“How East Asians View A Rising China,” lecture by Professor Yun-han Chu at Harvard University, September 11, 2015
In his lecture on “How East Asians View A Rising China” at Harvard University on September 11, 2015, Professor Yun-han Chu began with the issue of soft power in Asian perceptions of a rising China. Professor Chu then introduced the AsiaBarometer Survey, the largest comparative survey in Asia, covering East, Southeast, South, and Central Asia and collecting data from a diverse population country-wide for cross-national and regional analysis. Based on the latest data gathered from fourteen countries, Professor Chu addressed the complex reactions of Asians towards a rising China from geopolitical, military, economic, ideological and cultural perspectives. The talk was hosted by Elizabeth Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of Harvard-Yenching Institute. Over fifty faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars attended the talk. The lively discussion that followed delved into the methodology of the survey and its further impact on the study of China in the region.
Shen Congwen and Modern China International Symposium, at Harvard University, September 25-26, 2015
Shen Congwen (1902-1988) was one of the greatest modern Chinese writers cum scholars on par with Lu Xun. Yet, for decades, Shen Congwen was overlooked by literary historians in the People’s Republic of China due to his stylistic iconoclasm and ideological non-conformism. Amidst a growing “craze” for Shen’s life, literary works, and scholarship since his nomination for the Nobel Prize for Literature and passing in 1988, the symposium critically reassessed Shen Congwen’s contribution to modern Chinese cultural, ethnic, literary and art history. Organized by Professor David Der-wei Wang of Harvard University, the symposium gathered a total of twenty-four scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America, with Mr. Shen Longzhu and Mr. Shen Huchu, sons of Shen Congwen and editors of Shen’s Complete Works, as the guests of honor. Professor Jeffrey C. Kinkley of Portland State University, the pioneer of Shen Congwen studies in the English-speaking world, delivered the keynote speech. The two-day symposium featured six panels—Polemics of Realism; Configuring Nativism; Beyond Realism; To Think or To Believe?: Shen Congwen across 1949; The Poetics of Material Culture; and Visions of China—and a lively forum with the Shen brothers, who shared with a full hall of over fifty participants memories of their father and how Shen’s Complete Works came into being after nine years’ collective effort. The symposium closed with a vigorous roundtable discussion, which drew from the audience a wide range of questions concerning not only Shen Congwen but also the state of Shen Congwen studies on both sides of the Pacific.
Chinese Intellectuals and Contemporary Literature Forum, at Harvard University, September 29, 2015
The forum focused on major concerns and challenges faced by Chinese intellectuals in academic as well as public spheres today, with particular attention to how literature serves as a critical means of intervention in contemporary intellectual debates in and beyond mainland China. Speakers included the renowned writers, Yan Lianke and Ha Jin, prominent scholars from mainland China (including Professor Chen Xiaoming of Peking University, Professor Ding Fan of Nanjing University, Professors Ji Jin and Wang Yao of Suzhou University, and Professor Zhang Xinying of Fudan University), and scholars currently based in the United States. The issue of the role of “intellectuals” in a broad literary field encompassing the Chinese and Sinophone worlds sparked off an energetic debate. The common room remained packed for the three-hour long event, with faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars from diverse disciplines ranging from literary and media studies to history and religious studies.
Early Modern China in the Late Imperial World Workshop, organized by Tobie Meyer-Fong at Johns Hopkins University, October 15-16, 2015
On October 15-16, with the generous support of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation’s Inter-University Center for Sinology, the Department of History and the East Asian Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University convened a workshop titled Early Modern China in the Late Imperial World. Bringing together scholars of China, Europe, East Africa, and the Atlantic World, the conference featured new empirical work on the themes of governance, commercial contacts, court culture, and information in circulation. By placing work on Ming and Qing China side by side with work on other national and regional contexts, the workshop emphasized shared methods and themes and challenged participants to think transregionally and comparatively. By asking panelists to comment on each other’s papers, the workshop invited conversation both among the panelists and with audience members. This resulted in a lively, informal, and collegial atmosphere—and a series of extraordinarily productive conversations. The conference attracted a large and enthusiastic audience of about 35, including faculty and graduate students (and one or two undergraduates) from the History, Sociology, and Political Science Departments at Johns Hopkins, faculty from nearby universities including Goucher and Loyola, and visitors from as far afield as Princeton and the University of South Carolina.
