Tag Archive for East Asian Studies

Schwarcz Addresses Moral Dilemma, Ethics in China in Colors of Veracity

veraVera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of a new book titled Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China, and Beyond, published by the University of Hawai’i Press in November 2014.

In Colors of Veracity, Schwarcz condenses four decades of teaching and scholarship about China to raise fundamental questions about the nature of truth and history. In vivid prose, she addresses contemporary moral dilemmas with a highly personal sense of ethics and aesthetics.

Drawing on classical sources in Hebrew and Chinese (as well as several Greek and Japanese texts), Schwarcz brings deep and varied cultural references to bear on the question of truth and falsehood in human consciousness. The book redefines both the Jewish understanding of emet (a notion of truth that encompasses authenticity) and the Chinese commitment to zhen (a vision of the real that comprises the innermost sincerity of the seeker’s heart-mind). Works of art, from contemporary calligraphy and installations to fake Chinese characters and a Jewish menorah from Roman times, shed light light on the historian’s task of giving voice to the dread-filled past.

Following in the footsteps of literary scholar Geoffrey Hartman, Schwarcz expands on the “Philomela Project,” which calls on historians to find new ways of conveying truth, especially when political authorities are bent on enforcing amnesia of past traumatic events.

Schwarcz, who was born and raised in Cluj, Romania, was one of the first exchange scholars to study in China in 1979 and has returned to Beijing many times since then.

For more information on the book or to order, visit the University of Hawai’i Press website.

Schwarcz will be speaking about her book at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Wasch Center. The event is open to the public.

East Asia’s Religion, Folkore Shared at New Student-Curated CEAS Exhibit

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Uncover the hidden stories of East Asia’s religion and folklore at a new exhibit, “Not of This World,” at the College of East Asian Studies’ gallery. To inaugurate the new College of East Asian Studies, students curated this exhibition of the most compelling artworks from the college’s collection.

“Not Out of This World” is on display Sept. 10-Dec. 5 and features aesthetically pleasing pieces that reveal spiritual worlds filled with love, betrayal and faith.  A ghost woman who searches for her husband, an immortal trapped in a peasant’s body, and a wheel that spins prayers are examples of the East Asian artwork displayed that weave the supernatural with mystical elements.

The gallery is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Mondays. The gallery will be closed Oct. 18-21 and Nov. 25-Dec. 2. For more information call 860-685-2330.

Photos of the show’s opening are below: (Photos by Dat Vu ’16)

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Faculty Speak at Asian American Film Festival

Asian Cinevision and the 36th Annual Asian American Film Festival co-organized the 2014 Asian and Asian American Film Series. The film screenings take place on Monday nights at the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies. The most recent film, "An Unbounded Romance," screened on Feb. 24 and was followed with a discussion moderated by, from left, Marguerite Nguyen, assistant professor of English; Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French; Miri Nakamura, chair and assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Amy Tang, assistant professor of American studies and English.

Asian Cinevision and the 36th Annual Asian American Film Festival co-organized the 2014 Asian and Asian American Film Series. The film screenings take place on Monday nights at the Powell Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies. The most recent film, “An Unbounded Romance,” screened on Feb. 24 and was followed with a discussion moderated by, from left, Marguerite Nguyen, assistant professor of English; Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French; Miri Nakamura, chair and assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Amy Tang, assistant professor of American studies and English.

Asian, Asian-American Community Celebrates at Mid-Autumn Festival

Students and faculty members celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival on Oct. 5 at the Asian/Asian-American (AAA) House on High Street. The event is a festival celebrated by many in Asia, and some key features of the celebration are viewing of the full moon and enjoying mooncakes.

Students and faculty members celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival on Oct. 5 at the Asian/Asian-American (AAA) House on High Street. The event is a festival celebrated by many in Asia, and some key features of the celebration are viewing of the full moon and enjoying mooncakes.

Schwarcz Hosts Book Signing, Poetry Reading at Broad Street Books

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of Ancestral Intelligence, published by Antrim House Books in 2013. She signed copies of her book and read selected poems at Broad Street Books on July 22. Photos of her book signing are below: (Photos by Eki Ramadhan ’16)

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Zheng: “Wherever There Are Africans, There Is Good Music”

Su Zheng, associate professor of music, associate professor of East Asian studies, spoke in a recent China Daily USA article about the number of African musical artists in China and how their presence is “creating new types of harmony between the two lands.”

Zheng starts off by pointing out that “Wherever there are Africans, there is good music – just like wherever there are Chinese, there is good food.”

