Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures

The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture.

2018 Lecture With speaker Professor Rey Chow (Duke University)

Title: The Guest’s View: Some Thoughts on Director Ann Hui’s許鞍華 Work

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018
7pm Lecture
6pm Reception with light refreshments
Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver

Free & open to the public. Registration required. 

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2017 Lecture

With guest speaker Professor Barbara Mittler from the University of Heidelberg and author of A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
6:00pm Reception
7:00pm Lecture
Auditorium, Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall
Free and open to the public – registration required

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Why is it that for a while in the early 2000s, Mao’s portrait dangled in almost every taxi? Why is it that Mao’s image is to be found everywhere today, in high-market as well as popular accessories? Why do numerous Chinese websites feature memories of producing and consuming Maoist propaganda art? Why do people get married in “Cultural Revolution style”? Why are the model works and revolutionary songs most prominent during the Cultural Revolution reproduced in never-ending varieties of pop, rock and jazz covers, even in karaoke bars, and on home videos? Why, in short, do people appreciate the products of a period in Chinese history known for its radical politics and the horrors it inflicted on so many?

In addressing these questions, Barbara Mittler will argue that the Cultural Revolution was an “impact event” that touched not only those who have written about it—intellectuals, the well-off, the middle class—but everyone down to peasants and workers. The Cultural Revolution was there for—or against—everyone. Taking her point of departure from three recent films, fictional and documentary: Bloody Snow by Peng Tao and My Cultural Revolution and Crime Summary by Xu Xing, Professor Mittler will illustrate how, in innumerable and even counterintuitive ways, the Cultural Revolution’s political hysterics reached even the most remote corners of a vast country. She will explore how the all-encompassing experience of living through the Cultural Revolution has influenced the making of cultural memory in and beyond China.

Speaker Bio:
Prof. Dr. Barbara Mittler is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Heidelberg and Director of the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies—Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Her hundreds of publications include the books Dangerous Tunes: The Politics of Chinese Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China since 1949 (Harrassowitz, 1997); A Newspaper for China: Power, Identity and Change in Shanghai’s News Media (1872-1912) (Harvard, 2004); and A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard, 2012), which won the 2013 John K. Fairbank Prize from the American Historical Association. She is a graduate of Heidelberg (Habilitation and Ph.D.), Oxford (B.A./M.A.), and Pearson College (I.B.) in Victoria, B.C.

2015 Lecture – Social Practices, Moral Education, and Decent Human Lives

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With Guest Speaker Dr. Philip J. Ivanhoe (City University of Hong Kong). 

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015
4:00PM Reception
5:00PM Lecture
Auditorium, Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall
Free and open to the public

Watch the full lecture:



It is widely noted that traditional Confucians have shown a deep, sustained, and revealing concern with “ritual” (li 禮) and its potential to produce and exert a range of positive effects—some subtle, others more profound—on human life. In my talk, I shall argue that such social rituals in fact do play a critical and vastly underappreciated role in our lives and are especially important for living more satisfying and humane lives together. I will make my case by introducing some traditional Confucian views about ritual and suggesting ways in which such ideas still do, can, and should play important roles in contemporary life—East or West.

Speaker Bio:

Philip IvanhoeDr. Philip J Ivanhoe has served as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Stanford University, as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, as Austin J. Fagothey, S. J. Distinguished Visiting Professor in Philosophy, Santa Clara University, and as the Findlay Professor of Philosophy at Boston University before moving to City University of Hong Kong in 2007. He specializes in the history of East Asian philosophy and religion and their potential for contemporary ethical, political, and social thought.

2014 Lecture – Changing Language in China: The Evolution of Chinese and the Impact of the Internet


With Guest Speaker Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
6:00 PM Reception
7:00 PM Lecture
Auditorium, Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall
Free and open to the public

Full Lecture:


With Guest Speaker Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania)


Under the influence of modern information technology, the degree and rate of language change in China during recent decades are probably greater than ever before in history.  The transformations are evident in virtually all aspects of language usage, including new terms and expressions and radically creative conventions for writing them. In this lecture, Professor Mair will examine instances of all of these trends and try to determine where they are headed.

2013 Lecture – Father and the Republic

With Guest Speaker Pai Hsien-yung

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
7PM – 9PM
Old Auditorium. 6344 Memorial Road

Full Lecture:


Father and the Republic
is a photobiography devoted to the life and career of the late General Pai Ch’ung-hsi (Bai Chongxi; 1893–1966). General Pai’s career both paralleled and profoundly influenced the history of the Republic of China: As an eighteen-year-old military cadet in 1911, he joined a “Dare-to-Die” corps that marched to Wuhan to take part in the Wuchang Uprising and helped overthrow the Qing dynasty (1644–1912); in 1928, as Chiang Kai-shek’s one-time Chief of Staff, General Pai fought his way into Beijing and brought the Northern Expedition to a successful conclusion; in 1938, as Commander of the Republic’s armies in northern China, he gave the Japanese Army, at the Battle of Taierzhuang, what was later called “the worst defeat it had suffered in modern times”; and in the winter of 1939, as commander of forces in Guangxi, General Pai was instrumental in wiping out one of Japan’s elite units.

