Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies: Collaborative Reading-Workshop Grants

The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies seeks to maintain the vitality of China Studies in the US and Canada through fellowships and grants designed primarily for scholars early in their careers.  Studies on and in China have developed over the last 30 years in North America into a robust field, but current conditions pose daunting problems, especially for scholars just before and just after the dissertation.

Collaborative Reading-Workshop Grants provide opportunities for scholars of different disciplines to share in-depth investigation of texts that are essential points of entry to Chinese periods, traditions, communities, or events in contemporary or historical times.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

  • How to Read a Chinese Book: Through the Lens of Paratexts  |  Abstract

    The international workshop of “How to Read a Chinese Book: Through the Lens of Paratexts” aims to bring together scholars of China from North America, Europe, and Asia to closely examine the paratextual elements of the “traditional” Chinese book in relation to its main text. For the purposes of the workshop, “the Chinese book” is a woodblock imprint of the late imperial period (late Ming and Qing, roughly the late sixteenth century to the early twentieth century). Gerard Genette, the most influential theorist of paratexts, defined them as “those liminal devices and conventions both within the book and outside of it that mediate the book to the reader.” Prefaces, postscripts, explanations of editorial principles (fanli), colophons, commentary, tables of contents (mulu), page layout, punctuation—these are common types of paratexts—all reveal how the author or editor and/or publisher of a text tried to shape the reading experience. As such they are important parts of the meaning of texts. Paratexts are also valuable sources for the study of reading practices. In this workshop, participants will not only explicate how paratexts work in the Chinese book culture but also discover the prescribed or embedded reading practices through a close examination of the paratextual elements of a wide range of genres of Chinese texts, including the classics and their commentaries, Christian writings in Chinese of Jesuit missionaries, civil service examination records, household encyclopedia, popular drama, children’s primers, as well as forged texts.

    Cynthia J. Brokaw
    Cynthia J. Brokaw

    Professor, History, Brown University

    Li Yu
    Li Yu

    Associate Professor, Asian Studies, Williams College

  • How to Read a Chinese Book: Through the Lens of Paratexts  |  Abstract

    The international workshop of “How to Read a Chinese Book: Through the Lens of Paratexts” aims to bring together scholars of China from North America, Europe, and Asia to closely examine the paratextual elements of the “traditional” Chinese book in relation to its main text. For the purposes of the workshop, “the Chinese book” is a woodblock imprint of the late imperial period (late Ming and Qing, roughly the late sixteenth century to the early twentieth century). Gerard Genette, the most influential theorist of paratexts, defined them as “those liminal devices and conventions both within the book and outside of it that mediate the book to the reader.” Prefaces, postscripts, explanations of editorial principles (fanli), colophons, commentary, tables of contents (mulu), page layout, punctuation—these are common types of paratexts—all reveal how the author or editor and/or publisher of a text tried to shape the reading experience. As such they are important parts of the meaning of texts. Paratexts are also valuable sources for the study of reading practices. In this workshop, participants will not only explicate how paratexts work in the Chinese book culture but also discover the prescribed or embedded reading practices through a close examination of the paratextual elements of a wide range of genres of Chinese texts, including the classics and their commentaries, Christian writings in Chinese of Jesuit missionaries, civil service examination records, household encyclopedia, popular drama, children’s primers, as well as forged texts. Dates of Workshop: October 3-5, 2014 Location of Workshop: Williams College

    Cynthia J. Brokaw
    Cynthia J. Brokaw

    Professor, History, Brown University

    Li Yu
    Li Yu

    Associate Professor, Asian Studies, Williams College

  • The Culture of Literary Competence and Tang Bureaucracy  |  Abstract

    This workshop brings together a group of scholars of Tang literature and Tang intellectual and institutional history to examine a selection of texts—including literary works, expository writings, letters, memorials, treatises, biographies and anecdotes—that speak to the process of how literary competence came to vie with aristocratic pedigree as a qualification for office and how it ultimately became a viable path for the upwardly mobile during the Tang dynasty. The aim is to glean from these sources indicators of, and insights into, the correlation between the gradual demographic shift in the composition of the Tang bureaucracy and the emergence of a “culture of literary competence” in this period. In pursuing this inquiry, we aim to develop an interdisciplinary framework for understanding not only the emergence of this “culture of literary competence” but its endurance through the Tang and beyond.

    Anthony DeBlasi
    Anthony DeBlasi

    Associate Professor, East Asian Studies, University of Albany, State University of New York

    Anna Shields
    Anna Shields

    Associate Professor, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    Ding Xiang Warner
    Ding Xiang Warner

    Associate Professor, Asian Studies, Cornell University

  • The Culture of Literary Competence and Tang Bureaucracy  |  Abstract

    This workshop brings together a group of scholars of Tang literature and Tang intellectual and institutional history to examine a selection of texts—including literary works, expository writings, letters, memorials, treatises, biographies and anecdotes—that speak to the process of how literary competence came to vie with aristocratic pedigree as a qualification for office and how it ultimately became a viable path for the upwardly mobile during the Tang dynasty. The aim is to glean from these sources indicators of, and insights into, the correlation between the gradual demographic shift in the composition of the Tang bureaucracy and the emergence of a “culture of literary competence” in this period. In pursuing this inquiry, we aim to develop an interdisciplinary framework for understanding not only the emergence of this “culture of literary competence” but its endurance through the Tang and beyond. Dates of Workshop: June 21-25, 2015 Location of Workshop: Cornell University

