining the effective reading of the original Chinese texts and their semantic details. Trained in both the traditional Chinese and modern scholarships, they are  qualified in delicately grasping the rhetoric charms of the original Chinese philosophical texts and western logic. Nevertheless, what they have really finished in their comparative thinking is not something organically synthesized, but rather only a direct confrontation of the two different logical and rhetoric traditions. That certainly provides some convenient means for us to perceive the similarity and divergence of the two systems in our comparative studies. What they have maintained and some of their followers have failed to do, exactly lie in the effective reading of rhetoric expressions of the Chinese original philosophical texts rooted in Chinese historical contexts which themselves form a pragmatic strength operative in the Chinese ethical scholarship.  Attempting to give a Western-logical backing to the Chinese ethical reasoning, they can still keep a separate focus on the original rhetoric traits. The straightforward co-presentation of the two ethical expressions might increase the rhetoric enrichment of comparative discourse but its logical strength.  A more serious problem would happen to the comparativist scholars who read the Chinese texts mainly through a prior logicalist filtration due to a western-centrist framework. In such reading, Chinese text becomes a sketchily simplified sign system carrying on the quasi-Western philosophical ideas added with Chinese rhetoric coloring. Furthermore, what they can gain through this semanticly selective way of reading the alien texts must be secondary to the Western counterparts characterized by its much stronger logical strength. What they neglect in reading the Chinese philosophy could be just the stronger points of the latter . The similar tendency could occur with a Chinese way of reading Chinese philosophical texts in modern Chinese or Western languages. The typical case is the translation of philosophical works from Chinese to Western languages. In the case, the semantic loss involved is not caused by translators’ insufficient understanding of the original texts. Well grasping  both languages, they are still unable to attain the complete translation because of the natural barriers of the two semantic organizations. It is interesting to note that, for those qualified translators, there is no difficulty for them to feel every details of the original texts from the translated ones because the latter just becomes an equivalent index of sign systems for the original; or, the translated one becomes a reminder of the original one for the qualified reader through the original cultural context. Nevertheless, for those readers who are not expert at Chinese, the translated texts convey only a partial message of the original. Or, more precisely speaking, some quite important parts concerning the emotional and volitional elements will disappear or at least be seriously weakened in the translated texts.  It will be especially the case when the texts contain more ontological and metaphysical contents. If so, how to sufficiently realize the intellectual exchange through the unqualified reading caused first of all by the two semantic-barriers: The linguistic-semantic and the disciplinary-constitutive ones? The qualified reading therefore can only exist within the specialized circles which are organized according to the professional requirements. The efficient reading is thus based on the preconceived disciplinary restriction which will not help the comparative study to attain to a higher intellectual level. We will return to the problem later again. By the way, what is discussed above is not merely to indicate the fact of the parallel reading process involving the two kinds of philosophical texts. From a professional point of view, any multi-cultural interaction in comparative readings is useful. Our question involves another aspect: How to substantially increase the scientific worth of Chinese-Western comparative philosophical scholarship beyond the current pedagogical-professional routines?
3. The imagistic-rooted conceptions
The comparative-philosophical barriers can be more clearly disclosed through examining the divergent conceptual organizations of the two philosophies or the different structures of the two humanistic scholarships. The well-noted ten or eight-categorical system in Aristotelian philosophy has established  a logical-directed tendency of the western philosophical and scholarly tradition. Its basic conceptual system is divided in terms of the both conceptual and empirical rationality in organizing notions in philosophical discourse. It was this philosophical tradition which had eventually led to the establishment of Western sciences. Moreover, this original rationalist mentality has in fact determined the logical direction in organizing its linguistic, ethical, metaphysical, scientific, artistic, historical and even socio-political thoughts. In contrast, with an interhuman moral-pragmatics as its intellectual direction, the original Chinese mentality indicated a much weaker capability in organizing logical reasoning in texts; this is the main reason why ancient Chinese did not attain a higher level of scientific reasoning. Similarly, in their quasi-philosophical discourse Chinese did not attempt a systematic construction of their verbal argumentation, let alone a strictly logical one. Lacking in a stronger logical tradition, Chinese philosophical discourse is obviously weaker in establishing the criteria for conceptual definition, rules of logical and causal inference, and the categorical hierarchy. First of all, the Chinese philosophical discourse lacks a conceptual system based on the aforementioned logical steps. In this section I do not intend to explore all reasons involved in this regard. Instead, I only point out one of its technical aspects: The pictoriographic origins of the CP philosophical words and their special semantic function indicated in its „concrete abstraction“. Despite the earlier pictoriographic origins of character-words, the linguistic development in China made the pictoriographic traits gradually decreased and the character-words that express more general ideas can function effetively; namely, a „concrete or imagistic-visual substratum“ can play a role of the abstract concept. The point here lies not in emphasizing the imagistic origin of abstract Chinese concepts, but in the independent status of the single-character concepts in forming meanings and