DISARMING MUTAL MISCONCEPTIONS: CHINESE AMERICAN WRITERS IMPACT CHINA TODAY
New Findings from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center
Amerasia Journal's International Edition
"Chinese American writers and their novels, stories, and poetry are making a major impact on the teaching of American literature in China today," according to Prof. Russell C. Leong, the editor of Amerasia Journal's recently released issue, Volume 24: 2, entitled "Word Travels: Asian American Literature in China, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Singapore, and the U.S."
“With America celebrating its multicultural 44th president, it’s timely to focus on better cross-cultural communications. Literature has the power to bring American and Chinese peoples together by disarming their mutual misconceptions."
Chinese American Literature in China and the U.S.
Maxine Hong Kingston and Zhang Ziqing, Nanjing, China
Three years in the making, this special international edition of Amerasia Journal gathers leading scholars from the People's Republic of China, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Singapore, and the U.S. and contains rare 19th and 20th century photographs. Amerasia Journal, published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, has been the leading journal in Asian American Studies for the past 40 years.
Chinese and Asian American writers, in fact, have been read, published, and taught since the late 1960s in U.S. schools, colleges, and universities from Yale to UCLA. But few outside the People's Republic know that also in today's China, the poems, stories, and novels of Chinese American writers are being read, taught, translated, and critiqued in major Chinese universities in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Xian, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, and also in Taipei.
Wu Bing first went to Hawaii in 1980 as a visiting scholar of the East West Center--and began to read James Michener's Hawaii, which first aroused her interest in the Chinese living there. Wu states that "Asian American literature has indeed provided me with a fuller picture of the U.S.
Upon her return to Beijing, Wu began teaching Asian American literature to graduate students of the English Department's American Studies Program at Beijing Foreign Studies University. There, in 2003, she founded the Chinese American Literature Research Center.
Zhang Ziqing was one of the early supporters and translators of Chinese American literature. In an overview, A History of 20th Century American Poetry (1995, 1997), published in Chinese, Zhang included a section on Chinese American poets. His essay, "A Chinese Encounters Chinese American Literature" in this edition, is a personal account of his meetings with Chinese American writers and his experiences with the literature.
Yingguo Xu, a professor of the Nankai University of Science and Engineering compiled, An Anthology of Chinese American Literature, the first of its kind published in China, in 2004. Xu feels that Chinese American works, rather than being seen primarily as "overseas Chinese literature" in fact can do the opposite: open up perspectives for the study of contemporary American literature with its predominate themes of cultural conflict, class, race, gender, and identity.
In Taiwan, writers from Frank Chin to Maxine Hong Kingston are also studied by scholars including Shan Te-Hsing, Pin-chia Feng, Ho Wen-ching, Lee Yucheng, and others. They have helped to sustain a cross-straits dialogue between Taiwan-based and mainland based Chinese through journals based in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles.
A number of other U.S.-based Chinese American scholars have helped to sustain literary exchanges between Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China, and the rest of the world. UCLA's King-Kok Cheung has given talks in Beijing, Tianjin, Taipei, and Hong Kong that take comparative approaches to literature, often incorporating African American writers like Nella Larson and James Weldon Johnson into her teaching. As Cheung observes, however, "in China as in the rest of Asia, the study of African American writing as part of the canon of American literature has enjoyed a longer history and popularity than the study of Asian American literature."
Others associated with UCLA who have been part of these exchanges include Jinqi Ling, David Wong Louie, Shu-mei Shih, and Russell Leong. Chinese American scholars including Gordon H. Chang, of Stanford university, have been instrumental in forging new historical research on a number of Chinese American writers and intellectuals.
According to Chang of Stanford , "Happy Lim was perhaps the most important organic intellectual among Chinese in America." Through Chang's path-breaking essay and translations of selected poems published here, "The Many Sides of Happy Lim," readers throughout the world can journey with Lim through an often tragic, but brave, profound, revolutionary, and poetic life. In the 1930s, Lim began writing and publishing his poetry, and for the next fifty years, wrote poetry, short stories, and essays, mostly based upon his own life as a service worker in San Francisco Chinatown. He was identified with the Left throughout his life, and, with others, founded the Chinese Workers Mutual Aid Association, the most important Left political organization in San Francisco Chinatown.
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Interestingly, it is the works of a few Chinese American writers which is the most studied in other parts of the world, due to the fact that the works of Chinese American writers have been widely translated into other languages, especially those by Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Frank Chin, and David Henry Huang. This is the case in Sweden, Italy, Germany, Singapore, and Poland, Korea, and Singapore, as contributing scholars Jeffery Paul Chan, Dominka Ferens, Scilla Finetti, Thomas Girst, Kun Jong Lee, Walter S.H. Lim, and Mona Pers point out in their essays included in this volume.
* Copies of this volume can also be found in Beijing (the library of the Chinese American Literature Research Center (American Studies) at the Beijing Foreign Studies University; Taipei (Academia Sinica European and American Studies Library); the U.S. (300 major American universities).
* From most universities, the entire 50,000 pages of 40 years of Amerasia Journal can be seen on: aascpress.metapress.com
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© Copyright 2009 UCLA Asian American Studies Center. This feature report is part of the work of the www.uschinamediabrief.com, (US-China Media and Communications Program) funded by philanthropists Walter and Shirley Wang, who established the nation's first program and endowed academic chair focused on U.S.-China relations and Chinese Americans at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.