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Owen: Tang Prize shows vision for Sinology's future

2018/06/20 13:10:31

Stephen Owen

New York, June 20 (CNA) Stephen Owen, who has been named as a recipient of the 2018 Tang Prize in Sinology along with Yoshinobu Shiba, said he is grateful for being honored with a prize that seeks to unite Chinese culture with all other cultures of the world and grow with them together.

"I would like to thank the Tang Prize committee for selecting me as one of the two 2018 representatives in the field of Sinology," he said in an interview with CNA.

"Every recommendation and nomination in this field is a different and legitimate version of some possible vision of this field for the future," he said.

Owen said Sinology remains deeply grounded in the Han Chinese past while always seeking new ways to keep that past alive for new eras.

"The field hopes to unite its ethnic cultural origins with the possibilities its gains by moving through the world, moving among cultures and growing with them," he said.

Owen, 71, has been the single most important scholar of Chinese classical poetry in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. A leading scholar on Tang poetry, he has written widely in other literary fields, and has translated important writings in both prose and poetry.

Through his work, he has brought not only penetrating insights into Sinology, but also a breadth of comparative applications and theoretical sophistication that have made his scholarship unique worldwide, according to the Tang Prize Selection Committee.

Speaking of his personal works, which include "The Poetry of Early Tang," "The Great Age of Chinese Poetry: The High Tang" and "The End of Chinese Middle Ages," Owen said he believes that the most important thing is to "be loyal to the past and at the same time find new ways to make the work show its vitality in the contemporary academic field to lead readers to appreciate the complexity and charm of Chinese history."

He said he looks forward to continuing to contribute in this area so that more people can feel the vitality of Sinology.

On his literary study and teaching career, Owen said that the younger generation prefers contemporary literature and is becoming less interested in classical literature.

He hopes, however, that more people will realize that classical literature is not boring and in fact it brings different pleasures, in his case bringing him unforgettable memories.

His works have won numerous awards and achievements in his academic career, including from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In his eyes, however, being selected as a Tang Prize recipient is the highest honor in his life.

"If I was to look beyond one good paper, and a good work here and there, and to think how the field has grown and how it can grow, this as I said is not something to be done in one year or even many. As a goal it is as lasting as the vision that founded the prize itself."

He will share with Shiba, a leading Japanese Sinologist, a cash prize of NT$40 million and a research grant of NT$10 million at an award ceremony scheduled for September in Taipei.

(By Ozzy Yin and S.C. Chang)