Highlighting Female Excellence, Tang Prize Unveils Gifts from Three 2022 Laureates

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As the world commemorates International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Tang Prize stands in solidarity with the global community in celebration. Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, pointed out that the Tang Prize has always progressed with the times and always places equal emphasis on achievements in both science and the humanities. Thus, it is no surprise that among all its laureates, women account for an impressive 27%, and of its latest 2022 recipients, an unprecedented 50% are women. It is also worth noting that Professor Rawson is the first woman to win the Tang Prize in Sinology; Dr. Katalin Kariko is the third female Tang Prize laureate, following 2016 laureates Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, to be awarded a Nobel Prize; and Professor Saunders is not only a pioneer in comparative constitutional studies but has also been instrumental in facilitating constitutional reforms in Asia-Pacific nations such as Fiji, East Timor, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Therefore, it is especially meaningful for the Tang Prize to reveal their gifts to the Foundation and to share with the world their remarkable life stories on International Women’s Day. 


The Tang Prize, which has honored eight outstanding women over five award cycles, unveils for the first time precious gifts from three of its 2022 female laureates: Életünk és a Stress (The Stress of Life), a book that profoundly influenced laureate in Biopharmaceutical Science Dr. Katalin Kariko; Chinese Jade—from the Neolithic to the Qing, a seminal work by laureate in Sinology Professor Jessica Rawson, alongside a jade ornament she acquired in Hong Kong years ago; and a facsimile of a broadsheet issued in 1796 by the Governor of a convict settlement in Sydney from laureate in Rule of Law Professor Cheryl Saunders. The Tang Prize not only made sure these gifts are carefully stored in the Foundation but also plans to curate an exhibition, putting on public display items of personal or professional significance to the three laureates and encouraging women across the globe to persist in the pursuit of their dreams and make positive contributions to the world.


Életünk és a Stress by Hungarian-Canadian researcher Selye János was a present to Dr. Kariko from her high school teacher. When she brought to the Foundation this book that she had cherished for half a century, she explained her choice in a written message: “I remembered Selye’s words when I experienced difficulties – as a student, or in the lab – so I adopted the right attitude, searched for ways to improve myself, to work harder, be more creative and perform better. I didn’t blame others for my failures, never carried grudge against those who tried to make my life miserable. I didn’t ask what others should do, rather I tried to focus on things that I can do and not waste any time on things that I cannot.” When Dr. Kariko spoke to students from four high schools at the Tang Prize Youth Symposium held at Taipei First Girls’ High School in 2023, she also encouraged them to adopt the same attitude.


Dr. Kariko illustrated in the same message that what this book taught her in high school was that “stress isn’t merely a negative physiologic experience; it has positive forms, too…And with the right attitude, we can transform negative stress into positive stress. Selye suggests, we cannot control anyone’s reactions but our own. Therefore, we shouldn’t work to please others or to gain their approval; we must, instead, set our own goals and work to satisfy those.” This has been Dr. Kariko’s guiding principle in life since then. She thus concluded her message with the touching statements that “What I learned from this book kept me on the track no matter how many times I was terminated in my position or how winding and challenging my scientific journey was.”


When presenting her book Chinese Jade and the jade ornament to the Foundation, Professor Rawson, an expert on Chinese bronzes and jade, mentioned the enduring reverence Chinese people had held for the mystery and magic of jade since ancient times. Aware of the universal fondness for jade in Chinese communities and the abundance of jade in eastern Taiwan, she specifically selected jade-related items as her gifts to the Foundation.  


In Chinese Jade, Professor Rawson describes the variety of roles and functions, ritual and ceremonial, which jade has played in China. She provides a comprehensive survey of six thousand years of development from around 5,000 BC to the 18th century, including jades from Neolithic cultures as well as jade ornaments and decorative pieces in the shape of animal and human figures from the Ming and Qing dynasties. In addition, the catalogue describes over 300 outstanding pieces from Sir Joseph Hotung’s collection. Drawing on vast archaeological research, this work divides jades of different types, shapes and functions into chronological sections and sets jade in its historical and artistic context. It stands as one of the masterpieces by a scholar who has dedicated her life to the exploration of Chinese cultural relics and the academic and artistic value it holds cannot be overstated.    


The gift from Professor Saunders is a facsimile of a broadsheet issued in 1796 in a convict settlement in Sydney. It is a present of personal significance to her from a student more than two decades ago and has been on her office wall ever since. Professor Saunders remarked in a written message to the Foundation that in 1788, Britain established a penal colony in Australia. The broadsheet is dated 1796, indicating it was issued eight years after the establishment of the colony. From the standpoint of the rule of law, it is primitive: issued by a military commander, distinguishing between categories of residents and focused on control of the convicts. But its significance lies in the fact that over 200 years ago, there existed a rudimentary form of law, and the foundations it laid at this time gradually developed to become a robust legal system in Australia. Professor Saunders also emphasized that a constitution is the fundamental law of a nation and the bedrock of the rule of law. Therefore, it must evolve with the times and remain immune to arbitrary interference by those in power, for such is the cornerstone and ultimate aim of the rule of law.


About the Tang Prize

With the advent of globalization, mankind has been able to enjoy the convenience brought forth by the advancement of human civilization and science. Yet a multitude of challenges, such as climate change, the emergence of new infectious diseases, wealth gap, and moral degradation, have surfaced along the way. Against this backdrop, Dr. Samuel Yin established the Tang Prize in December 2012. It consists of four award categories, namely Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law. Every other year, four independent and professional selection committees, made up of many internationally experts and scholars, including Nobel laureates, choose as Tang Prize recipient people who with great influence and great contributions to the world, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender. A cash prize of NT$50 million (approx. US$1.7 million) is allocated to each category, of which NT$10 million (approx. US$ 0.35 million) is designated as a research grant to support educational projects chosen by laureates, so as to prompt people to pay more attention to mankind’s most urgent needs in the 21st century, and to become leading forces behind the development of human society through their outstanding research and active civic engagement.