East Asia CenterNewsletter On-line

The University of Virgina
east asia center
November 1998

Architecture Program Sends Students To China
by Clark C. Christensen and Sarah M. Dreller

This summer we received Weedon travel grants to participate in UVA’s month-long Beijing study tour.  It was an incredible and unforgettable experience. Simply put, it was so different from anything we had ever seen, or thought of seeing, that we could not help but be influenced pro-foundly by everything that was going on around us. What we learned about the world and ourselves will stay with us for a long, long time.

Perhaps the most important difference we have noticed is our changed attitude toward eastern architecture. As graduate students in the de-partment of architectural history at the University, we learn about such issues as the origins of the Italian Renaissance or Thomas Jefferson’s design legacy. These are subjects that many of us under-stand readily because we have had the opportunity to visit Europe or walk through the Lawn on our way to class. The situation changes, however, when we study Asian architecture.  Many great classes are offered, including “Modern Japanese Architecture” and East-West Interactive Architecture,” but without direct personal experience with these cultures we end up struggling to understand even the fundamentals of their architecture. Our trip to Beijing this summer filled this need. Now we find ourselves less intimidated by Chinese philosophical and cultural allusions in archi-tecture. We can look at photographs and not only understand a building’s physical context, which we perhaps might glean from text or maps, but also it conceptual basis, a much more sophisticated and ultimately rewarding experience. The benefits of this level of understanding are enor-mous and testify to the importance of direct observation in the training of an architectural historian. Before we went to Beijing, the architecture was a series of names and dates that we attached to oft-reprinted images. After visiting China, though, we can related the individual buildings to each other and therefore understand the underlying story of the whole.

On a more personal level, our trip to Beijing offered a challenge to survive in a place where we did not speak the language or have any knowledge of  the culture. We quickly learned how to change money, call a taxi, and order lunch but it took us longer to appreciate many of the experiences we were having.  Indeed, as with so many aspects of life, it was only toward the end of the trip that we noticed how much we had incorporated the rhythms of Beijing in to our daily ritual and how much there remained for us to discover.

Our trip to Beijing was not the relaxing holiday that a few of our colleagues had. It was, however, amazingly eye-opening. While it exhausted us psychologically and physically, we are glad we accepted the challenge.

Photo captions:  Sarah and Clark at the Gate of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City (left) and Clark at the Ming Tomb Causeway (right).

Clark C. Christensen will complete his Master’s in Architectural History and Certificate in Historic Preservation from UVA in May 1999. His trip to Beijing this summer was the first time he had traveled outside of the United States.

Sarah M. Dreller will complete her Master’s in Architectural History from UVA in May 1999. She is also a photographer and is currently working on several Beijing-related photography projects.

The History and Architecture of Late Imperial and Modern China program is conducted each summer in Beijing.  The program runs for four weeks from approximately mid-June through mid-July.  The program is open to all interested students, particularly those in the Arts and Sciences and the School of Architecture.  For further information please consult Professor Yunsheng Huang, School of Architecture, Campbell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.  Phone (804) 924-3840, e-mail yh6d@virginia.edu.

UVA East Asia Center Events Fall 1998 and Spring 1999


Tuesday, 11/10  Hill Gates,  Stanford University: “Changing Clothes: Implications of Cotton Use in Late Imperial China.” 3:00 pm, Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall.  Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Women’s Studies Program.

Wednesday, 11/11 Arthur Wolf, Stanford University: “China and Europe:  Two Kinds of  Patriarchy.” 3:00 pm, Conference Room 168A, Newcomb Hall.  Co-sponsored by the Dept. of Anthropology and the Women’s Studies Program.

Monday, 11/16  Wang Gungwu, National University of Singapore: “Southeast Asian Perspectives on Nationalism.” 3:30 pm, Dome Room, Rotunda.  Fall 1998 East Asia Distinguished Lecture.

Friday, 11/20 Steve Vogel, Harvard University: “The End of Organized Capitalism?  Germany and Japan Confront Economic Reform.” 12 pm, Minor Hall Room 125.  Co-sponsored by the Dept. of Government.

