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Symposium showcases cultures of Asia

The Asian Studies Symposium, a convocation series for Belmont, will cover topics as diverse as kung fu and calligraphy.

The symposium, with events scheduled Feb. 28-March 3, will focus on the cultures of Japan and China, looks beyond the stereotypical mainstream media’s image of these countries, Dr. Ronnie Littlejohn, director of Asian Studies, said.

“We wanted to bring speakers to campus who do something really unique and who can show us some aspects of Chinese and Japanese culture,” Littlejohn said.

Belmont has offered a major in Asian Studies since 2008, and the symposium increases awareness of the program.

Students will have a chance to learn about the secret Chinese language of Nushu from Dr. Guanping Zheng, director of the Middle Tennessee State University Confucius Institute.

“It was a language that was not spoken or read or could be understood by men. So it was designed by women, for women,” Littlejohn said.

After a young girl reached puberty, women would begin to teach her this language, and when she got married, they would give her a wedding book. This book was filled with the Nushu language and women’s advice to her as a bride.

Since women in China were not allowed to attend school, most of them were illiterate.

“It was a way for women who were really disenfranchised in China to have a kind of power that men couldn’t get at,” Littlejohn said.

This once unknown language is dying out in China because women now have more education and privileges.

Zheng will explain how this sacred language was used, its function and categories of its content. The program is at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 2, Room 104, Massey Business Center.

Later that day, Dr. Peimin Ni, an accomplished calligraphy artist, will demonstrate characters and styles of calligraphy, using a huge poster to illustrate the topic. Ni, a professor of philosophy at Grand Valley State University, is also president of the Association of Chinese Philosophers in America.

He will talk about writing as a reflection of a person’s character in the Chinese understanding, Littlejohn said.

Ni has a television show about calligraphy that is popular throughout the Midwest and New England. He is the author of “On Confucius” and “On Reid,” as well as the co-author of “Wandering – Brush and Pen in Philosophical Reflection.”

Students can see Ni’s calligraphy demonstration at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, in the Bunch Library Multimedia Hall.

In the final program of the symposium, Ni will turn his attention to gongfu — or “kung fu” in its Americanized spelling. He will look at Chinese kung fu as an art form in the traditional culture of China. “Gongfu (kungfu) is for you” is at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, in the Bunch Multimedia Hall.

Other featured speakers of the symposium include:

  1. Dr. Ricci Sakakibara, from Waseda University in Japan, will present “Interested in things Asian?” at 10 a.m., Monday, Feb. 28, in Fidelity 312. Sakakibara will also speak about the censorship of U.S.-occupied Japan after World War II and its effect on writers of Japanese literature at 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 28, in the Bunch Multimedia Hall.

  2. Dr. James Auer, director of the Vanderbilt University Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation, will offer the reasons why the U.S. — 65 years after the end of World War II — continues to have 40,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan. He will speak at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 2, in Bunch Multimedia Hall.

By discussing and demonstrating unique topics during the second year of the Asian Studies Symposium, the Asian Studies Department really wants Belmont students to attend these events and enjoy hearing from the speakers, Littlejohn said.

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