History (1960 – 1985)

A Big Idea

In 1982 a film was made to document Shotaro Iida’s proposal to transport and re-assemble the Sanyo Pavilion at Expo ’70 to the UBC campus. The acceptance of the proposal led to the realization of the Asian Centre.

This fascinating film has been archived in the library and can be found here (select view in browser).

Asian Studies History

Glowing Coals: The First Twenty-Five Years of the Department of Asian Studies at UBC 1960-1985

by D.L. Overmyer

“The coals can glow if kept in contact, but can easily go out if separated”

(William L. Holland, in response to a 1965 report by J. Ross MacKay, “Area Studies at U.B.C.”)
The next course touching on Asia was History 17, “World Economic History, 1850-1943,” which included material on Japan and India. It was taught for one year, 1943-44, by Sylvia Thrupp, later to become well known through her book, Millenial Dreams in Action (1962).[i] There had been courses on world history and on the British Commonwealth earlier, but they appear to have been entirely Europe centered. There were two world geography courses as well, but their contents are not specified.

In the 1946-47 academic year F. H. Soward, a professor in the UBC Department of History, was named director of a new program in “International Studies.” Professor Soward’s appointment reflected the interest of UBC President Norman MacKenzie in encouraging such studies.[ii] The first courses in the new program were offered in 1947-48, “The Great Powers and World Politics,” and “Canadian External Policy.” However, the first course devoted solely to an Asian topic was History 320, “Modern Chinese History Since 1644,” offered for the first time in 1948-49. It was taught by Ho Ping-ti, who was appointed a lecturer in History in 1948. He also taught a course under the International Studies program, “Chinese External Policy.” The appointments of Professors Soward and Ho began a period of several years during which the study of Asia at UBC was carried out entirely by faculty in the Department of History with joint appointments in International Studies. In this university, Asian Studies emerged from History.

In 1949-50 a new course in the “Geography of Asia” was added, and the next year Ho Ping-ti began teaching “Far Eastern International Politics.” In 1950-51 a new course was offered in the Department of Anthropology, Anthropology 410, “Peoples of the Far East,” changed the next year to “Peoples of China, Japan and Southeast Asia.” In 1953-54 this course was joined by Anthropology 411, “Culture of India” (upon which “Southeast Asia” was dropped from the title of 410!). This was the beginning of South Asian studies at UBC. In 1954-55 a new International Studies course was added, IS 205 “Introduction to the Far East,” taught jointly by Professor Ho Ping-ti, J. Ross MacKay (Geography), and Wayne Suttles (Anthropology).

The first reference to “Asian Studies” occurred in 1956-57 with the institution of a new category of courses under that name, and a change of the listing of the faculty responsible for them to “International and Asian Studies.” There were four people so listed, F. H. Soward, the Director, Ronald Dore, Geoffrey 0. B. Davies, and Ho Ping-ti. Dore, a sociologist of Japan, was appointed “Associate Professor in Asian Studies,” the first to hold that title. Two courses were listed under Asian Studies, “Introduction to the Far East” and “Far Eastern International Politics.” The Anthropology and Geography courses noted above were accepted for credit in the new program, as was Prof. Ho’s course in Chinese history.

In 1957-58 Wang Yi-t’ung, J. Ross MacKay, Wayne Suttles and John S. Conway were added to the “International and Asian Studies” category, but the big change was the establishment of an Asian Studies major made possible by the
introduction of three new language courses as well as new offerings titled “Introduction to Chinese Literature” (AS 301), and “Modernization of Japan” (AS 400). The language courses were “Basic Japanese,” “Basic Chinese” and “Intermediate Japanese.” All these courses were for three units of credit; student enrollment in 1957-58 was 68. In 1958-59 for the first time the faculty involved were listed under the separate category of Asian Studies, Ho, Dore, Wang, MacKay and Suttles, with F.H. Soward listed as Director. (He continued as Head of History and Director of International Studies). In that same year new courses were added in “Intermediate Chinese” and “Modern Japanese,” with 301 given the new title “Chinese Literature in Translation.” An Honours program in Asian Studies was also established in that year and enrollment increased to 107, so what was to become the Department of Asian Studies was established in all but name by 1958, with its own faculty, courses and major. By then Ho Ping-ti’s book Studies on the Population of China,1368-1953 (1959) had been accepted for publication, and Ronald Dore had published two books on City Life in Japan (1958) and Land Reform in Japan (1959), while Wang Yi-t’ung had published his Official Relations Between China and Japan, 1368-1549 in 1953. Asian Studies faculty members were also active in international conferences and on the editorial boards of scholarly journals. All of this means that by 1958-59 UBC was well on its way to becoming a centre of Asian studies scholarship as well as teaching, a tradition that has continued until today.

In 1959-60 Ronald Dore introduced a new course in the “History of Japan” (AS 330), while new courses in East Asian government and politics were added by Frank Langdon, who had a joint appointment in Political Science and Asian Studies. New courses in the “Geography of East Asia” and “Oriental Art” appeared that year as well in Geography and Fine arts. The first Asian Studies M.A. candidate enrolled in 1959; course registrations in 1959-60 totaled 112. This was the situation on the eve of the Department’s establishment in 1960-61.

