About

The Department of Asian Studies was established in 1995 and belongs to younger departments at the Faculty of Arts. Its founders were the Japanologist dr. Andrej Bekeš and the Sinologists dr. Jana S. Rošker and dr. Mitja Saje. The curriculum for Sinology was based on the study system in Vienna which Jana S. Rošker was familiar with since she obtained her Ph. D. in Sinology from the University of Vienna, and also studied four years in China. The curriculum was during the years modernized and adapted to the specializations of the Slovene staff. Andrej Bekeš based the study programme of Japanology on his rich experience gathered during his graduate studies at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

At the beginning, the department had two chairs, one for Japonology and one for Sinology. In the recent years, we started to realize the project of establishing the chair for Korean studies. Since 2003/04 we have elementary and advanced Korean language courses. This year we also started with a double-major programme of Korean studies. Since 2008/09 we also began with the study of Indian languages and cultures. In 2009/10, the lectorship of Hindi wad added to the lectures on Sanskrit and culture of classical India.

During the first year of our department, all lectures and exercises were performed by Andrej Bekeš, Nagisa Moritoki, Jana S. Rošker and Mitja Saje. Next year Maja Lavrač and Kristina Hmeljak joined them. One of the important staff members at the beginning was also Darinka Baraga, who became our secretary and librarian.

Since then, we strive to enrich the curriculum with visiting lecturers and lectors on the basis of bilateral agreement on cooperation with Japanese, Chinese and Korean universities. Besides this, our staff was joined by new Slovene staff members. Due to cadre limitation and great interest in the study of Japonology and Sinology, we had to limit matriculation to 50 students for each chair annually.

The first head of the department was dr. Andrej Bekeš (1995-1999), the second dr. Jana S. Rošker (1999-2003) followed by dr. Mitja Saje (2003-2007), then the head again became dr. Andrej Bekeš (2007-2009) followed by dr. Jana S. Rošker (2009-2013) and dr. Bekeš (2013-2015). For the time being, the head of the department is again dr. Jana S. Rošker. The chair for Sinology includes seven lecturers: dr. Jana S. Rošker, Full Professor, dr. Mitja Saje, Full Professor (retired in July 2015), dr. Maja Lavrač, Associate Professor, dr. Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik, Associate Professor, dr. Mateja Petrovčič, Assistant Professor and two Chinese visiting lectors. Besides them, there are other lecturers who take part in pedagogical process. These are: dr. Saša Istenič, Assistant Professor, dr. Maja Veselič, assistant, Tea Sernelj, lector, dr. Katja Kolšek, lector and Matej Zima, lector. The chair for Japonology at the moment consists of dr. Andrej Bekeš, Full Professor (head of the chair for Japonology), dr. Chikako Shigemori Bučar, Associate Professor, dr. Nagisa Moritoki, Assistant Professor, dr. Nataša Visočnik, Assistant Professor, dr. Kristina Hmeljak, lector, Ryu Hyeonssok, M.A., lector, Noriaki Sangawa, M.A., lector, dr. Luka Culiberg, assistant, and Nina Golob, M.A., assistant.

The department, which celebrates its 20th anniversay this year, was actually born more than 30 years ago (1982) in China, in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, and thus connects our small European country with languages and cultures beyond European borders. The great master Confucius namely simbolizes the transmission of knowledge of the older generation to the younger generation. There is no doubt that the traditional Confucian ideology of identifying individual with family (company) and state (political authorities), and of subordinating specific needs (rights) of an individual to the authorities of hierarchically structured community is compatible with the postcolonial capitalist system. This fact can be easily proven by the majority of contemporary East Asian societies, mostly Japanese, South Korean, Taiwanese and Singaporean. In the last few years, we can notice the tendency of modernization of Confucian values also in regard to political and economic opening up of China.

In early 80', the first lecturers of the later department were students of Sinology and Japonology in Asia. Besides Andrej Bekeš, Jana S. Rošker, Mitja Saje and Maja Lavrač, there were also some other Slovene students in China, Jani Osojnik (traditional Chinese medicine), Neva Čebron (contemporary Chinese fine arts) and Saš Hadži. So we organized the first symposium on East Asian studies in Qufu during which we introduced to each other our most interesting results of our studies. Our wish was to write down our symposium into the history as a first step in bringing closer our country with the rich knowledge of traditons and contemporary realities of Asian countries. And by all means we succeeded in this.

