David Moser, Part II: LRCCS Spotlight, Beijing Edition

David Moser speaking on CCTV

David Moser speaking on CCTV

This post is a continuation of an interview conducted with David Moser, LRCCS Alum ’90.  The interview continues with Moser’s experience performing at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala (春节联欢晚会), as well his perspective on the Chinese music scene.

Interview conducted by LRCCS Social Media Coordinator, Eric Couillard, and transcribed by Erzhan Xu

 

Couillard: I read that you were in 春晚 [the CCTV Spring Festival Gala]. When was that?

Moser: By then I had already been on TV a lot, and this was 1999, I think.  It was four foreigners, and they wanted to have a foreign theme sort of crosstalk.  It was a very interesting experience, but the piece itself was terrible, it was not funny.

Couillard: Did you have any part in writing it?

Moser: No, no… I mean, they wrote the original script, which did have some funny stuff, and even a little bit of edgy stuff, and a little bit of stuff that more makes fun of foreigner in Chinese context. But each time it made this iterative pass to the censor, it got progressively worse.  The censors didn’t know  anything at all about how to do an entertaining TV show, they were like, the Ministry of Propaganda Censors that know nothing about entertainment, right? So they would just say: “Oh, you can’t do that! Or that thing doesn’t make foreigners look good.” Or this or that…

So by the time we got to the final piece, there was really hardly a funny line in the whole piece. And all that was left was four foreigners trying to outdo themselves and praising the glory of China.  It was disgusting in a kind of way, because the piece had nothing to do with us, and presented the usual caricature of the adorable laowai.  But it was amazing because we were, in fact, seen by probably a billion people.

The CCTV Spring Festival Gala is a very important event,   broadcasting live for four hours, on the most important evening  of the year- Chinese New Year. So it is very highly vetted and rehearsed, and prepared for months and months in advance, down to the minute, the second. Every act is rehearsed endlessly over and over, and every political aspect is thought out, and reinterpreted. 

And it’s so important, in fact, that on the night before the lives broadcast, they tape the entire show from beginning to end, as if it were an actual performance. And then they take the tape as backup, so in case something happens, somebody breaks her leg, or somebody holds up a “Free Tibet” sign, they can cut away and just insert the backup tape, and no one will be the wiser. 

So to be a part of all of that was really exhausting.  And actually the next year, they wanted to do a re-hash of this thing. They said: “we want to do another crosstalk with four foreigners. Are you willing to come on and do it?” All four of us said: “No way! “ The experiences was the most disruptive thing; it just ruined our lives for like a whole month. So we didn’t go back on. 

But it was quite an interesting experience culturally, and to this day, and people will come out on the street and say: “I remember you! Yeah! You were on the ChunWan.” 

Couillard: What do you do with music these days?

Moser: I’m still playing Jazz piano, at least once or twice a month.  There are some groups I play in, mostly in bars. I was a music major. I was interested in Jazz, but I didn’t play the piano. I played the trumpet, and guitar. But when I came to Beijing in the early 90s, what groups really needed more than horn players was a keyboard or guitar player, the instruments that play the chords and harmony. They needed a player who knew something about jazz harmonies, and could make the chords sound stylistically right. So since I didn't have a guitar, I ended up playing jazz piano instead, even though I had never studied piano formally, and had no technique.

I’m still really lousy pianist.  I can’t even read music worth anything. But I can play the chords, and I can improvise pretty well. In jazz, sometimes the spirit, the rhythm, the feel of the music can be more important than mere technique. So that’s been a great joy, and I met a lot of great musicians, and I’ve played with some good ones. And I’ve seen jazz in Beijing go from just some really interested and passionate listeners, to new generations of young kids now, who not only have grown up listening to the music, but they have chops, the ability, the technique, and they are playing absolutely great music. I mean at a world-class level. So it’s exciting to see that. 

Couillard: How do you find your experience in music informs what you do with scholarship, and with language? 

Moser: I think it is pretty obvious, to me anyway, that language and music are just two sides of the same coin. They are related. It’s all communication, just on a different level. And for jazz, just like a language, there are people who are able to learn this new kind of music and appreciate it, and understand it, and there are people that have to struggle to to master it and communicate in this new form.   

I would say this -  and it might be controversial. I think a Westerner can understand a lot of Chinese culture, and you can learn a lot about China without necessarily exploring the world of Chinese music. This is because music doesn’t play the same kind of role in Chinese culture. There are beloved melodies that all Chinese people know, and there are forms like Peking opera, which has an enormous cultural influence. And there is a rich historical repertoire of Chinese music.  But at this current era it doesn’t play the same sort of roles socially that it does in the West, especially in America.  Regional opera forms and minyue, the "folk music" have a loyal following, but they are rapidly becoming museum pieces.  In China, pop music is incredibly popular, has it has always functioned as mere entertainment, a distraction.  It's not a political or intellectual force. In the US, the rock music, rap, punk, and so on have spawned social movements, or even, I would say, raised consciousness.  I think if you really want to understand American culture now or in the past decades, if you don’t know the importance of rock music, the influence of soul music, the history of jazz on the culture and all that, you're missing something. If you don’t understand who, say, Aretha Franklin, or Bruce Springsteen, or Dylan are, or the important music figures of the last decades, you won't understand some really important aspects of American culture.  

So what it is been interesting to me to see how Chinese people learn that musical language, and are able to develop it. And now are just actually no different from Americans in their level of mastery.  I mean, in the old days, they were just into Taiwanese pop star Deng Lijun, they didn’t understand the possibilities of pop music.  But just the other night, I saw a Chinese woman singing in a bar who I swear to god sounded just like Aretha Franklin.  You close your eyes and think, how could this woman have been born and raised in China! How can this be? 

But the language, they’ve absorbed that language. And it’s creeping into their pop music, and that’s exciting. That’s really amazing. And to see Chinese being able to incorporate that into their own music, is an exciting thing. 

And I think that is a kind of cross-cultural communication at a really important level. Because that stuff is so real, and hits people at the gut level. So for listening to the same music and digging the same music, that’s almost more important than speaking the same language, and hammering out some kind of trade agreement.  Which is good, but I mean, if you have the people sitting there and both responding in the same way to Jazz, that is a huge victory.  Editor's note - click here to read more about David Moser's thoughts on jazz in China

Couillard: So what are you up to these days? 

Moser: I just had a book come out called A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language, about the history of Putonghua., and I am really trying to work hard and get another book out on Chinese media. But you know the old joke - if you come to China for month, you can write a book. But if you stay for 10 years, you can’t even write an article.  

I’ve done so much with media, I’d just like to give my take on it. Because there are a lot of interesting aspects of the Chinese media that most Westerners are unaware of. And it’s tricky because so much important media is already in the past. So much water under the dam, you know. So I'll have to write the account in such a way that it connects the 80s and 90s, and 2000s, but also gives an image of the media dynamics right now, especially the issue of censorship and information control. The issues are quite subtle and difficult to explain without a lot of backgrounding. So that’s what I working on now.  But I may have to simplify my lifestyle in order to find time to finish it.  

David Moser is currently teaching at Capital Normal University’s CET Program, and has recently published a new book, A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language

More from David Moser:

The infamous article "Why Chinese is So Damn Hard"
http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

A recent "battle of word" over the struggle of incorporating Chinese characters into cyberspace:
https://www.chinafile.com/media/backward-thinking-about-orientalism-and-chinese-characters

Stay tuned for more interviews with LRCCS Beijing Alum!

David Moser, Part I: LRCCS Spotlight, Beijing Edition

David Moser

David Moser

In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight, I traveled to Beijing to interview David Moser, LRCCS Alum ’90.  In the interview, David discusses his rise to TV stardom, from being a reluctant crosstalk performer to doing a skit in the Chinese New Year’s Gala, as well as his involvement in the Chinese jazz scene, and other fascinating stories.

Interview conducted by LRCCS Social Media Coordinator, Eric Couillard and transcribed by Erzhan Xu.

Couillard: Where do you call home?

Moser: The short answer is, Beijing, because I’ve lived here for more than 25 years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I was born in Kansas, but by the time I was in high school, we already moved five different places, and then in high school I moved twice. So I don't have a hometown exactly. I graduated high school from Oklahoma and went to Oklahoma City University.

And then, Indiana University for many years where I was doing music, and of course, Ann Arbor, where I began to undertake Chinese studies.  

Couillard: What initially got you interested in China?

Moser: I was playing music in Boston. I was struggling to make a living as all musicians do, doing a little bit of everything. Studio work, stupid wedding gigs, and then everything else. And I got interested in languages, and I taught myself French, went to Paris for a summer. But somebody turned me on to Chinese, my friend Douglas Hofstadter, who was a professor at the U of M for a time. And I just got hooked on the language. 

I thought it was amazing and I started learning it myself. And this is while I was in Indiana in the mid-80s. At that time, my sister had a Taiwanese boyfriend, so she said, if you’re serious about learning Chinese, you should go to a Chinese country. You can live with my boyfriend’s family. So I did that, naively thinking that after six months I’d be speaking really really good Chinese. And after six months, to my shock, I actually still couldn’t say anything. It was really amazing, how horrible I was, how hard it was. But I still kept slogging way at it. 

Couillard: When did you make the transition to Beijing?

Moser: Doug Hofstadter had written a book that won the Pulitzer Prize, called Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. And he got wind of the fact that this book was being translated into Chinese at Peking University, there was a translation team there.  I knew the book very well. I was a good friend of his. I was passionate about Chinese, though I wasn’t a great speaker yet. But he said, you know, I am really concerned about this translation, because I just know they are missing a lot of things. It is very complex book. And he said, why don’t I send you there, and you take part of the translation team, so you can act as a check, even proofread everything and make sure they’re getting the meanings right. 