A strong program in the humanities and social sciences depends not only on faculty and courses, but also on a good library. For Chinese and Japanese studies, such a library was begun at UBC in 1959 due to the efforts of Ho Ping-Ti and Ronald Dore. In that year an important traditional Chinese collection of 45,000 volumes, the Pu-pan collection, was purchased from Mr. Yao Chün-shih in Macao.[iii] In that year as well the UBC library became the Canadian depository centre for Japanese Government Publications. The Asian Studies Division of the library was established in early 1960, the same year in which the Department was formally designated. From then on the Asian library grew rapidly. In 1960 it acquired the private collections of two eminent Japan specialists, George Sansom and Herbert Norman. In 1964 the library purchased a collection of rare Japanese maps from the Tokugawa period (1603-1867). Due to a donation from Mr. H.R. MacMillan in 1965, the library staff was increased from three to six, and two additional Chinese collections were purchased. The South Asian languages collection began somewhat later following the establishment of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in 1968. In 1969 that Institute began its contributions to the UBC Library. In 1975 a large number of books in South Asian languages was received from the University of Washington, and in 1984 the Vancouver Consulate-General of India contributed a substantial amount of material on Indian art and architecture. These contributions, augmented by annual acquisitions, led eventually to a collection in eight South Asian languages: Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and Gujarati. These South Asian materials were transferred to the Asian Studies Division from main library storage only in 1981-82. By 1989 the Asian Studies library, the largest such library in Canada, held a total of 326,788 books and bound volumes of periodicals: 191,043 in Chinese, 95,048 in Japanese, 34,644 in Indic languages and 6,053 in Korean. There were also substantial collections of periodicals, microfilm, and microfiche. Except for some reference books, all Western language materials on East Asia were transferred to the Main Library in 1963.

All of this means that by the time Asian Studies was made a department in 1960- 61 a solid foundation had been laid. William Holland, former Director of the Institute of Pacific Relations and editor of its journal, Pacific Affairs, was appointed the first Head of Asian Studies at UBC in 1961. However, the real founders of the department were F. H. Soward and the faculty of the Asian Studies program. As Professor Soward wrote at the end of his last annual report in 1959-60,

It has been great satisfaction to see [Asian Studies] develop from two courses in History and International Studies to the present solid group of courses in Asian Studies and related fields.

Asian Studies was first listed as a department in the UBC Calendar of 1961-62, but it began to function as such in the preceding academic year with the arrival of Professor Holland in January, 1961. (F.H. Soward had in effect served as Acting Head of the new department in the1960 fall term.) In 1960-61 there were twelve courses in Asian Studies, with “Advanced Chinese” and “Japanese Literature in Translation” added to those noted above, with a total enrollment of 113. There were 33 students in AS 205, “Introduction to the Far East,”and 17 in “Basic Chinese” (AS 101). Ronald Dore left in 1960 to take up an appointment in the London School of Economics. Shuichi Katowas appointed to replace his teaching in Japanese language and literature. Beyond departmental status, the most important changes that year were the transfer of the journal Pacific Affairs from the Institute of Pacific Relations to UBC, and approval by the Faculty of Arts of Chinese and Japanese as languages fulfilling the language requirement for the B.A. degree. William Holland continued as editor of Pacific Affairs, and brought with him as well $3,000 in research funds, about $12,000 to support publications, and the entire library of the I.P.R., “with about 3500 books on Asian and Pacific countries, and about 1,000 pamphlets and six filing cabinets of clippings, manuscripts and other reports (many of them rare items).”[iv] Professor Holland also brought a large stock of I.P.R. publications. Income from their sale helped prepare the basis for what later became the UBC Press.

In 1961 John F. Howes joined the department as assistant professor of Japanese history, and a new course was added in the history of Chinese Communism. In that year as well, Peter Harnetty, who had been appointed an Instructor in History and International Studies in 1958, introduced a course in the “History of India, Pakistan and Ceylon” (Hist 410). F.H. Soward was appointed Dean of Graduate Studies.

Meanwhile, in 1962-63 approval was granted for an M.A. in Asian Studies, and two new faculty members were appointed, Ch’ü T’ung-tsu in Chinese history and Liu Chun-jo in Chinese language and literature. They came initially to replace Ho Ping-ti and Wang Yi-t’ung, who were on leave that year, and were given permanent appointments when Ho went to Chicago and Wang to Pittsburgh in 1963. A new course in fourth-year Chinese was added, while the newly established Department of Religious Studies introduced its first course devoted to an Asian topic, “Indian Religious Thought,” taught by Joseph I. Richardson.

In 1963-64 Peter Harnetty was given a two-thirds appointment in Asian Studies where he taught his course in the history of India (cross-listed in History), and a new course, “Contemporary South Asia” (AS 420). Liu Chun-jo resigned, and was replaced by Hsu-tu Chen. Rene Goldman also arrived that year to teach Chinese history, and Kenji Ogawa was appointed to teach Japanese language. In Fine Arts, “Oriental Art” was replaced by two new courses in Chinese and Japanese art. Close relationships with other departments continued with Richard Copley (Geography) lecturing in AS 205 and Frank Langdon teaching a course in Japanese language.

Throughout these early years, William Holland kept pushing for new courses in areas such as Sanskrit, Hindi and Southeast Asian studies. All his annual reports end with a section on “Goals and Aspirations.” Gradually, these hopes came to fruition. In 1964-65 the steady growth of the department continued, as did the proliferation of Asia-related courses in other departments, an account of which now goes beyond the scope of this article. The point is simply that the Department of Asian Studies did not develop in isolation, but was part of a larger effort to increase the study of Asia at UBC. In 1964-65, for example, there were eleven courses in other departments that were accepted for credit in Asian Studies, including a new course in “Indian and Indonesian Art” (Fine Arts 429). Also included were two courses on Buddhism from the Department of Religious Studies. The Department itself offered two new courses on Southeast Asia that year, AS 206 “Introduction to Southeast Asia”, and AS 412 “History of Southeast Asia,” taught by W. E. Willmott of Anthropology, and D.G.E. Hall, a visiting professor from the University of London. Li Chi and Kazuko Tsurumi joined the department in 1964 to teach modern Chinese and Japanese language and literature. These new appointments in turn permitted the offering of basic Chinese and Japanese at a more intensive level, for four and a half units instead of three.