meaningful associations. On the one hand, the first-rank categorical concepts in the Book of Change have different imaginative traces, and, on the other hand, those concepts carried by the separate imagistic characters do not define each other in a rational way. Their „logic“ or operative sequences are „given“ artificially by the designers of the system. In the Taoist metaphysics, the major concepts indicate a similar trait. For example, the original visual images of those main concepts like Tao (way) and  tien (heaven), jen (humanity) make their correspondent concepts limited by the imagistic-associative notions. Furthermore, those concepts do not exist in logical connections at the physical or psychological level. In fact, each single-character concept contains a history of the notional development or the history of the uses of that character. All of historically emerging notions can play their role in any communication, with different portions of actual effects in constituting the meaning in the concrete contexts. Different effective semes of one word in contexts can interact with each other to form a definite set of meaning-complex appearing through actual reading. When an abstract word works together with other related conceptual words in a certain context , the meaningful network will become further complicated. Different from the Aristotelian categorical system whose elements define each other logically, either at notional or at practical level,  CP has only different sets of uses of the conceptual words embodied in characters used. (When the two-character words appear in modern time this associative flexibility is effectively restricted.) In light of this background, we can understand why we should not regard those ancient philosophical words as some notional entities containing their own innate or fixed meaning. (Cf., the different opinions in Mou  1991, v.1,  p.246, 254, 302) They are only to be pragmatically used in different contexts. Tao and tien become the top categories in CP by virtue of their imaginative hints as metaphors based on the image with a visual superiority: The guiding index and the spatial height. When those words obtain their logical roles formed through habitual usage, the added meanings, however, are something given in an arbitrary way. In principle, I think, any imagistic origins and the related words can play the same meaningful roles if their rhetoric effects can be expected. The category tien as a verbal medium can thus be used to carry different semic sets with its original imaginative association; the last factor can play a different semantic role in different intellectual and cultural contexts. Accordingly, the imagistic elements and related other semic ones can be synthetically used in a flexible way. Between the Confucian texts, original Taoist texts and later Neo-Confucianist texts, the same character (not the same „conceptual category“) tien can carry different notional implications. Even when it played a more metaphysical role in the Sung texts, there was still a lack of logical relations between different key concepts such as Tao, hsing (human nature), li (principle), li (ritual), jen, yi (justice) and etc. All of those concepts play their respective roles directly or intuitively with respect to their practical contexts. But where are the logical links between them within related theoretical systems? They cooperate with, or support, each other in practical experience emerging in human nature and real life, rather than in a logical hierarchy as what we know in western philosophy. However, we may say that both the merits and demerits can be drawn from this same mental tendency. As an indication of the pragmatic potential, by the way, those imagistic-rooted concepts can play a multiple, rather than single, function in intellectual communication. (Cf., Li 1997 (1), 191-201).
            Shu-Hsien Liu said, „jen is Confucius’ ultimate commitment as well as that one thread that runs through all his doctrine“, (Cf., Chan, Wing-tzit 1986, 444). The phrase „one tread that runs through“ vividly indicates the usage of Chinese imagistic-rooted concept. Different from the general term Tao which functions as the first-rank category in all contexts, jen functions in different semantic levels and aspects. It is an „index“ which refers to different meaningful qualities in different contexts. Now the key question is whether the two argumentative systems can complement each other as comparative scholars have wished for. My answer is quite reserved. Because the two philosophical systems work in different academic frameworks, or precisely, in different contexts of semantic, conceptual and disciplinary organizations. The complete meanings of the two philosophical discoursic systems depend on their own respective academic contexts. The impression on the possible conplementarity of the two systems is caused by the psychological and pedagogical training of the comparative scholars, as we pointed out before. Nevertheless, the recognition of the fact does not necessarily indicate a negative aspect; it may bring about another active aspect of the comparative communication which we will elaborate further later. But now let us discuss in more detail about the semantic role of the disciplinary institutions in philosophical communication.
4.  The semantic aspects of Chinese academic disciplines
     The meaning of humanistic discourse is more deeply determined by the operative institutions of the related academic system as well as by the socio-cultural-historical conditions. Now let us turn to the semantic factors formed by the special academic programs among which the most important one is the disciplinary system as the classifying patterns for organizing subject matters and the related methods. In the Aristotelian philosophy, as well known, an initial five-fold division  of scholarship contained the logical, metaphysical, socio-practical, nature-scientific and aesthetic-historical aspects of human intellectual experience respectively. Later, the academic classificatory model had been continuously refined and readjusted until the mediaeval time, while its initial principle remained little changed. The division of subject matters,  scholarly  technique, pedagogical program and the academic aims have accorded with one another in the Western disciplinary system. Compared to this academic tradition, the Chinese scholarly activities were much more practical and less rationalistic in character, leading to quite different intellectual and social consequences in their civilizational development.