Preliminary Spring Schedule


Thursday, 2/25 Jenny So, Curator of Chinese Art, Freer and Sackler Galleries, "Music in Bronze Age China," Campbell 153, 5:30 pm. Weedon Lecture Series.


Thursday, 3/4 Ed Pratt, College of William and Mary, "The Village as Collectivity: Cooperative Forms of Behavior in Nineteenth-Century Japan."  Time and place TBA.

Mid-March Korea Economic Institute-East Asia Center Korea Seminar.  Time and place TBA.

Wednesday, 3/31 Dorothy Wong, UVA Department of Art, "Sealed Libraries and Buried Buddhist Treasures: Beliefs and Practices in Medieval China," 5:30 pm, Campbell 153, 5:30 pm. Weedon Lecture Series.


Thursday, 4/8 Elizabeth ten Grotenhuis, Boston University, “Japanese Pure Land Buddhist Art:  Building on the Chinese Legacy.”  Time and place TBA.

Monday, 4/19 Patricia Ebrey, University of Washington and Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, “Song Huizong”  Time and place TBA.

Odd Jobs and Research in China
by Holly Krambeck

With the help of a Weedon Travel Grant, I spent last summer in Beijing doing research for my Asian Studies thesis on women’s rights, specifically how the status of women has changed as a result of China’s economic reforms.

After playing tourist (visiting temples and parks, sleeping on the Great Wall...), I secured three jobs.  At a youth hostel, I made English signs and posters in exchange for a free room.  I also tutored a couple of business women in English on Sundays, and I interned at Mobil Oil Corp., working in their marketing department.  The internship was an amazing experience. Although the company is American, all but one of my colleagues were Chinese. They all taught me so much, not just about the intricacies of care lubricant marketing, but about their roles in Chinese society. Perhaps the highlight of my internship was when I got to give a short presentation to thirty-some retail store owners abut effective merchandising and display techniques...in Chinese. I’m not sure if they really understood a word I said, but they all smiled and clapped anyway. My internship supervisor was extraordinarily proud too.


After spending about five weeks in Beijing, I decided to head south and see the China beyond Beijing. On the train to Wuhan, I met a chemistry professor, Mr. Hu, who offered to act as my “host family” during part of my stay in China. After meeting his wife, a traditional Chinese doctor, and his son, a chemical engineering graduate student, at the train station, I agreed to Mr. Hu’s most generous offer.

Mr. Hu helped me immensely with my thesis work. He utilized his guanxi (connections) to provide me with ideal interview opportunities. I spent some time in women workers’ homes, at a pharmaceutical factory were the women workers were gathered together for my arrival, and in a rural village which I was the first foreigner to have visited as far as anyone could remember.

During this time I read an issue of Newsweek I had purchased in Beijing, in which there was an article about the New Sun Marriage Shelter, China’s first and only battered women’s shelter. The shelter happened to be located not far from where I was staying, so with the help of Mr. Hu, I contacted Ms. Zhang, the shelter’s founder, and scheduled an interview.  After the interview, a brief tour, and lunch, Ms. Zhang invited me to stay for a couple of days. Excited and flattered, I accepted. But what I learned about the shelter in those two days was most disturbing.  A portion of the letter I sent to Newsweek in response to the article about the New Sun Marriage Shelter should help to explain.

“...I do not deny that the shelter protects women from their abusive husband as well as providing them with basic necessities such as work and a place to sleep. The physically and often mentally abused women who arrive at Ms. Zhang’s doorstep are desperate. Too ashamed to stay with family and friends, these women spend their savings to travel to the only battered women’s shelter in China.  To these jobless, emotionally unstable, alone, and frightened women, Ms. Zhang’s shelter truly does initially present itself as the perfect escape.  But at what price?  A seven-day work week of mindless assembly line labor. 10-12 hour workdays.  A monthly salary of 175 to 250 yuan when the regional average is 400 yuan per month).  Granted, living and working conditions for most Chinese would be difficult for most Westerners. But a shelter with no counseling and no real moral support aside from a few catchy slogans splashed across the walls, a shelter which, in addition to having its women  work without a day off, asks them to pay a deposit to stay (a deposit which, as one woman complains, is not readily returned upon departure form the shelter), a shelter where women live without leaving for two years or even more, a shelter whose owner touts poverty yet has a cushy downtown office for the factory side of business, equipped with computers, a fax machine, phones, 2 secretaries, an accountant, marketing advisors, and college ‘interns’ wishing to work for the company when they graduate so that they may “make good money”... a shelter such as this is no haven. The New Sun Marriage Shelter is a profit-making packaging factory first and a sanctuary for battered women second....”