It should be noted that in these years the growth of the departmentwas not only greatly aided by the presence of productive scholars such as Ho Ping-ti, Ronald Dore, Wang Yi-t’ung, Ch’U T’ung-tsu and Li Chi, in addition to William Holland, but it was also fortunate to obtain the services of eminent visiting scholars such as D. G. E. Hall and C.P.Fitzgerald. This, coupled with the scholarly work of the more junior faculty, did much to establish the reputation of the department.

With a solid base in undergraduate instruction, the department next began to develop at the graduate level. In 1964-65 there was still just one graduate course, AS 525, described as “Topics in Asian History or Literature,” but by the next year there were seven such courses dealing with Chinese and Japanese literature, history, and thought; Indian history; and “Problems of Modernization in Eastern and Southern Asia.” Second-year Chinese and Japanese language courses were increased to four and a half units each, and a new course on the “Civilizations of Southern Asia” (AS 315) was taught by Peter Harnetty and Michael Ames (Anthropology). By then (1965-66) twenty-two undergraduate courses were offered in the department, plus two for Honours students. Among the faculty, F. C. Chang, the former Head of Political Science at Tunghai University in Taiwan, was appointed to teach Chinese philosophy and classical Chinese. His philosophy course was offered as Philosophy 325 in that department. Ch’u T’ung-tsu resigned to return to China in 1965, and Kazuko Tsurumi accepted a position at Seikai University in Japan.

The rapid development of course offerings on Asia in the Department of Asian Studies indicated a need for rationalization. Consequently, in March, 1965 at the request of the Dean of Arts, J. Ross MacKay of the Department of Geography prepared a report on “Area Studies at UBC,” focused on Asian and Slavonic Studies. The most important of his recommendations were that disciplinary courses should be offered in departments based on those disciplines, such as anthropology or history, and that such courses being given in area studies departments “should be transferred to disciplinary departments as conditions permit.” The MacKay recommendations implied that the Department of Asian Studies should be limited to languages and literatures. It was in response to this report that William Holland made his statement about glowing coals, because he feared that such a limitation would mean a “small and weak” department, shorn of its historians. In other departments with an “overwhelming emphasis…on Western civilization,” Asian-related courses would be “buried.” Since by that time the Department of Asian Studies had only been in existence for five years the MacKay recommendations seemed premature.

In October 1965 the Dean of Arts struck a second committee “on area studies and related matters,” chaired by John Norris of the Department of History, with four additional members. John Howes represented Asian Studies. The resulting “Norris report,” submitted to Acting Dean Dennis M. Healey in March 1966, accepted the MacKay recommendations about disciplinary courses but went beyond them. For the purposes of this article its essential recommendation was that Asian Studies should be replaced by a “Department of Asian Languages and Literatures.” This report also recommended the establishment of an “Institute of Area and International Studies,” and institutes of comparative literature andarchaeology. It agreed with the MacKay report that introductory survey courses should be given in “the Asian and Slavonic fields.”

As he had with the MacKay report, William Holland stoutly opposed the idea that Asian Studies should be limited to languages and literatures, and urged that the department be continued under its existing name with a strengthened graduate program. The Norris committee report and Holland’s criticisms of it were discussed at a meeting of the Arts Faculty on April 12, 1966. The ensuing debate was so lengthy it was continued on April 14. At that meeting Professor Norris withdrew the earlier recommendation that “a Department of Asian Languages and Literatures be established to supersede the present Department of Asian Studies,” and presented only a recommendation about discipline courses being offered in discipline departments. After much discussion that recommendation was defeated. At that point the Acting Dean consulted with the Heads of six departments and with the Norris committee to prepare revised recommendations for a further Arts Faculty meeting on April 28, 1966. The first of these recommendations was that “The Faculty of Arts accepts a continuing commitment to the support and development of Asian and Slavonic studies.” Other recommendations included “greatly strengthened programmes in language and literature for Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Polish,” the introductions of courses in Sanskrit, and that “the degree programmes in Asian and Slavonic Studies be predominantly in language and literature.” With due consultation, Asian Studies courses in modern history and political science were to be transferred to other departments, with staffing arrangements to be worked out. The Acting Dean also supported the Norris committee’s recommendation that there be established an “Institute of Asian and Slavonic Studies.” All of these recommendations were approved at the April 28 meeting, and a committee was formed to develop plans for the new Institute, which had first been suggested by President MacKenzie in 1961. Hence, the Norris committee report itself was not adopted, but some of its recommendations were, by way of an ad hoc consultation carried out by the Acting Dean of Arts. The Department of Asian Studies was preserved largely intact. From then on new courses in Asian politics were offered in the Department of Political Science, and courses in modern Chinese, Japanese and Indian history were taught in History, cross-listed in Asian Studies. In the long run, this partial dispersal of courses led to the strengthening of the study of Asia in the University because it permitted the appointment of more Asian specialists in disciplinary departments. In the Department of Asian Studies itself, AS 405, “Communist Movements in Eastern Asia” stayed where it was, as did the Department’s courses in pre-modern history and on contemporary South Asia. So it was that Bill Holland kept the glowing coals together.