During the Civil War, after routing the army led by Lin Biao (1907–71) in 1946, General Pai argued for the pursuit and destruction of the retreating Communist forces. But, under the pressure of General George Marshall, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a ceasefire, thus allowing the Communist Army to recover Manchuria and, in time, conquer mainland China. In 1949, General Pai commanded the Nationalists’ last operational forces on the mainland before withdrawing to Taiwan, where the Republican government’s standoff against Communist China continues to this day.
General Pai was immensely popular in China during the war and was recognized as the most brilliant military strategist of his generation, a distinction exemplified by his nickname “Little Zhuge” (a reference to the fabled strategist Zhuge Liang of the Three Kingdoms period). But his military career was overshadowed by a long and complicated relationship with Chiang Kai-shek, who resented his brilliance and kept him under constant surveillance after the Republic’s retreat to Taiwan.

Father and the Republic includes nearly six hundred photographs (many appearing in public for the first time) that serve to illustrate the public career and family life of General Pai from the 1920s to his days in Taiwan. As a witness to the birth of the first republic in Asia, Pai Ch’ung-hsi felt an unwavering sense of loyalty to it and chose to stay on in the Republic’s last foothold in China. General Pai was also a devout Muslim, and his death in 1966 was honored with a state funeral held in accordance with Muslim customs.

About Pai Hsien-yung
Son of the prominent military general Pai Ch’ung-hsi (Bai Chongxi), Pai Hsien-yung grew up in Guilin, Shanghai, and Hong Kong during the war years of the 1930s and 1940s. His family eventually resettled in Taiwan, where he received the remainder of his early schooling. Pai Hsien-yung is a graduate of the National Taiwan University (1961), where he co-founded the literary journal Xian dai wen xue (Modern Literature). The journal launched the modern literary movement in Taiwan and subsequently had a great impact on both Hong Kong and China. In 1965, Pai received a master’s degree in fine arts with a specialization in creative writing from the famed Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. That same year, he joined the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he remained active as a teacher, creative writer, and scholar until his retirement in 1994.

Pai Hsien-yung is recognized as one of the most important modern Chinese fiction writers. His works, comprising several dozen volumes, include short story collections, novels, screenplays, and critical essays; among his more notable works are Taibei ren (Taipei People), Nie zi (Crystal Boys), Niuyue ke (New Yorkers), and the stage play You yuan jing meng (Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream). His fiction, set against the backdrop of the great national dramas and tragedies that mark the history of twentieth-century China, explores, among other topics, problems of Chinese identity, migration and nostalgia, and sexuality. Ever innovative and daring, his works examine a startling range of subjects and lifestyles, from the “last aristocrats” of displaced mainlander Chinese in Taiwan and Manhattan in the 1950s and 1960s to the homosexual youth counterculture of Taipei in the 1980s. His novels and short stories have been adapted into full-length films, television series, and stage plays; and his fiction has been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, and Japanese. In addition to his other creative activities, Pai Hsien-yung has become a leading promoter of the revival of Kunqu opera, and his own production of the sixteenth-century drama “The Peony Pavilion” has been performed more than two hundred times worldwide, winning high critical acclaim.

His most recent endeavor has been the completion of a photobiography of his father, Fu qin yu Min guo (Father and the Republic), which was published simultaneously in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China in 2012. The publication of the book was a major milestone, which the noted historian Diana Lary has called “a harbinger that a serious reconsideration of China’s history of revolution can be discussed in public… [and that] a clearer understanding of modern Chinese history [can be achieved].”

Event Poster: 

2012 Lecture – Shoes, Umbrellas, and Tofu: Appraising Local Officials in Late Imperial China

With guest speaker Professor Wang Fan-sen.

Date: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Place: UBC Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall
Time: The lecture will begin at 7pm, with a reception beginning at 6pm.

The Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia is pleased to invite you to attend the 2012 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture with featured speaker Professor Wang Fan-sen, Vice President of Academia Sinica, Taiwan.

Historians have long been interested in the rituals of appraisals for officials that took place in local temples. This is so for good reasons. For most scholar-officials in late imperial China, earning a place in a Confucius Temple (thus securing one’s privilege to accept offerings of cold pork left by worshippers) was indeed a lifelong aspiration. And as a result, rituals of appraisals did generate a sense of anticipation and were an important part of socialization and social order in late imperial times.