So that was an unbelievable opportunity, and the Peking University team was very happy to have me there. So there I was at Peking University in 1987, working on this translation. And China had basically had no computer word-processing back then, so I the translation drafts were all hand written Chinese, which was terribly daunting.   

Later I decided just to let the other shoe drop, and I started a master degree in Chinese Studies at Michigan. Because by that time, Doug had moved to Michigan, and he invited me to be on his research team. .  So for the late 80s, and early 90s, I was going back and forth to Peking University, working on this translation, and working on my Master’s and Ph.D. 

Couillard: What time period was that approximately? What years, I mean

David Moser performing crosstalk

David Moser performing crosstalk

Moser: So I started my master’s degree. I think it was 88 or 87.  I did my master’s paper on the verbal art of 相声[crosstalk] because I had been collecting material on that. And as far I know it was the first paper in English on that topic that covers the general information about that particular verbal art form. So it was fun to do, had a lot of humor, and it was great! Editor's note - click here to read a history of the Chinese verbal art of xiangsheng (crosstalk) and how the humor was stifled by the CCP, written by David Moser)

Couillard: How did you start getting involved in Chinese Television?

Moser: I was studying 相声, and one of the professor at 北大[Peking University] said, why not just do it? You can go on stage and do it. And then I said, are you kidding me?  I can’t go on camera, I don’t look like an actor. He said, No it doesn’t matter, you’re foreigner, and it’s cute, so I said, well, okay.  And then like a day later something, I got this call and I have to do a skit with Hou Yaohua[侯耀华], who’s the son of Hou Baolin [侯宝林], a big crosstalk master. So that was my first appearance on TV, and it was very scary, because the guy who I was doing it with was a total pro. He’d done this a million times. And for him the script meant nothing. The script was just, “Oh, I get the idea. And I’m just going to improvise it.” So during rehearsal he’d start improvising, I’m saying, “When am I supposed to say my line?” And he’s not worried, he says “Oh, just roll with whatever I’m saying.” And I’m thinking, “Are you kidding me?” It worked out in the end, but it was pretty terrifying. At least I didn't forget my lines, which was a good thing since about 300 million people were watching.

So that’s how I started. I did some other skits, and then Beijing TV wanted me to do a series on Beijing. So they made me the host of this series that was about 20 episodes.  And it was called 大伟逛北京, “David Travels Beijing” It was amazing. But back then I was really unsure of my Chinese. I still didn’t feel like my Chinese was good enough to host a show like that. 

The Beijing TV producers would just say, “we’re going to go in this Hutong and see what happens”, it was all just 老北京 [Old Beijing], you know. We would go to a Hutong where somebody is making kites, or somebody is a Peking opera singer, or this or that. And basically I came in, and I riff around and ask some silly questions, I tried the Erhu, a Chinese music instrument, and tried all those kinds of local Beijing things. 

I was going on TV several times a month with my teacher Ding Guangquan [丁广泉] doing crosstalk. Every Chinese province has a TV station, and I must have performed at most of them.  And then, in about 2002, I was teaching in 北外 [Beijing Foreign Studies University] at this time and CCTV 10 approached me, they wanted to do an English teaching show, called Outlook English, and they wanted to have a foreigner to be the host.  

That started out as a lot of fun, but eventually it became less about learning English and more about entertainment.  It was the worst day of my life on that show going to Shanxi, and I had to eat all these different noodles. And after every different bowl of noodles, and they would say, “Alright, describe how these noodles are different from the others”… And I’d say, ”These noodles are… maybe a little chewier? But not… Saltier, or…” And I’m thinking, “They’re just noodles, what do you want me to say!?”

So eventually I got out of there, and started doing some more cultural gigs on CCTV 4, or would work as a guest host here and there.   And I still go on CCTV several times a month, as a commentator or so-called pundit.  You have to walk a fine line politically on these shows, but they're seldom live, so any problematic comment can just be left on the cutting floor.

Stay tuned for Part II of the interview, where David talks about his experience on the CCTV Spring Festival Gala (春节联欢晚会) and his thoughts and involvement in the Chinese music scene!

More by David Moser

David Moser is also a co-host for the Sinica Podcast, a weekly show on current affairs in China:
https://www.chinafile.com/library/sinica-podcast

An account of the "Tank Man" in Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen uprising:
http://theanthill.org/1989

Dream of the Red Chamber - Rock and Flower

Sensory spectacle, synesthesia for the soul.  Just as calligraphy, painting, and poetry are the fusion arts of the literati; arias, dance and staging are melded into aesthetic magic...

LRCCS Faculty Professor Bright Sheng's new opera Dream of Red Chamber is now being performed live!  Purcharse tickets here for the San Francisco Opera House (performances in September):

Creative team of Dream: composer Bright Sheng (left) and director Stan Lai (right) 

Job Opening: The Hutong

THE HUTONG - EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, FREELANCE PROGRAM LEADER

Cross post from ProjectPengyou.org

About Us

The Hutong has an eclectic and passionate team running a wide variety of programs in
Beijing and across China. Our goals are to provide student groups with exceptional
experiences, and ensure that students and teachers alike experience the community,
culture, and excitement that China can offer. The Education Department designs
customized programs that take education groups beyond the sites to engage with their
surroundings, explore China, and develop their personal worldview.

What We’re Looking For

The Hutong Education Team has grown significantly in 2015 and is looking to maintain a
strong team of freelance Program Leaders who will be responsible for leading
international student groups to different regions of the PRC. This position and the
individuals that fill it make up the core of our program execution team. We are looking
for team members with a passion for education and who are eager to share their
perspective and expertise on China with educational groups of every age.

What You’ll Do

• Lead idea generation and program development in concert with the Education
Department that are customized to each client school’s specifications
• Manage communications with the lead teacher of each program on all matters
concerning program execution
• Coordinate content used in each program’s written materials
• Facilitate programs as the visible expert in charge of programming and group
dynamics
• Manage and support the positive dynamics of a multinational team on the road with
student groups
• Coordinate the submission of all relevant follow-up documents including budget
reports, program notes, inventory use, photo compilations, etc.
• Represent and embody the fun, inclusive, and passionate reputation that The
Hutong staff are known for

What We Want To Accomplish

• Provide consistently high quality and innovative educational experiences for
international student groups
• Develop a professional team of freelance staff who are excited to be The Hutong
Education Program Leaders and are inspired to leave their own imprint on The
Hutong community
• Encourage students to be creative, curious, and think critically through attending
The Hutong’s programs and interacting with The Hutong staff

Benefits

The Hutong Education compensates Program Leaders with industry-competitive wages
based on an individual’s relevant work experience. More details regarding compensation
will be provided upon application.

What Next?

Go to thehutong.com/find-out-more-education/ to learn more about our work. Then contact
jeff@thehutong.com and kristen@thehutong.com with your résumé and a brief cover letter
introducing yourself, and telling us why you’d be a great addition to The Hutong team.

LRCCS Spotlight: Chen Qinghai

The original version of this post was first published in Chinese. We interviewed Prof. Qinghai Chen, the former Director of the Chinese Language Program who retired in 2013. During this interview, Chen Laoshi shared many of his life stories and experiences from China to the States.

Prof. Chen received his specialized training in Theater and Drama, 1961

Prof. Chen received his specialized training in Theater and Drama, 1961


LRCCS: Chen Laoshi, we’d love to hear your story; where would you like to start?
Chen Laoshi: I want to start with my childhood in China, which wasn’t easy. My father was a so-called capitalist, so he was a target of the communist movement after 1949.  For a long period of time, kids like us had restricted opportunities no matter what we did.

LRCCS: I see. When were you born?
Chen Laoshi: I was born in 1943. After 1949, all kinds of political movements were launched.
Families like mine suffered. Our suffering went on and on, and peaked after the strike of the Cultural Revolution.

LRCCS: Would you care to elaborate?
Chen Laoshi: I remember in August of 1966 when Red Guards came to raid my home. This happened twice. During the second time, Red Guards took a lot of our possessions, many of which were in fact daily necessities, out to the street, and asked my youngest, elementary-aged brother to set them on fire. The fire was huge and even burned the road. Cars in the streets couldn’t drive through and had to detour. They then gathered and sealed the rest of our stuff in a few rooms, and wouldn’t let us use them. Since then, my family had to live on the support and assistance from relatives and friends for many years.

My oldest younger sister and I were about to graduate from college. Our job assignments came through during the Cultural Revolution. During that time, you had to take whatever that the government had offered. You had to go. If you didn’t go, you wouldn’t have a job. I was assigned to Jiangxi Province in 1968. I went to the most impoverished county in the Shangrao Prefecture, and was reassigned to a middle school in a small town. (Note: In China’s system, middle school equals grades 7-12 in the U.S.). 

LRCCS: Were you a teacher there?
Chen Laoshi: I was a teacher by title. But actually, at first I wasn’t even teaching. Two factions met and fought every day, and I couldn’t even understand their dialect. About a month later, Jiangxi had all middle schools in the province suspended. Every county would only administer a branch Communist Labor University, but had no middle schools anymore. What happened to teachers? We all got transferred to rural people’s communes for “re-education” in terms of physical labor. So I started working with peasants in the padded rice field every day. 

About half a year later, every commune had to restart a small middle school, and needed teachers again. So I was “borrowed” by the local commune as a temporary teacher. This happened in the fall of 1969. 

Chen Laoshi was living in a remote area in Jiangxi Province for re-education, 1969

Chen Laoshi was living in a remote area in Jiangxi Province for re-education, 1969

LRCCS: What did you study when you were in college?
Chen Laoshi: I studied English. But it was really tough to learn English back then. We couldn’t access any foreign materials, nor did we have native-speaking teachers. The school informed us that we were not allowed to speak English with any foreigners that we saw in the street. You would be responsible for all possible consequences if you disobeyed. As a matter of fact, the Cultural Revolution started while we were studying, so we didn’t even get to finish.