After the turmoil of 1965-66 the Department continued to grow. Total enrollment that year was 357, a three-fold increase over 1960, with 424 in 1966-67, 541 in 1967-68, 712 in 1968-69, 867 in 1969-70, and 1121 in1970-71 (see Appendix I). In 1966 the department continued and heightened its tradition of appointing fine scholars with the appointment of E.G. Pulleyblank from Cambridge University, who took over the courses that had been taught by Ch’u T’ung-tsu. In 1966-67 a new course in “Indian Literature in Translation” (AS 345) was introduced by Barrie Morrison, then an assistant professor in the Department of History who was also teaching courses in Anthropology and Asian Studies. Leon Zolbrod came from Indiana University as a leave replacement for John Howes and S. Kato, but then accepted a continuing appointment as of July, 1967. An inter-departmental coordinating committee in Asian area studies was established, with representatives from the departments of Anthropology, Asian Studies, Fine Arts, Geography, History, Political Science and Religious Studies. It recommended Asian area studies majors in East, South and Southeast Asia. These majors, first available in 1968-69, were administered by the Department of Asian Studies.

In 1967-68 the years of effort to introduce courses in South Asian languages resulted in a new course in “Introductory Sanskrit” (AS 365) listed under the new category of “Indic Languages.” A new course in the history of India before 1526 (AS 340) was also begun. Both of these courses were taught by Barrie Morrison, who that year transferred from History. Chinese 101 and Japanese 100 were first offered that year for six units of credit.

William Holland decided not to seek re-appointment as Head as ofJuly, 1968 and was replaced by E. G. Pulleyblank. In 1968-69 the first four M.A. theses in the Department were completed. Joseph Richardson ofReligious Studies was given a joint appointment in Asian Studies, thusbeginning the close faculty relationships between the two departments.Throughout these years a large number of faculty from other departmentsserved as lecturers in Asian Studies, including Michael Ames, RichardCopley, Brian Harrison (History), Arthur Link (Religious Studies),Bernard Saint-Jacques (Linguistics), K.S. Sandhu (Geography) and W. E.Willmott.

By 1969-70 forty-four undergraduate courses were offered in the department, a 76% increase of nineteen courses in the four years since1965. These courses included reading courses in Chinese and Japanese primary texts, and a course in intermediate Sanskrit. With a growing number of courses and students the Department began comprehensive annual course evaluations, a tradition it has continued ever since. By that year there were also eleven graduate courses, all in preparation for the M.A. degree. The departmental annual report for 1968-69 states that a Ph.D. program in Chinese or Japanese was approved as of September,1969, but it was not listed in the Calendar until 1970-71. Another batch of four M.A.students completed their work in1969-70. Florence C. Y. Chao-Yeh began teaching in the Department in that year as a visiting professor, replacing Li Chi, who had retired. Ashok Aklujkar was appointed as assistant professor of Sanskrit in 1969, and also taught a course in Hindi with Bonnie MacDougall from Anthropology and Linguistics. This helped make possible a new M.A. in South Asian studies, first listed in the Calendar for 1969-70. In Apr11, 1970 the Canadian Association for Asian Studies was established at a meeting at UBC, with William Holland elected president and Barrie Morrison editor of its newsletter. Peter Harnetty was elected president of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, and E.G. Pulleyblank a director of the Association for Asian Studies. It was a good year for elections!

The important developments in 1970-71 were a 30% increase in undergraduate enrollment, with the largest proportional gains in Japanese and Indic language courses. Hindi was offered for the first time. There were now thirteen graduate students, six at the Ph.D level. E. G. Pulleyblank was on leave that year as a Senior Research Linguist at Princeton, and Peter Harnetty served as Acting Head in his absence. Through the efforts of S. Iida of the Department of Religious Studies, the University was given the roof and structural framework from the Sanyo Pavilion built for the 1970 World Exposition in Osaka, to serve as the base for a new Asian Centre. A committee was set up with John Howes as chair, “to coordinate planning and fund-raising for the project.” In November,1970 the Department suffered a loss with the death of Professor Kenji Ogawa at 54. He had been a fine teacher with the department since 1963 and was sorely missed.

Total enrollment in 1971-72 was 1171, with large numbers of students in introductory courses in both language and culture. “Introduction to East Asia” (AS 105) alone had 238. New faculty members included Matsuo Soga from the University of Iowa, who replaced K. Ogawa, S. Kurl in Hindi, J. Walls in Chinese, and L. Hurvitz, who came from the University of Washington to teach Chinese Buddhism. By this time there were four courses in Indic languages, and fourteen graduate courses out of a total of sixty-one courses offered in the department. As well as teaching this array of courses, Department faculty had three books published or accepted for publication that year. Fifty-five additional courses on Asian-related topics were offered in the Departments of Anthropology, Economics, Fine Arts, Geography, History, Political Science and Religious Studies. In March, 1971 E. G. Pulleyblank was elected President of the Canadian Society for Asian Studies, and in July Barrie Morrison was appointed the first continuing Director of the Institute of Asian and Slavonic Research. (A budget for the Institute had been approved by the Board of Governors for 1969-70, and Bill Holland served as its Acting Director in 1970-71.)

In June, 1973 Bill Holland retired, and an Asian Studies scholarship was established in his honor by continuing members of the faculty. However, he remained as Editor of Pacific Affairs. F. C. Chang also retired. As of July of that year Kinya Tsuruta came from the University of Toronto to teach modern Japanese literature, and Ken-ichi Takashima came from the University of Arizona to teach Japanese language and Chinese paleography. D. L. Overmyer, formerly at Oberlin College, came to UBC as a replacement for F. C. Chang. In the 1973 summer session in addition to courses in history and culture which it had been offering for a number of years, the department for the first time offered intensive six-unit courses in Chinese and Japanese language, supported in part by foundation grants. In 1972-73 once again, three books were published or accepted for publication, with ten articles published and ten papers given at conferences. Enrollment declined slightly to 1084, but increased in Chinese language courses.The annual meeting of the Pacific Area Conference of the Association for Asian Studies was held at UBC in June, 1973. Leon Zolbrod chaired the organizing committee, assisted by Peter Harnetty and by James Caswell of Fine Arts. 250 scholars attended this conference.

