Mu-Chou (prononcer Pou Mou-Tcho) enseigne légyptologie
à Taiwan. Son parcours ne fut pas des plus faciles
: il ny avait pas, avant lui, détudes
égyptologiques en République de Chine.
did you become interested in Egyptology?
was originally interested in Greek and Roman studies when
I was in college. I found out, after graduation, that
without proper language training in Greek and Latin, it
was very difficult to get into a graduate program, as
I was trying to apply for graduate study in the U.S. I
subsequently found out that one could begin to study Egyptology
in graduate school, therefore I applied for Egyptology
and was admitted to Brown University by the late
Professor Ricardo Caminos. This was 1976.
are the paths of your studies and your career?
practically began from zero when I went to Brown
University and studied with Caminos. Thus it was very
hard for me to begin with, with all the language requirements
and the study of history and literature. I appreciate
Professor Caminos' patience with me and his encouragement.
After one year at Brown, Professor Caminos was to go to
Egypt and finish his work on the Gebel Silsile epigraphical
survey, so I was transferred to the Johns Hopkins University
to study with Professor Hans Goedicke. I spent
next six years at Johns Hopkins, and wrote my Ph.D. dissertation
on the offering of wine. I returned to Taiwan
in 1984 and have been working in the Institute of
History and Philology, Academia Sinica.
is the situation of Egyptology in Taiwan?
Taiwan I am still the sole Egyptologist who teaches
Egyptian history in a university (Taiwan University).
The interest in ancient Egyptian culture has been growing
in recent years (I have 99 students in my Egyptian history
class last year), but serious interest in pursuing Egyptology
has yet to come.
is your current post, and your topics of research?
position here at the Institute of History and Philology
is a research position, although I also teach as an adjunct
professor at National Taiwan University.
main research interest in recent years is comparative
ancient history. I am currently working on a book
entitled "On the Edge: Looking for the Alien in
Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China." This
is a study of the attitudes toward foreigners in these
three ancient civilizations. It is a reassessment of the
cultural consciousness of the ancient peoples, as well
as a re-examination of the nature of civilization.
since I am stationed here, I also devote part of my time
to do research in ancient Chinese history and religion.
My recent publication is "In Search of Personal
Welfare: A View of Ancient Chinese Religion"
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998).
is the contribution of comparatism ?
the study of ancient civilizations, it is customary that
scholars pay attention to the achievement of a particular
civilization: art, history, religion, and philosophy,
etc. It is also customary, furthermore, that scholars
approach their subjects employing a positivistic, straightforward
method. For examples, in the field of Egyptology,
if one wishes to know about religious beliefs, one could
study such religious texts as Pyramid Texts and Book of
the Dead; if one wishes to know about social values and
moral principle, one could study biographical texts and
wisdom literature. A picture of the characteristics of
Egyptian civilization thus gradually emerged from such
studies. This is a legitimate method, and important and
irreplaceable result has already been achieved.
one aspect of Egyptian civilization, or any civilization
for that matter, can not be satisfactorily illuminated
by such method. This is the cultural consciousness,
the self-perception, of a given people. It is often said
that one of the most difficult tasks for man is to know
himself. One cannot know himself and establish his identity,
however, without somehow knowing the others. The character
of a person, furthermore, can often be revealed by his
attitude toward others. The same may be said of a culture,
as its character constructed by the above-mentioned positivistic
method tends to represent only one side of the picture.
We cannot unconditionally accept the picture that a given
culture has represented itself without comparing this
self-portrait to its portraits of other cultures.
a people's portrait of other cultures, that is, their
attitudes toward and knowledge about foreigners and foreign
cultures, even though this may not reveal the true character
of the cultures that they were trying to depict, one could
learn much about the people who produced such portraits.
Some of the essential questions are, how did people
treat foreigners, and why did they treat them the
way they did? Did people treat all foreigners the same
way? If not, what had caused the difference? Moreover,
did people in the ancient world distinguish different
groups of people on racial grounds, or on cultural
grounds? Were the foreigners really different culturally,
or was the difference constructed by artificial means
and subjective prejudice? What is the implication of this?
By clarifying these questions, we hope to better understand
the characteristics of the cultural consciousness in each
of these ancient civilizations, which is illuminated in
an oblique way by their attitudes toward other cultures.
comparing such attitudes, furthermore, we may begin to
see the differences or similarities of the cultures in
question from a particular perspective, one that reveals
the self-perception of individual culture, and, eventually,
the nature of « civilization. »
réalisé en 1999 par R. de Spens.