When after a few years we all again met in Ljubljana, our dreams from 1982 started to come true. Establishing an independent department which aim was to lay foundations for in Slovenia yet nonexistent academic disciplines was of course not an easy task. This process was in many views connected with the economic policy of our society which could no longer ignore countries like Japan and China. Anyway, we have to admit that we could not realize this project without productive help and support of Professor Janez Orešnik, the then head of the Department of General and Comperative Linguistics at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana.

And so in 1995, the Department of Asian Studies was established. Like any pioneering period, the first decade of its development was devoted to the acquisition and making out the basic contents and methodology required for its categorial and terminological apparatus. Yet we should keep in mind that the fundamental aim of the department regarding its contents and methodology was since the very beginning based on searching understanding among various cultures.

Thus, the studies offered by our department are not restricted to studying languages and writings of Asian countries, but they regard them as a basic tool which helps us to understand their cultures on the whole. Sinology, Japonology and the future Korean studies and Indology are therefore to be understood not only as philological but also as cultural studies. The disciplines of our department differ from other cultural disciplines in the fact that they are focused on research and mediation of specific knowledge of the East Asian geopolitical and linguistic area. By this we do not mean only a valuable treasury of ancient learning but also the specifics of the era we are living in. The knowledge of languages of these regions, which represents the quintessence of our professional work, is of central importance in our department. In any case, these studies first of all require to learn the language and writing, t.i. the basic tools for collecting genuine information on cultures and civilizations of these regions. It is the knowledge that can be found not only in Western literature but first of all in literature written in Asian languages, t.i. in primary sources.

Our department, as a whole, is conceived on interdisciplinarity and methodology of multicultural research. It is focused on the study of Asian regions that are becoming more and more relevant regarding what is happening in the world, especially in the field of science. In our pedagogical work and research, we deal with those social phenomena in geopolitical and historical contexts that include regional as well as global perspectives. We constantly strive for a broader and integral approach to the East Asian studies since we believe that it is important to surpass narrow, nationally dependent views on Asian languages , cultures, social reality nad their history. Therefore, we are trying our best to include Korean studies and Indology into our department.

Our multidisciplinary approach consists of the following disciplines:

Linguistics: linguistic studies in the field of languages and linguistic traditions of Japan, China, Korea and India represent the foundation which enables a direct contact with traditional cultures and thorough understanding of the contemporary social reality of discussed regions, and in this way they open up a more objective insight into the specialities of discussed subject matters, also from the point of view of other discipines. The study of linguistic themes in the case of these languages at the same time offers a different insight into the language as a medium of communication that is closely connected with its own social reality, and enables verification of universality of linguistic categories and hypotheses, which took shape for Indo-European languages, on non-cognate languages.

Asian cultures: cultural studies in the field of non-European traditions discuss mostly sociological aspects of discussed regions as well as their economic and idea histories together with other specialities. They are based on and enrich current findings in the field of intercultural epistemology, system theory and postcolonial studies.

History of East Asia: historic studies focus on specialities of cultural-historical and social development of discussed regions and on survey of formation of new political and cultural entities and their development to the end of the 20th century. Hereby it is important to know what caused the formation of cultural particularities of these regions and their interaction with Euro-American civilization in the processes of modernization and globalization.

Literary studies: they first of all discuss traditional and contemporary literatures of China, Japan, Korea and India. They are focused on extending the paradigms of contemporary comparative literary theories, and include current findings in the field of postcolonialism, gender studies and alternative methodological approaches connected with surpassing the Oriental and Eurocentric tradition.

Chinese philosopy: philosophic studies are mostly devoted to the particularities of discourses on Chinese tradition of idea, traditional concepts and speciality of categorical instrument of Chinese philosophy. This two year study programme introduces to the students the development of Chinese philosophy from antiquity to the end of the 20th century, t.i. including the most important present currents of contemporary Chinese philosophy. There is a special emphasis on learning and understanding methodological, epistemological, logical and axiological elements of Chinese tradition.

Art and History of Art: studies in Asian art and history of art are for the time being mostly focused on ideal, iconographic and formal characteristics of individual key areas of traditional, modern and contemporary Chinese art. There is an emphasis on the particularity of cultural-historic and social development of the discussed region and on its influence on ideal and formal currents of Chinese art. The aim of the two year study programme is to explain in detail and demonstrate the particularities in the development of Chinese art and its reflection inside individual social-cultural phenomena from the earliest social formations to the end of the 20th century. A special emphasis is on interpreting and understanding particular theoretical and cosmological principles as well as their applications to concrete examples from particular areas of Chinese art.

