Social Science Events & Activities

Seminar
Transformations of Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream: Reception History as a Critical Method (Thursday 26 Nov 2020)

Abstract The classic Zhuangzi, a collection of sayings and anecdotes attributed to Master Zhuang Zhou (fl. 4th BCE), contains a vignette that has deeply influenced cultural life in East Asia and beyond. The story oftentimes referred to with the title “Zhuang Zhou Dreams of Being a Butterfly” narrates the continuous transformations of Master Zhuang into a butterfly and vice versa. This key text in East Asian religious and literary history, which is routinely cited in discussions of ethical living in the context of Chinese philosophy, triggered the composition of more than 500 commentaries and a vast corpus of literary and artistic reworkings over the last two millennia. However, scholars in the English-speaking world have largely ignored these cultural products. Instead they read the Zhuangzi’s famous anecdote almost exclusively through the lens of philosophy to excavate its “original” meaning. It argues that epistemology and philosophy of language, two staples of the vignette’s contemporary interpretation, played only a minor role during the “Butterfly Dream’s” premodern reception. With the help of three examples by Guo Xiang (d. 312 CE), Li Bo (773-831), and Su Shi (1037-1101), the talk showcases that premodern Chinese audiences interpreted the short anecdote as an illustration of the relationship between life and death, the ups and downs of officialdom, or the practice of painting as a transformative process, among others. Hence, my talk points towards the multivocality and mutability of the classic and, at the same time, offers a chance to reflect upon the assumptions that guide modern Sinological readers. Biography Tobias Benedikt ZÜRN is a postdoctoral teaching fellow in East Asian Religions at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his Ph.D. in premodern Chinese religions and thought from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in Chinese Philosophy from the University of Munich. His first monograph, titled The Power of Presence: The Huainanzi's Construction as an Embodiment of the Way, explores how Liu An and his erudite courtiers fashioned the Huainanzi as an efficacious, wuwei-performing scripture that can order all under Heaven by its mere presence. His second major project investigates the multidisciplinary and multimedia reception history of the Daoist classic Zhuangzi. He has recently published articles in the Journal of Asian Studies, the flagship journal of Asian area studies, and Early China, the flagship journal of the study of early China.

Speaker(s)
Dr. Tobias Benedikt ZÜRN
Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Washington University in St. Louis
Date
November 26, 2020 (Thursday)
Time
10:15 am - 11:45 am
Venue
The research seminar will be conducted via ZOOM
Language
English
Remarks
Meeting ID: 972 5194 3434 and Passcode: 864 988

Seminar
Reinventing the Nation in the Condition of Globalization in Contemporary Chinese Cinema and Visual Culture (Wednesday 25 Nov 2020)

Abstract: The lecture draws on materials from a forthcoming monograph, Contemporary Chinese Cinema and Visual Culture: Envisioning the Nation (Bloomsbury, 2021). It first introduces the main themes and key issues of this interdisciplinary multimedia study, and then focuses on a couple of specific chapters in greater detail, “Projecting the Chinese Nation on Domestic and Global Screens,” and “Reshaping Beijing’s Space in Architecture, Art, Photography, and Video.” The lecture analyzes the changing strategies in the visual representation of China in the West as well as China’s self-representation in contemporary world cinema. The nation does not wither away in the condition of globalization. Rather, Chinese films and art forms have found ways of utilizing transnational resources to refashion, reinvent, and consolidate the Chinese nation and its position in the world. Biography: Sheldon LU has been Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California at Davis since 2002. He has served as the Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, Director of the Graduate Program in Comparative Literature, and Founding Co-Director of Film Studies at UC Davis. His research, scholarship, and teaching lie at the intersection of literary studies, visual studies, film studies, China studies, and cultural theory. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books in English and Chinese as well as the author of numerous journal articles. His representative publications in English include From Historicity to Fictionality: The Chinese Poetics of Narrative (Stanford, 1994, translated into Korean and Chinese); China, Transnational Visuality, Global Postmodernity (Stanford, 2001); Chinese Modernity and Global Biopolitics: Studies in Literature and Visual Culture (Hawaii, 2007); Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (editor, Hawaii, 1997); Chinese-language Film: Historiography, Poetics, Politics (co-editor, Hawaii, Choice’s Award of Outstanding Academic Title of 2005); Ecology and Chinese-language Cinema: Reimagining a Field (co-editor, Routledge, 2020).

Speaker(s)
Professor Sheldon LU
Professor of Comparative Literature University of California at Davis
Date
November 25, 2020 (Wednesday)
Time
12:00 noon - 1:00 pm (HKT)
Venue
The research seminar will be conducted via ZOOM
Language
English
Remarks
Meeting ID: 925 9665 1144 and Psscode: 166 275

Seminar
Opportunity in Crisis: Cantonese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China (Wednesday 25 Nov 2020)

Abstract I will introduce some case studies from my forthcoming book, Opportunity in Crisis: Cantonese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China, which explores the history of Cantonese migration along the West River basin during war and reconstruction and the impact of these developments on the relationship between the state and migrant elites on the Guangxi frontier. By situating Cantonese upriver and overseas migration within the same framework, I also reframe the late Qing as an age of Cantonese diasporic expansion rather than one of state decline. For my presentation, I will focus on two ways in which the reintegration of Guangxi into the Qing realm, in the wake of mid-century rebellions, created opportunities for Cantonese migrants: first by turning the civil service examinations toward their own ends and second by colonizing the lower echelons of the Qing bureaucracy in Guangxi. Biography: Steven B. MILES is a sociocultural historian of late imperial China, with chronological emphasis on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and geographical expertise in southern China. He is the author of four books: The Sea of Learning: Mobility and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Guangzhou (Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2006), Upriver Journeys: Diaspora and Empire in Southern China, 1570-1850 (Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2017), Chinese Diasporas: A Social History of Global Migration (Cambridge University Press, 2020), and Opportunity in Crisis: Chinese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China (forthcoming, Harvard University Asia Center, HUP, 2021). Miles is a professor in the Department of History and Director of the East Asian Studies Program at Washington University in Saint Louis. Since January of 2019, he has served as editor-in-chief of the journal, Late Imperial China.

Speaker(s)
Professor Steven MILES
Professor in Department of History and Director of East Asian Studies Program, Washington University in Saint Louis
Date
November 25, 2020 (Wednesday)
Time
10:45 am - 11:45 am
Venue
The research seminar will be conducted via ZOOM
Language
English
Remarks
Meeting ID: 993 9596 0751 and Passcode: 335 540