Going back to my experience in Jiangxi, I got back to a school and started teaching in its real sense. However, English was not offered for political reasons, so they had me teach Chinese. We had no textbooks, nothing at all. All I could do was get materials from newspapers. It wasn’t until 1972-73 that people like me got the official teacher’s title back.

My students from back then still remember me to this day, over 40 years after. About 6 years ago, they found my on the Internet and wrote me an e-mail. They invited me to revisit the town. In 2012, my wife and I finally made the trip. Many years have passed, and that place has totally changed. Of course, only one thing remains unchanged, and that is the feelings between my students and me. My students told me that in a remote place like that, there could not have been a teacher like me. I seemed to have opened a door for them, a door that lead to the outside world.

LRCCS: Was your wife in Jiangxi during that time too?
Chen Laoshi: No. She was in Hangzhou as a faculty member in Zhejiang University. Later, it took us an enormous effort to achieve my transfer from Jiangxi to Hangzhou. I worked at the Middle School Affiliated to Zhejiang University. We soon had our only child.

LRCCS: When did you transfer to Hangzhou?
Chen Laoshi: It was 1975.

The Cultural Revolution ended soon after that, and universities had resumed their admission. During that period, the students at our school studied so hard, and studied so well. I also tried my best to help them. My efforts soon paid off. My students did impressively well in every year’s College Entrance Examination. My teaching was videotaped and broadcasted nationwide through the Education Channel of China’s Central Television. I also had publications about English education. So I became one of the best teachers in Zhejiang Province. During that time, my classes were observed by teachers from different parts of the country who came to learn in Hangzhou for professional development

In 1984, the Municipal Government of Hangzhou appointed me Vice President at the Hangzhou College of Education, an institution for the training of middle school teachers. I was in charge of academic and student affairs, and also taught classes from time to time. I was very hopeful about the Chinese “Reform and Opening” back then, and I felt that I should contribute my bit to the country. But soon I found out what was really happening in the government, and I became very disappointed.

Chen Laoshi and his colleagues at the Affiliated Middle School of Zhejiang University, 1984

Chen Laoshi and his colleagues at the Affiliated Middle School of Zhejiang University, 1984

LRCCS: What do you mean by “what was really happening”?
Chen Laoshi: This is not a matter that can be covered in a few sentences. Many people on the top were saying one thing, but doing the exact opposite. They claimed that they were all about serving the people, but in fact they were after their own interests. For a minute example, back then, people like and above me had designated cars that drove them between home and work every day. But why should higher ranking employees be driven to work, when normal people had to walk?  It didn’t seem fair to me. So I soon chose to bike to work. We were educated to serve the people since childhood, but the people who taught us that were privileged. How can people with privilege truly serve their people?

Later I had an opportunity to come to this university as a visiting scholar at the School of Education. I was here for about a year while my wife was kept in China for me to go back.

LRCCS: Which year was that?
Chen Laoshi: From 1987 to 1988.

The first time Chen Laoshi visited the University of Michigan, 1987

The first time Chen Laoshi visited the University of Michigan, 1987

LRCCS: What was your first impression of America?
Chen Laoshi: The whole environment, the whole society was totally different from China. During my first visit, I felt people in the U.S. were more relaxed, and smiled more often compared to Chinese. And you won’t get into trouble because of something you said.

After I went back from the States, a tragedy happened in China - the Tiananmen Square Protest in 1989. As a matter of fact, protests were seen in all major cities in China but without bloodshed. So during that time, students from my school were also protesting, hunger striking, and sitting on the railroad to block military transportation. 

I was very unhappy during that time. First of all, policemen came to my school for investigations. They would always come to me. Fortunately enough, the policemen felt sympathy for students, too. They came to me and said: “President Chen, you can just say whatever you want to say. We only need something to report back to our superior.” There was another policeman who said: “We have no idea why on earth we are sent to colleges.”

However, the government was more terrifying than the police. People in my job were not allowed to go home at night. I had a temporary bed in my office. The Education Bureau could call me anytime, even in the middle of the night. They wanted to know where the students were, and what they were doing.

I visited my students when they were fasting on a public square. When I saw them, I could not say a single word. All I could do was hold their hands. I was deeply moved. Of course, you know what happened in Beijing later. In fact, there were also many things that happened in Hangzhou, and at our school that agonized me. 

Two weeks after the Fourth of June, I quit my administrative job, and started considering leaving China. With the help of some professors at the UM School of Education, I got to come to America for a second time. At this time, I started to consider staying. And staying not just for living, but for making the largest contribution to society I could. For the first time, I got to choose what that would be - and I thought, I wanted to teach Chinese.

Around that time there still weren’t many Americans studying Chinese, but I knew that was about to change, and that was a big opportunity for me. I thought I could do three things.  First, I could set up or improve a specific school’s Chinese language program. Later at UM I realized this wasn’t something I could do by myself - I needed all the teachers and all the classes to improve. The second thing was to create some kind of a breakthrough in one aspect of Chinese language study. So later I started to develop Business Chinese as an area of language study. With the support of UM, I started the Business Chinese Workshop (BCW) series, and in a ten year period held 4 national and international conferences. Perhaps UM and ALC didn’t think it was a big deal, but in the world of Chinese language education, it was quite important. The third thing was to make a contribution to the field of Chinese education in America. I joined the Chinese Language Teachers Association (CLTA), and felt responsible for improving the organization. Almost every year I attended the annual CLTA conference as a presenter or discussant or panel chair, and also published several articles in the CLTA scholarly journal. At one point I was on the CLTA board of directors. Aside from this, I worked with some colleagues in the publication of two important textbooks. I’ve also helped evaluate Chinese language programs and teachers in several higher education institutions.

LRCCS: You just mentioned there were three things you wanted to do when you came to America. But would you think they’re actually the same thing?
Chen Laoshi: You got it. These three things were indeed three aspects of one thing – Chinese language education. They were very clear in my head from the start. When I came to this country the second time in 1990, I was already 46 years old - I knew I didn’t have much time left in my career. But I decided that no matter what, I would accomplish these three goals. To make these goals happen, I decided to go to Brigham Young University (BYU) for a PhD program. This school was affiliated with the LDS Mormon church, so their language programs were exquisite. By the time I started school I was already 47. I thought I had much more experience than the younger peers, so I should also be a better student.  So I put a lot of pressure on myself.

LRCCS: When did you first come to UM to teach Chinese?
Chen Laoshi: 1995, before I finished my dissertation at BYU. I was very excited, because this was my third time coming to UM and Ann Arbor. The previous two times when I left, I never thought I’d come back. But I did come back the third time -- as a faculty member. So if I believed in fate, I’d say it was my destiny to spend the second half of my life in Ann Arbor and UM.

LRCCS: How did you become so determined?
Chen Laoshi: When I was in China, all the work I did was never my choice. At that time, all we knew was to listen to the Party. If the party told you to do something, you did it. So you might say that people of my generation lost their sense of self. But after I came to America I finally had a chance to find myself. I could choose what to do for the second half of my life. And now I’m quite happy, because it seems like I’ve made the right choices. I chose to work with language education, I chose to go to BYU, I chose to teach at UM. I also chose to stay at UM. Most people don’t know this, but in 2001 I was offered a tenure-track position at the University of Virginia, but I eventually decided to stay at UM instead. And I’ve never regretted it. I’ve never forgot the three things I decided to do, and I’ve worked very hard to achieve them. But in 2013 when I received the Walton Lifetime Achievement award, the highest honor for Chinese education in the U.S., I was pretty surprised. This was because I’d never expected any kind of award, and this was also because only a few people had received this award.

LRCCS: What is the most important trait of being a good teacher?
Chen Laoshi: I think for a teacher, the most important thing isn’t his educational background, it isn’t his teaching experience, it’s not even his character or personality. What could be more important than those things?  I believe it’s motivation, dedication, and the spirit of self-sacrifice. No matter how good your other things, if from the bottom of your heart you don’t love your work and your students, if you lack motivation and devotion, that’s just passing the time - you’ll never become a truly good teacher. You could also approach the question from another angle - it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about China or America, good students or not so good students. But if your students remember and miss you after the passage of decades, then you’re definitely a good teacher.

LRCCS: Thanks so much, Chen Laoshi.  We’ve taken up much of your time, but our readers certainly appreciate it.
Chen Laoshi: Happy to have taken part.  I hope your readers find my story useful.

LRCCS Community Spotlight: 陈青海(中文版)

这是LRCCS Community Spotlight 第一次采用中文的稿子。我们采访了2013年退休的原密歇根大学中文部主任陈青海老师。在采访中,陈老师讲述了他从中国到美国的生活经历。

陈青海老师接受过话剧表演的专业训练,1961年

陈青海老师接受过话剧表演的专业训练,1961年

LRCCS:陈老师,我们的读者都期待着了解您的经历。能不能请您谈一谈?
陈老师:那我就来简单介绍一下自己的经历吧。我首先要告诉你的是:我从小在中国的生活不太容易。为什么呢?因为我的出身不好,家庭出身不好。我爸爸以前是资本家,所以在1949年以后属于革命的对象。在很长的时间里面,像我们这样的孩子,不管要做什么,都不太容易有好的机会。

LRCCS:明白。陈老师是哪一年出生的?
陈老师:我是1943年出生的,所以差不多是1949年的时候进的小学。虽然我的出身不好,但是我的学习成绩总是比一般的同学好。可以说从小学到中学一直到大学我都是很努力的。可是呢,我想你了解1949年以后中国的一些情况,就是搞了很多的政治运动。

