2014 will remain in the memory of people around the world for various reasons—the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the Winter Olympics in Sochi in the sports arena, and of course new technologies and ideas. But the year will hold a special place in the memory of Taiwan for one reason—2014 saw the awarding of the first ever Tang Prize to its inaugural laureates.
Now, in the budding weeks of 2015, the Tang Prize is directing its attention to international events focusing on the four prize categories. In the field of Sinology, one such event is the triennial conference held by the Centre for China in the World at Australian National University. Scholars and researchers from all over the world gathered at the quiet capital city of Canberra, Australia this week for one express purpose—to discuss Taiwan’s unique take on Chinese culture and the world of Sinology.
Taiwan: the View from the South conference held its opening ceremony this Tuesday night (January 6) at the newly constructed Centre for China in the World building. In the words of the Centre’s Director, Dr. Geremie Barmé, the conference focuses on Taiwan’s “particular way of being Chinese,” and its unique status in terms of culture, society, and politics.
During his opening remarks, Director Barmé also explained that the conference was a result of the close ties that Taiwan and Australia have developed in recent years over the trade routes of economy, academics, and culture. Taiwan is also a large contributor to the working holiday program, said Director Barmé, being second only to the UK in number of participants; and the connections between the two countries and cultures likely will be even more important in the future.
Attending and speaking at the opening ceremony were the Director of the Centre on China in the World Prof. Geremie R. Barmé, and the former head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington D.C. and current head of the same office in Australia David Lee (李大維). Delivering the keynote speech for the first night was Prof. Michael Hsin-Huang Hsiao (蕭新煌教授), who spoke on the development of civil movements in Taiwan from the 1960s onward.
This year was not the first point of contact between the Tang Prize and ANU’s Centre on China in the World. In October 2014 the Centre’s Deputy Director Dr. Benjamin Penny visited the Tang Prize Foundation to discuss the Centre for China in the World and learn more about the Tang Prize and its award in Sinology. He also discussed the values and purpose of the Centre, as well as extending an invitation to the conference, an event which holds a special significance for both Taiwan and the Tang Prize in Sinology.
The Australian Centre on China in the World was founded in 2010 and takes its origin from the mission statement written by Director Barmé, “On New Sinology,” which describes a new and integrated approach in the Sinological field. Over four days (6-9), the conference will hold forums on a wide range of topics, such as health, gender studies, poetry, and place, all seen in the context of Taiwan and Sinology.