2018 Yu Ying-shih Fellowship Awarded after Highly Rigorous Selection Process
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2018 Yu Ying-shih Fellowship Awarded after Highly Rigorous Selection Process

Founded to continue much-needed research in the humanities, the Yu Ying-Shih Fellowship for the Humanities was recently (Dec 28) conferred on the 2018 awardees. Six outstanding researchers received a commemorative plaque and acknowledgement of the funds at the ceremony held at the Museum of the Institute of History and Philology of the Academia Sinica in Taipei. Chin-shing Huang, Vice President of the Academia Sinica, noted the intense competition of this year’s applicants over such worthy recognition, adding that the selection process for the fellowship is “only less rigorous than the Tang Prize itself.”

Each year, six scholars are named as fellowship recipients: three recipients for the Academic Publication Scholarship, worth NT$360,000 each; and three recipients for the Dissertation Scholarship, worth NT$240,000 each. For 2018, the Academic Publication Scholarship was awarded to Howard Chiang, Assistant Professor in the Department of History, UC Davis; Hsu Hui-lin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, the Chinese University of Hong Kong; You Yifei, Assistant Professor in the Department of History, National Chung Hsing University; and the Dissertation Scholarship was awarded to Hsu Sheng-kai, seventh year PhD student in the Department of History at National Taiwan Normal University; Huang Yi-Chun, seventh year PhD student in the Department of History at National Taiwan University; and Yang Chung-Wei, fifth year PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. The two recipients from the US were unable to attend the ceremony due to their teaching commitments.

Being named as a fellow was “especially meaningful,” said Hsu Hui-lin, one of the recipients of the Academic Publication Scholarship. Hsu encountered the works of Yu Ying-Shih in high school and has ever since maintained an interest in letters and history.

Hsu’s research topic takes an innovative approach to literature: he redefines literary concepts through a cross-examination of literary and environmental problems. He examines such literary works as The Travels of Lao Can, a 19th century satirical work, and, stepping beyond the bound of ecology alone, examines the production of novels in the period between the 17th and 19th centuries. He even points out important cross-cultural issues since the global rise of modernism—that we need to reassess the ties between the occasional events of literature, knowledge, and history. Most importantly, Hsu examines the complexity in the connection between national consciousness and literary production.

Hsu Sheng-Kai, recipient of the Dissertation Scholarship, noted the affirmation that the award represents and the responsibilities and duties that it brings. Hsu hopes that the dissertation which won him the fellowship, “Public Recreation and Modernization of Recreation During the Japanese Occupation of Taiwan,” can be of value to the academic community.

Today, there is much research in niche topics, said Hsu, while very little research touches on the essential or integral qualities. Which is to say, one might find historical research on a particular park, but would be hard pressed to find an integral study of all parks. So, in Hsu’s study of public recreation during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, he approaches the topic from a more integral point of view. The topic of the study are the parks created during the occupation that developed as time went on. She then analyzed the meaning and characteristics of each of the public activities undertaken in these areas. The scale of her project is massive, and the topic itself is creative. It also addresses the Taiwanese people’s awareness of recreation. Indeed, it is a significant contribution to research on Taiwan.

Huang Yi-Chun, another recipient of the Dissertation Scholarship, is interested in the history of commissioned officers in Taiwan. She is especially interested in the experience of the officer themselves as they move up the ranks, from minor to higher functionary positions. With a mind to better understanding the selection and transfer of officials during the Western Han dynasty, Huang divides officialdom into six levels, describing how transfers and promotions are conducted in each level. Another important feature of her research is the use of excavated bamboo records, showing the sheer level of her meticulousness. In addition, Huang adds to the foundational studies in the field by approaching the topic from a different viewpoint—that of prefectural-level recommendation and evaluation of officials. It is a topic that that is ripe with potential.

Recipient of the first-ever Tang Prize in Sinology, Yu Ying-shih donated his NT$10 million grant accompanying the Tang Prize to the founding of a new fellowship, the "Yu Ying-shih Fellowship for the Humanities." In light of his accomplishments, which go far beyond just Chinese history, the targets of the fellowship are the many fields of the humanities and Sinology, including history, linguistics, archaeology, philosophy, religion, classical studies, literary studies, and the arts. The fellowship hopes to tilt the scales for borderline students, bringing more young talent into humanities research.