LRCCS:明白。
陈老师:那么,每一次运动,像我们这样的家庭都要受苦。后来一直到文化大革命,那是我们家最苦的时候。

LRCCS:哪方面苦?
陈老师:首先在1966年的8月,红卫兵来抄家。我们家被抄过两次。第二次抄家的时候,红卫兵把我们家的很多东西,其实都是生活必需品,都搬到外面的马路上,让我上小学的小弟弟点火。当时烧得很厉害,把马路都烧坏了。而且路上汽车都走不了,都得要绕道。然后又把大部分剩下的东西堆到几个房间里,贴上封条,不让我们用。在那以后的很多年里,我们家都是靠亲戚朋友的帮助才能活下来。

那个时候我和我的大妹妹快要大学毕业。我们就是在文化革命的中间分配工作的——那个时候都是政府给你一个工作到哪里,你一定得去。你要是不去,就没有工作。1968年我被分配去了江西。我去的是江西上饶专区最穷的一个县。然后从县里再分到下面的一个镇上,那个镇上有一个中学,把我分到那个中学。其实,也没有教书。那个时候造反派里面的两派在斗来斗去。每天都是开会吵架。我也听不懂当地的方言。就这样过了一个月以后,江西省把所有的中学都停办了。

LRCCS:哦。当时您是去当老师吗?
陈老师:我算是当“老师”,可是学校不上课,然后就说不办中学了。办什么呢?办共产主义劳动大学。在每一个县都办一个共大的分校。就只办共大分校,不再办普通中学了。老师怎么办呢?都下放。下放到农村去当农民种地。我就每天到地里干活,跟农民一起。农民对我还是不错的。 

LRCCS:嗯。您都是种什么?
陈老师:那一带种水稻,也就是大米。过了一段时间,大概有半年吧,每个公社又都要自己办中学了,所以就需要有人教课。这样就又把我叫回学校。

陈老师曾经在江西省的一个偏僻地区“接受再教育”,1969年

陈老师曾经在江西省的一个偏僻地区“接受再教育”,1969年

LRCCS:还是原来那个学校吗?
陈老师对,就是原来那个学校。那儿原来是一个县中,有好几十个老师。可是到后来,只剩两三个没有下放的老师,再加上几个像我这样的,还算下放,只是当地公社把我们“借”回去教书。这大概是1969年的秋天,我就算是开始教书了。

LRCCS:那么您上大学的时候学的是什么?
陈老师:我学英文。但是那个时候学英文有很多限制。我们看不到当时国外的东西,也没有过外籍老师。学校跟我们说,如果在马路上看到外国人,不许跟他们说英语。如果说英语,发生了什么事情,你自己负责。那就有可能会被抓起来。所以那个时候学英语很不容易。其实我们也没有学完,后来文化大革命就开始了。

那么再回过来说江西。我后来就开始回到那个学校上课。那个时候呢,当然不可能教英文,就让我教语文。那个时候也没有教材,什么都没有。我只能从报纸上找一点什么东西,然后改写成一个简单的材料,给学生上课。

那些学生在过了50年以后,到现在还记得我。大概在五、六年以前,他们在网上查到我,就给我写来E-mail,后来就请我一定要回去看一看。到2012年的时候我跟我太太真的就去了一次。当然那个地方整个的都变了,好几十年了。只有一样东西没有变,那就是当地人跟我之间的感情。那些学生对我说,当年在那样偏僻的地方,他们本来不太可能有像我这样的老师。我就好像为他们打开了一扇大门,一扇通向外面世界的大门。

LRCCS:那个时候您太太也在江西吗?
陈老师:不是,她在杭州,是浙江大学的老师。后来,我们花了很大的努力,我总算离开江西调到了杭州,进了浙江大学的附属中学。我们也就很快有了孩子。

LRCCS:您调到杭州是哪一年?
陈老师:那是1975年。

后来很快地文化大革命就结束了,大学又开始招生了,要高考了。那个时候,我那个学校的学生特别地爱学习,也特别地能学习。我也特别地愿意帮助他们。我的努力很快就有了成果,每一年我的学生高考成绩都很突出,我的课被录像后在中央电视台的教育频道向全国播放,我也出版了英语教学的专著,发表文章总结了自己的教学经验。这样我就成了浙江省最好的老师之一。当时全国都会有老师到杭州来听课。他们要听英文课,往往是来听我的课。我每天去上课,都可能看到来听课的老师们拿着椅子排着队在往我的教师里走,从来都不需要事先通知我。

在1984年的时候,杭州市政府把我调到杭州教育学院去当副院长。那是一个专门培训中学教师的学院,我在那里负责教学和学生工作,也上一些课。我一下子就从普通教师变成了一个领导。当时呢,我也是对改革开放充满了希望,觉得应该留在国内做一些有意义的事情。可是我很快就发现,这个政府,或者说上面的那些人,是怎么回事,而我觉得我很不喜欢。

陈老师和浙江大学附属中学的同事们在一起,1980年

陈老师和浙江大学附属中学的同事们在一起,1980年

LRCCS:嗯。那您说他们到底是怎么回事?
陈老师:这个问题三言两语说不清楚,反正很多当领导的人说的是一套,做的是一套。表面上为人民服务,实际上是为自己谋私利。在这儿我只跟你说一件小事:当时,学校的领导每天上下班有小车接送,我就很不喜欢。虽然表面上说得好听,说是工作需要,但其实这不是工作需要。你领导上班下班跟普通的老师有什么不一样?所以我总是自己骑自行车上下班的。我们从小受的教育是要为人民服务,但是那些教育我们要为人民服务的人自己却享受特权。一个人有了特权还能真的为人民服务吗?

后来我有一个机会到美国,就是到密歇根大学的教育学院来做访问学者,就在UM的School of Education做了一年的Visiting Scholar。

LRCCS:那是哪一年?
陈老师:那是1987到1988年。

我怎么能来呢?当时有一个住在Ann Arbor的人去浙江大学教英文。结果呢,因为我也是教英文的,就通过学生认识了。认识了以后呢,她就很帮我的忙,介绍我向美国一个机构申请资助。结果我申请到了。而我正是来了美国以后才知道原来美国是这个样子的。

陈老师第一次来密歇根大学,1987年

陈老师第一次来密歇根大学,1987年

LRCCS:您对美国的第一个印象是什么?
陈老师:当然首先看到的是整个的这个环境,这个社会,跟中国非常不一样。那个时候我就觉得美国人活得比较放松,笑得比中国人多,不需要在乎说了什么话会有人来找你的麻烦。

我从这里回国以后就发生了一件很大的事,那就是1989年这个天安门的事情。其实那个时候全国的每一个大城市都是一样的,只是没有开枪。所以那个时候,我那个学校的学生也是上街去游行啊,在广场上绝食啊,坐在铁路上不让军车通过啊,这些事情都有。

那段时间我非常地不愉快。为什么呢?首先是因为警察要到学校来了解情况。他们来学校就找我。幸亏那个时候的警察也很同情学生。他们来了之后就说:“陈院长,你随便跟我们说几句就好了。不管你说什么,我们只要能回去汇报就好了。”有一个警察还跟我说:“我们实在不明白,我们是警察,到大学里来做什么?”

所以,可怕的还不是警察,可怕的是政府。那个时候像我这样的人晚上不能回家。在办公室搭了一张临时的床,晚上要睡在那里。为什么?因为教育局什么时候都有可能打电话来,半夜里也可能打电话来。要问学生在哪里?在做什么?

我们的学生在广场上绝食的时候我去看过他们。当时,我拉着他们的手一句话都说不出来。我非常地感动。当然,你知道后来北京发生了什么。其实在杭州,在我们学院,也发生了很多让我很不愉快的事情。就在“六•四”以后的两个星期我辞职了。我实在不愿意再当一个这样的领导。也开始想要离开那个地方。特别是考虑到我女儿。她性子比较直。当时中国有了“六•四”那样的事情,我觉得像她这样的孩子留在中国,以后会有麻烦。

LRCCS:您女儿是哪一年出生的?
陈老师:我女儿是1976年出生的,就是文化大革命结束的那一年。到1989年的时候她在念初中。她当时有一些表现,就是她的正义感很强。所以我觉得,她在中国的话将来可能会有麻烦。

就这样,在UM教育学院教授们的帮助下,我第二次来到了美国。这时候呢,我觉得我应该考虑留在美国,而留在美国的目的不能只是在这里活下去,而是也得要在美国做一些力所能及的贡献吧。既然现在要做什么我完全能够自己决定了,我想,我还是教中文吧。

其实那个时候在美国学中文的人还不是很多,但是我心里想,肯定会越来越多的,我应该能在这方面做一些事情。我觉得我可以在美国做三件事。第一是把一个学校的中文教学项目搞好。后来我在UM多年里所做的努力,特别是在我负责中文教学之后,就是不能只是我自己一个人好,而是要让所有的老师和所有的中文课都好。第二件我觉得我可以做的事是在中文教学的某一个方面有一个突破。这就是后来我在全美带头开发的Business Chinese(商务汉语)这门课,也可以说是特殊用途的汉语教学。我在UM商学院的支持下首创了Business Chinese Workshop这个品牌,在十年的时间里一共开了四次全国性的和国际性的研讨会。这个会议可能UM或者ALC都不当一回事,但在美国的中文教学界可是一件大事呀。下面我再说一下我当初觉得自己可以在美国做好的第三件事。美国的中文教学有一个National Field,特别是有Chinese Language Teachers Association这样一个组织。我从一开始就觉得自己是其中的一员,而且有责任为它做一份贡献。在后来的二十年里,我几乎参加了CLTA每一年的年会,也在CLTA的学报上发表过几篇有影响的文章,还曾经当选为CLTA理事会的理事。除此以外,我和同事们合作出版了两本重要的教材,担任过美国一些高校中文教学项目和教师职称升迁的评估工作。