Ms. Qin, packaging cornstarch at the New Sun Marriage Shelter.

Unveiling East Asian Art at the Bayly Museum
by Dorothy Wong
Assistant Professor, Art Department

One of the pleasurable interludes of this past summer was preparing the East Asian section for the reopening of the Asian Gallery in the Bayly Art Museum; my colleague Dan Ehnbom managed the South Asian section. I welcomed the opportunity to acquaint myself intimately with our collections, and to work with capable curators and staffs of the Museum, under the guidance of Jill Hartz, the museum director. Reinstallation of the Gallery was underwritten by funds from the Weedon Foundation and the Provost’s Office.  After months of preparation, in September the Asian Gallery finally reopened, auspiciously inaugurated with Professor Janet Ikeda’s performance of a Japanese tea ceremony (in urasenke style). As Dan Ehnbom put it, we have finally “reclaimed a territory” for Asian art in the Bayly!

Many readers have already visited the new Asian Gallery. Instead of talking about the artworks on display, I will give an insider’s view of the curating process and share with you some thoughts about my roles at the Bayly and the potential the Asian Gallery offers.

Unlike an exhibition that draws upon artworks from different collections to elucidate a specific theme or an artist, the inaugural exhibition features the finest artworks from the Museum’s permanent collections. Since I joined the University of Virginia only a year ago, the first round of selection involved going through everything in the collections thoroughly. Suzanne Foley, Curator of Collections, was particularly patient in walking me through the dark, labyrinthine storage areas. Wearing latex gloves and holding flashlights, and at times climbing up and down or over things, we inspected and took notes of many sculptures and ceramic pieces that having been lying on dusty shelves unattended for many years!

The second and third round of selections took into consideration gallery space and the achievement of a sense of aesthetic/thematic unity in the display.   At this stage, Rusty Smith, Preparator, joined in and gave valuable help.  We decided that the two large walls in the Gallery set aside for East Asian art would be better served by focusing on the two areas of relative strength in our collections: later Chinese and Japanese literati paintings and Japanese woodblock prints. In making this decision we eliminated a number of Buddhist artworks and sculptures originally selected – installing many cases in the Gallery would hinder the viewing of the large paintings hung on the main wall. When choosing the background color for the Gallery, I prevailed in selecting the neutral, elegant gray that would enhance rather than overwhelm the subtle tonalities of ink paintings. The ceramics were relegated to the large case outside the Asian Gallery. Other objects from our fairly large collection will be featured in future rotations.

Having decided on the foci of the exhibition, Stephen Marguiles, Curator of Works on Paper, and I prepared the text panels and captions to accompany the artworks. Stephen has curated the Japanese prints collection for many years and I was happy to let him take charge of this area. I researched and wrote up on the Chinese and Japanese literati paintings, primarily landscapes. Even though only about half a  dozen landscape paintings are shown in this small exhibit, the wide range of styles, techniques, and aesthetic effects are quite evident.  How could we give the viewer a sense of their coherence within this particular genre? The current wisdom in exhibition methods range from minimalist captions to lengthy and sometimes didactic text panels. I tried to strike a balance between the two extremes by providing the essential cultural contexts and aesthetic concepts necessary for appreciating the paintings. I also gave some information about the artists and the inscriptions and colophons, or pointed out key points that may elucidate the artistic intentions of particular artworks.

