Universiteit Leiden

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Wilt Idema at 75: Politics, Technology, and Fifty Years in Chinese Studies

Tuesday 10 December 2019
Followed by drinks
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden
Vossius Room
Wilt Idema in the early 1970s at the Sinological Institute, then located in what is now the Museum of Ethnology. Photographer unidentified.

On the occasion of Wilt Idema’s 75th birthday, colleagues and friends in Chinese studies and beyond are invited to join Wilt as he looks back at over fifty years in Chinese Studies. All are welcome. The event will be followed by drinks.

Political and technological developments have greatly changed Chinese studies over the course of the last fifty years, creating not only new possibilities but also new challenges. In the 1960s and 1970s the PRC was almost completely closed to foreign scholars, and during the Cultural Revolution scholarly production came to a total stand-still. When the PRC opened up in the 1980s, Taiwan too started on a course of liberalization, so students going there encountered societies in the throes of a cultural fever. As the number of colleges and universities in China increased in the following decades, their production of research rapidly expanded. Digital technologies have made these publications also available outside China, at least if one is affiliated with an institution that can afford the subscription to these databases. But what appears online may disappear again, and Chinese government policy clearly impacts what is studied and how. Against this background I hope to discuss the development of my own involvement with the study and translation of China’s vernacular literature of the late-imperial period, from the 1960s to the present day.

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