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Indiana University


Director’s Letter

A publication of the East Asian Studies Center, Indiana University

May 2013

Letter from the Director

Dear EASC Colleagues, Students, Friends and Supporters,

"Ch'ü Yuan...caring no longer to live...went out to the bank of the Mi-lo river. There he met a fisherman who accosted him, saying,

'Are you not his Excellency the Minister? What has brought you to this pass?'

'The world,' replied Ch'ü Yuan, 'is foul, and I alone am clean. There they are all drunk, while I alone am sober. So I am dismissed.'

'Ah!' said the fisherman, 'the true sage does not quarrel with his environment, but adapts himself to it. If, as you say, the world is foul, why not leap into the tide and make it clean? If all men are drunk, why not drink with them and teach them to avoid excess?'

After some further colloquy, the fisherman rowed away; and Ch'ü Yuan, clasping a large stone in his arms, plunged into the river and was seen no more...." (Giles, A Chinese Biographical Dictionary)

When I began writing this introduction today, I realized it was Duanwu Jie or Double Fifth (the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar), the Dragon Boat Festival.  Why not then acknowledge Qu Yuan, I thought, the famous third century BCE poet, whose life, exiles, and suicide are now widely (and often patriotically) commemorated on this date by dragon boat racing and the eating of zongzi (bamboo wrapped rice dumplings), not just in Greater China, but around the world and in North America from Vancouver to San Francisco to Tampa Bay.  Those of you who know Qu Yuan’s poetry will not be surprised that I quickly reconsidered. Qu Yuan’s approaches to life and service, not to mention his aesthetic sensibilities, are hardly uplifting.  What Qu Yuan does best is lament, bitterly and sorrowfully. Not exactly the perfect entrée to EASC’s Spring Newsletter.  Yet, today represents a cultural moment in which the rewriting of history is apparent in all of the present’s color and complexity.  And sharing such moments (and we hope, following the fisherman’s wisdom, doing such so as to “avoid excess”) is part of the mission of EASC. 

So, on this day that has become one of celebration, let me turn the tale to our EASC present here in Memorial Hall.  For one thing, we all feel it.  Summer in Bloomington, while not yet officially arrived, is heating up.  This means that as we swelter and maneuver around massive building and renovation projects, we also enjoy waltzing into restaurants with vacant tables, strolling along beautiful planting beds, and finding rejuvenation after the frenetic pace of spring semester.  We’re sure that those of you teaching know exactly where the 8,000 students studying in Bloomington this summer keep themselves, yet there is a relaxing quietude in our quadrangle that belies those numbers.

Trusting that you have some time for relaxation, we offer you this Newsletter, which looks back to spring semester and forward to future events.  As always, we invite you to celebrate with us the accomplishments of our students, faculty, and alumni—and for those of you traveling abroad for research, study or teaching, please keep in touch.  Send us your pictures and news about your experiences.

Enjoy your summers,