Spotlight Taiwan Report
Hunter College Chinese Flagship Center

Hunter College was among just 14 organizations in the world chosen to participate in Spotlight Taiwan, a project initiated by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture to bring Taiwanese arts and culture to select college campuses and their local communities. The Spotlight Taiwan project is an effort to share Taiwanese perspectives of history, philosophy, mass culture, art, literature, and film through such forms as lectures, artist talks, seminars, workshops, performances, exhibitions, film festivals, and art festivals.

Hunter used the $15,000 grant to bring lectures, workshops, and performances to the Hunter campus. On October 7th, the series kicked off with a traditional tea demonstration at Ten Ren Tea’s flagship location in the heart of Chinatown. Attendees from the Hunter College community and general public gathered at the teahouse to learn about the history of tea in China and its significance to Chinese culture, and to take part in the ritualized tea ceremony under the guidance of a master.

Other events included a Chinese Music Ensemble Concert on October 16th in the Lang Recital Hall, which featured a chamber group of Taiwanese musicians and a dancer performing “Sound of Silk and Bamboo.” The musical styles ranged from traditional Sizhu music and Taiwanese folk songs to more contemporary music, and the musicians shared an introduction to their traditional Chinese and Taiwanese instruments.

On October 28th, Hunter hosted “Chinese Calligraphy in the Modern World,” an introduction to the unique and beautiful legacy that calligraphy holds in Chinese culture. Professor Wen-shing Chou, assistant professor of East Asian art history at Hunter College, provide a thought-provoking presentation that explored the 5,000 year history of this venerable art form, and to answer question from the audience. Then on Tuesday, November 3, the “Spotlight Taiwan” series concluded with another calligraphy lecture given by Professor Adam Schwartz that focused on the development of Chinese characters, followed by a calligraphy workshop that offered students the opportunity to glean tips from Agatha Lin Weiss, a master of Chinese calligraphy, and to try the art themselves.

All events took place during the months of October and November of 2015 and were free and open to the Hunter community and to the public. For the month leading up to the scheduled events, they were advertised on 32 digital screens across Hunter College’s main campus and three satellite campuses (Brookdale, the Silberman School of Social Work Campus, and Roosevelt House.) The events also appeared on the City University of New York’s online calendar and the Hunter College online calendar, which is displayed on the Hunter College homepage and broadcast on the directional kiosk monitors at the building’s main entrance. The Spotlight Taiwan series was an exciting opportunity for CUNY faculty and students to enhance collaborations across disciplines and departments as they learned more about Chinese art, music, and dance through the artistry of Taiwanese performers. The workshops enabled Hunter to provide college students and K- 12 teachers hands-on opportunities to experience Taiwanese culture.

All Spotlight Taiwan events at Hunter were sponsored by the Taiwan Ministry of Culture and the Hunter College Chinese Flagship Center.

On Wednesday, October 7, Hunter College’s “Spotlight Taiwan” series kicked off with a traditional tea demonstration at Ten Ren Tea’s flagship location in the heart of Chinatown. Students gathered at the teahouse to learn about the history of tea in China and its significance to Chinese culture in general. After watching the tea master perform the tea ceremony, one student had the chance to replicate the procedure and serve tea to the rest of the participants. Considering the number of steps that must be taken to execute a basic tea demonstration, combined with the specialized pieces of equipment that are used, makes it apparent that tea is not only a beloved Chinese drink, but also steeped in culture.

By Alison Fu (Hunter Chinese Flagship Student)

On Friday, October 16, Hunter College’s Chinese Flagship Center hosted the second event in the “Spotlight Taiwan” series, a musical concert featuring traditional Chinese instruments. Judy Shih-Hua Yeh, the founder and director of the Taiwanese Music Ensemble, along with Juilliard graduate Andy Wei-Yang Lin, woodwind virtuoso Yimin Miao, and dancer Bing-ting Chen performed ten pieces in front of a full house in the Lang Recital Hall. Between each performance, Yeh introduced a different instrument, which included the Guzheng, Guqin, Erhu, and various types of Chinese flutes. Along with playing classical Chinese compositions such as “The Three Variations of the Plum Blossom” which was created over 1,500 years ago, the ensemble also performed several well-known crowd pleasers, including “Jasmine Flower” and “The Moon Represents My Heart,” leading to raucous applause and many audience members singing along.

By Alison Fu (Hunter Chinese Flagship Student)

On Wednesday, October 28, Hunter College's Chinese Flagship Center concluded their “Spotlight Taiwan” series with an in-depth look at Chinese calligraphy. In a lecture given by Dr. Wen-Shing Chou, Assistant Professor of East Asian Art at Hunter College, students were guided through the rich history of Chinese calligraphy. Starting with examples of oracle bone script dating from c.14th-11th century BCE, Dr. Chou presented a progression from rigid carved characters to the elegant cursive script that we are all, at least in passing, familiar with. What some might have expected to be a dry historical review turned out to be a rather colorful narrative on the evolution of script from being a simple means of communication to a refined art-form. The lecture ended with a presentation of contemporary dances inspired by calligraphic masterpieces from the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Such a display of the old combined with the new gave students cause to wonder about how calligraphy might change in the future.

By Patrick Musich (Hunter Chinese Flagship Student)

On Tuesday, November 3, Hunter College’s Chinese Flagship Center concluded their “Spotlight Taiwan” series with a calligraphy workshop. The event started off with Professor Adam Schwartz giving a comprehensive overview of the history and current archeological findings of Chinese calligraphy. His talk was energized with his personal passion and work in the subject and entertaining relevant anecdotes. Professor Schwartz laid the foundation for Mrs. Agatha Lin Weiss, a master of Chinese calligraphy. Mrs. Weiss gave the audience tips and advise while demonstrated different styles and characters. She said that stance and posture matters and one has to let the chi flow from the feet into the brush. The audience was then given the chance to put her advise into practice. My rice paper looked like it was full of chicken scratch. There were a few things that never occurred to me would affect my writing so drastically like the wisdom in the characters, the focus of mind and the strength of hand. Trying the art for oneself invokes appreciation and awe of the masters, like Mrs. Weiss, who make this ancient art look like a piece of moon cake. This event along with the other Spotlight events has inspired me to study calligraphy more, and perhaps one day I too will be a master.

By Safia Mahjebin (Hunter ChineseFlagship Student)



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