While curating gives me the privilege of making key decisions, from selecting objects to exhibition design, ultimately what I relish most is the opportunity to utilize the collections and the museum’s excellent facilities to enhance the teaching and research of Asian art. Many students entering the University have never set foot inside a museum, or may have never been exposed to an original work of Asian art. The Asian Gallery will provide the space for their “aesthetic encounters.” In teaching I like giving students assignments that would throw them a little off guard (students don’t understand that the most boring part of grading examinations is to read word for word what you’ve said in the classroom). Asking students to analyze and assess artworks they have never seen before is like asking them to discard their security blankets (class notes and textbooks); only then are you engaging them in a real mental dialogue. Often students rise to such challenges and their intelligence, and sometimes humor, shine through. For more motivated students, the collections offer excellent opportunities to conduct research projects.

My other duties with the East Asian collections include making recommendations about acquisition, and sometimes elimination, of artworks. Our current collections comprise of donations, including several important gifts from the Weedon Foundation, and purchases through acquisition funds. A few weeks ago a UVa alumnus invited me to look at his collection of Japanese screens and Korean paintings in Washington, DC. His initial remark that these were things the Freer and Sackler Galleries weren’t interested in made me rather skeptical, but as it turned out the collector was very sincere in giving museum quality pieces to the Bayly.

Coming from the field of Chinese Buddhist art, I am keenly aware of the controversies surrounding art collecting and patrimony, and the debate about whether the museum environment is appropriate for displaying religious and ritual objects. The paintings and woodblock prints in the current exhibit were created for display and consumption, and the modern museum context does not conflict with the original intent. However, the display of art or artifacts originally charged with religious or other kinds of meanings might pose a problem when deprived of their original contexts. The smuggling and illicit trade of such objects pose even greater legal issues, and the complicity of many museums in their acquisition policies (past and present) cannot be ignored. It is only with awareness and open discussions about such issues that the Bayly can assume its role as a university museum.

Faculty News

Gilbert Roy has just returned from the University of Lund , Sweden, where he presented a paper on Ancient Chinese Semantics, "Ancient Chinese DYAN/GYAN: Getting to the Point," the weekend of October 1-3,1998.

Brantly Womack has recently agreed to become commissar of UVA’s International Activities Commission, one of four presidential commissions at the university that are charged with charting new directions for UVA over the next five years.  Professor Womack’s article, “Asian Socialism’s Open Doors:  Guang Zhou and Ho Chi Min City” appeared in the July issue of the China Journal.

Dorothy Wong's article, "Four Sichuan Buddhist Stelae and the Beginnings of Pure land Imagery in China," has been published in Archives of Asian Art, vol. 51 (1998). Through the study of an important group of fifth- and sixth-century stelae from Sichuan, this paper elucidates how local artists adapted pre-existing Chinese artistic conventions to articulate the newly accepted Buddhist ideology, resulting in a breakthrough in the illusionistic representation of space. Contextual study of the kind of Buddhism practiced in Sichuan at that time asserts that the origins of Pure Land imagery might be rooted in the early Chinese understanding of the Mahayana doctrine, long before Pure Land Buddhism became a popular devotional faith.

In September Professor Wong gave a lecture, "Sealed Libraries and Buried Buddhist Treasures: Beliefs and Practices in Medieval China," at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, for the Richmond Chapter of the American Institute of Archaeology; a modified version of the talk will be given here as a Weedon lecture in the spring of 1999.

Spring Visitors.  UVA will also be hosting several prominent Asia scholars in the spring of 1999.  Robert Sutter  is the senior Asia analyst for the Congressional Research Service and a frequent visitor to UVA and the Miller Center.  He is the author of many books on US-China relations including Shaping China's Future in World Affairs : The Role of the United States and U.S. Policy Toward China : The Role of Interest Groups.  He will be teaching China and World Affairs in the Government Department in the Spring.  Gu Xiaosong is professor and chair of Southeast Asian studies at the Guangxi Provincial. Social Science Institute.  He has received an American Council Society of Arts and Sciences research grant to do research with Brantly Womack on China-Vietnam relations in the spring of 1999 at UVA.

by Norm Apter

When I was teaching English in Shandong, China a few years ago, one of my students asked if I would participate in “English Corner.”   He led me to a student activity room which was filled with numerous long tables and well over 100 students, all anxious to practice English.  After sitting down, I noticed that there were near pushing matches, inspiring memories of boarding the Beijing subway, just to get the opportunity to talk to me in English. It was not until  I looked around and noticed that I was the only lao wai  (foreigner) that these acts of desperation made sense.

