Erenlai - 按日期過濾項目: 週四, 18 三月 2010

Nina Chen is a student at Taiwan's third (and Taipei's first) gender studies graduate institute. She lets us know about gender discrimination in Taiwanese universities and in society in general.

Roy Berman, scholar in history of education in Asia and specialist in Japanese colonial period textbooks, talks about the legacy that Japan left in Taiwan's education system.

The first democratically elected president of the Republic of China, Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), received his Bachelors degree from Kyoto University, Japan. Tsai Pei-huo (蔡培火), who flourished as a scholar under the Japanese, tried three times to create a writing system for the Taiwanese language using Zhuyin (bopomofo), Romanisation and Japanese. Furthermore the first universities in Taiwan were established by the Japanese and according to Roy, the buildings and campuses a lot more traditional than most in Japan.



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週四, 18 三月 2010 18:47

Travelling through fire and water

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in the “The Divine Milieu”, gives a beautiful account of a travel into one’s inner world:

And so, for the first time in my life perhaps (although I am supposed to meditate everyday!) I took the lamp, and leaving the zone of everyday occupations and relationship where everything seems clear, I went down into my inmost self, to the deep abyss whence I feel simply that my power of action emanates. But as I moved further and further from the conventional certainties by which social life is superficially illuminated, I became aware that I was losing contact with myself. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose name I was no longer sure, and who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded from beneath my steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came, arising I know not whence, the current which I dare to call my life.

In the passage quoted above the water metaphor seems to predominate. In other passages, “fire” is the leading image, the one that speaks of the Divine and of His working within the soul and the whole universe. Mystical language is always shaped by extreme contrasts: high mountains and deep abysses, fire and water, dark night and glowing light… The metaphor of wind and breath is also a basic element of mystical language – strong wind and gentle breeze, as in this other passage by Teilhard:

A breeze passes in the night. When did it spring up? Whence does it come? Whither is it going? No man knows. No one can compel the spirit, the gaze or the light of God to descend upon him.

On some given day a man suddenly becomes conscious that he is alive to a particular perception of the divine spread everywhere about him. Question him. When did this state begin for him? He cannot tell. All he knows is that a new spirit has crossed his life.

It began with a particular and unique resonance which swelled each harmony, with a diffuse radiance which haloed each beauty ... All the elements of psychological life were in turn affected; sensation, feeling, thoughts ... I had in fact acquired a new sense, the sense of new quality or of a new dimension. Deeper still: transformation had taken place for me in the very perception of being ...

LiJInyuan_sky6_2009Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is one of the favourite authors of Li Jinyuan. And I would suggest that Li Jinyuan does with painting what Teilhard does with words: he explores the mystery of the Spirit that works through the individual soul and the cosmic whole, through creation and death, through joys and sufferings, through all kinds of contradictions, for eventually bringing everything to completion and reconciling everything and everyone within the One from whom we all originate.

This mystery does not contradict the laws of Matter. It rather first manifests within them. The Spirit already dwells in the Matter, and the Matter becomes the flesh of the Spirit. Painting manifests in a special way – better than words and music can ever do – the germination of the Spirit within the intricacies of the flesh. The brushstrokes of Li Jinyuan are at the same time tortured and triumphant, for they speak of the struggles of flesh and Spirit as well as of their final assumption.

The structure of the world of spiritual experience is intimately connected with a symbolism built into our own deep psychology. To pretend to find a way in the spiritual world by putting symbolism aside is impossible. Only the ultimate experience takes us beyond everything, but still what we experience is not perceived outside of mental and psychological structures. The paintings of Li Jinyuan make use of symbolic resources built into the universal psyche, but it also points towards the need to displace and subvert all images and signs so as to continue the journey. As Zhuangzi says:

Do not listen with your ear, but listen with your heart. Do not listen with your heart but with your vital spirit. Hearing rests with the ears. Heart rests with signs. As to the vital spirit, it is emptiness and lets things manifest themselves. The Tao alone concentrates on emptiness. Emptiness is fasting of the heart.

The paintings of Li Jinyuan lead us through this “spiritual listening”, which is also contemplation. We look at them first with our eyes, and our eyes tell us that we have to look deeper, to look with our heart, for our heart is sensitive to the sound and meaning of symbols that the painting suggests and develops. But the very structure and soul of the painting is calling us even deeper, toward the “fasting of the heart”. Something here is shown and is not shown, is said and is not said, something leads us throughout fire and water beyond all signs and metaphors.

