The Tang Prize: A Platform to Initiate International Conversation

  • The CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation Jenn-Chuan Chern embarked on an international trip to visit each of the 2016 laureates.
  • The CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation Jenn-Chuan Chern embarked on an international trip to visit each of the 2016 laureates
  • The CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation Jenn-Chuan Chern embarked on an international trip to visit each of the 2016 laureates
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 Recognizing the outstanding contributions and accomplishments of the laureates is only one of the duties of the Tang Prize. The other important purpose of its founding is to seek directions and solutions from international academic communities with the purpose of achieving the sustainable development of mankind. After the recipients of the 2016 Tang Prizes were announced, the CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation Jenn-Chuan Chern embarked on an international trip to visit each of the 2016 laureates and extend a formal invitation to attend the award ceremony and deliver speeches in Taiwan. During the trip, Chern also exchanged ideas with scholars from several prestigious academic institutes. By interacting with academicians as well as institutes in both the public and the private sectors, Chern hopes to build a bridge that will make the Tang Prize Foundation more active in the international arena in the future. 


    During his trip to the northeastern American coast, Chern first visited William Theodore de Bary, the recipient of the 2016 Tang Prize in Sinology and a pioneer in Confucianism in the U.S. Then, Feng Zhang, one of the winners of the 2016 Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science and currently Associate Professor at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Finally, Louise Arbour, former justice on the Supreme Court of Canada and the 2016 Tang Prize winner in Rule of Law. Himself nearing 100 years of age, de Bary has asked his daughter Brett de Bary, an expert in Japanese literature currently teaching at Cornell University, and Rachel E. Chung, Executive Director of the University Committee on Asia & the Middle East (UCAME), to attend the ceremony on his behalf. Zhang and Arbour have each accepted invitations to the award ceremony and to give speeches to facilitate further academic interaction.


    Besides visiting the 2016 Tang Prize recipients, Chern made a special stop to the 2014 recipient of the Tang Prize in Sinology, Yu Ying-shih, at his home in Princeton. Yu applauded de Bary’s reception of the award, saying that he was very deserving of such a recognition. He added that de Bary was, in effect, even more influential than Harvard University Prof. John King Fairbank, another prominent American academic and historian of China, because de Bary changed how American and other western scholars conducted studies on the Chinese thought. "He sparkled the global trend of Sinological studies and established a new realm of Confucianism," Yu explained. "Being recognized by the Tang Prize is a great honor for de Bary and for the Tang Prize Foundation as well."


    After visiting earlier in July the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and UC Berkeley in California, the global center of higher education and research, Chern visited the Broad Institute at MIT in Boston, a nexus on the East Coast for biomedical research and development. There he met with Feng Zhang, the sole ethnically Chinese scholar among all the recipients of the 2016 Tang Prize. Zhang was the first to apply the CRISPR/Cas9 method for genome editing to mammalian cells, which opened a new gateway to endless possibilities in genome editing. Zhang related that he aimed to make the existing CRISPR/Cas9 technology more complete and precise, and that he looked forward to understanding the current development of the biopharmaceutical industry in Taiwan.


    During the visit, Zhang showed his guest a gift from his lab students to congratulate his recently being granted tenure at MIT: a 3D-printed miniature CRISPR/Cas9 model. In addition, Zhang introduced the science park projects and related developments in the biopharmaceutical industry collaboratively established by MIT and its partners in the private sector. He also introduced Chern to Academia Sinica academician Li-Huei Tsai, a Taiwanese neuroscience professor and director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.


    After visiting New York and Boston, Chern was welcomed to Montreal by Taiwan’s Representative to Canada, Rong-Thuan Wu. There, he met with Louise Arbour, who said that she would visit Taiwan with her family to attend the award ceremony and the other events of Tang Prize Week in September, and that she looked forward to seeing more of the island. Chern added that the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei (CTOT) visited the Tang Prize Foundation and would invite Canadian citizens living in Taiwan to attend the events during Tang Prize Week in September. The CTOT also invited Arbour to attend her 30th anniversary to facilitate and further consolidate interaction between Canada and Taiwan.