            Concerning the formation of intellectual activities, there are several academic-pragmatic systems working as parts of the operative framework of scholarly intelligence. In general, the constitution of the meaning of intellectual units basically depends on the aforementioned tripartite institutionalization: The linguistic-semantic, conceptual-semantic and the disciplinary-semantic. Compared with the western type, there were much less rigorous classification among the traditional disciplines in ancient China. The initial historical record of academic classification emerged in the Han dynasty indicates an obviously practical character. The initial scholarly classification finished in the earlier Han, called the Seven Classes of Books, is a half-conceptual and half-bibliographic attempt on the basis of the book-compiling practice. The classifying principle was indeed related to the intellectual categories, for the so-called „books“ were the results of compiling fragmentary articles on the basis of certain divisions about the philosophical, poetical, medical, engineering, and divinational-numerical writings. The way of classification was nevertheless based on the classifying tendency of the practical common sense, while not on the academic-rational requirements. The first section of the  Six Arts, which was later called the Ching or Classics, is characteristic of a Chinese synthetically pragmatic mentality. This class of books covers all of ideologically important, historically original, and earlier officially-compiled books connected to various subjects such as philosophical, historical, literary, ethical, linguistic and divinational ones. First, the class or division itself consists of so-called six subclasses which are in part overlapped with other classes. Second, those books in this class were official educational textbooks used in various states or provinces since the pre-Ch’in time. Although there were great conflicts and wars among the  political regimes, those historically official books were accepted by all of them as the basic state-authoritative books . Third, those basic classics are also historical books in the sense that they were historical records of the past official events and thoughts of China. It is interesting to note that the philosophical content of this basic class of books is really scarce. Therefore the traditional Chinese classic books are not philosophical but  historical in nature. Or, more precisely, the basic Chinese classics in Chinese intellectual history are pragmatic, synthetic and ideological in its composition and function. Considering the basic purpose of the Chinese academic classics in their sociopolitical circumstances, the weakness of the logical pursuit in ancient China seems naturally understandable.
            Following the development of the classifying intelligence based on  practical requirements in the editing and publishing practice after the Han, the above book-classifying pattern had been further elaborated during the period of the Chin-Sui dynasties. Finally, there was a more fixed pattern called the „Four Section Book Classification“: Ching, Shih, Tzu, Chi.[2] Being not classified consistently according to the intellectual subject matters, they followed diversely mixed criteria such as the ideological utility, official and honorary grades (the class Ching, or Classics), the substantial content (the Shih, or History), and the identity of authors ( offices or private individuals).The fact was that the philosophical texts were more included into the second class according to a strange criterion: Works by  individual writers who were engaged in various specialties such as  the philosophical, ethical, divisional, medical, literary, agricultural and strategical, or anything made by named writers. Compared with the Western tradition, the most characteristic trait of ancient Chinese scholarship does not lie in the poverty of the philosophical content (in some sense) but in the lack of theoretical impulse in connection with the humanistic learning. In other words, there had been a weaker inclination in the initial Chinese academic life for reflecting and examining the intellectual practice and experience. However, as late as in the Former Han, the scholarship as academia emerged was not based on any theoretical reflection but rather on the practical interests or on the philological and ideological requirements.
            The initial classification of books based on the synthetic intellectual/bibliographic criteria had laid a foundation for the later development of the book-classifying principles over two thousand years in China. This historical constancy reflects a stability of the way of Chinese thinking characterized by its practical tendency. The academic-operative, bibliographic and professional standards were mixed together in shaping ancient Chinese academic institutions. This more-ideologically and less-intellectually tended classification system of Chinese texts and thoughts have provided Chinese scholars with an authoritatively fixed framework for organizing their way of thinking and scholarly practice. The philosophical content in a modern or western sense is mixed in  intellectual and historical texts. It functions with the elements of other related intellectual categories within the definite social and cultural contexts.
