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symposium: day one

Columbia Valley Undergraduate Asian Studies Research Symposium

5:00-5:45 Welcoming Reception
5:45-6:15 Ann Christensen and Pei-Pei Hsu "Under the Same Sun and Moon"

The symposium took place in a faculty conference room complete with comfortable sofa chairs and couches along three of the walls and a table located in the front center of the room for each group of panelist speakers. Despite the laid-back atmosphere I spent most of the evening with butterflies in my stomach thinking about how things would go the following day. The first speaker was a Professor of Ceramics at WSU who spoke about how she had 'gained permission' to use traditional Chinese ceramics as an influence during the first of her three trips to the country, but no time was spent discussing the work being done in China today as she concentrated on slides of her own abstract creations. The second speaker was a student from Taiwan who had created a pottery series of fruits resting on pillows, but her own presentation was limited to a short, five minute talk about her time at the university.


6:15-8:00 Panel 1: Themes in Chinese Literature

Trish Hayward « The Love Triangle of Hong Lou Meng: Finally in Equilibrium »
Ruth Wherland « Narrative Style and Style of Narrators: Who is Telling the Story in The Story of the Stone »
Xie Ping « The Struggle of a Flower in the Rain »
Amy Hogg « Attachment and Suffering in Story of the Stone: Dai-yu's Failure to Transcend Impermanence »

Despite the different titles, three of the panelists spoke about the same book, 紅樓夢, which has been translated as Story of the Stone, Dream of Red Mansions, and Hóng Lóu Mèng. Unfortunately, the first two speakers read directly from their paper and spoke so quickly that, despite having read the book myself, it was hard to keep up with what they were saying. The second speaker sounded extremely sarcastic throughout her presentation, though her theory that the narrative style of the book was neither third-person limited nor third-person omniscient, but rather, third-person composite was rather interesting. The third presenter spoke about a Taiwanese short story which I'm not familiar with, while the final panelist proposed that poetry could have saved one of the female protagonists from death had she only invested more energy in her writing.

After the presentations came a period for the faculty to discuss the students' work, which was followed by a general question and answer session open to everyone in attendance. Surprisingly, the panel chairs were fairly critical of the papers without offering a single piece of encouragement to the students. Prof. Cao Weiguo (who had us read 紅樓夢 in my Asian Lit class last semester) was slightly less severe, while Prof. Roger Chan went after Xie Ping with a vengeance. What are you supposed to do when your panel chair wants to pick a verbal fight with you? Prof. Chan claimed that the author was using literature to metaphorically reinforce Taiwanese nationalism and, when Ms. Ping tried to point out that the author was originally from Guangzhou and wrote about villages of immigrants from mainland China, he began arguing how that didn't count for anything. Oh really?

I was the only student to ask a question that night, more inquisitive than critical, which related to Ms. Hayward's paper. After the first panel it was hard to guess how things would go on Saturday, but with three sets of panels scheduled before my own there would be plenty of opportunity to find out.
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