Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Calligraphy Workshop

Last Monday (4/23) I volunteered as a staff for a calligraphy workshop organized by IU's East Asian Studies Center (EASC).
The workshop took place in Ivy Tech college in Terre Haute, a town 1.5 hour drive away from Bloomington, and the event was scheduled from 9AM to 3PM, so six of us (EASC staff members and volunteers including me) left Bloomington together (in a van which Patricia drove) at 6:30AM (@@ ... ). But in spite of the early start, we all enjoyed the drive talking to each other and finding some common interests among us.
Margaret, the associate director of EASC, have lived in Tokyo, Japan for three years while she was working on her dissertation on Kobo Abe, a Japanese surrealistic novelist, at Tokyo University. Patricia also spent two years in Japan as AET, and Jessica, an EASC part-time staff is a graduate student in Chinese Literature and has been to China a few times. Aiying is a visiting scholar from China and her field is comparative culture between China and the US. And finally, James Min-Ching Yang, the calligraphy artist/teacher and the guest speaker of the day, is a retired professor in English and American Literature leading his retirement life here in Bloomington with his wife Jenny.
I found James's career and life experiences fascinating in many ways: He is originally from Taiwan, and he taught for more than 30 years in a university in Taiwan after graduating from English department at IU. So, he said, all through his life he has been serving as a sort of "bridge" between the East and the West: during his long years in Taiwan he was enthusiastically teaching English/American literature, language and culture to Taiwanese students, and now, here in Bloomington, he is devoted to retrieving a rich tradition and history of his own Taiwanese and Chinese cultures and teaching them to people in the US. Calligraphy and erhu (a Chinese stringed instrument) playing are apparently the two biggest among such interests of his these days.
I felt an affinity to him because I have considered myself as a kind of bridge between the two cultures too, having taught English language and culture to students in Japan for 5 years and now starting to learn and teach about Japanese culture and language to people in the U.S. And it turned out that he has wanted to learn Japanese language whereas myself wanting to learn Chinese calligrpahy, so we agreed to start exchanging lessons soon, which is great!

The calligraphy workshop was very successful. The timetable had a 1.5 hour lecture on Chinese Calligraphy and Seal making and 1 hour hands-on calligraphy workshop in the morning, and half an hour hands-on seal making workshop after lunch. James's presentation prepared by Mac's Keynote presentation software was great (he said he started using computer itself last year when his son bought him a mac for a Christmas gift, and he spent about 6 months to make this presentation on mac. I found it quite amazing that he could make it so well within only a year of computer experience).
All the 25 students (half from Terre Haute and half from Urbana-Champagne in Illinois) seem to have enjoyed both the lecture and workshop, and some of them made a really impressive piece of work for a complete beginner (you can see some of their work in the pictures below).

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