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Remembering Professor Ch’en Shou-yi’s Legacy: A Panel Discussion

Remembering Professor Ch’en Shou-yi’s Legacy: A Panel Discussion In-Person

Professor Ch’en Shou-yi (Chinese: 陳受頤, 1899-1978) was a Chinese-American scholar known for his groundbreaking contributions to the cultural interactions involving China and the West. After joining the faculty of Pomona College in 1941 as a professor of Chinese culture, he expanded the Asian Studies Program across Pomona College and the rest of The Claremont Colleges consortium. Professor Ch’en dedicated his academic life to cultivating researchers on China among young Americans and, as part of these efforts, became a great benefactor of The Claremont Colleges Library, donating over 4,000 Chinese and English rare books to the Asian Library during his lifetime and by bequest.

Built upon the rare books and historical documents featured in the Asian Library’s current exhibit In Honor & Memory of Professor Ch’en Shou-yi, the panel aims to provide more historical background on the development of Asian Studies programs and resources in liberal arts settings in the United States. This includes Professor Ch’en’s role through his advocacy and scholarship, and how the books and historical documents in the Ch’en Shou-yi Collection have informed and can further inspire the teaching, learning and research of faculty and students at Claremont and beyond.

We will be joined by four panelists for this discussion, followed by recollections from Professor Ch’en Shou-yi’s family and former students. The four panelists will cover the following:

Ch’en Shouyi and the Development of Asian Studies at Pomona College by Samuel Yamashita, Pomona College
Some years ago, Dr. Samuel Yamashita was invited to write a history of Asian Studies programs at liberal arts colleges, and his research revealed that 154 colleges offered courses on Asia and 76 had an Asian concentration, either a major or minor. He also discovered that Pomona College’s Asian Studies Program, which was founded in 1936, was the oldest by far. Ch’en Shou-yi was hired in 1941, and it was under his direction that Asian Studies at Pomona developed and sent well over a dozen students on to do graduate work in Asian fields at top universities. What is important to recognize, however, is that the development of Asian Studies programs like Pomona’s was encouraged by the sectarian identities of many private colleges, the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, and war – first the Second World War, and then the Cold War.

Samuel Yamashita is the Henry E. Sheffield Professor at Pomona College, where he has taught since 1983. He began his scholarly career as a specialist on two early modern Japanese Confucians, Itō Jinsai (1627–1705) and Ogyū Sorai (1666–1728) and translated into English the latter’s political treatise, Sorai Sensei Tōmonsho. In the 1990s, he turned to the Asia Pacific War and the result was Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese and Daily Life in Wartime Japan, 1940–1945. Since 2009 he has been doing research on food and published Hawaii Regional Cuisine: The Food Movement That Changed the Way Hawai’i Eats and two important articles – “The ‘Japanese Turn’ in Fine Dining in the United States, 1980–2020” and “The Quest for an Ideal Culinary Hyperlocalism” – in Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies. He is currently finishing three projects: an anthology of the writings of kaiseki chefs in Japan, a book-length study of the new hyperlocal cuisines that appeared in global cities along the Pacific Rim in this century, and a history of Japanese food.

Reflections on Professor Ch’en Shou-yi by Christopher C. Rand, Independent Researcher, Washington D.C.
Dr. Christopher C. Rand will present some personal reflections on his academic relationship with Professor Ch’en Shou-yi during the period between 1966-1970, when Dr. Rand was an undergraduate in Asian Studies at Pomona College. Included in his talk will be some thoughts about how Professor Ch’en’s mentorship exemplified his deep knowledge of Chinese tradition and desire to use his tenure at Pomona College to encourage cross-cultural understanding between China and the West.

Christopher C. Rand received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies from Pomona College in 1970, and a PhD degree in Chinese History from Harvard University in 1977. He was thereafter an officer in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency from 1979 to 2009, serving in a variety of assignments in Washington, D.C., and East Asia. Aside from his government service, Dr. Rand has maintained an avid interest in Chinese history, philosophy and literature as an independent researcher. Among his publications are: a complete English translation, with Joseph S. M. Lau, of Yuanye 原野 which is one of a trilogy of plays written by the noted Chinese dramatist Cao Yu 曹禺 (1910-1996) in the 1930s; and Military Thought in Early China, an examination of the perennial debate in China on the proper relationship between the civil (wen文) and the martial (wu武) in preserving cultural stability.

Ch’en Shou-yi’s Contributions to the Study of Chinese Literature in North America by David Wu, University of California, San Diego
This presentation will focus on insights rediscovered about Ch’en Shou-yi’s scholarship as a prominent scholar of Chinese literature in North America and the efforts taken today to introduce them to the Chinese world. Chinese Literature: A Historical Introduction, written by Ch’en Shou-yi and published by Ronald Press in 1961, introduced writers and their respective works that are under-valued in Chinese literary history, such as providing the first comprehensive contextualization of Dunhuang literature within wider Chinese literature. It was the first written history of Chinese literature in North America independently undertaken by a Chinese scholar and remained so until the 21st century.

David Wu has served as a researcher at the China Research Center at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of New Theory of Culture and Language (2003), Biography of Wang Yuanhua (2018) and other books, and is also one of the main editors of Chinese Dictionary (2020). His translation of Professor Ch’en Shou-Yi 's posthumous work Chinese Literature – A Historical Introduction will be published by Shanghai People's Publishing House in January 2025. Since 2019, he has published two papers studying Ch’en Shou-Yi's academic achievements in Chinese academic magazines.

The Ch’en Shou-yi Collection: Opportunities for Teaching and Research by Feng Xiao, Pomona College
This presentation will highlight two directed reading projects centered on the Ch’en Shou-yi Collection. One project analyzes the social network within Dr. Ch’en’s circle of friends, drawing from his correspondence with Chinese intellectuals. The second project examines books donated by Dr. Ch’en that were published before 1912. These two projects serve as examples in bridging teaching and research with Dr. Ch’en’s legacy.

Feng Xiao is an Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures at Pomona College. His scholarly pursuits encompass Chinese linguistics, research methodologies, digital humanities, AI-assisted language learning and Chinese connoisseurship. Joining Pomona in 2015, he has authored more than 20 academic articles and contributed as an ad hoc reviewer for over 20 academic journals.

After the panelists, there will also be remarks and recollections given by Robin Ch’en Leonhard and Loren Chan Singh.

Panel Chair / Moderator: Zhiru Ng, Professor of Religious Studies; Chair of Religious Studies; Coordinator of Asian Studies.

Panel Organizer: Xiuying Zou, Head of Asian Library, The Claremont Colleges Library.

This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided starting at 4 p.m.

Special Thanks to Our Co-sponsors

  • Asian Library Innovation Fund
  • Pomona College Asian Languages and Literature Department, Asian Studies Program, History Department, Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations
  • The M. C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography, and Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources, Rare Book School, University of Virginia
Wednesday, April 3, 2024
4:15pm - 5:45pm
Time Zone:
Pacific Time - US & Canada (change)
Founders Room, Honnold 2
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