In this talk, I would like to explore a related though lesser-known phenomenon: the appraisal of local officials by common people. In examining popular responses to state power, scholars have tended to focus on resistance and revolts (e.g. James Scott’s Weapons of the Weak). By contrast, in this lecture I will examine another way people responded to state authority: ritual demonstrations of approval and praise for “good officials.”

Among the ritual behaviours to be discussed are the taking off of shoes, the gifting of so-called umbrellas of ten-thousand-names (wan ming san; that is, umbrellas with names of villages written on them), and the placing of pieces of tofu on incense burners. Such rituals were typically preformed on the occasion of an official's leaving office. As such, they were understood to have strong evaluative implications.


Monday, October 1, 2012
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Research Seminar: "Self-Censorship in Qing Texts"
Room 604, Asian Centre, UBC

About the Speaker:

Professor Wang Fan-sen is an historian specializing in the cultural-intellectual history of early modern and modern China. Among his most acclaimed works are Zhang Taiyan de si xiang (The thought of Zhang Taiyan; 1985), Gu shi bian yun dong de xing qi (The rise of the doubting-antiquity movement; 1987), Fu Ssu-nien: A Life in Chinese History and Politics (2000), Zhongguo jin dai si xiang yu xue shu de xi pu (The geneology of modern Chinese thought; 2003), and Wan Ming Qing chu si xiang shi lun (Ten essays on Ming and Qing intellectual history; 2004).

Mindful of the interactions between the intellectual, the cultural, and the social, Wang Fan-sen has in his works offered original analyses of the shift in intellectual paradigms and cultural patterns, the relationship between traditional and modern thought, and the emergence of a modern Chinese intelligentsia and intellectual communities. He has also conducted in-depth research on the history of Chinese historiography and shown how developments in the study of history were closely linked to the transformations in politics, culture, society, as well as the traditional Chinese value system.

2011 Lecture – Transformative Identities: Literary Adaptation and Cultural Negotiation in Hong Kong Cinema of the 1950s

With guest speaker Leung Ping-Kwan, Chair Professor of Comparative Literature, Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

Wednesday, October 5
19:00-21:00 (Reception 18:00)
Auditorium, Asian Centre, UBC

A recording of the lecture can be found here.

Events in Conjunction
Oct 3: Research Seminar
Oct 6: Chinese and English Poetry Recital
Oct 7: Workshop

For more information, please contact:
Julia Paek (jpaek(at)mail.ubc.ca)
Leo K. Shin (leo.shin(at)ubc.ca)

Contrary to the common belief that Hong Kong cinema excels only in martial arts and gangster genres but has little to do with literature, recent research (Hong Kong Film and Literature Filmography, 1913-2000 [Hong Kong: Centre for Humanities Research, Lingnan University, 2005]) has shown that more than a thousand Hong Kong films have been adapted from literature since the beginning of the film industry (with the 1950s and 1960s as the high points). This talk will examine how Hong Kong culture has evolved since the 1950s, and it will examine how directors and writers drew on traditional and modern Chinese literary works as well as foreign and popular resources to develop alternative Chinese cultures--cultures that would not have been possible to develop in Mainland China.

Hong Kong cinema from the 1950s made adaptations not only from mainstream twentieth-century writers such as Lu Xun, Ba Jin, and Mao Dun but also from unacknowledged writers such as Shen Congwen and Eileen Chang. It continued to adapt from the literary works of Tolstoy, Maupassant, and Dickens when its counterpart in the mainland had ceased to do so. And it continued to adapt from traditional opera and romance (the “Mandarin Duck and Butterfly" stories) when the latter were severely criticized in the north.

This talk will focus in particular on some rarely seen films adapted from Lu Xun, Tolstoy, and traditional opera. Its objectives are to highlight the literary varieties in Hong Kong culture, to clarify its historical links with Chinese and Western cultures, and at the same time to trace the formation of the characteristics that contributed to the development of Hong Kong culture.


Leung Ping-kwan 梁秉鈞 (pen name: Ye Si 也斯) is a highly prolific poet, novelist, cultural critic, and multimedia artist. He has published eleven volumes of poetry (including Vegetable Politics 蔬菜的政治 [2006] and the award-winning Halfway 半途 [1995]), a novel, and four collections of short stories (among themIslands and Continents 島和大陸 [1987],Postcards from Prague 布拉格的明信片 [1990], which won the Hong Kong Urban Council’s Biennial Award for Fiction, andPostcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart 後殖民食物與愛情 [2009]). As Chair Professor of Comparative Literature at Lingnan University, he has also published extensively on Hong Kong literature and culture (including Hong Kong Culture 香港文化 [1995] and Hong Kong Literature and Cinema 香港文學與電影 [2011]). His recent research on the film culture of Hong Kong in the 1950s forms the basis of this year's Wat Lecture.