In a report of Nov 1973 to Dean D. T. Kenney on the progress of the department since 1968, E.G. Pulleyblank noted a net gain of three regular faculty members to a total of sixteen, an enrollment increase from 712 to 1084 and the graduation of fifty-eight B.A. degree holders, nine honors B.A.’s and sixteen M.A.’s, seven of whom were continuing toward Ph.D degrees. By then there were twenty-five graduate students in the department, eleven at the Ph.D level. Peter Harnetty was elected to the South Asian Regional Council of the Association for Asian Studies. Construction of the Asian Centre began in January, 1974. In 1974-75 Ken Bryant was appointed assistant professor of Hindi and Indian literature, replacing S. Kurl. By then enrollments had declined somewhat, with a total of 923 in the fall of 1973, and 879 in 1974. Language courses continued to increase in size, but enrollments in the large survey courses continued to drop. This was the first year that language enrollments exceeded those in courses dealing with history and culture, a pattern that has continued until the present. It should be noted that there had never been a regular appointment responsible for the introductory course in Southeast Asia, AS 206, which had been taught by visiting professors and by Brian Harrison of History. In the early 1970’s it was taught by Bill Holland, and then by another visitor, H.E. Wilson, beginning in 1975-76. The outer shell of the Asian Centre was completed in the spring of 1975, but, as E. G.Pulleyblank noted in his report, “Further construction awaits the arrival of a substantial body of new funds.” It should be mentioned that outreach to the community is a common theme in annual reports from these years, with faculty teaching continuing education courses, lecturing at meetings, and helping to promote the teaching of Japanese language in B.C. schools.

E. G. Pulleyblank gave up the Headship as of June, 1975. Peter Harnetty was appointed as Acting Head at that time, and confirmed as continuing head on January 1, 1976. The first two Ph.D theses completed in the department were successfully defended in 1975 by Jacqueline Golay in Japanese Literature (L. Zolbrod), and Jerry Schmidt in Chinese literature (E.G. Pulleyblank). In 1976 two more Ph.D.’s were awarded, to B. M. Young in Japanese literature (L. Zolbrod) and Neal Donner in Chinese Buddhism (L. Hurvitz). Of thirty-two graduate students in 1975-76, eight won a total of ten fellowships, and two read papers at meetings of learned societies. There was a slight enrollment increase that year, due mostly to courses in Chinese, Hindi and Japanese. No less than eight courses were offered in the 1976 summer session, with a total enrollment of 118. One book and eighteen articles were published, fifteen papers read at conferences and ten research grants and fellowships received. As Peter Harnetty commented at the end of his report for that year, “In sum, this is a flourishing department, and it is a pleasure for me personally to be associated with it.”

In 1976-77 departmental activities continued at the same high level as the previous year, with a 30% increase in Chinese language enrollments, twenty-one B.A. graduates, three M.A.’s and one Ph.D. Seventy-one courses were available from the department. Total enrollment was 934. Faculty service on university committees was noteworthy with participation in the Arts Promotions and Tenure Committee, Curriculum Committee, Arts I Committee, Arts Faculty Advisors office, Nitobe Memorial Garden Council, and several other bodies.

In 1977 Theodore Huters was appointed to a new position as assistant professor of modern Chinese literature. Though enrollments in Japanese and Indic languages rose by 20% in 1977-78, undergraduate enrollment was about the same as the previous year, due in part to the fact that no instructor was available for AS 206. Four books and seventeen articles were published, with nineteen papers delivered at academic conferences and workshops. Ph.D. degrees were awarded to Neil McMullen (J.F.Howes) and Daniel Bryant (F. Chao-Yeh); three M.A. theses were also completed.

Kathryn Hansen was appointed in 1978 to a new position in Hindi language and literature. Her appointment brought the number of regular faculty members in the department to seventeen, with an eighteenth added in 1979 with the appointment of J. D. Schmidt to replace Jan Walls, who took up a position at the University of Victoria. In 1978-79 total enrollment continued to drop, to 812, with about 500 of that total being in language courses. Three students received Ph.D. degrees in 1978-79. As a result of the efforts of Professor Soga, Takashima and Zolbrod, Japanese language instruction was offered at the Hugh Boyd Junior Secondary School in Richmond, beginning in September 1979.

The five years between 1979-84 were difficult ones for the Department, as for the University as a whole. This was a period of financial retrenchment. Under graduate enrollment had dropped to 773 by 1979-80, then stayed between 850-900 through 1982-83, but in 1983-84 it started to rise again, to 1021. Despite this increase, there were no funds to appoint additional sessional lecturers and teaching assistants. Graduate enrollment for the period averaged 36, with 31 in 1979 and 37 by 83-84. Ashok Aklujkar took over as Head from Peter Harnetty as of July 1, 1980. Theodore Huters resigned in 1981 to join his wife at the University of Minnesota. He was replaced in 1982 by Michael Duke, who had been teaching and doing research at the University of Wisconsin. Eleven new courses were introduced in those five years, ranging from fourth year Sanskrit to the history of Chinese religions and “Japanese for Professional Life” (Japn 315). Four of these were general rubric courses that permitted on a temporary basis the teaching of courses in Asian languages and cultures not otherwise offered by the department. The immediate effect of these latter courses was to permit instruction in Korean language and history by visiting professors from Korean universities. Beginning in 1982-83, five such professors were sent to UBC by the Korea Research Foundation, an agency supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea. [v]