            After the more logical categorization of western academic culture was introduced into China initially through the early Japanese intermidium, Chinese consciousness for scientifically classifying subject matter was immediately sharpened, just like what we have seen in the recent history of Chinese scientific development  during the same period. Since then the Western definition of philosophical discipline has become the generally accepted model in Chinese intellectual life. Following the Western classifying system, modern Chinese scholars began to reorganize a ancient Chinese „philosophical“ discipline. In fact, people are inclined to use the more precisely defined Western standards to redescribe the Chinese counterparts. Modern Chinese comparative theology has especially tended to do it this way. Stanislaus Lokuang offers a typical example in this regard. By comparing Chu Hsi’s philosophy to the Western mediaeval metaphysics, he employs a set of Western philosophical terms and model as a comparative framework although there is the basic divergence of the two theoretical systems which makes the relevant comparison between the two remain less meaningful, such as those general terms  like Being, mind, nature and  principle. This disciplinary-blending emerges in both the Chinese and Chinese-Western comparative fields through using same set of terms regardless of their mutual geographic and historical distinction. Thus, we read what he states like the following: „Chu Hsi’s theory of metaphysical structure combined substance and morality, and connected ethics and ontology....its ethics are the continuation of ontology. Its ethics and ontology are mutually connected.“ (Chan, ed., 1986 ,76) In such a straightforward comparative philosophical study there has existed a basic self-contradiction about the identity of CP itself: What significant parts should be put in this discipline from the related traditional Chinese material? According to the stricter Western standard, no much material in Chinese philosophy could be accepted as the exactly philosophical in nature. That’s why, until now, the main stream of Western philosophy do not take an interest in CP. (The fact has not much to do with language problem because many philosophical classics have already been translated into Western languages). Even following a flexible or extended standard, they are not easy to be treated within the modern discipline of philosophy. It is obvious that so-called Chinese philosophy is quite miscellaneous in composition, containing elements from different fields such as metaphysical, ethical, historical, political, and literary. First of all, there exists a problem of classification of academic disciplines involving both modern (Western) and traditional Chinese classifying systems. This is also a typical semiotic problem with respect to the conceptual and analytical-procedural classifications. The Chinese-Western comparative philosophy is first of all a comparative analysis of the two different academic disciplinary systems. The problems in connection with the meaning, function, and evaluation of different philosophical discourses can only be more precisely and more comprehensively defined within the related disciplinary systems. Even the obviously philosophical part functions within a certain system or in interaction with other related disciplines in the same system. It is difficult for us to put the philosophical part of the system A into the system B and keep its original meaning and function. The pragmatic character of the academic institution has limited the scientific potential of those disciplines. The different fields in ancient Chinese intellectual practice do not function in terms of  a logically-organized scholarly system. Those empirical-tended fields such as history and literature can obtain their clearer identities. However, in the more theoretical-tended intellectual practice, the disciplines or the sets of scholarly procedures have not yet been truly established such as philosophy, linguistics, natural and social sciences, aesthetics (as more systematic description and analysis of the aesthetic experience) and logic. All of those theoretical elements are organized in a less systematical way. The lack of the true theoretical disciplines indeed indicates the weaker point of ancient Chinese mentality.
            The question about CP as a modern discipline consisting of the traditional materials is innately linked to the traditional Chinese academic structure which has been deeply rooted in the traditional Chinese sociopolitical system. (Cf., Li 1997 (2), 58-66). By reflecting on this problem today, we should further expand our problematic to a more general level: the formation of disciplines and its ideological background. As I argued before, the academic hierarchy itself becomes a structural reason for the stability of conservative scholarly directions (in Carr,Gerald & Zhang Lihua, ed., 1998, 427). If a modern academic ideology involves several social aspects, the traditional Chinese academic ideology has concentrated more on its political mechanism. The relationship of Chinese metaphysics and Chinese politics will be a very important scholarly subject for inquiry; namely, Chinese scholarship has been closely linked to its socio-political background.
5. The semiotic approach  to comparative philosophy
The above demonstration of the less maturity of ancient Chinese scientific rationality, however, implies a considerable pragmatic-rationalist potential from a semiotic point of view. The semiotic approach helps explore the multiple rational typology in connection with various connotational possibilities in signification and communication. Let me repeat that  there are, in brief, four kinds of structural difficulty with our analysis of CP through comparative methodology: The linguistic-semantic, conceptual-definitional, disciplinary-institutional and the historico-culture-contextual. These communicative barriers exist between different academic traditions. The situation will become further complicated when considering the current epistemological challenge shaped by the changed situation concerning the humanities in general since the Sixties. A more complex question will be related to the current debate between philosophy as a strong traditionally rooted discipline and the interdisciplinary epistemology as a new general type of theorization. In other words, the aforementioned difficulty in Chinese-Western comparative philosophy can be reconsidered from a larger intellectual perspective. In result, it seems paradoxical that our problematic concerning CP can therefore obtain an intellectually added significance.
            In my opinion, the term semiotics today is an indication of a general research orientation which is first characterized by its strong interdisciplinary strategy. It involves various disciplines; but it does not center on any traditionally established single discipline. That means it can accept numerous theoretical tools from various disciplines in terms of a new methodological framework; namely, it can selectively apply theoretical elements from different disciplines to their various specific scientific projects. Furthermore, it deals with various semantic levels ranging from the linguistic, communicative, pragmatic, expressive and rhetoric, far from being limited in referring to the perceptive or realist objects. Such a multi-semantic-layered semiotics can provide the comparative scholars with the theoretical tools to more precisely analyze divergent cultural manifestations. In a broader sense, semiotics as a „universal semantics“ in my interpretation can treat two kinds of semantic dimensions: The linguistic and the disciplinary. What could be a  „semantics“ of discipline then? According to our above discussion we know that the entire meaning of a discourse involves various levels, including the related academic institutional ones which are also determinative forces influencing the constitution of meaning. It is clear that the both semantic analyses will be closely connected with the problemstics of Chinese cultural history.
