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Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton August 16, 2013

A carnival pilgrimage: Cultural semiotics in China

Hongbing Yu
From the journal Semiotica


This paper reviews the development of Chinese cultural semiotics from the early age of reception to the present day. The return of Cultural Awareness in the late 1970s in China paved the way for the entry of diverse Western thought and led to the so-called “fever of cultural studies” since the 1980s. The dynamic nature of Chinese culture calls for equally dynamic theories and this has provided a perfect opportunity for combining the various newly introduced Western semiotic models and the contemporary studies of Chinese culture. A genuinely fascinating situation, which I name “a carnival pilgrimage,” of cultural semiotics in China, is that each of the diversified semiotic theories has enjoyed a uniquely prestigious status and a fair share of practitioners. Nevertheless, there are four major Western models that are most influential in Chinese cultural semiotics: Saussurean structuralism, the Peircean model, the Russian School, and the Cassirer-Langer model. The seeming confusion of this carnival pilgrimage is actually a reflection of the dynamism and pluralism of global semiotics and is especially advocated and practiced by Chinese semioticians, who have already managed to explore the rich ancient legacies left by early Chinese thinkers of the sign and to establish semiotic centers and publications nationwide.

Published Online: 2013-8-16
Published in Print: 2013-10-25

©[2013] by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston