Literature Forums Inspired by Tang Prize Laureate to be Held in Taiwan

  •  William Theodore de Bary, 2016 Tang Prize winner in Sinolog
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Intergenerational tension is an issue that confronts every society. What can we learn from Eastern and Western canons that will help us resolve this issue? What can a conversation that traverses civilizations of different ages and in different parts of the world tell us about the importance of reflecting on the same phenomenon in other literary texts and cultural contexts? The answers could be found in “Generations in Conversation: Some Greco-Roman and Renaissance Reflections on Intergenerational Dialogue,” a forum that will be held on May 29th at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), featuring an interlocution between three experts from different academic arenas: Professor Gareth Williams, the Anthon Professor of the Latin Language and Literature at Columbia University, Dr. Rachel E. Chung, former executive director of University Committee on Asia & the Middle East at Columbia University, and Professor Daniel Hu, associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation at NTNU.      


Dr. Chung is a disciple of Professor William Theodore de Bary, 2016 Tang Prize winner in Sinology, an acknowledged master in Chinese Studies, and an esteemed scholar who extended Columbia’s undergraduate core curriculum in Western civilizations to include Asian civilization. To further his initiatives and to promote the study of world classics, Dr. Chung, to whom Professor de Bary entrusted his Tang Prize grant to be used in support of his vision of making the “Great Conversation” possible across cultures, decided to allocate the entire grant, totaling NT$10 million, to the DB Global Humanities Foundation. Since 2014, she has been overseeing the Global Symposium Project, through which students in cities around the globe are trained to share the reading of classical literature with their peers. The project, in keeping with de Bary’s method of applying Confucian ideas to Western educational practices, embodies the ideals of cross-cultural immersion and integration, and has successfully transported learning through dialogue from the classrooms in Columbia to the international stage.    


It all began with two Chinese students in Columbia who organized annual workshops in Beijing and Shanghai to guide university and high school students on how to read some of the greatest books ever written. Over a span of just a few years, the project has expanded considerably, having reached 8 countries and 14 cities in the world so far. Initiated by these two students, the “Global Symposium Project” aims to nurture future discussion leaders and encourage students in high schools and universities, regardless of their nationalities, to engage in a conversation with literary classics, in order to generate more cross-cultural communications.   


Impressed by the maturity of Taiwan’s educational system and by its students of high caliber, Dr. Chung deemed it viable to grow and expand the Symposium locally within the island and thus proceeded to arrange for teachers and students in Columbia University to travel to Taiwan for face-to-face interactions with their Taiwanese counterparts. The result is a series of literature forums scheduled to take place in NTNU and Taipei Municipal Jingmei Girls High School from May 27th to 31st. Delving into these literary treasures, speakers of the forums will not only present topics from both Eastern and Western civilizations, but will also foreground the necessity of dialogues between the Orient and the Occident. For Dr. Chung, dialogues like these have symbolic significance. On the one hand, they remind us that the rich histories of the East and the West, far from being static, are always in a state of flux. On the other, they examine the world’s traditions from different angles and consolidate different perspectives so that understanding and tolerance prevail; antagonism and conflicts will peter out.


To make sure that the contents of the forums resonate with the audience, works familiar to all the participants will be on the agenda, such as Zhuangzi and its English translation, Plato’s The Republic, and short essays by Eileen Chang, on which edifying discussions are expected to emerge between the visitors from Columbia University and students together with faculty members from the campuses in Taiwan. The May 29th forum, mentioned in the first paragraph, goes from 10:20 to 12:10 in NTNU’s auditorium. Prof. Williams, Dr. Chung and Professor. Hu will join forces to take the audience through works of major classical writers, including Aristophanes, Ovid, Terence, Cicero, as well as of fifteenth-century Venice authors, seeking to illustrate the universal topic of transmission of received values through time and to spark comparative reflections on the same phenomenon in other world literatures and cultural backgrounds.


This is a free event open to the public. No pre-registration required. Consecutive interpretation will be provided in Chinese and English. For more information, please visit NTNU’s website at