            In general, there are three heterogeneous origins of modern semiotic theories: The Saussuarian, Peircian and Husserlian, respectively involving  the linguistic, pragmatic and psychological dimensions respectively. The constitutional divergence of modern semiotics presents a technical difficulty in grasping its entire range. But for the studies about multi-cultural theories, the three perspectives are all important and relevant, and the situation certainly presents a theoretical challenge towards those scholars trained and specialized in the single discipline, including the philosophical. On the other hand, although there exist different disciplinary origins of semiotic theory; the mostly related one remains to be the philosophical. If there exists a close relationship between semiotics and philosophy, there will be a closer relationship between semiotics and comparative philosophy, including CP, which is quite miscellaneous compared with its Western counterpart.
            Despite containing a great number of philosophical elements, semiotic theories are characterized not by what it employs but by how, why and in which contexts it does. The semiotic stance in contrast with philosophical-centrism has nothing to do with philosophical knowledge but rather with the traditional way to employ the knowledge, namely a way to operate within the discipline philosophy which is defined by its fixed operative preconditions, procedures and theoretical function. According to the recent development of the semiotic theory in an expanded semantic term, the operational contexts play a very important role in sharing in constituting the entire meaning of any sign system. The disciplinary framework is the most direct inner circle of the related contextual network for signification and communication of any verbal texts. When the structure of the latter is more complicated and ambiguous, the contextual analysis becomes more necessary. This is where one can find some serious problems about some approaches in Chinese-Western comparative philosophy. The new focus in the semiotic efforts even involves the contextual network of semiotic practice itself into consideration. That means, the semiotic approach should pay attention even to its own operative conditions, internal and external, being precautious of any semiotic dogmatism caused by the proposed procedural rigidity of disciplines, including any mechanistic definition of semiotics itself. Semiotics as the general designation of interdisciplinary/cross-cultural approach also involves a strategical shift of academic attitude breaking up the geographico-historical distinction about cultural traditions. Until today any academic events and their scholarly results have actually emerged in definite sites and dates, originators of scholarship being marked by the related geographical names. The ever-increasing international communication makes such geographical titles less meaningful when most cultural message can be shared and employed by people everywhere in the world in the similar way, just as what we have seen in the present sciences. CP, despite its rich historical message, will provide the more internationally commensurable and acceptable parts for the common academic tasks in the global scope. It should be no longer monopolized by the native Chinese because they have no more „belonged to“ Chinese only; the same can be said about Greek/Roman thoughts. The epistemological and axiological problems concerning the Chinese-Western comparative philosophy will indicate the same tendency, although one can be more specialized in some technical aspects owing to in his particular conditions. For example, Chinese are better in using Chinese but not necessarily better than non-Chinese in understanding some intellectual aspects of CP when the nature of the latter are more connected to some modern disciplines, such as linguistics and anthropology. The same can be said about Western philosophy whose philological scholarship is certainly better mastered by some Western specialists, still some intellectual aspects of Greek philosophy could be better understood even by some non-Western scholars if they were more familiar with other modern humanistic methodologies. That’s why all sorts of specialists of  the philological type can no longer maintain that they are authorities of everything in their own specialized fields, even they could memorize all texts of Aristotle or of the Five Classes. The philological and scientific approaches to understanding the same texts are related to different epistemological strategies, which may be connected to other disciplines. Or simply, the same subject matter can be treated by different methods formed in different disciplines and their different combinations. The same situation can be compared to what we talk in connection with sinology or CP as a historically shaped discipline. In fact, we humanistic scholars today are faced with the task to systematically reorganize the structure of the humanistic scholarship.Thus, in the conventional field of comparative philosophy the identities of the compared traditional philosophies remain unchanged, while from a  semiotic point of view, those academic identities formed in history should be anatomized first. There will be a double process called „breakthrough/interfusion“: That between elements of the compared historical schools within the discipline; and that between that discipline and other disciplines. In our usage the discipline consists of subject matters and methods alike, while the latter is more determinative to its identity. On the other hand, the semiotic tendency will strengthen the process of reorganizing the methodological network cross different historical and geographic cultural sections, further blurring the boundaries of various cultural traditions. Accordingly, the semiotic dialogue will promote the process of the international redescription of historical-cultural-academic topographies. For attaining the aim, the Chinese part should be first reformulated in a modern semiotic term in order to bring about the discourse  more commensurable with the western one. (Cf., Li 1997(3), 197-199)
6. Chinese philosophy seen from a semiotic perspective
     The present issue involves semiotic problems, because  divergence and similarity between Chinese and Western philosophies is naturally related to the identity of the former which cannot be sufficiently clarified only within the framework of the latter. The pre-scientific synthetic nature of Chinese thought, pre-modern disciplinary basis of Western thought, modern Western interdisciplinary tendency, and contemporary new interdisciplinary/ cross-cultural scientific direction in the world have shared in forming an expanded context for redefining the identity of  Chinese philosophical history. The present inquiry is to further urge us  facing a more fundamental problem of our time: What is the nature and function of philosophy as a discipline today? Although we cannot go to its details here, the question, which being taken as reference point, is nevertheless helpful for us to more relevantly define and evaluate Chinese philosophy.