LRCCS:您刚才说了要在美国做好三件事。能请您再简单重复一下吗?
陈老师:好的,刚才说的三件事是:1)把一个大学的中文教学项目搞好,2)在中文教学的一个方面寻求一种突破,3)为美国的中文教学领域做一份贡献。这三件事在我的脑子里从一开始就是非常清楚的,而这三件事也可以说就是一件事。1990年我第二次来美国的时候已经46岁了,我前面剩下的时间已经不多了。但是无论如何,我有决心集中精力做好这三件事。当时,为了给自己创造条件,我决定去Brigham Young University(杨百翰大学)读一个博士学位。也许你知道,这个学校因为摩门教会传教的关系对语言教学是特别重视的,设备和条件也数一数二。这就是为什么我会去那里上学。可是我在BYU上学的时候真的很不容易。因为你知道我去的时候已经是47岁了。特别是我总觉得我比那些年轻的同学有基础有经验,我应该比他们都学得好。这样,我给自己的压力就特别大。 

LRCCS:您是哪一年来UM教中文的?
陈老师:1995年。当时我在BYU成为ABD,还没有写完论文就拿到了UM这个工作。当时我很激动,因为这是我第三次到UM和Ann Arbor来。我第一次来UM是做访问学者,回中国的时候没想到会再回来,但是后来回来了。第二次来UM还是做访问学者,离开这里是去BYU上学,那时也没想到我还能再回来,但是我居然又回来了。这是我第三次来Ann Arbor,来UM,而且这一次我成了一个Faculty Member。所以,如果说一个人有命运的话,那就是我的命里注定了我的后半辈子要在UM和Ann Arbor度过。
 
1995年我申请UM这个工作的时候,这里主管中文教学的是Prof. Baxter。是他挑选了我,所以我感谢他。我也一直很感谢ALC,感谢UM。正是这个学校给了我机会来实现我的美国梦。

来了UM以后,当然一开始我还不是Program Director。但是那时我就开了很多的新课。我大概为ALC一共开了10门新课,前面那些年差不多是每年开一门。而且我们这个UM中文教学项目的网站最早也是我做出来的。当然还做了不少别的事。其实我的工作对我并没有这些要求,许多事都是我自己愿意这样做的,其中的辛苦和委屈也只有我自己知道。一个人有时会被误解,有时得不到公平的对待,这在美国也一样。但是有理想有追求的人不应该太在乎这些,你说是吧?

LRCCS:是什么让您的决心这么到位?
陈老师:在中国的时候,我做过的工作都不是我自己的选择。那个时候我们受的教育是要听党的话。党叫你做什么你就做什么。所以也可以这样说,就是当时在中国我们这一代的人失去了自我。没有自我。但是我来了美国之后终于有了这样一个找回自我的机会。也就是说,我可以自己来选择后半辈子做什么样的事情,过什么样的日子。而现在有一点让我很高兴,那就是现在看来我在美国做了正确的选择。我选择了从事语言教学,我选择了去BYU上学,我选择了来UM任教。事实上,我也选择了留在UM。这一点你不知道吧?我在2001年拿到维吉尼亚大学终身制教职的时候,经过一个月剧烈的思想斗争,我最后选择了留下。对于这些重大的选择,我从来没有后悔和遗憾过。我一直在心里牢牢地记住自己要做好的三件事,也就是要实现的三个目标,而且一直在不断地努力。但是,当2013年我被CLTA授予Walton终身成就奖(美国中文教学的最高荣誉)的时候,我还是觉得很意外,因为我从来没有想过要去得什么奖,也因为只有很少的人得过这个奖。

LRCCS:您觉得什么样的老师才是好老师?
陈老师:我觉得对一个老师来说,其实最重要的不是他的条件, 不是他所受的教育和有过的经验,甚至于也不是他的素质和个性。那么最重要的是什么呢?那就是他的动机和献身精神。一个人的条件再好,只要不是从心底里热爱自己的工作和学生,只要缺乏动机和献身精神,那他就只是在混日子,就不可能成为一个真正的好老师。也可以反过来这样说吧,不管是在中国还是美国,不管是那个时候学得好的学生或者是学得不太好的学生,只要过了多少年以后他们还都记得你想念你,那么你就一定是一个好老师。

LRCCS:谢谢您,陈老师。今天花了您不少时间,但是我们的读者一定会感谢您。
陈老师:接受你的采访我也很高兴,希望你们的读者听了我的故事会觉得有一点用处。

Job Opening: Rubin Museum of Art

About the Museum

The Rubin Museum of Art is a dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding, and inspires personal connections to the ideas, cultures, and art of Himalayan Asia.

Now in its second decade, the Rubin welcomes over 175,000 visitors annually and has a growing membership of more than 4,000 households. Contained within five floors of galleries are several long-term rotating installations drawn from the permanent collection as well as frequent short-term loan exhibitions that are more broadly conceived in concept, art, geography, medium, and time. The Museum presents over 250 films, performances, and on-stage conversations annually as well as a robust roster of other educational initiatives. The ground floor is free-to-all and is a lively nexus for conversation, shopping, and refreshment.

The Museum’s collection includes over 3,000 objects spanning more than 1,500 years up to the present day. Renowned for its quality and depth, the collection focuses on art from the Tibetan Plateau and is broadened by a significant number of important examples from surrounding regions, including Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Mongolia.

About the Position

The Manager of Digital Content and Production will produce web content, support internal communications systems, and oversee digital media initiatives.

As the principal administrator of the Museum’s website, the Manager of Digital Content and Production will manage the workflow for all content that is published to the website and related web properties. S/he must have in-depth knowledge of complex content management systems and experience leveraging multiple taxonomies to organize a variety of rich content. S/he will manage and publish the day-to-day updates that are required (events, exhibitions, media center), as well as facilitate broader institutional online campaigns (interactive experiences, crowdfunding campaigns, etc). S/he will be able to determine what is possible within the framework of the CMS, create wireframes and page layouts leveraging existing style guides, as well as recommend new projects to extend the website’s functionality and ease of use.

The Museum’s overall communications strategy is founded on making data-informed decisions. This role will be responsible for considering the larger digital landscape of the Museum’s engagement with its audience, which includes the capture and analysis of metrics from the Museum’s web properties using Google Analytics, as well as integrating data from the Museum’s ticketing, CRM, email marketing, and online shop systems.

As the in-house video and audio editor, this position is responsible for developing, managing, and executing audio and video projects for the Marketing and Communications team. This requires the ability to draft scripts, create storyboards, shoot and edit video, capture and edit audio for podcasts, manage relationships with external consultants, and deliver media for online, broadcast, and in-gallery use. This role consults with the Exhibitions team on in-gallery media initiatives, in particular in regards to the leveraging of media content across all communication channels. Additionally, this role oversees the editing of Programming content, recorded in the theater. The Manager of Digital Content and Production will work with consultants to edit items from the video archive for distribution. S/he manages the Museum’s YouTube channel, podcasts, and the online Media Center.

The incumbent will report to the Head of Marketing & Communications.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:

Web and Database Administration

  • Develop and share reports on activity on the Museum’s various web properties.
  • Manage or advise consultants contributing to the Museum’s various digital engagement strategies.
  • Advise and assist with institutional database integration where possible (especially related to e-marketing and e-commerce).
  • Liaise with all staff in order to effectively plan and support web-based services related to their goals and objectives.

Content Management

  • Manage the workflow for publishing web content on the Museum’s web properties.
  • Oversee the website’s Content Management System (ExpressionEngine), which includes user management, user permissions, customizations for user roles, and taxonomy management.
  • Develop basic wireframes for new content to ensure that the Rubin’s web presence is designed and deployed in a user-friendly manner.
  • Work with in-house graphic designers to maintain a consistent look and feel throughout the Museum’s web presences and media assets.
  • Conduct in-house training sessions for users of the Content Management System.
  • Provide technical support to staff and users of the Museum’s websites.

Media Production

  • Pre-Production duties e.g. write scripts, create storyboards, draft contracts for consultants, scout locations, and develop project timelines.
  • Production activities, e.g. capture audio and video, set up basic lighting, and facilitate interviews.
  • Oversee the editing of content from current and archived programs (video and audio), which includes:
    • Managing contractors hired to prepare and deliver videos for distribution agreements.
    • Editing archival programs for communication uses.
    • Consulting with AV team and Programs department on the process of capturing and archiving media content.

Qualifications:

  • Familiarity with digital trends and best practices
  • Bachelor’s degree in related field
  • Basic understanding of PHP, or other scripting language
  • Production/post-production skills:
    • Understanding of industry standards for video and audio production
    • Ability to capture audio and video, set up basic lighting, facilitate interviews
    • Strong working knowledge of rich media/online media and motion graphic applications and delivery programs, ability to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro/ Final Cut Pro 7 (required)
    • Familiarity with various media conversion tools such as MPEG streamclip, Adobe Media Encoder, Toast, etc.
    • Familiarity with digital audio editing software, e.g. Audition, Pro Tools
  • Project management and planning skills including: ability to optimize processes, develop workflows and communicate those to team members
  • Creativity in regards to multi-media storytelling preferred
  • Ability to create narrative structures and express them in storyboards a plus
  • Excellent inter-personal skills and ability to work with all departments and various stakeholders required
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills required
  • Ability to meet deadlines for a multitude of tasks in a fast paced working environment required.
  • At Least 3 years of experience with and knowledge of:
    • Email Marketing
    • Social Media Platforms
    • Google Analytics
    • SEO
  • Strong interest in the arts and culture a plus

The Rubin Museum offers a competitive salary and benefits package.

How to Apply

Please provide the following as part of your application: Complete resume, including salary history and salary requirements. A cover letter addressing both your interest in the Rubin Museum, and your qualifications for this position. Applications: Indicate Manager of Digital Content & Production on Subject Line of Email or in body of cover letter. Applications in electronic format preferred, and accepted at jobs@rubinmuseum.org Mailed applications – Manager, Human Resources, Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17th Street, New York, New York 10011.