Fortunately, you don’t have to resort to such tactics at UVA’s  “Chinese Corner.” There are usually at least six or seven native speakers on hand to help facilitate group discussions.  Professor Shen divides participants up into groups of four or five and provides a set of questions in Chinese to get things rolling.  The questions largely contain beginning-level vocabulary, but if some words are unfamiliar to those who are in Chinese 101, there are always more advanced students on hand to help out.  For intermediate and advanced students, these questions can lead to more complex levels of exchange. The atmosphere is very low-key, so students of all levels are welcome to attend.  There are usually light refreshments—last time I had something that might be described as a Chinese “moonpie,” but there are also vegetables available for the more health-conscious.

I highly recommend “Chinese Corner” for those who wish practice your Chinese in a low-pressure environment.  Faculty and community members are welcome, as well. Oh, and no pushing, please!

Remaining dates for Fall 1998:   Fridays: November 6, 13, 20 and December 4
Location:  Cabell 312
Contact:  Shu-Chen Chen at sc8u@virginia.edu

Call for Papers: Graduate Student Conference on East Asia
Eighth Annual Graduate Student Conference on East Asia at Columbia University
Saturday, February 6-Sunday, February 7, 1999

The Eighth Annual Graduate Student Conference on East Asia will be held at Columbia University in the City of New York on February 6-7, 1999. Previous conferences have been successful in providing opportunities for graduate students from various institutions to establish contact and share ideas with each other, and to gain valuable experience in presenting and discussing their work in front of an audience of their peers.

We welcome applications from graduate students engaged in research on East Asian History, Literature, Art History, Religion, and other disciplines. Proposals for both organized panels and individual papers are welcome. Although this conference does not have a specific theme in order to encourage different approaches to wide range of interests, panels should nevertheless be linked thematically.

The deadline for application/abstract (1 page) for conference participation is Monday, December 7, 1998.  The actual paper (5-7 pages) submission is due on Monday, January 4, 1999.  For early respondents, a limited number of lodging spaces are available with Columbia Students for Friday and Saturday nights.

You can apply via our website: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ealac/gradconf/ or mail abstract to: Graduate Student Conference on East Asia, Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures, 407 Kent Hall, Mail Code 3907, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.  For further information, contact Joy Kim or Gang Xu at asiagradcon@columbia.edu.


Each year the Grants Committee of the East Asia Center allocates money to be used to defray the cost of travel to East Asia by University faculty members and students.  These funds may be used to cover all or part of a round trip airfare between Charlottesville and East Asia. Travel within an East Asian country will not be covered by a Weedon travel grant.


The Ellen Bayard Weedon travel grant is available to any University of Virginia faculty member or student who:

In addition, student applicants must intend to enroll in structured programs offered by accredited academic institutions in East Asia, or plan to pursue a specific research project.

Applicants intending to spend two to eight weeks in East Asia under the conditions outlined herein may apply for a travel grant to cover partial (25% or more) round trip air fare between Charlottesville and East Asia.

Applicants intending to spend eight weeks or more in East Asia under the conditions outlined herein may apply for a travel grant to cover up to full round trip air fare between Charlottesville and East Asia

Under special circumstances students and faculty members may apply for up to full round trip air fare regardless of length of stay in East Asia, provided the trip has a sound and genuine professional or academic purpose, i.e., to attend a professional conference, to conduct research that can only be conducted in East Asia, etc.

These travel grants cannot be used cover the following:  (1) trips designed to enable a student or faculty member to simply "visit" East Asia, (2) in-country travel, (3) program and/or conference fees, (4) lodging and accommodations.

Travel grant applications shall be judged according to the selection committee's assessment of the quality of the applicant, the intellectual and academic cohesiveness of the applicant's project, and financial need.  Preference shall be given to the applicants who have not recently been to East Asia and, in the following order, to:

No single travel grant shall exceed one-third of available funds, and normally no more than half of the available funds shall be allocated to faculty members.


Application forms are available during office hours in the East Asia Center,  224 Minor Hall.  Completed applications are due by February 15, 1999 and should be returned to the East Asia Center.  (phone:  924-7836)