The 2018 Young Scholars' Forum in Chinese Studies, organised by The Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) and CCK–APC, was held on 24–26 May 2018 at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The forum aims to nurture young scholars in Chinese Studies and strengthen the networks they can utilise in the future.
The theme of the 2018 forum is "Culture and Society of Middle Period China and Beyond". A total of 35 young scholars were invited to present their research papers in this year's forum. Conference papers are divided into 11 panels scheduled over 3 days. Participants presented their studies in middle-period China and beyond, and various subjects were covered, including literature, culture and society; popular legal institutions and historiography; women and society; craft and communication; and religious institutions and practices.
Local faculties from various departments such as Fines Arts, History, Chinese Language and Literature, and Cultural and Religious Studies were invited to serve as discussants at the forum. We were very glad to have Professor Hon Tze-ki, Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong, as the moderator in the panel "Legal Institutions and Historiography in Middle Period China and Beyond", to share and give guidance to young scholars.
This year's forum received 201 applications. After rigorous selection by the organising committee, 35 applicants were invited to present their papers. The presenters came from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, as well as other regions in Asia, United Kingdom, Europe and America. Two-thirds of them came from overseas, reflecting the forum's effort in enhancing international communication in Chinese studies.
Below are the sharings from two of the participants, Lik Hang Tsui, Postdoctoral fellow of Harvard University, and Liu Jialong of Leiden University.
1) Lik Hang Tsui, Postdoctoral fellow, Harvard University
I had wanted to join the Young Scholars' Forum in Chinese Studies at CUHK for years. Several of my friends had attended it, so I realized this was something I should become part of before I could no longer be counted as a "young scholar". Once I learnt that this year's theme was on middle-period China, I knew this was something I could not miss. It is the first academic conference in Hong Kong that I participated in after coming back from years of teaching and studies elsewhere, so it means a lot to me personally.
It turned out to be a most rewarding event as I have expected. Realizing this was a great chance to share my current research and solicit feedback on it, I seized the opportunity to present a paper on the institutional arrangements for the delivery of personal letters in Song China. This topic was not part of my doctoral dissertation, therefore researching and writing up the conference paper enabled me to consolidate my study of Chinese epistolary culture. I see this as an important step in crafting my book manuscript so I am very grateful to have the opportunity to attend the forum.
Experienced faculty members acted as panel chairs and discussants. In most of the panels, presenters are asked to comment on the other panelists' papers. We are told this is new to the format of the conference panels, and I find it an excellent arrangement indeed. It hones our skills in giving feedback to our peers. Thanks to the helpful organising team, all the logistic arrangements were superb as well. We had plenty of opportunities to know more about the other participants while staying at a college in CUHK.
Prof. Lai Chi-tim was kind to invite me to share my digital research with the China Biographical Database (CBDB) at an ad-hoc panel on Chinese digital humanities. I was very glad that I could talk about some of the digitization workflows that we used for processing Chinese biographies in local gazetteers. Recent research in Chinese studies is no doubt deeply impacted by digital technologies; the same also applies to our conversations as scholars. Meeting our peers face-to-face at the forum paves the way for more exchanges online, and many of the forum participants are now part of a Wechat group. Not only will our exchanges go on, but the old and new friendships that CUHK helped us build will also last, I am sure.
2) Liu Jialong, Leiden University
It was really a great pleasure to be a formal participant of the 5th Young Scholars' Forum in Chinese Studies held in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Herein, I want to firstly express my gratitude to all the organisers and assistants of the forum. Without you, I could not have gained so much from the forum. I am really grateful that you had settled all logistics issues so that I could fully devote myself to pure academic exploration.
About the papers presented in the forum, two features have left a deep impression on me. The first is that the forum was interdisciplinary, which was clearly reflected through the titles of the 11 panels, in which literature, classics, history, art, and many other disciplines were included. The topics covered political history, legal history, cultural history, medical history, religion studies, gender studies, material culture, etc. Such a number of disciplines and topics greatly extended my academic horizon. And I was forced to rethink the development and presentation of my arguments in my paper and the limitations of my own perspective. Moreover, in an interdisciplinary forum, how to communicate effectively is a big challenge indeed. For example, when other participants may not be familiar with the field that one is working on, what narrative strategy should be taken by the presenter? Coincidently, the paper I presented at the forum was about the audience to steles in the Tang dynasty. How to attract a larger audience to my paper was also an issue I needed to deal with during my presentation.
The other feature of the forum is that the participants' attention to the issue of interaction in history. Different types of interaction, such as interaction among different groups in history, as well as interactions between the central court and local government/society, between the East and the West, between literature and politics, and so forth, were covered in the forum. Under the framework of interaction, each paper must deal with at least two subjects. The papers, thus, first presented the complexity of history, and then attempted to shed light on such complex phenomena.
Last but not the least, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the organizer and everyone involved in the forum. Your hard work has ensured a most fruitful experience for all of us.