Xiaobing Tang on Mao-era Propaganda Art

Xiaobing Tang 唐小兵 Helmut F. Stern Professor Modern Chinese Studies and Comparative Literature

Xiaobing Tang
唐小兵

Helmut F. Stern Professor
Modern Chinese Studies and
Comparative Literature

If the past is a challenging story to tell, it’s equally challenging to understand modern China “in a meaningful process of change and self-renewal and transformation,” says Tang, the Michigan professor. “The posters, in some ways, serve precisely that purpose.”
— http://www.macleans.ca/culture/a-future-that-never-was-in-china/

Click here to read the article in its entirety

Job Opening: AmCham China - Policy Analyst

Industry: Nonprofit Organization

Job title: Policy Analyst

 

Job purpose 职位概要:

Policy Analyst monitors regulatory and legislative changes across a wide variety of industries and sectors, while supporting/driving AmCham China’s policy and advocacy efforts through the publication of policy reports – including the annual White Paper, government submissions and outreach, and programs and events with the support of AmCham China’s Policy Committee.

 

Working location and time 工作时间/地点:

Beijing, 9:00-17:30, Monday- Friday

 

Duties and responsibilities 工作职责:

  • Lead the drafting, editing, and production process for the AmCham China White Paper.

  • Principal staff support to the AmCham China Policy Committee.

  • Drive/support specific policy-focused reports.

  • Track, research, and analyze Chinese regulatory and legislative changes.

  • Provide briefings and attend events on behalf of AmCham China.

  • Provide policy support to members, government officials, other staff, and for meetings and events.

 

Qualifications 任职要求:

  • Minimum – university degree plus 2 years post college relevant full time employment Master degree preferred. Must be at least 25 years of age prior to position start date

  • Native English speaker preferred with strong writing and editing skills

  • Knowledge of economics/business and background in Chinese economic and business policy

  • Working level proficiency in Chinese required; ability to conduct research in Chinese strongly desired

  • Ability to engage professionally with senior corporate executives and US and Chinese government officials

  • Ability to function in a multi-cultural organization

  • Demonstrated competence in various computer programs including Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, Outlook, and PowerPoint

  • Willingness to commit for a two year term

 

Personal qualities 个人能力

  • Organized

  • Strong time management skills; able to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines

  • Effective communication skills

  • Ability to multi-task

  • Dependable

  • Flexible

  • Quality-oriented

  • Team player

  • Self-starter

  • Service-orientated

 

To apply for this position, please submit your resume and cover letter to hr@amchamchina.org

 

Language(s) Required

English (US) Native Tongue

Chinese (Mandarin) Fluent

Salary

Negotiable

Industry

Community Services and Development

LRCCS Spotlight: Erhu Rockstar Xiaodong Wei

Xiaodong Wei 魏晓冬 Lecturer, Residential College

Xiaodong Wei 魏晓冬
Lecturer, Residential College

 In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series, we sit down with traditional Chinese musician Xiaodong Wei who teaches Chinese music in the Residential College.   In 2010, LRCCS helped organize an event in collaboration with the Detroit Tigers for the year of the tiger, where Wei played the national anthem on the erhu 二胡 to open a game at Comerica Park.  In this interview, Wei talks about smashing her erhu, her favorite musicians, and her fascinating journey to where she is today.

LRCCS: Where is your hometown, your 家乡?

Wei: I come from Heilongjiang Province, Jixi 鸡西.  It’s really close to the Russian border.

LRCCS: When did you first start playing music?

Wei: I started playing Chinese music when I was 5.  Later I moved to Beijing to study at the Central Conservatory of Music 中央音乐学院, and learning piano was part of the curriculum, so I also started studying Western music around that time.  Now I primarily play the erhu, the piano, and the guzheng 古筝

LRCCS: When did you first come to the US?

Wei:  I first came in 1998 for a business trip.  I was working for a company that made military reproductions – German helmets, Japanese shovels, gun holsters.  We were going to trade shows in the US to sell our products.

LRCCS: What’s the story behind that?  How did you go from musician to business woman?

Wei: I graduated in 1990, just after the Tiananmen Incident, and there was a new policy that anyone from the ten provinces that border foreign countries  would have their hukou 户口 reverted to their hometown.  So even if I was two orchestras in Beijing both wanted to hire me, and I eventually worked for one orchestra in Beijing with short term contract, my salary was lower than people with a Beijing hukou, and I wasn’t eligible for benefits.  

I tried working like that for a while but was feeling pretty jaded about my experience, and also just getting sick of Beijing.  One of my classmates started working for this American Korean War veteran who was working on this business and the boss invited me to work for him.

LRCCS: How did you end up coming to the University of Michigan?

Wei: When I moved to Detroit, my husband suggested I contact UofM.  We sent my CV someone in the music department, and Joseph Lam [Professor, School of Music] contacted me.  I started working through the Confucius Institute right when they started around 2010.

LRCCS: What are you working on now?

Wei: I teach erhu, guzheng and piano privately, and also teach Chinese music ensemble at the RC.  I do some performances, like the with Detroit Symphony Orchestra, or with pianist Yuki Mack.  And I have a pop-rock band.  We play at events like Arts, Beats & Eats, Detroit Festival Arts, Concerts of Colors - those kinds of venues.

Xiaodong Wei's band Madame XD on FOX2 News

LRCCS: Tell us about your band.

Wei: When I first moved here, I was taking music classes at Wayne State, and I saw an ad that said “Female musicians needed – piano, violin, vocal, or whatever.”  I thought, “Whatever? That’s me!”  So I called and the guy was a bluegrass guitarist who said to me a mandolin player just called couple days ago, so lets jam to see what can come out of it.  We formed a three-piece band, where I played the erhu.   

That band evolved into a few different groups; now our group is called Madame XD.  It’s a play on words from the movie Madame X.  We have a lot of fun and do crazy stuff like smash my erhu.

LRCCS: Smash your erhu?  Like Jimi Hendrix?

Wei: Yeah!  It was a funny story.  I didn’t tell my band members I was going to do it, and at the end of a performance I just smashed it and walked off stage.  They were worried something was wrong with me.

LRCCS: That’s amazing.  How do you perform with the erhu?  Do you plug it in somehow or just play close to a microphone?

Wei: At first I just used a mic and played it that way.  Later I found some tools I could use to plug it in more like a guitar.  Sometimes I can even use pedals like reverb, wah-wah, stuff like that.  I have a preamp made specially for the erhu by Rolland, which has direct input.

LRCCS: Who are some of your favorite Chinese musicians?

Wei: My favorite erhu player is Min Huifen 闵惠芬, who passed away a couple years ago.  I also like the flute 笛子 player Dai Ya 戴亚, who was one of my classmates. Some others are pipa 琵琶player Zhang Qiang 张强,and jinghu 京胡 player Zhang Suying 张素英 who tragically took her own life. 

LRCCS: What about Western music?  How did you first get into rock music when you were living in China?  Was it hard to come by?

Wei: It’s funny, when I was getting into non-classical Western music back then, most people only knew about John Denver and Kenny G.  Rock music was very hard to find back then.  In China they were smuggling music in from Hong Kong and places like that, many of them were “cut-out,” dakou 打口 albums.  

At that time, one of my friends was a rock producer and he had a lot of those types of albums.  I was listening to groups like Led Zepplin, Mr. Big and Bjork. Back then I didn’t get Bjork, but now she is on the top of my list.

LRCCS: What’s your vision for your musical career?  Do you have any desire to spread Chinese music in America?

Wei:  Yeah, I really like doing that.  When I first moved here I didn’t think about that much, but now it’s becoming more and more important to me.  Music has no borders; it’s a language everyone can understand.

I have a story about that.  I went to a reunion for Korean War veterans, and there was a guy there who hated Chinese people.  Every time someone even brought up China, he would get angry.  Well, at the event I played “Amazing Grace” on the erhu, and after that he came up and talked to me, he loved my performance.  Everyone was surprised because normally he wouldn’t even talk to a Chinese person.  After that, people told me that guy changed.  I feel good about that.

Thanks for reading this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series.  You can find out more about Xiaodong Wei at her personal website: http://www.xiaodongwei.com/  

Stay tuned for more interviews!

 

Congratulations! Celebrating LRCCS Faculty Promotions

The following LRCCS Faculty Associates' promotions were finally approved by the Board of Regents.  Congratulations!

  • Benjamin H. Brose, associate professor of Chinese Buddhism, with tenure, LSA.
  • Mary Gallagher, professor of political science, with tenure, LSA.
  • Ming Xu, associate professor of natural resources and environment, with tenure, SNRE, and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, without tenure, CoE.
  • Wang Zheng, professor of women’s studies, with tenure, and professor of history, without tenure, LSA.
Photo credit - Thomas Talhelm

Photo credit - Thomas Talhelm

For the full list of UM promotions, check The Record's website:

https://record.umich.edu/articles/regents-approve-faculty-promotions-1

 

Mary Gallagher on Sports in China

Mary Gallagher LRCCS Director Professor, Political Science

Mary Gallagher

LRCCS Director
Professor, Political Science

Where's the passion? China soccer boom missing key ingredient

Originally published Sunday, May 15, 2016 by CTV News - Click here for full article

The educational system “leaves very little space or time for sports”, said Mary Gallagher, of the University of Michigan. “Will parents risk points on the gaokao for the chance to play soccer every day?”

LRCCS Intern Spotlight: Before and After – Cherry Tou & Arber Lajqi

Cherry Tou Ross Business School Undergraduate

Cherry Tou
Ross Business School
Undergraduate

In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series, we have a double feature – Cherry Tou, Ross undergraduate, and Arber Lajqi LSA undergraduate.  Cherry has an upcoming summer internship at Casino Louis XIII in Macau, and Arber did the same internship in summer of 2015.  Both Cherry and Arber were awarded with the LRCCS Walter Power Scholarship to finance their internships in Macau.