A Ph.D in South Asian Studies had been approved in 1980 and was included in the Calendar for the first time in 1980-81. Faculty research activity continued at a high level, with a book and twenty-seven articles published by seventeen faculty members in 1979-80 alone. That same year twenty-six papers were presented at academic conferences. In 1980-81, three books and twenty-five articles were published, with four more books accepted for publication. Two research books and sixteen articles were published in 1981-82 in addition to a number of translations and original literary compositions in Asian languages. This productivity continued in 1982-84 with the publication of six books and twenty-eight articles over the two-year period. Faculty members continued to receive numerous research grants and leave fellowships. In the category of special honors it should be noted that E.G. Pulleyblank was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in1980, and in 1982 he was awarded the prestigious Jacob Biely Faculty Research Prize. In 1981 John Howes was elected President of the Canadian Asian Studies Association, and in 1982 both Ashok Aklujkar and Ken-ichi Takashima were elected to the Board of Directors of the American Oriental Society. Recognition of the department in this period was reflected as well in invitations to lecture at other universities, such as Heidelberg, Hamburg, Western Australia, Melbourne, La Trobe, Sydney, New South Wales, Princeton, Washington, Michigan, McGill and Victoria. Florence C. Y. Chao-Yeh lectured at several Chinese universities on repeated summer trips to China, and was made an honorary member of their faculties. Department faculty continued their active involvement in a variety of professional organizations.

After years of delay, the Asian Centre building was completed in 1981, and the Asian Studies department moved to it from the Buchanan building on May 11 of that year. The opening ceremony was held on June 5. Early fears about the relative isolation of the new location proved unfounded. Students soon learned to come to the department office and lounge, and the beauty of the new building attracted many visitors. The fact that the Asian Studies Library was also in the Centre was a great convenience to researchers. The advantages of having a prominent building devoted solely to the study of Asia became even more apparent in the UBC Open House of March 1982, co-sponsored by the Department, the Asian Studies Library, and the Institute of Asian Research, which was also located in the Centre. It was estimated that about 8000 people visited the Centre during the Open House weekend. As part of its inaugural year in the Asian Centre, 1981-82, the Department also sponsored “six single lectures, five seminars, two colloquia, two lecture series, nine musical and theatrical performances and two art exhibits” (!).[vi]

By 1984-85 undergraduate enrollment had risen to 1160, with 29 in graduate courses. In the period 1960-85 forty-eight students in the Department had obtained M.A. degrees, while seventeen had earned the Ph.D. By 1984-85 there were eighteen regular faculty members in the Department and three sessional lecturers. Of the regular faculty, five were in South Asian studies, seven were China specialists, and the teaching of six was in Japanese language, literature and history. (The research of two of those who taught Japanese language, L. Hurvitz and K.Takashima, was in other areas, Chinese Buddhism for Hurvitz, and Chinese paleography for Takashima). Thus, in the twenty-five years since 1960 student enrollment had increased elevenfold and the number of faculty had tripled from six to eighteen. However, by 1985 the faculty were responsible for many more courses; 107 were available in the department that year, as compared with 12 in 1960, a ninefold increase and a ratio of six courses per faculty member. In retrospect, one wonders if the department might not have been a bit too enthusiastic about introducing new courses! One should add that by 1984-85 sixty-six Asia-related courses were taught by thirty- six faculty members in ten other Arts departments in the University and in the Faculty of Law. Ashok Aklujkar decided not to seek re-appointment as Head as of June,1985, and was replaced for 1985-86 by Acting Head E.G. Pulleyblank. D.Overmyer was appointed continuing head in 1986.

Concluding Comments

One can only conclude that Bill Holland’s efforts to keep the coals together succeeded very well. After an early peak in enrollment in 1971-72 of 1171, the figures dropped to about 900 by 1973, and stayed at that level through 1978. There was another drop which brought enrollment down to 764 in 1978-80, but after that enrollment stayed between 850-900 through 1982-83. It jumped to 1058 in 1983-84, and then kept on rising, to about 1330 in 1985-88. In 1988-89 total enrollment was 1405 and in 1989-90, 1336. Thus, in the long term the Department has steadily increased in size. The price of this increase has been over-subscribed language courses and heavy teaching loads. The Dean of Arts office has done its best, but for many years the Department has needed more instructors and sessional lecturers to share the task of language teaching, and thus permit more upper-level instruction by regular faculty. There has been much pressure as well on the dedicated secretarial staff, ably led by Betty Grieg (1969-76), Elaine Salameh (1976-8 1) and Enid Graham (1977 to present). Rachel Rousseau also gave eight years of good service (1982-90).

However, though teaching loads have been heavy, department faculty members from the beginning have been distinguished by the productivity of their research and their active involvement in university and professional affairs. In my view, the fact all have been so busy with their work has contributed directly to the spirit of operative collegiality in the department, which has been relatively free of the personal and political disputes that can be the bane of the profession. The study of Asian cultures is so complex and demanding that there hasn’t been much libido left for us to harass each other! Another important factor in this collegiality has been a long tradition of democratic procedures in the Department.

Of course, all of this accomplishment would not have been possible without the support of the University and the Faculty of Arts, beginning with the encouragement that President MacKenzie gave F. H. Soward. In retrospect the MacKay and Norris reports of 1965-66 are an anomaly and puzzle. They were carried out in good faith and tried to evaluate the UBC situation by the standards of disciplinary studies in other universities. But the original request from the Dean of Arts office to Professor MacKay came in 1964, only four years after the Department had been formally so designated, and when it was still struggling to get established. The whole enterprise began in History; why after only five years was there such a concerted attempt to eliminate history courses from the department and reduce it to languages and literature? One cannot help wondering if the events of1965-66 were not in fact a kind of rite of passage, when a vigorous young adolescent was tested by elders who were uneasy about where things might be going. In my mind the same questions apply to early opposition by the Arts Curriculum committee to the introduction of intensive language courses, and to adding a course in intermediate Sanskrit because one course in Sanskrit “was sufficient for the time being.”[vii] In all of these cases the department owes a great debt to the indomitable spirit of Bill Holland, who stood and fought, and in the end prevailed.The result has been an internationally known department that is a credit to Canada and provides a base of expertise about Asia as British Columbia enters the “Pacific Century.”