When she discovered that there were no reports on the presence of African music in China, she decided to research the music of the African diaspora herself. The research completed by Zheng and her team of three graduate students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music shows, while it seems improbable, that African music will greatly influence Chinese music at some point.

Schwarcz Explores Contemporary China through New Book of Poetry

Book by Vera Schwarcz.

Book by Vera Schwarcz.

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, is the author of Ancestral Intelligence, published by Antrim House Books in 2013.

In Ancestral Intelligence, Schwarcz depicts the cultural landscape of contemporary China by creating “renditions” of poems by a mid-20th century dissident poet, Chen Yinke, and by adding a group of her own poems in harmony with Chen Yinke’s. Like his, her poems show a degradation of culture and humanity, in this case through comparison of classic and modern Chinese logographs.

In the tragic yet inspiring story of Chen Yinke, Schwarcz finds her own powerful way of articulating the horrors of political oppression, and also the smaller but no less difficult personal afflictions of growing old, seeing loved ones suffer. The book’s front cover design by Andy Youlieguo Zhou depicts the degradation of one’s culture and language.

Schwarcz was born and raised in Cluj, Romania, where she began her explorations of poetry in several languages. Her mother tongues include Hungarian and Romanian, with Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Russian and French added along the way. After emigrating to the United States in 1962, she pursued degrees in East Asian studies and history at Vassar, Yale and Stanford. A member of the first group of exchange scholars to be sent to China in the spring of 1979, she has returned to Beijing repeatedly during the past three decades. All along, her corpus of scholarly writing has been accompanied by the publication of poems in several languages in the United States, Europe and Asia. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Schwarcz has made the quest for remembrance a central theme in all her works. Her writing has been nominated for the National Jewish Book Award and has been accorded several major grants, including a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Read Ancestral Intelligence poem samples online here.

Freeman Remembered for Supporting Asian Scholars Program at Wesleyan

Doreen Brown Freeman

Doreen Brown Freeman was born in England in 1923. She was co-trustee of the Freeman Foundation.

Doreen Brown Freeman, who together with her husband, the late Houghton “Buck” Freeman ’43, generously supported Wesleyan and especially the Freeman Asian Scholars Program, died July 12 in Honolulu.

The Freeman family, including Buck, Doreen and their son Graeme Freeman ’77, established the Freeman Foundation in 1993 after the death of Buck’s father, Mansfield Freeman, Wesleyan class of 1916, who had contributed greatly to Wesleyan’s East Asian Studies Program.

Buck Freeman was chairman of the Freeman Foundation, and Doreen was a co-trustee. They demonstrated a hands-on style of giving that ensured a personal connection with all those receiving foundation support. She was especially attentive to the Freeman Asian Scholars Program – the foundation’s landmark contribution to Wesleyan. Established in 1995 to promote cross-cultural understanding between the United States and Asia, the program provides scholarships for exceptional students from 11 East Asian countries to earn bachelor’s degrees at Wesleyan. The program has supported more than 340 students.

Doreen was instrumental in interviewing Freeman Asian Scholar candidates each year until 2010, and was an especially staunch supporter of candidates who came from challenging backgrounds with limited opportunities to study abroad. She also was particularly interested in hearing from the program’s students and alumni about the details of their lives.

“For decades the Freeman family has helped Wesleyan fulfill its mission of providing the best in liberal arts education,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “We are deeply grateful for all that the foundation has done and continues to do, and we mourn the passing of Doreen, who with her husband Buck, were wonderful friends. Our hearts go out to her daughter Linda, son Graeme and their families.”

Doreen was born in England in 1923. During World War II, she proudly served in one of Britain’s women’s service corps. At American International Group (AIG) – which was co-founded by Mansfield Freeman, and where her husband later rose to the top levels of company leadership – she took the initiative to “show the ropes” to younger AIG spouses. She was an avid reader and loved novels and memoirs about Asia.

Buck and Doreen’s generosity has made an enormous impact on Wesleyan. A gift at the end of the Campaign for Liberal Learning in the 1980s jump-started construction of Bacon Field House and the new pool in the Freeman Athletic Center. They also supported the Center for East Asian Studies, the Wesleyan Fund and other special projects. Their giving made them Wesleyan’s largest donors ever.

Wesleyan awarded Doreen an honorary degree in 2003, citing her as “a philanthropist whose strong compassion springs from commitment, grit, and a backbone of steel.”