Most of the staff members besides pedagogical work are also engaged in several research projects within the framework of the programme group Asian languages and cultures. At the Research Institute of the Faculty of Arts they are also engaged in research groups on linguistics, literature, sociology and culturology. Besides this, they also took part in several bileteral research projects in the framework of official scientific research cooperation between Slovenia, China nad Japan.

The results of their research work were published in twelve Slovene, Japanese and English monographs, in more than two hundred scientific and expert articles, in their annual contributions at international conferences and in ten university textbooks.

Since 1997 the department publishes the journal Asian Studies, which represents the first and most relevant periodical for our field in Slovenia. The journal publishes scientific and expert papers written by Slovene and foreign experts, and during the years has been recognized not only in Slovenia but also in academic circles in Europe and Asia.

The department has by now organized eight international symposiums and six international students' workshops in Sinology and Japonology. In 2006, it organized the most important sinologic congress in Europe, t.i. XVII. biannual conference EACS (European Association for Chinese Studies), and in 2014 the triannual conference of EAJS (European Association of Japanese Studies).

Andrej Bekeš and Jana S. Rošker were awarded for their contribution to the introduction of the new field in Slovenia with Great Award of the Faculty of Arts. Andrej Bekeš was as the first Slovene citizen awarded The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette by the Japanese government in 2008 for his contribution to the progress of education in Japanese language and cultural exchange. Jana S. Rošker was three times awarded research award by the Taiwan National Institute for the Development of Chinese Studies, Center for Chinese Studies. This year the same award was awarded Nataša Vampelj Suhadolnik, one of our younger staff members, former graduate from our department and now Associate Professor of Sinology. Andrej Bekeš was twice a visiting researcher at the Japanese universities, University of Tsukuba nad University of Nagoya. Chikako Shigemori Bučar was awarded by Hakuho Fund to do research work for a year at the National Institute for Japanese Language (NIJLA) in Tokyo. Kristina Hmeljak Sangawa was awarded a six month research grant by Japanese Fund and did research in and edited Japanese-Slovene dictionary at the International Center for Japanese in Urawa.

Our staff members are also engaged in international cooperation. For many years they successfullly cooperate with the University of Tsukuba, the University of Gunma, the University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology, the University for Foreign Studies in Tokyo, the Japanese Women's University and the University Tohoku Fukushi in Japan, with Chengdu University, Nankai University, Renmin University, Nanjing University, Qinghuangdao University and Jingzhou University in China, with Chun Ang University, City University in Seoul and Korean University for Foreign Studies in Republic of Korea as well as with the universities Chinan, Yunlin and Hsinchu in Taiwan. The department has a bilateral exchange programme with the University of Vilnius (Lithuania) and cooperates also with the Universities of Vienna, Prague and Belgrade organizing international students' workshops. Our staff members in the last few years with their lectures and professional advise help establishing the Chair for Sinology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Zagreb. Besides, they are also visiting lecturers at various famous universities and institutes in China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan as well as recognized European universities.

In the year 2009-2010 we started to introduce new study programmes adjusted to the new Bologna reforms. On the undergraduate and graduate level we prepared a renovated one-disciplinary study of Sinology, a new two-disciplinary study programme of Japonolgy and a broader, culturologically oriented two-disciplinary study programme called Cultures of East Asia which has two courses: course in Sinology and course in Korean studies. Specially important is the fact that for the first time in the history of the department we introduced Ph. D. studies in the field of Asian studies. Due to the staff and financial limitations linked with the newness of our field the post-graduate study programme at our department was not possible yet.

Up till now, more than two hundred students graduated from our department. Many of them continue their studies on M.A. and Ph.D. level at home and abroad (mostly in China and Japan). Eight students already received their Ph.D. degree in Sinology and Japonology. Further eight are studying for their M.A. or Ph.D. degree at the renowned universities in China, Taiwan and Japan as well as in Europe. Regarding the fact that twenty years ago there was no expert in Asian studies in Slovenia, this information itself is a proof of a successful and qualitative pedagogical work and mentorship at our department.

Behind us there are twenty years of introducing, consolidating and developing Asian studies in Slovenia. We hope that after this first, undoubtedly successful phase, we will succeed in adding to our credit also abroad, and that our work will give Slovene as well as academic disciplines worldwide creating and mediating knowledges in the field of Asian studies an indelible stamp.