The history of the Department from 1985 to 1990 is essentially a continuation of its earlier development, boosted by the excellent fundraising efforts of Ashok Aklujkar while he was Head, which resulted in endowed positions in Korean studies and in Punjabi language and literature and Sikh studies. In each case funds contributed by private businesses, organizations and individuals were matched by B.C. and Canadian government sources. New positions in Japanese and Indonesian Studies were supported respectively by the Japan Foundation (for three years) and the “Fund for Excellence” program of the provincial government. The increase in enrollments for this period has been noted above. By July, 1990 there were five new positions in the department over 1985; Donald Baker (Korean studies), Harjot Oberoi (Punjabi and Sikh studies), Robert Kramer (Japanese history), Tinike Hellwig (Indonesia language and literature) and Karin Preisendanz (Hinduism and Buddhism). As E.G. Pulleyblank, Florence Chao-Yeh and John Howes retired, their positions were filled respectively by J. S. Chen (Chinese intellectual history), Catherine Swatek (Chinese vernacular literature) and Joshua Mostow (pre-modern Japanese literature). Leon Hurvitz retired in 1988 but unfortunately was not replaced. By July,1990 there was a total of twenty-two regular faculty members in the Department. Among noteworthy events in 1985-90 were successful Open House programs in 1987 and 1990. Three members of the department received the new UBC Killam Faculty Research Prizes (Duke, Tsuruta and Overmyer), and two more were elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada (Tsuruta and Overmyer). In 1990 Peter Harnetty was one of five faculty members in the Faculty of Arts to receive a UBC prize for Excellence in Teaching. This was the first year those prizes were awarded. In 1987 a new journal was launched by graduate students in the department, the B.C. Asian Review, edited by Gary Arbuckle. Two more issues have since appeared, including this one. Under the leadership of President David W. Strangway the University has renewed its commitment to the Asia Pacific region, and as of 1990 was seeking funds for five new area centres, for China, Japan, Korea, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

In response to a fresh University emphasis on increasing graduate enrollment, the Department decided in 1990 that if possible any new funds for faculty positions allocated to it in the next few years should be used to employ additional instructors to ease the burden of undergraduate language training. After years of advance it is time to consolidate and focus more effort on upper-level undergraduate and graduate instruction. It has also been agreed that the next two retirement replacement positions should be in pre-modern Chinese history and in the socio-cultural history of early modern India. So the Department of Asian Studies prepares to continue its work.

As Peter Harnetty has noted, the growth of the Department reflects the growth of Canada’s interest in the outside world. Prior to World War II Canadian foreign policy was limited to traditional concerns with the United States, Great Britain and France, though there was a Canadian legation in Tokyo. Until 1939 the main Canadian interest in Asia was in limiting the number of Asian immigrants. However, after 1945 Canada rapidly expanded its foreign policy interests by establishing diplomatic relations with India in 1947 and with Pakistan in 1950, and in helping to start the Colombo plan of foreign aid in 1950. It was in these years too that discriminatory immigration policies were ended. Against this background it is not surprising that many students who take Asian Studies courses are themselves of Asian background. Hence, the Department contributes not only to the knowledge of Asia, but to the development of Canada as a multi-cultural society.[viii]


The sources consulted for the article were the U.B.C. Calendar,1925-1985, annual reports for the program and department of Asian Studies, 1958-1990, departmental course description brochures, enrollment records and a variety of miscellaneous letters, memos and records. Two books were also of some help: Henry T. Logan, Tuum Est: A History of the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, The University of British Columbia, 1958) and Harvey L. Dyck and H. Peter Krosby, eds., Empire and Nations: Essays in Honour of Frederic H. Soward (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1969).

I also consulted two articles about the Asian Studies Library by its former Director Tung-king Ng, “The University of British Columbia Chinese Library Collection: A Report,” Pacific Affairs 50.3: 473-485 (Fall 1977), and “The Chinese Collections in Canada: A Review of Their Development and Status in Academic Libraries,” in Chan Ping-leung, et al, eds., Essays in Commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the Fung Ping Shan Library (1932-1982), Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 1982. I am grateful to Mr. S.Y. Tse of the Asian Studies Library for providing these articles to me. I am also grateful to Mr. T. Gonnami and Dr. Mahdrakranta Bose of that Library for providing information on its collections in Japanese and South Asian languages.

My thanks as well to Dr. Peter Harnetty for providing copies of the “Norris Report” and the minutes of the Arts Faculty meetings that discussed it. That report is entitled “Committee on Area Studies and Related Matters: Recommendations for Faculty discussion and Approval,” dated March 8, 1966. The earlier report by Professor J. Ross MacKay, entitled “Area Studies at U.B.C.” is dated March 12, 1965.

I am grateful to President David Strangway for reminding me of the 1934 course “Problems of the Pacific.”

The following persons read a draft of this article: Professors Ashok Aklujkar, Peter Harnetty and E.G. Pulleyblank, all former heads of the Department of Asian Studies. The draft was also read by Mr. Gary Arbuckle. I am grateful for their suggestions and corrections.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Enid Graham, Supervisor of Administration of the Department, for helping find and put in order some of the material on which this article is based.