Part I – Cherry Tou

LRCCS: Tell us a bit about yourself

Cherry: I’m from Macau, I grew up there.  I came to the US for my undergraduate education; I’m a sophomore now with a double major in Business and PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics).

LRCCS: What’s your impression of this internship you’re about to go on?

Cherry: I found out about this internship through LSA.  It’s at a new hotel called Louis XIII, which hasn’t been opened yet.  It’s a business finance internship working directly for the CEO, Mr. Walter Power.

LRCCS:  What do you hope to get out of this internship?

Cherry: I really want to get to know more about how a hotel or a company in general works.  I’ve had other internships but they were very siloed in specific departments so I didn’t get the big picture.  I’m very excited to work directly with a CEO; I’ve never even met a CEO before!  

LRCCS: What do you want to do when you graduate?

Cherry: I want to go into investment banking for two years.  I hear the hours are really intense, but I enjoy that intensity.  Hopefully I can do that in the US.

LRCCS: What other sorts of things are you passionate about?

Cherry: I really love organizing conferences!  It’s exciting to encounter challenges and solve them, and then see the result of all the planning.

I was involved in TEDx UM, and organized the first TEDx talk in Macau when I was in high school.  One of my friends gave a TEDx talk in Egypt, and that’s how I first heard about the platform.  For UM, I helped with the marketing for our TEDx event.  

Right now I’m also working on the Asia Business Conference; I’m the VP for the event.  

LRCCS: What kind of a vision do you have for your life?

Cherry: I did some volunteering in rural Chinese schools back in high school; one of the students I met had to walk two hours every day just to get to school.  And I realized how privileged my life has been.  So I really want to help promote education  in rural China.  But I think if I want to make a significant impact, I should work in the private sector first.  I’d like to help build schools and volunteer in that region.

A long walk home - Cherry walks one of the students home during a volunteer trip in rural China

A long walk home - Cherry walks one of the students home during a volunteer trip in rural China


Part II - Arber Lajqi

Arber Lajqi LSA Undergraduate

Arber Lajqi
LSA Undergraduate

LRCCS: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Arber: I was born in Kosovo and moved to New York when I was 4.  I went back to Kosovo for 8th grade and high school, and then came back to the US for college.  My family came to the US because of the Kosovo War.  Since I moved so young, I didn’t know Albanian at all, so after the war was over my family sent me back to learn the language.

LRCCS: What was your experience like interning in Macau?

Arber: At first I was hesitant because I had no experience in casino finance.  But I’m super grateful I went through with it.  I met Mr. Power on my first day out there and he became sort of like a mentor.  We structured the internship together, where I had my own project but also did some things that were more like shadowing.

LRCCS: What did you learn from your time there?

Arber: Everything was mesmerizing for me.  The casino is the most expensive in the world, per square foot.  Working directly for a CEO, who was very humble, was a great experience.  I never thought I’d have a chance to work so closely with a CEO – we met at least once a week.
I honestly didn’t think I had much to offer – the youngest person at the company was 30.  But by the end I felt like I really made a contribution; I felt like my project really meant something.

LRCCS: What do you think was the most important thing you learned from Mr. Power?

Arber: He told me to do something I’m passionate about, because if I don’t, I won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much.  Also, his humility really inspired me.  Before I met him he seemed like this mythical figure that everyone looked up to; so initially I was a little intimidated.  But when I finally got the chance to meet him, he made me feel so comfortable and relaxed.

LRCCS: Any idea about what that thing is which you’re passionate about?

Arber: Well, another thing Mr. Power told me is that if you think you know exactly where you’re going to be twenty years from now at the age of twenty, you have no idea what you’re talking about.  But I think I have a foundational idea about what I’m interested in, which is mathematical analysis in the finance field.  I like making numbers tell a story, in a way that people can believe.

LRCCS: What interests you about the finance field?

Arber: I think it’s fun making predictions.  Being able to guess right provides a sense of validity for my skills, and that’s a great feeling for me personally.

LRCCS: What was your typical day like in Macau?

Arber: I would go to work around 9 and leave around 7:30 – not because I had to, but because I wanted to get as much out of the experience as I could.  After work, I started practicing Jiu-Jitsu.  Mr. Power is a huge fan, and I believe he was finalist for a world championship in his age range.  So I’d practice from 7:30 – 10.  I’d go back home, shower, eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat.

LRCCS: Where do you see yourself post-graduation?

Arber: For right now, I want to gain more experience in finance analysis in general.  I dove in head first to the casino industry, but I want to see what else is out there.  

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for our next spotlight with erhu rockstar Xiaodong Hottmann

Video: New Directions in Manchu Studies

The LRCCS Annual Conference Series kicked off last weekend (May 6-8) at the UM Law School.  This year's topic was "New Directions in Manchu Studies."  

In this short video, Kicengge (aka Cheng Zhi, 承志) gives an introduction to the conference in Manchu, Sibe (his native language, a dialect of Manchu), and finally in English.  Kicengge is an associate professor of International Liberal Arts at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka, Japan.  

Linda Lim on Chinese Exportation of Global Infrastructure

Linda Lim Professor of Corporate Strategy and International Business Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Linda Lim

Professor of Corporate Strategy and International Business
Stephen M. Ross School of Business

China's newest super export: global infrastructure

May 1st, 2016. InTheBlack. Original by Joseph Catanzaro

Professor Linda Lim, a China strategy expert at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, says the perceived risk of low-quality Chinese construction is largely a thing of the past. She says Chinese companies are now aware their reputation is on the line internationally.

LRCCS Faculty Spotlight: Erik Mueggler

Erik Mueggler Professor Department of Anthropology

Erik Mueggler

Professor
Department of Anthropology

In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series, we sat down with Professor Erik Mueggler, who talked about how to communicate with spirits and his experiences researching Yi People.

LRCCS: Where do you call home?

Prof Mueggler: I’ve been in Ann Arbor since ’97; I have a son here.  This is pretty much home for me now.  I was born in Montana and spent most of my childhood there.

LRCCS: How did you first get interested in China?

Prof Mueggler: Actually I came to study China rather late. I had a scholarship at Cornell through the Telluride House, and one of the first graduate students from China who came to study in the US was also living in that house and became my friend.  She made China come alive for me in a way it never had before.  When I graduated she helped me get a job teaching English in Xiamen; this was in the late 80s.

LRCCS: When did you decide you wanted to go into academia?

Prof Mueggler: I never decided.  It just happened. I was really interested in anthropology and went to grad school to learn more. It was a shock for me to discover that the only thing you can do with a PhD in anthropology is become a professor.  

LRCCS: What types of fieldwork have you done throughout these years?

Prof Mueggler: Most of my fieldwork has been in Yunnan with Tibeto-Burman-speaking people who are classed in the large umbrella group called Yi (彝族). Early on when I was traveling around China, I spent some time in Lijiang (丽江).  People from all over the region came to the horse market there, and that’s where I learned that there were people who lived in the mountains who seemed to do things a bit differently than townspeople.    
 
I did some early exploratory fieldwork in a village called Baisha outside of Lijiang. There was a path leading up the mountain behind the village, and I asked some local people what was up there. They told me that it is not a good place to go, as Yi people lived up there. So naturally, the next day I set out in the morning to walk up that path.

It rained heavily, and I wasn’t prepared for that. I found a small hamlet, and because I was very wet I went to the door of one of the houses, hoping to stand under the eves. The people inside were extremely surprised to see me, but they invited me in. We sat around the fire all afternoon, talking, eating roasted barley flour, and drinking. The oldest man there brought out a manuscript in one of the Yi scripts. He said it was a history of his village – former slaves who had moved to this place after being liberated in the 1950s. I was hooked.  

LRCCS: What is it about this group of people that fascinates you?

Prof Mueggler: We know a lot about how many people in China engaged with the transformations of socialism. But we actually know very little about how people with different cultural resources than the Han majority adjusted to the enormous transformations of the 20th century. One of the important resources for the people I’ve worked closely with is poetic language, designed to do practical things, like communicating with ghosts, spirits, and all-sorts of non-human entities.

LRCCS: What sort of poetic language is this?  Is it something like scriptures or mantras?

Prof Mueggler: There are many different forms. In some Yi groups, they are written; in the groups I know best, they are not. Basically, many people learn formulaic poetic verses with which they communicate with spirits.  People believe that spirits only understand good language, poetic language.  

LRCCS: It almost makes me think of a spirit rap battle.  Are people freestyling these poems, or are they all memorized in advance?

Prof Mueggler: Memorization is very important, but so is innovation. For instance, one form is lament, used at funerals to express grief and communicate with the dead. The best lamenters learn most of their verses from older generations, but they also make up innovative verses for others to learn. Lament, in particular, has been adjusting to modern conditions – empty villages, a sense of being left behind, and so on. 

LRCCS: What are you working on now?

Prof Mueggler: I have a book in press about how people make a dead body; because dead bodies have to be made just like everything else.  That includes an enormous amount of ritualization, such as lamenting and other kinds of language.  The book will be out late this year. 

LRCCS: What is your vision for the work that you do?  Other than it being fascinating, why do you do it?

Prof Mueggler: The people I work with have always been ignored by everybody except those who want to reform them, or rescue them -- make them different.  My goal is to make visible what’s at the heart of the rich culture that has developed in these regions. That might seem like a small thing, but in communities where people have been told for decades how backwards they are, it seems empowering.  I wouldn’t claim anything I do actually empowers anyone, but that’s what I hope for.


Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for more interviews.

