The Hang Seng Wairarapa Academy 恒生白水書院, in the Wairarapa (Maori for ‘rippling waters’) Valley, New Zealand, is an independent body established by John Minford and Geremie R Barmé in collaboration with the School of Translation of the Hang Seng Management College in Hong Kong.
The Academy promotes New Sinology, a concept first propounded by Geremie Barmé in 2005 when he established the China Heritage Project at The Australian National University, and given form in the initial phase of the Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU, which he established with the support of the Australian Commonwealth Government in 2010, and which he led as its director from April 2010 until May 2015.
We believe a new framework is required with which to enhance the serious and independent study of the broader aspects of traditional Chinese Studies and to further a deeper and more cultured understanding of China and its increasing global presence. Such a framework will also help train a new generation of translators and scholars, of men and women engaged in public life and international affairs, who will be grounded in the powerfully relevant aspects of Chinese culture and thought, and will be genuinely competent to engage with and translate Chinese texts so that their deeper and abiding cultural meaning can be properly understood and effectively transmitted. A deeper understanding and a finer quality of translation are both essential means towards better international understanding. Such an holistic approach to the study of China today is sometimes referred to as a New Sinology, its goal being to expand and enrich the increasingly short-sighted outlook of universities and institutions across the world, and to embrace broader humanistic values. For more on New Sinology, see here.
Initially, over the three years 2017-2019, a series of five fortnight-long symposium-style gatherings will be convened, in New Zealand and Hong Kong, with intervening follow-through activities. An international group of twenty leading China scholars, artists and translators will be invited as Academicians to mentor upcoming scholars, translators and analysts in New Sinology. They will also help to formulate the future direction of the Hang Seng Wairarapa Academy. A similar number of mid-career and young scholars and translators will be invited to participate and will be mentored as potential future Academicians.
We are acutely aware of the dangers inherent in the forming of a new body, no matter how ‘non-institutional’ or ‘independent’. We believe that the Academy must not be allowed to become an institution, and fall prey to the very same managerial traps that beset the failing universities of today. Rather it must remain open and informal, flexible and creative, a lively global salon, a latter-day Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion 蘭亭集, that will draw in like minds to a fruitful interplay of the spirit, in a free rhythm that allows ideas to be shared and to grow spontaneously.
In terms of its literary style the Academy may wish to emulate the age-old Chinese mode of the informal jottings 筆記, its critical approach may prefer to be one of appreciation and celebration, akin to the ‘poetry commentaries’ 詩話 of former days. It may generate its own anecdotal blog, recording interesting insights, moments or encounters, a present-day Tales of the World 世說新語, its symposia may stimulate not stale theoretical discourse but ‘pure talk’ 清談. We may look to the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove 竹林七賢 for inspiration, but also in our own tradition to the Pre-Raphaelites, the Bloomsbury coterie, to the Davidsbündler in their ongoing struggle against the Philistines.
Planning Colloquia, 2017-2019
Over next three years from 2017 to 2019, a series of five fortnight-long symposium-style gatherings will be convened, in New Zealand and Hong Kong, with intervening follow-through activities. An international group of twenty leading China scholars, artists and translators will be invited as Academicians to mentor upcoming scholars, translators and analysts in the New Sinology. They will also help to formulate the future direction of the Hang Seng Wairarapa Academy. A similar number of mid-career and young scholars and translators will be invited to participate and will be mentored as potential future Academicians.
The first meeting of the Academy will be held in January 2017 in the idyllic surroundings of the Wairarapa Valley, a scenic area a short distance from Wellington, the capital and cultural centre of New Zealand. Here scholars will gather in discussion and lead a number of short courses on subjects ranging from Chinese literature and art, philosophy, and literary translation, to international relations and the study and decoding of China’s contemporary political culture. With the collaboration of senior Academicians, a number of specialised symposia will also be conducted on a range of topics. Through teaching, discussion and debate new ideas will be generated, and ways and means explored to further the Academy’s aims into the future. We will discuss such topics as the overall structure of the Academy, its mix of research and training, its financial sustainability and the best balance between a virtual, online presence and a physical location, with attendant amenities. Future gatherings of the Academy in 2017-2019 will alternate between the Wairarapa Valley and the Hang Seng Management College, Hong Kong.