[i] History 17 was not taught again. It was listed as “not offered” 1944-46, and dropped from the curriculum after that. Sylvia Thrupp was on leave in that period and then left.

[iii] Pu-pan was the name of the capital of the Chinese legendary Emperor Shun, located in what is now Shanxi province. Yao Chun-shih’s family claimed descent from Shun because he was said to have lived in an area called Yao; hence the name of the collection. I am grateful to S. Y. Tse of the Asian Studies library for confirming this derivation.

[iv] William Holland, “Report on the Dept. of Asian Studies, June 1960 to July 1961,” p. 5.The Institute of Pacific Relations was dissolved in October 1960 and all its assets transferred to U.B.C.

[v] The Korean professors who taught in the Department from 1982-87 were: Dr.Yong Pil Pang (Hanyang University), 1982-83; Dr. Myung-ho Sym (Seoul National University),1983-84; Dr. Don Hwan An (Busan National University); 1984-85; Dr. Kee-don Lee (Yonsei University),1985-86; and Dr. Dung Lyong Yi (Sung Kyun Kwan University),1986-87.

[vi] Ashok Aklujkar, “Department of Asian Studies Annual Report, 1981-82,” p.2. Some of the activities were supported by the office of the Dean of Arts and some by the Presidents’ Committee on Japanese Studies.

[vii] Memo of R.C. Tees, Secretary, Arts Curriculum Committee, to W. L Holland, 6 October 1967.

[viii] Peter Harnetty, personal communication, June 20, 1990.

APPENDIX I: Enrollment in the Department of Asian Studies

Year Languages Culture/History Graduate Total
1965-66 79 268 10 357
1966-67 81 325 18 424
1967-68 83 445 13 541
1968-69 114 576 22 712
1969-70 191 666 10 867
1970-71 226 887 8 1121
1971-72 252 899 20 1171
1972-73 325 721 38 1084
1973-74 364 534 25 923
1974-75 432 397 50 879
1975-76 458 443 24 925
1976-77 516 393 25 934
1977-78 521 325 29 875
1978-79 506 267 39 812
1979-80 513 220 31 764
1980-81 597 299 30 926
1981-82 548 334 28 910
1982-83 496 349 15 860
1983-84 676 345 37 1058
1984-85 710 421 29 1160
1985-86 778 511 40 1329
1986-87 808 475 39 1322
1987-88 725 545 43 1313
1988-89 782 583 40 1405
1989-90 765 530 41 1336

(These figures do not include courses offered by Extra-Sessional Studies)

APPENDIX II: Majors and B.A. Graduates, 1966-1990

Year Enrolled in Majors Programs Numberof Graduating Students with B.A. Degree
1966/67 4
1967/68 7
1968/69 7
1969/70 13
1970/71 13
1971/72 11
1972/73 28 15
1973/74 34 14
1974/75 45 18
1975/76 40 17
1976/77 54 21
1977/78 42 20
1978/79 37 11
1979/80 47 12
1980/81 59 22
1981/82 58 20
1982/83 56 17
1983/84 64 16
1984/85 66 25
1985/86 72 28
1986/87 74 18
1987/88 104 40
1988/89 97 41
1989/90 100 30
Total 440



Professor and Head

DANIEL L. OVERMYER, Ph.D. (Chicago), Chinese Thought and Religion


ASHOK N. AKLUJKAR, Ph.D. (Harvard), Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy, Linguistics, Mythology

MICHAEL S. DUKE, Ph.D. (Calif., Berkeley), Chinese Language and Literature

PETER HARNETTY, Ph.D. (Harvard), South Asian History and Civilization

BARRIE M. MORRISON, Ph.D. (Chicago), South Asian History and Civilization

MATSUO SOGA, Ph.D. (Indiana), Japanese Language and Linguistics

KEN-ICHI TAKASHIMA, Ph.D. (Washington), Japanese Language and Chinese

KINYA TSURUTA, Ph.D. (Washington), Modern Japanese Literature

LEON M. ZOLBROD, Ph.D. (Columbia), Traditional Japanese Literature and Culture

Associate Professors

KENNETH E. BRYANT, Ph.D. (Calif., Berkeley), Hindi, Urdu and Indian

KATHRYN G. HANSEN, Ph.D. (Calif., Berkeley), Hindi, Urdu and Indian Literature

JERRY D. SCHMIDT, Ph.D. (U.B.C.), Chinese Language and Literature

Assistant Professors

DONALD L. BAKER, Ph.D. (Washington), Korean Language and History

JO-SHUI CHEN, Ph.D. (Yale), Medieval Chinese History and Chinese Intellectual

RENÉ GOLDMAN, M.A. (Columbia), Chinese History

TINEKE HELL WIG, Ph.D. (Leiden), Indonesian Language and Literature

ROBERT KRAMER, Ph.D. (Chicago), Pre-modern Japanese Cultural, and
Intellectual History

JOSHUA S. MOSTOW, Ph.D. (Pennsylvania), Pre-modern Japanese Literature and

HARJOT OBEROI, Ph.D. (Australian National), Sikh Studies and Punjabi Literature

KARIN PREISENDANZ, Ph.D. (Hamburg), Hinduism/Buddhism

CATHERINE SWATEK, Ph.D. (Columbia), Chinese Language and Pre-modern

Senior Instructor

HSU-TU CHEN, B.A. (Tsinghua), Chinese Language and Literature

Sessional Lecturers

ROBERT SHAN-MU CHEN, Ph.D. (U.B.C.), Chinese Language

KYUNG HEE LYNN,M.Ed. (U.B.C.), Japanese Language

OLIVIA PI, Diploma (Ming Chuan College of Commerce), Chinese Language

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