 

PhD Candidate Yidi Li publishes article analyzing online profiles in U.S. and China

Yidi Li LRCCS PhD Candidate Psychology & Women's Studies


Yidi Li
LRCCS PhD Candidate
Psychology & Women's Studies

The article, “Identity and self-presentation on social networking web sites: A comparison of online profiles of Chinese and American emerging adults,” reports the analysis of 100 Internet profiles of men and women ages 18 to 25 years in China and the United States. Mazur and Li’s goal was to explore the public presentation of self and identity on popular social networking Web sites.
— http://news.psu.edu/story/406036/2016/04/21/academics/professor-alumnus-publish-article-analyzing-online-profiles-us-and

You can access the article here:
http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ppm/5/2/101/

Job Opening: New York Chinese Cultural Center

Job Description

The New York Chinese Cultural Center seeks a dynamic and visionary Executive Director to implement and advance the Center’s mission. The ED is responsible for the overall management of the organization’s programming, infrastructure and operations.. Additionally, the ED is responsible for raising NYCCC’s public profile through the development of collaborative relationships with a broad range of partners and supporters. 

ESSENTIAL DUTIES/FUNCTIONS: 

  • Oversees all expenditures and revenues to ensure optimum program and operational effectiveness
  • Manages the financial reporting process, including the annual budget planning and audit
  • Oversees fundraising planning and implementation
  • Supervises and directs special events including an Annual Gala and Student Recital
  • Works with Staff on ensuring the quality of new and existing programming
  • Oversees community/donor outreach materials including web site, newsletter and other communication tools


QUALIFICATIONS

  • Demonstrable leadership experience and/or capacity
  • Proven success in fundraising
  • Experience in managing budgets, supervising staff and planning programs
  • Excellent verbal, writing and presentation skills
  • Ability to work with and develop an effective, diverse Board of Directors
  • Familiarity with database and financial management applications, such as Salesforce and/or QuickBooks.
  • Flexibility to work occasional weekends and late evenings
  • Knowledge of Chinese culture and/or Chinese language ability desirable, but not necessary.


Interested candidates should send a resume and cover letter with salary history and requirements via e-mail to scchu362@yahoo.com. No phone calls, please. 

ABOUT NYCCC

The New York Chinese Cultural Center (NYCCC), a nonprofit cultural and educational institution, is dedicated to deepening the understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture in the global and local communities. NYCCC fulfills its mission by offering professional classes, workshops, and performances while nurturing creative and innovative new works that reflect the rich cultural heritages and diverse communities of today.

Originally posted on StatesideChinaJobs.com

Job Opening: NYU School of Medicine

Part or Full-time (full time preferred) bilingual-English and Chinese (Mandarin required, Cantonese a plus) research / project coordinator needed to assist physician with research projects taking place within the Department of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine / Bellevue Hospital Center/Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. Project involves looking at the impact of parent literacy on children’s health, with a specific focus on early childhood obesity prevention. Our project seeks to incorporate evidence-based health communication strategies for the promotion of parent-provider engagement around child diet and activity-related issues, in partnership with the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.

Research Assistant / Project Coordinator

The research assistant / project coordinator would help with multiple aspects of research projects, including but not limited to:

Coordination of data collection:
– Enrollment of families
– Performing parent interviews and administration of assessments
– Coordination of follow-up

Maintenance of research data:
– Scoring of questionnaires and assessments
– Data entry / database creation

Administrative support:
– Preparation / translation of documents
– Preparation of materials for assessments
– Assistance in preparation of Institutional Review Board (IRB) documents
– Assistance in manuscript and grant preparation
– Ordering / organizing study materials, including incentives for participation and office supplies

We offer a competitive salary and an attractive benefit package (full-time hires only). This position also provides a unique opportunity to become involved in research projects, with the potential to collaborate on scholarly abstracts, and may be a particularly good option for those looking for a transitional position between college and an advanced degree (eg. medical/dental/public health).

Qualifications:
– Fluency in English and Chinese (Mandarin required, Cantonese a plus). Candidate should be able to read and write in both languages. Fluency in both Mandarin and Cantonese would be beneficial but not required.
– Excellent communication and organization skills necessary
– Prior experience working with children and families a plus
– Prior research experience preferred
– Ability to commit for at least 1 year essential (2 year commitment preferred)

Application Instructions: 
Please submit a cover letter describing why you are interested in working with us, along with a resume, specify if you’re interested in the Part-time or Full-timeposition and contact information for 2 references via e-mail (see contact person below). Please include “Research assistant / project coordinator position” in subject line.

Application Deadline: 5/6/16

Contact person:

Name: Xiaoyu Yu
Email: Xiaoyu.Yu@nyumc.org

LRCCS Spotlight: Yasmin Cho

Yasmin Cho LRCCS Postdoctoral Fellow Anthropology

Yasmin Cho

LRCCS Postdoctoral Fellow
Anthropology

In this edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series, we sat down with Yasmin Cho, LRCCS Postdoctoral fellow, who talked about some of her adventures (and misadventures) during fieldwork in China.

LRCCS: How did you get interested in China?

Dr. Cho: I studied Chinese literature and language as an undergraduate, and I guess I was initially fascinated by the poetic sound of the language as I learned classical poems in the classroom. Later, I took a summer trip to China during my first year of college and I went back every summer after, backpacking around the country by myself. During my trips, on the cheap overnight trains and buses, I was able to talk with college students, businessmen, senior citizens, and soldiers and this allowed me to go beyond my initial literary (or, rather, my romanticized) understanding of China and to think about contemporary social issues more broadly. 

LRCCS:  So, what are you working on right now?

Dr. Cho: I am working on my book manuscript and also writing up a few articles. 

LRCCS: What’s the book about?

Dr. Cho: My book deals with multiple issues. First, it looks at an alternative migratory trend in China. A great deal of scholarship has been built on the issue of Chinese peasants working in factories in cities. My project examines a “reverse” migration by drawing on a growing number of Tibetan girls moving to Yachen, a very isolated and remote place, to practice Buddhism. Yachen is now one of the largest Buddhist communities in the world, and the young girls who gather and stay there sustain their lives by building their own huts and engaging in daily spiritual practices under highly restrictive political circumstances. Their numbers now surpass 10,000. Second, as I studied the scholarly literature around this community and the larger Buddhist revivalism in China, one thing struck me: there are virtually no serious accounts of the existence of the nuns who make up the vast majority of practitioners in this revivalism. This fact has driven me to think about a conceptual blindness we bring to the way in which we treat religion and religious practices. The nuns’ physical labor has never been counted as a significant contribution in religious revivalism. What eventually counts as religion and as political practice? My book tries to answer these questions. 

LRCCS: How did you get into this community specifically?

Dr. Cho: I’d heard about it when I was in graduate school in Beijing, but I didn’t have the means to go there when I was studying in China.  It wasn’t until I came to the United States that I had the funds to go to Yachen as a novice fieldworker. This was in 2010. It was the most isolated and least modernized place I had ever been. Since 2010, I have visited this community at least once a year, including long-term field research between 2012 and 2013. 

LRCCS:  What was that like?

Dr. Cho: Well, everyone there builds their own huts.  The huts are built out of cheap plywood, some bricks… they build them in about a day or two (so you can imagine how shabby they look, at least from the outside). I ended up building my own at the beginning of my long-term field research. The nuns helped me build it and we finished it in one-and-a-half days. Building a hut for oneself sounds cool and fascinating, and it is indeed! But in this context, building requires a lot of careful maneuvering skills and political sensitivity about measuring the proper building time and space, and dealing with the Work Team (the Chinese officials). The nuns become well equipped to deal with these things over the course of their lives in Yachen. Building in Yachen is fundamentally a political issue. 

LRCCS:  How do the monks live?

Dr. Cho: Thanks for asking this question! The monks also need to build their own huts, but they have much better resources from their families and home monasteries, so their huts are in better shape, and much larger. Importantly, unlike the nuns, (this is a largely neglected fact) they do not have a shortage of quarters or land issues, because many of them have home monasteries that they can return to during politically troublesome times. In contrast, the nuns stay in Yachen forever, and must struggle to find land for building their huts and securing their livelihoods because there is nowhere to return for them. 

LRCCS:  What sorts of interesting stories happened while you were there?

Dr. Cho: There are so many, it’s tough to choose. One funny story is about the wild dogs. They’re very scary there. People sometimes die because of a dog attack. I am serious! In fact, I was bitten by a dog during my second year of field work in 2011.  The injury didn’t look bad at first, and the nuns told me that as long as I wasn’t bleeding a lot, I should be OK. So I waited, because as a field worker, I didn’t want to make a big fuss about this. But it kept getting worse and worse. It was swelling, turning black and blue.  A nun advised me to go to a local hospital, which was about seven hours away by bus.

I said goodbye, told the nuns I should be back in about three days, and took a very simple backpack with me. I thought I’d be back soon. I went to the nearby town and found a Chinese doctor (he is himself a Buddhist).  He saw my wound and told me we would have to cut my leg open and squeeze the blood out, something like that. There was no electricity there on that night, so he was using a tiny flashlight to look at my leg.

The doctor suddenly asked me, “Do you have a lama? Can you call him and ask him whether we need to cut your leg?” It was sort of an ethnographic moment for me to see that he wanted to give over his medical authority to a religious figure. Of course, I also noticed that he was scared, because he realized that I was a foreigner and that if anything happened to me, he’d be in big trouble.  

Anyway, ten days after being bit, I ended up having to go all the way back to South Korea and was hospitalized for a week. I went back to China that summer after my treatment in Korea. I have a large, permanent scar on my leg, a nice souvenir. 

LRCCS: Sounds like a crazy adventure. Is there anything you’re currently working on that you’d like to promote?

Dr. Cho: This is completely different from my research, but if possible, I want to work to improve the living situation of these nuns; specifically, to get them more toilets. For a community of 10,000 people, there are only two or three toilets.  It’s horrible.  I’d like to raise some money to get more bathroom facilities there. 

If you're interested in helping Dr. Cho raise money to get toilet facilities built in Yachen, please contact Eric Couillard - coueric@umich.edu
Thanks for reading the latest edition of the LRCCS Spotlight Series.  Stay tuned for more interviews!