The root of spiritual experience lies in our capacity to develop pure attention. Pure attention starts with our capacity to be open to the mystery contained in all things, to discern the working of the whole cosmos in the tiniest of its manifestations. It bears fruits in the loving solicitude and listening we are able to extend to people around us, particularly to the ones to whom such solicitude is usually not granted. It leads us towards a state of mind that transcends all objects and feelings: pure attention is attention without object, ceaseless communication with the source of “the current which I dare to call my life” when speaking as Teilhard does. When I look at Li Jinyuan’s paintings I somehow progress in the art of pure attention, for they are bathed in the mystery of fire and water that we learn to discern in all things.



Paintings by Li Jinyuan

週四, 18 三月 2010 18:32

Wildhares and pheasants

Chun-Yen Huang is a student at Hualien's Dun Hwa University. He prefers a natural and relaxed study environment to the hustle and bustle of west Taiwan. At his campus, which rests between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, he takes time in the mornings to watch the animals...and not only the squirrels...

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週四, 18 三月 2010 18:31

Foreign students in Asia: Japan

Here, Roy Berman, who is familiar with top level academia in both the US and Japan, talks about his experiences at Kyoto University and more generally the Japanese higher education system.

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週四, 18 三月 2010 18:27

Foreign students in Asia: Singapore

Alice Lin has spent time all around the world. How does she evalutae education in Singapore?

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Conor Stuart is currently a Masters student at Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies at National Taiwan University (NTU). Sitting pensively in front of NTU’s infamous Drunken Moon Lake he discussed study at Taiwan’s number one university,  not only as a foreign student, but also  the sole representative at NTU of his homeland, Northern Ireland.

How do you compare your experiences of British and Taiwanese education systems?
We often hear that the Asian system is learning by rote but in my experience that is not necessarily true. They are aware that they need to have a huge mass of general knowledge. I remember once professor Li Oufan was teaching at our institute and requested that the students hand in shorter essays than normal but included a solid argument when they handed them in. The students here have excellent all round knowledge and flair when expressing themselves and analysing if you are talking on an individual basis; however, one problem I found here is that when writing an essay they tend to be pleasing the teacher rather than consciously having a dialogue about a subject.

How about the teaching?
The teachers have all made excellent progress in making this graduate institute and dealing with the problems of creating Taiwanese literary theory. One problem I’ve encountered here is that it seems very difficult to get feedback from your professors in Taiwan, whilst where I was studying in Leeds it was very much encouraged that you spent more time with your teachers.

And the students?
The students I have come across are very well prepared; they’re confident, able to express themselves, can intake loads of information in foreign languages as well as Chinese, they can process and are so capable at what they do. Thus, for a foreigner coming here, and studying in their language with the best of the best, it’s very intimidating. The standard is kept so high that it is difficult to keep up.

In terms of social life?
Subcultures are very strong here. I think that Taiwanese are much more interested in cultural activities, perhaps because they don’t drink so much. In the UK most university socialising revolves around drinking.

Differences between Taiwanese and foreign students?
I think it’s easy to feel that you have an insight into some kind of analytical theory that they might not have. I think it’s a fallacy that western students are more this or Taiwanese students more that. It’s all on an individual basis. Generalising on upbringings is negated anyhow as every individual has such a different cultural upbringing. There are some students here I cannot communicate with, not because of language, or even culture & upbringing. It’s just because we’re on a different wavelength. There are also some students here with whom I have great mutual understanding. It’s all about wavelength.

In my own department the teachers have created a Taiwanese literary theory however it’s difficult as a foreigner to totally see through the eyes of the other. I’m more familiar with western literary theory so I still tend to analyse from a western point of view.

Why did you choose to study Taiwanese literature?
I think it’s great opportunity as it focuses on modern literature in contrast to the Chinese department, where the breadth of what you can study is so vast. Chinese literature has stemmed from such a wide area, but everywhere in the Chinese sphere has a local identity. In Taiwan the local identity is particularly strong. Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and American influences have all played a part in influencing who people think they are over here and as such have all influenced the literature.

What about Northern Ireland and Taiwanese identity?
There are similarities and differences. Obviously, the losing of local languages in postcolonial identity, the pushing out of Gaelic and the Taiwanese languages is important. I think it’s even harder for Northern Irish people to have an identity, as you’re questioned on both sides. You can’t claim you're Irish as the people from the Republic of Ireland have claimed that identity, and you can’t claim you're English…even British is also taken by the English, who don’t care about our identity to mean English.

Initially this drove me to try and identify with non-violent nationalism and thus deciding to study Taiwanese literature. Eventually you end up realising the futility of drawing borders. For instance, I love the UK and I have lots of friends there. I’ve prospered much from being a part of the UK. However, the living standards and modern culture and society in NI and England are very similar and has been developing interlinked, here in Taiwan, it’s a bit different, as the Mainland and Taiwan have been developing separately and under completely different governments and two contrasting identities have emerged.





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