            The semiotic and thus interdisciplinary approach implies an intellectually „revolution-nary“ tendency: To reorganize the preconditions and operative procedures of doing research. These involve the scholarly operative strategy with respect to the epistemological and methodological conditions. As a matter of fact, the semiotic strategy functions on the marginal areas between the disciplinary and cross-disciplinary scopes, or that between the specialized and cross-specialized (comparative) ones. Furthermore, the semiotic tendency recently indicated in the Chinese-Western comparative studies prove the necessity of strengthening the general analytical tendency originating in ancient Greece, but also indicate that either the analytical or the traditionally rational patterns in intellectual productions should be expanded and pluralized. The involvement of the non-Western materials and practices in the comparative studies will certainly push forward this development. On the other hand, the dialogue between CP and semiotics is multiply beneficiary to them both. First, the synthetic content of CP can be more suitably treated by  the interdisciplinary approaches of semiotics. Secondly, the interdisciplinary approach to CP can more creatively stimulates the cross-cultural scholarship which itself is interdisciplinary in nature.
            Concerning the term „interdisciplinary“, we should first point out that any single discipline unavoidably contains the interdisciplinary elements; second, any certain interdisciplinary program is liable to further develop to be a new discipline, namely a fixed set of scholarly preconditions and operational patterns. Similarly, any comparative approach in a field can be made later a certain discipline fixed on their operative steps. The essence of semiotics lies in overcoming or avoiding any kind of dogmatic formalism, scientific or rhetoric, keeping a constant attention to the efficiency itself in order to scientifically solve problems. For this purpose, firstly we should build up a set of more relevant problematics, and then to arrange with a group of related methods  collected from various disciplinary systems. For these purposes we have to get rid of the professional routine which is more closely connected with academic utility and scholarly customs than with intellectual progress and theoretical idealism. The spirit of semiotics is therefore also expressed in neglecting the intellectual and scholarly interests determined by the current academic and pedagogical market mechanism. Different from fashionable academic games shaped in the present-day commercialized society, semiotic spirit for scientific certainty and efficiency is even closer to the classical ethos, both ancient Greek and  pre-Ch’in Chinese.
7. Chinese philosophy and current ethical scholarship
      CP established as a modern discipline involves different parts of Chinese intellectual history, some of which cannot  be communicable well with the traditional Western philosophical topics. On the other hand, western philosophy itself will be divided into different thematic parts in connection with other related disciplines following the recent epistemological development. For example, some traditional branches of philosophy like aesthetics and philosophy of history have been largely transformed into new disciplinary fields: Artistic/ literary theory and historical theory. Philosophy of language shares a number of important subjects with linguistic theory, while the latter has also created a number of new subjects which have not been shared by the former. The similar disorganizing processes can be indicated in many other sociocultural areas such as politics, economics and sociology. Philosophy today can be no longer the single or central theoretical foundation for other academic branches, especially with respect to ethical scholarship which is the very center of CP. It is well known that Western philosophy also originated in its ethical reflection. Ethics soon became an important branch of western philosophy when it had obtained more and more logical elaboration following the metaphysical sophistication. Therefore the later evolution of Western ethics has been closely linked with the ever-increasing western metaphysical and ontological scholarship. Of course, the Christian-theological development has further strengthened this metaphysical tendency of western ethics. Accordingly, a metaphysical fundamentalism has made western ethics more and more disconnected from its empirical and positivist sources. As well known, ethical thought has indicated a strong empirical relevance in history, especially in Chinese ethical pragmatics. Moreover, the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural approaches today will further disclose the similar inconsistency between the metaphysical and empirical aspects in Chinese ethical thought. For example, the pre-Ch’in ethical empiricism and its Sung-metaphysical elaboration present a sharp contrast in ethical reasoning. From the interdisciplinary perspective, the speculative elaboration based on metaphysical fundamentalism and the pragmatic efficiency based on the humanist empirical positivism belong to different epistemological levels. On the other hand, between different cultural academic systems, there are different degrees of logical subtlety and positivist efficiency. With respect to the former, western logic is much more superior to the Chinese one; and for the latter, however, each has their different advantageous and disadvantageous aspects. Concerning the empirical aspect of ethical thought, the western type indicates a much higher socio-empirical positivist efficiency, while the Chinese expresses a much stronger motivationally positivist technique. Therefore, comparison and complementarity between the two intellectual traditions require firstly the choice of the relevant epistemological and pragmatico-operative criteria in order to more beneficially promote efficiency of ethical scholarship. The present problem about Chinese-Western comparative philosophy is therefore essentially turned to a more crucial problem about the discipline ethics as such which has been traditionally full of epistemological controversy. And in this aspect, Chinese philosophy or its main topic--Chinese ethics can provide a more illustrative  example for the current international discussion on ethics. Keeping a reasonable distance from the Chinese and Western metaphysical frameworks, Chinese philosophy as a whole can become  a more useful source for the present-day comparative studies, especially in the ethical field.