Discovering Taiwan in Europe International Symposium, at Charles University, Prague, Oct 22-23, 2015
Together CCK International Sinological Center, Charles University, CCK-IUC hosted the international symposium Discovering Taiwan in Europe at Charles University on Oct 22-23, 2015.Twenty scholars from twelve countries attended the symposium, presenting papers on a wide range of topics from literature to cinema, from language to thought, from political science to Sinological studies. In particular, symposium participants had an engaged discussion on the parameters and significations of Taiwan in the context of Chinese and Sinophone Studies in the broad sense of the word. Recent scholarship in both Chinese and Sinophone spheres has come increasingly to question the thusness of Taiwan and to treat “Taiwan” in relation to China and Chineseness as intellectual problems in a wide range of disciplines: history, political science, anthropology, sociology, literature, and linguistics. The symposium provided a forum in which scholars and students from a variety of disciplines defined problems, raised concerns, offered approaches and ideas, and evaluated prior research on the matter of Taiwan as a cultural imaginary and as an object of knowledge.
“Writing in the Age of the Ultra-Unreal,” a talk by Ning Ken at Harvard University, October 28, 2015
In his talk titled “Writing in the Age of the Ultra-Unreal” at Harvard University on October 28, 2015, Chinese writer and Lao She Literature Prize recipient Ning Ken reflected on the capacity of literature to intervene in an “age of the ultra-unreal.” He began his talk by situating the term “ultra-unreal” in the complex socio-political realities of contemporary China. He then highlighted the role of literature in liberating the obscured individuals in a society obsessed with the speed of development, and mapped out five characteristics of such a literature: active engagement; critical discernment; its allegorical nature; its adventurous inclinations; and employment of irony. Around fifteen faculty members, graduate students, and visiting scholars attended the event. Questions raised by the audience ranged from institutional control of literary productions in the PRC and the ethical responsibility of literature to Ning Ken’s own Tibet experience as an intellectual backdrop to his novelistic experimentations.
“Discursive Beginnings: Religion, Ontology, and the Nature-Culture Divide in Early China”: Early China Seminar Special Workshop Series 2015-16, First Meeting, at Columbia University, October 30, 2015
The first session of the 2015-2016 special workshop series on religion in early China was inaugurated with an interdisciplinary panel of discussants who each gave a short (15-20 minute) presentation concerning their perspectives on the question of understanding the categories of times and places fundamentally different from our own. Mark Csikszentmihalyi presented the problem of the various lenses through which ancient Chinese religion has been viewed beginning with the Jesuits. Severin Fowles spoke of the problem of “primitive religion” in anthropology and archaeology and tied its discourse to Modernity’s myth of eternal return. Benjamin Alberti, drawing on his work with anthropomorphic pots from Argentina gave the outlines of a relational approach to the “ontologies of others,” suggesting that the encounter with alterity itself is a first clue that a shift of perspective is needed. A round-table discussion followed the presentations with the speakers and participants finding a surprising amount of common ground despite the disparate times, places and disciplines represented. The discussion continued over dinner, providing a lively and rich opening to the question of just what it is we think we are doing when we say we are going to study ancient Chinese “religion.”
“Expanding Cities and Transforming Religions in Contemporary China,” lecture by Robert Weller at George Washington University, November 6, 2015
On November 6, 2015, Robert Weller, Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, delivered the first talk of the 2015-2016 lecture series on “Religion in Twentieth Century and Contemporary China” at the Sigur Center of Asian Studies of the George Washington University. Professor Weller’s talk is entitled “Expanding Cities and Transforming Religions in Contemporary China.” Professor Weller argues that in recent years urban expansion in the Lower Yangzi region has led to the demise of old city neighborhoods and territorial based religions. He compares the transformation of religion on China’s urban edge as an ecosystem that generates new and innovative forms of religiosity in response to the large-scale urban reconstruction and resettlements. He focused on three cases from his ethnographical work in southern Jiangsu and demonstrates how ghost attacks, a spirit medium’s network, and innovations in the forms and objects of temple worship illustrate such changes. In his conclusion, he connects these cases of popular religion with developments in other religious traditions as China urbanizes.