    Anthony DeBlasi
    Anthony DeBlasi

    Associate Professor, East Asian Studies, University of Albany, State University of New York

    Anna Shields
    Anna Shields

    Associate Professor, Modern Languages, Linguistics, and Intercultural Communication, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    Ding Xiang Warner
    Ding Xiang Warner

    Associate Professor, Asian Studies, Cornell University

  • Tibetan Buddhist Networking in the Eighteenth century: Lives and Letters  |  Abstract

    The spread of the Gelukpa School of Tibetan Buddhism and its forging of religio-academic institutions served to strengthen philosophical, literary, cultural, economic and political ties between and amidst a diverse group of interests in Inner and East Asia, especially during the 18th century. The biographies and literary texts of great teachers from this period are particularly ripe with illustrations of the networks that developed in a host of arenas, and we will examine poetic letters exchanged, accounts of several trips to Beijing, songs of realization, and writings on art and medicine for evidence of Buddhist networks that linked Asia through these elite figures. We will explore these themes through a close reading of texts by and about two particularly influential Tibetan Buddhist teachers from the Tibetan borderlands of Amdo, now encompassed largely in the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan. These two lamas were seated at two of the most important centers in the area: Kumbum Monastery and Labrang Monastery, which had ties with the Qing Court, the Ganden Podrang Administration in Lhasa, and with leading monasteries in Central Tibet. This region has long been remarkable as a site of rich and complex cultural exchange -- identities and alliances were necessarily multiple, involving persons of Monguor, Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu, Han, and Turkic origins. We will explore how these writings illustrate society and culture and what they reveal about the religious and institutional networks/conversations interactions that formed between Amdo, Lhasa and Beijing.

    Lauran Hartley
    Lauran Hartley

    Librarian, C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Tibetan Studies, Columbia University

    Gray Tuttle
    Gray Tuttle

    Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

  • Translating Manchu in the Qing  |  Abstract

    Along with Chinese, the Manchu language played an important role in the state communications structure and in urban society during the Qing period (1636-1912). Despite widespread acknowledgement of the significance of the Manchu language, we have neither a comprehensive understanding of the scope and use of Manchu texts, nor a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between Chinese and Manchu textual production. This grandscale project began no later than the 1630s, when countless officials, scholars, soldiers, clerks, and teachers, along with the emperors themselves, joined in the creation of thousands of documents, treatises, and histories; philosophical, religious, and moral works; conversation manuals and phrase books; and travelogues, novels, plays, poems, and songs. Relying heavily upon translation, this was a highly cosmopolitan venture, involving not only court scribes and Manchu and Chinese littérateurs, but also Mongolian, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and European scholars. Through a close examination of a range of paired Manchu-Chinese texts, the primary goal of this workshop is to capture and appreciate more fully the neglected dimensions of Manchu literary production and consumption, which remained vital through the nineteenth century. By looking closely at Manchu-Chinese translation in the Qing, the workshop aims to advance and transform our understanding of the Manchu language as a political and literary tool, and of the role of language in empire more generally; by bringing history and literature into closer dialogue, and employing the theoretical approaches of translation studies, the workshop will lay the basis for new methodologies and modes of reading Qing texts.

    Elif Akçetin

    Visiting Assistant Professor, History, University of Illinois at Chicago

    Carla Nappi
    Carla Nappi

    Associate Professor, History, University of British Columbia

    Yulian Wu
    Yulian Wu

    Assistant Professor, History, University of South Carolina

    Mark C. Elliott
    Mark C. Elliott

    Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and History, Harvard University

  • Translating Manchu in the Qing  |  Abstract

    Along with Chinese, the Manchu language played an important role in the state communications structure and in urban society during the Qing period (1636-1912). Despite widespread acknowledgement of the significance of the Manchu language, we have neither a comprehensive understanding of the scope and use of Manchu texts, nor a sophisticated understanding of the relationship between Chinese and Manchu textual production. This grandscale project began no later than the 1630s, when countless officials, scholars, soldiers, clerks, and teachers, along with the emperors themselves, joined in the creation of thousands of documents, treatises, and histories; philosophical, religious, and moral works; conversation manuals and phrase books; and travelogues, novels, plays, poems, and songs. Relying heavily upon translation, this was a highly cosmopolitan venture, involving not only court scribes and Manchu and Chinese littérateurs, but also Mongolian, Tibetan, Korean, Japanese, Russian, and European scholars. Through a close examination of a range of paired Manchu-Chinese texts, the primary goal of this workshop is to capture and appreciate more fully the neglected dimensions of Manchu literary production and consumption, which remained vital through the nineteenth century. By looking closely at Manchu-Chinese translation in the Qing, the workshop aims to advance and transform our understanding of the Manchu language as a political and literary tool, and of the role of language in empire more generally; by bringing history and literature into closer dialogue, and employing the theoretical approaches of translation studies, the workshop will lay the basis for new methodologies and modes of reading Qing texts. Date of Workshop: May 2015 Location of Workshop: Harvard University

    Elif Akçetin

    Visiting Assistant Professor, History, University of Illinois at Chicago

    Carla Nappi
    Carla Nappi

    Associate Professor, History, University of British Columbia

    Yulian Wu
    Yulian Wu

    Assistant Professor, History, University of South Carolina

    Mark C. Elliott
    Mark C. Elliott

    Professor, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and History, Harvard University