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TANG PRIZE/Taiwanese-American historian Hsu Cho-yun wins Tang Prize in Sinology

06/20/2024 01:35 PM
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Taiwanese-American historian Hsu Cho-yun. CNA photo June 20, 2024
Taiwanese-American historian Hsu Cho-yun. CNA photo June 20, 2024

Taipei, June 20 (CNA) Hsu Cho-yun (許倬雲), a 94-year-old Taiwanese-American historian who specializes in ancient Chinese history, has been named the 2024 Tang Prize laureate in Sinology for his integration of social science methodologies into historical research and his devotion to comprehensive historical narratives.

Hsu was chosen for his "holistic approach to the study of Chinese history; his engagement with the cultural and intellectual exchanges between China and the world; and his capacity to broach contemporary issues from the perspective of antiquity," said David Wang (王德威), chairman of the Tang Prize Selection Committee for Sinology, in a remote video at a press conference in Taipei on Thursday.

"With his erudition and public spirit, Professor Hsu best exemplifies a Sinologist's historical sensibility and worldly vision," said Wang, a Harvard professor who is also a Chinese literature scholar and an academician at Taiwan's top research institute Academia Sinica.

In a pre-recorded response at the press conference, Hsu said he was fortunate to be awarded the prize, and he expressed the hope that the Tang Prize would serve as an inspiration to other academics.

"I consider myself extremely fortunate to win the Tang Prize, as I can think of maybe 10-20 scholars of different ages at the same academic level as myself," said Hsu. "I hope that knowing it is possible to receive recognition in one's chosen field, even at the age of 94, will inspire more scholars from the younger generation as well as those in their prime."

Born in 1930 in Xiamen City, China, Hsu and his family moved to Taiwan in 1948, one year before the end of the Chinese Civil War. He received both his master's and bachelor's degrees from Taipei-based National Taiwan University's Department of History before earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Hsu held academic positions at Academia Sinica (1956-1971), before moving to the United States to teach at the University of Pittsburgh in 1970.

After graduating, he taught at National Taiwan University for a few years and then as a Professor of History and Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh for 30 years.

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

According to the Tang Prize Foundation, Hsu specializes in particular topics related to the Zhou, Qin, and Han periods, providing unique insights that contribute to a comprehensive interpretation of the history of early China.

Notable examples include his exploration of Huaxia consciousness among kinship groups in Western Zhou Civilization; the central/local and political/social bureaucratic system in his work "Qiugu Bian" (求古編) or Discovering Antiquity; and the intensive rural/commercial market economy in Han Agriculture.

These works form what he calls "the three matrixes of Chinese culture" which can be considered the foundations of Chinese culture.

Beyond his scholarly contributions, Hsu has led new trends in historical research, influencing Taiwanese historiography for three decades, the foundation said.

After the 1980s, many of his students emerged as renowned historians who excelled in integrating historiography with the social sciences.

Hsu's historical perspectives have been widely disseminated through lectures and publications in mainland China since the 1990s and had a significant impact on academia and society all around the world, according to the foundation.

Hsu has transformed historical research into a resource for humanistic education, publishing numerous works on general themes from epochal transitions, to leadership, organizational systems, the rise and fall of great powers, knowledge and democracy, the foundation said, praising Hsu as a "model figure demonstrating both Western academic rigor and traditional Chinese intellectual engagement."

Some of the awards and acknowledgements Hsu has received include a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 4th Global Chinese Studies Ceremony in 2020, and being named a distinguished professor at Taipei-based National Chengchi University (2010-2022).

Taiwanese-American historian Hsu Cho-yun. CNA photo June 20, 2024
Taiwanese-American historian Hsu Cho-yun. CNA photo June 20, 2024

He is also a recipient of the AAS Award for Distinguished Contribution to Asian Studies (2004) and has various honorary doctorate degrees from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; the Chinese University of Hong Kong; and National Chengchi University, among others.

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.

A cash prize of NT$40 million (US$1.23 million) and an additional NT$10 million in research funding are allocated to each award category.

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

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, Wang Gungwu (王賡武) in 2020, and Jessica Rawson in 2022.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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