Arrangements for remembrance will be private. Letters and notes are welcome at The Freeman Foundation, 1601 East West Road, Honolulu, HI 96848.

Distinguished Scholars from China Discuss “Comparative Enlightenments” at Wesleyan

Distinguished scholars from China discussed "Comparative Enlightenments" with Wesleyan faculty during a forum May 9-11 at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

Distinguished scholars from China discussed “Comparative Enlightenments” with Wesleyan faculty and other guests during a forum May 9-11 at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

(Story contributed by Charles Salas, director of strategic initiatives)

“A golden example of what exchange should be between academic communities in the United States and China.” That’s how Gao Xiang, vice secretary of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and editor-in-chief of the Social Sciences in China Press, described the Chinese-American Scholarly Exchange Forum that took place May 9-11 at Wesleyan’s Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. The forum brought 15 distinguished scholars from China to Wesleyan to meet with American counterparts to discuss the topic of “Comparative Enlightenments.”

The forum was framed by Wang Weiguang, president of CASS, who expressed fervent hopes for this dialogue “between Eastern and Western civilizations as if a lamp is lit by another lamp, as if a dream illuminates another dream, and ultimately illuminates our entire human world.” CASS is far and away the most important center in China for studies in philosophy and the social sciences, and this is the second forum in which they’ve partnered with Wesleyan. The topic of the first forum (held a year and a half ago in Bejing) was “Tradition.”

Wang is an Expert on Medieval Chinese Poetry, Chinese Literature

Ao Wang, assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures, assistant professor of East Asian studies, will teach “Third-Year Chinese” and “Man and Nature in Classical Chinese Literature” this fall.

For the past two years, Ao Wang has shared with his students at Wesleyan a passion for Chinese poetry and intellectual debate over East Asian cultural issues.

Wang came to Wesleyan in fall 2010 as a visiting professor. He was hired in the 2011-12 academic year as an assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures and East Asian studies.

Originally from Qingdao, China, Wang was drawn to the United States because of his love of American culture, particularly music and poetry. Though he didn’t have a specific career goal at that time, he eventually decided to become a translator of poetry—from Chinese into English, and English to Chinese. Wang went on to earn a Ph.D. from Yale in East Asian languages and literatures.

Prior to teaching at Wesleyan, Wang taught briefly at the University of California-Davis, and then for two years at Trinity College in Hartford. He was attracted to Wesleyan because of its vibrant and active intellectual community. “The students at Wesleyan are serious about their studies,” he says. “They dedicate themselves to their work, and push their teachers to do a better job.” In fact, Wang says, his students actually ask for more homework—the opposite of what he encountered in previous teaching jobs—and push for more intellectual challenge.

This past year, Wang taught “Introduction to Chinese Poetry.” Students in this course, who were not required to know the Chinese language, compared different translations of classical Chinese poems to examine how the image of ancient Chinese poetry was constructed in the process of cultural exchange.

Wang also taught “Gender Issues in Chinese Literature and Culture,” which he called a “fun class.”

“The students are very interested in the daily lives of ancient Chinese women—how they saved money, how they raised and educated their children—and Confucian ideas about Chinese women. These are all very interesting ideas, and still relevant for our time,” he says. The class read excerpts from Yale Law School professor Amy Chua’s parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and watched debates on YouTube over its messages. A diverse classroom make-up, with about half the students of East Asian descent, made for a very interesting discussion, says Wang.

Wang’s own research focuses on Medieval Chinese Poetry, which he says is not well studied. “There are still numerous important and great poets who have not yet been introduced to the Western world,” he says. “They need study and translation, and eventually will become part of world literature.” Wang is currently co-editing an anthology of contemporary Chinese poetry.

When not working, Wang enjoys reading, playing drums and guitar, and practicing a form of martial arts known as Kuntao.

Chinese Wedding Balls, Opera Carvings at “Provincial Elegance” Exhibit

Wesleyan’s Center for East Asian Studies is hosting an exhibit titled “Provincial Elegance” April 4 through May 27 in the Mansfield Freeman Gallery. The exhibit features Chinese antiques donated in honor of Houghton “Buck” Freeman ‘43 and his wife, Doreen. Patrick Dowdey, curator of the Freeman Gallery, spoke about the individual antiques during the show’s opening April 4.

Asian Language, Literature Department Celebrates at a Cherry Blossom Festival

The Asian Language and Literature Department hosted a Cherry Blossom Viewing party (ohanami) on Foss Hill March 27 under a blooming cherry tree.