The Republic of China: Restoring a Father’s and a Nation’s Life Story

Memo #167 – One of the most famous modern Chinese writers, Pai Hsien-yung [Bai Xianyong白先勇], has just brought out a photo-biography of his father, Pai Chung-hsi [Bai Chongxi 白崇禧]. The book, Father and the Republic, was published in spring, 2012 simultaneously in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China—a breakthrough, a transcendence of political barriers. Continue reading

Author Chan Koonchung on His Role as an Activist Public Intellectual

Memo #95 – On June 28, 2011, we published our first interview with Chan Koonchung (陈冠中), the author of the novel Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013 (盛世 – 中国 2013) or, The Fat Years. In this second installment he speaks about his role as an activist public intellectual. In 2010, he started an e-mail discussion group and NGO, Minjian China because he found that other Chinese intellectuals were not concerned with China’s impact outside of China, despite China’s role as a rising power. “Minjian” is one term for civil society. He has tried to identify scholars interested in China’s impact on the broader world, starting with Southeast Asia. He recently started a second online discussion group on China-India relations. Continue reading

Author Chan Koonchung on His Novel, Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013

Memo #92 – A noted cultural figure, writer, and public intellectual based in Beijing, Chan Koonchung (陈冠中) is the author of the pathbreaking novel Shengshi-Zhongguo 2013 (盛世中国 2013) or, The Fat Years. In this first of two interviews, he reflects on the implications of China becoming more wealthy and powerful. In 2008 he became convinced of China’s ineluctable rise and the prospect that it would soon be more advanced than Hong Kong and Taiwan. The novel is alive with characters and situations that speak tellingly and often in dystopic terms about what China’s future might hold. Continue reading

The Significance of Tagore – Harvard Professor Sugata Bose (Video Interview Part II)

Memo #85 – In April 2011, The University of British Columbia (UBC) celebrated the 150th birthday of Rabindranath Tagore. As part of this celebration, Dr. Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University spoke at the Institute of Asian Research on “The Oceanic Voyages of Rabindranath Tagore.” The following week, UBC presented Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen with an honorary degree. On April 19, Asia Pacific Memo published Part I of Dr. Sugata Bose’s interview, “Tagore in Today’s World.” We also interviewed Dr. Amartya Sen who spoke about Tagore’s significance and distributed the full video recording of Dr. Sen’s honorary degree ceremony and speech. Continue reading

Tagore in Today’s World – Harvard Professor Sugata Bose (Video Interview)

Memo #74 – The University of British Columbia (UBC) celebrated the 150th birthday of Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 and a towering figure in the world of poetry, literature, music, song, and philosophy. In a penetrating discussion, Sugata Bose, Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University addresses the contemporary relevance of Tagore as something more than the “mystic poet” described by W. B. Yeats, the impact of Tagore’s upbringing in Bengal, and Tagore’s connection with the political figures of his era including the debate with Mahatma Gandhi on whether there was a divine role in the 1934 earthquake in Bihar. Continue reading

Literature in 21st Century China – Harvard Professor David Der-wei Wang (Video Interview)

Memo #70 – What is the status of literature in 21st century China? Harvard professor David Der-wei Wang analyzes this question in a brief video interview. He discusses the impact of the internet, which has become an important medium for the dissemination of politically sensitive works. He mentions that there has been a resurgence of genres such as science fantasy to a prominence not seen since the late Qing dynasty. He talks about the new concept of “Sinophone literature,” which redefines “Chinese literature” as a field determined by language rather than purely by geography. He further touches on important new works, such as Hu Fayun’s novel, “,” which was first serialized on the Internet but banned upon its print publication. Continue reading