            Modern comparative philosophy has brought about a general recognition that western metaphysics, as a much higher logical construction, becomes a theoretical backing for the weaker Chinese metaphysical tradition in a special sense, because both share a metaphysical-semantic ambiguity, creating a richer rhetoric potential for philosophical speculation, and also because Western metaphysics has firmly established itself in modern pedagogical system in the world. The modern disciplinary system based on the current professional system has become the factual foundation for the comparative metaphysical scholarship which do not need to focus on the genuine relationship of ethical scholarship and metaphysical rationality. This tendency is no doubt directly related to the progress of theoretical and political ethics.
            Thus, in light of the former explanations, we can turn back to the question in our issue more precisely: What contribution CP can make to the western philosophy today? Or, what is the major merits of Chinese philosophy in the current humanities? We attempt to answer now that the comparative philosophical studies do not need to be limited to certain related existing  academic disciplines such as the philosophical, sinological or philological-historiographical. All of those fields are certainly the important disciplines rooted in the present educational system with its own routine programs. But how to classify its content and how to analyze its respective composition in the specifically designed projects are also related  with the chosen perspectives and  methods in connection with  other disciplines and their combinations in entire social and human sciences. .Free from the fixed criteria set by the conventional disciplinary network, CP, after reorganization, can increase or enrich its intellectual contribution to several other scholarly aspects of international and domestic academic fields. On one hand, the initial reorganization of Chinese intellectual material in terms of western philosophical system can certainly benefit both sides by promoting the mutual understanding. The latter, nevertheless, also explores its own scholarly limitation because of the profound academic-cultural divergence of the two. We should not accept the standards used in the traditional Western logic-centrist philosophy to measure the quasi-correspondent parts in the Chinese one, except in some definite topics. For example, western metaphysics and ontology, being highly autonomous because of the strong logical and theological backgrounds, do not need any theoretical support from non-western philosophies which are historically weaker in those aspects. But there are indeed the parts in Chinese philosophy which can be very useful for improving the ethical aspect of the western philosophical tradition, when the latter is firstly disconnected with its traditional reliance on  the metaphysical framework which can be used to serve diverse functions, including the non-academic ones. For example, the  original„non-philosophical“ or „empirical“ ethics in ancient China can therefore obtain an increased value through epistemologically separating its metaphysical and ethical components. Julia Ching said, „In Kantian terms, Mencius offers an empirical ground for morality: That of moral feeling, based on human nature and its spontaneous, even instinctive choice of the good in moments of crisis calling for altruism“. (Chan 1986, 278) According to Ching, this empirical stance should be overcome metaphysically. From the semiotic perspective closely linked to modern scientific development, however, we can have a different notion about the theoretical strength. If remaining within the western moral-metaphysical framework, ancient Chinese ethical wisdom would sound  less  important. But when the interdisciplinary deconstruction of  metaphysical fundamentalism in Western ethics is attained, the more genuine nature of ethical scholarship can be further clarified. Confucian thought as the first important Chinese ethics is a typical example. (Cf., Li 1997 (1), xxix - xxxii) Furthermore, this recognition of the empirical value of Confucian ethics can promote the deeper reflection on the empiricist and positivist traditions of western ethics which have been undermined or weakened by various ontological and metaphysical speculations across history. Another example is that the synthetic manifestations of Chinese thought, which consists of philosophical, historical, literary and artistic elements and procedures which present a more suitable foundation for analyzing politico-ideological elements which function in the scholarly and social realities; the fact can further help us expand our understanding of the true mechanism of political-ethical scholarship in history. Such strategical perspective can be easily obtained only after firstly avoiding the western philosophical or metaphysical centrism which  were actually adopted by Mou, Tang and some of their followers. The depth and utility of any scholarly operations should be measured by the suitable or relevant theoretical procedures, rather than by any kind of technically elaborated devices, keeping a distance from the traditional philosophical systems whose conceptually technicalized  programs have existed too long in history reserving all of its historical accumulations within its own operative autonomy without being closely directed to the changeable social and intellectual reality . In light of this we will know that the present issue will involve a larger range of questions, including the reexamination of the discipline philosophy itself. On the other hand, besides its historical autonomy, there is also a modern academic-institutional autonomy determined by  several other factors, some of which are non-scholarly. From such a larger perspective, our present question is not only something about how to benefit CP through the western methods, but also reversely  about CP’s possible contribution to Western philosophy,  after the comparative methodology is improved. Its significance will also go beyond the cross-cultural comparative field, reaching the ethical discipline itself. In this sense we can even point out that it is Chinese philosophy that might provide a chance to reexamine the structure of  western ethical scholarship now; or, more precisely, a western-centrist ethical tradition should be replaced by a cross-cultural one, especially the cross-cultural semiotics,  which is based on the recent epistemological/metho-dological elaboration.
