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The Crossroads of Disciplines

The Chinese Programme Academic Salon

Ang Wei Yang, Li Yunfei

The Chinese Programme at the School of Humanities offers a diversified Programme in which undergraduate and postgraduate students are exposed to a variety of disciplines such as Literature and Culture, History and Thoughts, Linguistics, Chinese Diaspora, Translation, and Creative Writing. Launched in September 2016 by the Programme Graduate Committee comprising Assistant Professor Qu Jingyi, Assistant Professor Ting Chun Chun, and Assistant Professor Lim Ni Eng, the monthly academic salon provides an opportunity for graduate students and faculty members to present their latest research. Through the salon, the presenters are able to receive constructive feedback about their projects while the audiences get the opportunity to learn about the specific projects. The salon is designed as a safe space for students to practise their skills of academic presentation and to learn to ask relevant questions. Conducted in both Chinese and English, the academic salon has evolved into a lively space for postgraduate students, faculty members, and postdoctoral fellows to mingle and socialise, learning from each other’s research and sharing their experiences in academic life.

Presentation of Papers and Thesis

Besides completing their graduation theses, it is important for postgraduate students to present their papers in conferences and journals. As iron sharpens iron, the salon is a platform where students hone their presentation skills before heading to conferences. The discussion session after each presentation allows faculty members and fellow students to critique the presentation and clarify ambiguous content. Feedback such as these are helpful and vital for the student to improve on their paper.

One of the Master’s students, Kong Lingli presented her paper, “The Moveable Feast: Shaping the Landscape of Orchid Pavilion”, where she explores the canonisation of the landscape of Orchid Pavilion. Her paper has since been published in a Chinese journal, Qilai Lunheng, last September.

Thesis writing is never an easy process but we are not alone in this challenging journey. In the salon, students can share their work-in-progress with the faculty members and students and iron out difficult ideas that they find hard to handle alone. This collaborative working environment also helps the students to look out for blind spots, which they may not have noticed previously.

To date, six papers and six theses have been presented.

Interdisciplinary Conversations

The diversity of the demographic in the Chinese Programme creates an interdisciplinary conversation, where people of different backgrounds can contribute to the conversation from various perspectives. In these conversations, the collision of ideas often happen and perspectives are often renewed. The topics shared ranges from classical literature to modern literature, archaeology to anthropology, history to thoughts, contemporary policies to popular cultures.

These are the papers which have been presented:

​​An overview of Academic Salons​ ​ ​ ​
Date​ Speakers​ Topics​
​1 ​16 Sep 2016 ​ANG Wei Yang, LEE Wang Rong, ZHOU Hao ​Experience Sharing: Workshop on Research Methodology in Humanities and Social Science
​2 ​14 Oct 2016 ​QIAN Hao ​Zeng Guofan’s Anthology of Eighteen Poets and his Poetic Views
​14 Oct 2016 ​WANG Zhitian ​Dunhuang Folk-fu as Prosimetric Texts: Centering on Hangpeng-fu
​3 ​28 Oct 2016 ​QU Xiao-Lei ​Incorporating Religious Organization:
The Politics of State Regulation and Patronage in Chinese Popular Religion
​​28 Oct 2016 ​YEH Hui-Yuan Ivy ​Ancient Human Parasites in Ethnic Chinese Populations
​4 ​10 Feb 2017 ​LU Siao-Wun ​The Travels of a Poet: An Analysis of Gu Cheng’s Diasporic Poetry
​5 ​7 Apr 2017 ​QIAN Lifeng ​New Chinese Immigrants’ Integration in Singapore: the “Singaporeans-First” Policies as a Perspective
​6 ​21 Apr 2017 ​KONG Lingli ​The Moveable Feast: Shaping the Landscape of Orchid Pavilion
​21 Apr 2017​ ​WANG Xiaoya ​The Ideology of Hong Kong Erotic Movies: From “Sex and Zen” Series
​7 ​29 Sep 2017 ​TEO Sum Lim ​Towards an Environmental Ethics: A Study of Ecology Writing in Malaysia and Singapore's Chinese Poetry and Proses (1976-2016)
​8 ​27 Oct 2017 ​ANG Wei Yang ​A Study of Tao Wangling’s Commentaries on Laozi and Zhuangzi​
​9 ​10 Nov 2017 ​XU Duoduo ​A Study of Dongba and Daba Oral Traditions
​10 ​23 Feb 2018 ​GU Xuan ​“Sweetness” and the “Distinction between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Value”
​11 ​23 Mar 2018 ​XUE Xiaojing ​Risk Management and Social Welfare Providing Strategy: A Case Study of “Sending Medical Workers to the Community” in J City
​12 ​20 Apr 2018 ​LI Yunfei ​The Daily Life in Revolution Times: Studies on Cao Nai Qian’s Novels
 

Apart from our own postgraduate students, exchange students occasionally take the stage to present their research. This semester, Gu Xuan, a PhD candidate from Tsinghua University presented on “Sweetness” and the “Distinction between Extrinsic and Intrinsic Value”. In the paper, she explores how Su Shi, the Song dynasty writer introduced the metaphor of “sweetness” into the repertoire of the Chinese literature. Xue Xiaojing, a PhD candidate from Zhejiang University also presented her case study on the medical policy of a city in Zhejiang. Through the diversity of research topics, the salon has also drawn audiences beyond the Chinese Programme. 

Experience Sharing

Participation in workshops and conferences, visiting at other universities and research institutions, as well as field research are valuable learning experiences in postgraduate studies. From time to time, our students have the chance to learn from renowned scholars and utilise the facilities and resources in institutions abroad. Through the sharing sessions, insights are multiplied and the audience can also get a glimpse of the facilities and resources that are available to them beyond the four walls of the school.

Three of our Master’s students, Ang Wei Yang, Lee Wan Rong and Zhou Hao shared the insights that they have gained from the Workshop on Research Methodology in Humanities and Social Science, which was jointly organised by the Department of Chinese in University of Malaya and Ministry of Culture of Taiwan. In the conference, senior scholars from Taiwan, Cheng Yu-yu, Huang Ko-wu, Lee Yu-cheng, and Wang Ming-ke shared their views on research methodology and interdisciplinary research, demonstrating how collaborative works between disciplines are possible. In addition, the senior scholars also shared about the possible means to cultivate an interdisciplinary perspective. These insights are invaluable to our students as they navigate through the various challenges in the fast-changing academic world.

In one of the sessions, our PhD candidate, Qu Xiao-Lei also presented his findings. Qu conducted an 11-month fieldwork and oral history interview in Xiamen, China. His thesis aims to explore how the state intervenes in the popular religious organisation in contemporary mainland China. In the same session, postdoctoral fellow, Yeh Hui-yuan Ivy, who earned her PhD in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology in the University of Cambridge presented on Ancient Human Parasites in Ethnic Chinese Populations, which is a new topic to our students. 

Through these sharings, the faculty members and students get to know about the research methodology of other disciplines and learn how they can incorporate these findings and methods of other disciplines into their own research.

Going Forward

The salon will continue to be a platform where people of different disciplines and experiences can share their expertise. We will resume the salon in September 2018, focusing the spotlight on the disciplines of linguistics and translation. A new dynamic can be expected as we welcome the new graduate students in the new academic year. Join us and contribute to the dynamic and vibrant discussions!



This news item was first published in Constellations​, the magazine for the Humanities in Singapore. ​ ​