TANG PRIZE/Art historian Jessica Rawson wins Taiwan's Tang Prize in Sinology

06/20/2022 11:31 AM
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Image source: facebook.com/tangprize
Image source: facebook.com/tangprize

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) Jessica Rawson, a British art historian and curator specializing in ancient Chinese art, has been named the 2022 Tang Prize laureate in Sinology for her "gift and mastery" of the craft of reading the art and artifacts of Chinese civilization.

Chinese literature scholar and Academia Sinica Academician David Wang (王德威), chairman of the Tang Prize selection committee for Sinology, made the announcement at a press conference in Taipei on Monday.

"By giving voice to the ancient world of objects, Jessica Rawson has taught generations how to see when they look at things, and her acuity and vast visual learning have given new insight into the world of the lineages, transformations, and migrations of mute things," Wang said.

The 79-year-old British scholar said she was "incredibly honored" to be awarded this prize.

"I'm an archaeologist interested in material culture. And I'm not a specialist in the Chinese language. And so I never expected to be considered. So I was almost shocked and surprised and very happy to learn that the foundation had been interested in my work," she said in a pre-recorded speech.

Rawson is considered a leading art historian of ancient Chinese art, with a particular interest in the cosmology of the Chinese Han period (206 BC-220 AD) and its relationship to tombs and their decorations.

She has written numerous books on such topics as Chinese jade, Chinese poets from the 7th to 13th centuries, and Chinese silver of the Tang Dynasty, and was the renowned keeper of Oriental Antiquities at the British Museum.

After many years at the British Museum, Rawson was Warden of Merton College, Oxford, from 1994 until her retirement in 2010. She served as pro-vice-chancellor at University of Oxford from 2006 for a term of five years.

Currently, she is the honorary research associate at Oxford University's School of Archaeology.

Rawson is also a member of the scholars' council of the Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, a member of the Art Fund's Advisory Council, a fellow of the British Academy, and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to oriental studies.

Her achievement in Chinese studies has also won her a number of honors in China, among them an honorary professorship at Peking University.

According to the Tang Prize Foundation, Rawson's contributions show that "besides the written word, there is another talent, another craft, which, by reading the arts and artifacts of the world, allow us to interpret and understand distant and ancient societies, with their beliefs and interactions."

Her studies of ancient Chinese tombs also provided a complete afterlife world for the dead, it said.

Aside from her academic achievements, Rawson also develops and promotes exchanges in the field of Sinology to help the public better understand Chinese civilization with the exhibitions she curated at the British Museum, it added.

The Tang Prize is a biennial award established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin (尹衍樑), chairman of the Ruentex Group, to honor people who have made prominent contributions in four categories -- sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology, and rule of law.

The Tang Prize in Sinology recognizes the study of Sinology, awarding research on China and its related fields, such as Chinese thought, history, philology, linguistics, archaeology, philosophy, religion, traditional canons, literature, and art, excluding literary and art works.

Winners of the prize receive a cash award of NT$40 million (US$1.34 million) and an additional NT$10 million in research funding, along with a gold medal and a certificate.

The inaugural Sinology laureate was Yu Ying-shih (余英時) in 2014. William Theodore de Bary won the 2016 Sinology prize, followed by Stephen Owen and Yoshinobu Shiba in 2018, and Wang Gungwu (王賡武) in 2020.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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