Leung’s writings have been translated into French, German, and Japanese. He has also produced multimedia art works on urban life, collaborated with visual and performing artists, fashion designers, and other cultural workers, as well as staged poetry and photography exhibitions in Hong Kong, Frankfurt, and Bern.

About the Lecture Series
The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture.

2010 Lecture – Writing History after Post-History: On Contemporary Chinese Fiction

With guest speaker David Der-wei Wang.

Wednesday, March 9th at 7:00 PM
UBC Asian Centre Auditorium
1871 West Mall, Vancouver
Reception to Precede event (6:00PM Asian Centre foyer)

Fiction was taken up by enlightened Chinese intellectuals as a vehicle of reforming politics and remaking history as early as the turn of the twentieth century. It became all the more polemical in the late twenties when leftist writers and critics invested in it purposes ranging from critiquing the status quo to promoting progressive agenda. How to compose fiction the “right way” in relation to history has always been a contentious issue from the Yan’an era to date. Fiction is not only expected to reflect but also rectify history; more, it is even expected to project History—the Socialist state of plenitude as promised by the success of revolution.

It is against this background that we come to the contemporary scene. Much has been discussed about the 80s, the “New Era” when fiction commanded enormous attention in terms of both formal experimentation and conceptual interrogation.  But more than twenty years after the “Root-seeking” and “Avant-garde” movements that shook “Maoist discourse” and unleashed waves of creative energy, one wants to ask: How have the writers of the New Era come along in the aftermath of market economy and media explosion throughout the end of the last century?  What concern them now with regard to their creative capacity as well as social agency?   More importantly, how do they come to terms with the Red Legacy that has once dominated the conception, production, and consumption of fiction?

Writing at a time when History has collapsed and Revolution has lost its mandate, writers cannot take up the two subjects without pondering their inherent intelligibility.  Drawing upon theories on “post-history” as developed by scholars such as Jacques Derrida, Li Zehou and Liu Zaifu, and contemporary fictional works as created by writers such as Mo Yan, Yan Lianke and Wang Anyi, this lecture will address the following three issues:

  • History after Post-History
  • Enlightenment versus Enchantment
  • Socialist Utopia and "the Best of all Best Possible Worlds"

David Der-wei Wang is Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard University and Director of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation Inter-University Center for Sinological Studies. The world’s leading scholar of modern Chinese fiction, his research specialties include modern and contemporary Chinese literature, late Qing fiction and drama, and comparative literary theory. Professor Wang received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and has taught at National Taiwan University and Columbia University. He is the author of three books in English and twelve books in Chinese, and editor of many more. His many honors include an honorary doctorate from Lingnan University (Hong Kong), and his appointments as an Academician of the Academia Sinica (Taiwan) and as a Yangtze River Scholar affiliated with Fudan University (China).

Wang’s English books include Fictional Realism in 20th Century China: Mao Dun, Lao She, Shen Congwen (1992), Fin-de-siècle Splendor: Repressed Mondernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911(1997), The Monster That Is History: Violence, History, and Fictional Writing in 20th Century China(2004); and his edited volumes include From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in 20thCentury China (1993), Running Wild: New Chinese Writers (1994), Chinese Literature in the Second Half of A Modern Century (with Pang-yuan Chi, 2000), Late Ming and Late Qing: Dynastic Decline and Cultural Innovation (2006), Representing Taiwan (2006), Taiwan under Japanese Colonial Rule(2007, with Ping-hui Liao), Globalizing Chinese Literature (with Jin Tsu, 2010)

Wang’s Chinese books include From Liu E to Wang Zhenhe: Modern Chinese Realist Fiction(1986), Heteroglossia: Chinese Fiction of the 30’s and the 80’s (1988); Reading Contemporary Chinese Fiction (1991); Narrating China (1993); The Making of the Modern; the Making of A Literature (1997); Methods of Imagining China (1998); After Heteroglossia: Reviews of Contemporary Chinese Fiction (2001); Into the Millennium: 20 Contemporary Chinese Fiction Writers (2002); The Monster That Is History (2005); Post-Loyalist Writing (2007); Mao Dun, Lao She, Shen Congwen: Fictional Realism in 20th Century China (2009); Lyricism and Chinese Modernity (2010)

2009-10 Lung Ying-tai
2008-09 Yu Hua
2007-08 Dorothy Ko
2006-07 Michael J. Puett
2005-06 Roger Ames