            The comparative studies of Chinese  and western philosophies have become more and more significant today, because it involves the promotion of the two disciplines not only in their professional routines, but also in confrontation of the current  great challenge of interdisciplinary/cross-cultural reorientation of the comparative humanities, including that in philosophy. Our issue is therefore only one aspect of that larger problematic concerning the function of the traditional philosophical discipline and its relationship to comparative cultural history. The topic itself obtains a double significance: As part of the question of the relationship between philosophy and ethics and as part of the interdisciplinary-oriented multi-cultural studies. We can even say that without treating problems in the larger context  can we hardly attain the satisfactory achievement in our traditionally specialized scholarly scope. The situation indeed raises another considerable challenge from the trans-disciplinary perspective. Particularly in the Chinese-western comparative cultural studies, the desideratum for multiple-disciplinary perspective become increasingly desirable. On the other hand, from a Confucian point of view, different from the current professionally competitive utilitarianism, any new scholarly direction should be welcomed if it can offer a better result with respect to scientific progress itself regardless of any professional benefits or privilege. One hundred years’ history of comparative philosophical studies based on both western sinological and  Chinese nationalist scholarship has gone to its end following the rapid progress of  current comparative scholarship. The present question discussed in this paper provides us with a chance to more effectively inquire into ethical scholarship through  collaboration with other related disciplines.
            The semiotic approach, including its comparative branch, definitely belong to the analytical tradition based on  principles of rationality, clarity, precision and efficiency in demonstrative process. It is the recent semiotic version of this western rationalist tradition that brings us a more promising perspective to deal with the Chinese-western comparative philosophy. Its further development at the cross-cultural level also extends its rational and operative scope to more effectively cover the intercultural fields. The result, as we explained earlier in the paper, is collaboratively caused by the interdisciplinary-tended methodological innovation. The double strategical innovation helps advance the research on traditional Chinese thoughts, scholarship and culture; especially its ethical thought can play a more creative role in the present new intellectual and scholarly context. It is  time for us to promote the interdisciplinary approach to CP with a desirable result that the ethical aspects of CP can play a more active role in shaping the current ethics in the world. As one of the most significant intellectual experiences of mankind, Chinese ethical tradition can be more relevantly involved into the collaborative reconstruction of the new ethics for the world. The original structure of Chinese ethics and its related unique historical experience before the intrusion of the institutionalized philosophical methodology provide the modern ethical inquiry with an originally instructive and illuminating model for promoting ethical and politico-ethical science. The semiotic attitude reflects a more thoroughly critical attitude for  reexamining structure and function of the existent human knowledge in reference to the more successful development of natural  sciences.
Selective Bibliography
Chan, Wing-tsit (ed.)
  1986, Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism, University of Hawaii Press
Chu, Hsi & Lü, Tsu-ch’ien
  1967, Reflection on Things at Hand, trans. & noted by Chen Wing-tsit, Columbia University Press, New York
Huang, Tsung-hsi
1987, The Records of Ming Scholars, ed. by Julia Ching
Li, Youzheng
  1997(1), The Structure of the Chinese Ethical Archetype, Peter Lang, Frankfurt
  1997(2), The Constitution of Han-Acadmeic Ideology, Peter Lang, Frankfurt
  1997(3), Epistemological Problems of the Comparative Humanities, Peter Lang, Frankfurt
  1997(4), „On the semic structure of traditional Chinese Philosophical words“, in Historiography Quarterly (in Chinese), Spring Issue, Beijing
  1999, „On institutional restriction of academic disciplines“, in Interdigitations: Essays for Irmengard Rauch, ed. by Carr, G.F., Harbert, W., Zhang, L., Peter Lang, New York
Liu, Shu-hsien & Allinson Robert E. (ed.)
  1988, Harmony and Strife: contemporary perspectives, East and West, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mou, Tsung-san
  1991, Hsin-t’i yü hsing-t’i (Substance of mind and substance of human nature), Cheng Chung Book Co. Taipei
Tang, Chün-yi
  1976, Chung Kuo Che-hsü Yuan-lun (On the Principle of  Chinese Philosophy), Hsüe Sheng Book Co., Taipei

[1] Julia Ching pointed out, „One discovers Huang Tsung-hsi’s inconsistencies, his moving from philosophical statements to classical allusions to polemical discussions, usually without any warning to the reader.“ (Huang 1987, 34) This shortcoming of Huang in philosophical composition is in fact a general tendency among many traditional Chinese „philosophers“, including the theoretically more elaborated Sung scholars, that they were obviously weaker in logical construction. Another obvious shortcoming in their philosophical discourse is a fragmentary mode of thinking and writing which can be represented by Chu Hsi’s commentary style in his theoretical discourse. Like other Chinese philosophers, Chu hardly finished any systematic writings.
[2] Based on the original classifying system and the later development of the classifying theory and practice about Chinese texts made by Liu Hsie in the Chin Dynasty, there formed a general criterion of the half-bibliographic and half-conceptual nature leading to the establishment of this book classification system.