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Tour of Asia success in spite of rain

The Tour of Asia, an afternoon filled with science and culture about Asia, attracted many visitors. In spite of the heavy rain, the visitors chose from among dozens of lectures and debates. This knowledge festival marked the opening of the Asian Library earlier in the day.

In the reception area of the Academy Building, visitors could have manga-style sketches made of themselves. 


Professor Kees Waaldijk (Law) explained that in Asian countries, unlike in Western countries, there is often little correlation between social acceptance of homosexuality and the legal protection of homosexuals. His PhD candidate Jingshu Zhu, from China, is studying the situation in China: homosexuality is permitted, but must not be on public display. It is not unusual for a gay man and a lesbian woman to marry each other while at the same time they both continue to have a same-sex partner. Professor Saskia Wieringa (UvA) talked about the worsening situation in Indonesia. Raids on suspected gay parties and arrests are on the increase, and a law banning all sex between people of the same sex is under preparation.

The guitar ensemble Hambre Y Sed ('Hunger and Thirst') played Japanese music. Their standard repertoire is Spanish/Latin American, but one of the musicians is Japanese, which set accompanist Wilco van Wee thinking about branching out into Japanese music.


Specially for the occasion, the guitarists wore a so-called happy coat -  a Japanese party jacket - and on their heads a rolled up scarf: an old-fashioned type of sweatband. Take a close look and you will see 3 October on their jackets: they were borrowed from the 3 October Association. 


India today. A panel views India's diverse communities through the lens of material culture. From l to r: Erik de Maaker (cultural anthropology, Leiden), Radhika Gupta (LIAS, Leiden), Sarthak Bagchi (PhD candidate LIAS/KITLV, Leiden), Professor Pralay Kanungo (LIAS/IIAS, Leiden), Manuela Ciotti, (Aarhus University, Denmark).

Prof. Nira Wickramasinghe (LIAS) heads the panel.

Visitors could make use of rickshaws to get from one location to the next. They offer more protection from sun than rain, so there was little chance of remaining dry. 


In the Lipsius Building short films were shown, including a black and white film about a man with Indonesian roots who, inspired by a photo, goes looking for his family, or at least tries to find out who the people in the photo are. 


Leidener Hans Stoop is actually a guitarist, but he saw the chance to have the songs on his latest CD sung by a much-admired Indonesian singer. And Indonesian music means gamelan, so he also learned to play this typical Indonesian instrument. Stoop's CD could be hears in the Academy Building, where he also demonstrated his skills with the gamelan. 


One of the larger halls in the Lipsius Building was reserved for the debate on North Korea today. Chris Green (Korea Studies) was moderator of a diverse panel of speakers: Professor Remco Breuker (Korea Studies), Casper van der Veen (NRC), Jang Jin-sung (a North Korean dissident) and Arjen van den Berg (Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

One of the comments made was: We may well be anti the North Korean state, but that doesn't mean we are against the North Korean people. 


Out-of-the-box thinking was the order of the day: one suggestion was to 'make sure wifi is available in North Korea' and then to drop iPhones there.  

A number of questions were directed specifically at Jang Jin-sung (centre). Breuker translated his autobiography into English and Dutch.

Asian delicacies featured strongly, with tastings both at the University Library and in the Academy Building.  A mini-meal on a stick was offered in the Academy Building: a block of rice, a piece of chicken with saté sauce, a prawn cracker and a cashew nut. 

Another means of transport was the tuktuk, where blue-suited drivers drove guests between the different locations - keeping them dry at the same time. 


The commemorative book Voyage of Discovery; Asian Library at Leiden University is a beautifully designed book edited by Alexander Reeuwijk. Queen Maxíma was presented with a copy earlier in the day. 

Leiden University Press has published other books on Asia this year, such as Health-related Votive Tablets from Japan, by Peter de Smet and Ian Reader, China and the Barbarians by Henk Schulte Nordholt and Masked Warriors (about the face shield worn by the samurai) by Bas Verberk.


The International Institute for Asian Studies at Rapenburg 59 offered a continuous poster presentation showing all that the Institute does.  Fellow Eva Ambos (from the University of Heidelberg) explained the poster about her research: The Heritagization of the (Post)War in Sri Lanka

IAS encourages and conducts multidisciplinary research on Asia. The Institute acts as a global mediator between scientists and civil society and promotes national and international cooperation. This is done through international research programmes, networks, conferences, seminars and round tables. In addition, the IIAS receives guest researchers from all over the world and has awarded a prize for the best Asia Master's thesis. The focus of the IIAS is on Asian cities, Asia's global and cultural heritage. 

Another event at IIAS: a tasting of Batavia Dutch Coffee. This company set up by Leiden psychology alumni Jits Krol and Robert Nijhof produces, sells and promotes iced coffee. Not yet quite as popular as iced tea, but that could well change.  

The Tour of Asia drew to a close at 4.30 hrs and it was time for the reception in the University Library. Inside the hall was filled with people; outside the rain was still falling.  

(CH, photos Monique Shaw)