Talks and lectures

Shen Fuzong: the First Chinese Visitor to Oxford

Monday, 8 October, 10:00 - 18:00 at China Centre

Exhibition arranged by St Hugh's College, in association with the Bodleian Library, in the Mok Common Room from 8 October to 14 December 2018, on Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am to 6pm. Supported by Trevor and Dominica Yang In 1687 James II commissioned a life-size portrait of the first Chinese visitor to England known by name, Michael Shen Fuzong. The subject was a Christian convert, brought to Europe as part of a campaign to gain support for the Jesuit missions in China, to which James II, as a Roman Catholic, was keen to show his favour. The portrait, still in the Royal Collection, has long been recognised as one of the glories of James’ short reign, and a key image in the growing fascination with China in the west.

Much less well known, and the subject of this ground-breaking exhibition, is the six weeks Shen then spent in Oxford as the guest of Thomas Hyde, Bodley’s Librarian. Together, they inspected the collection of more than 70 Chinese books, purchased as curiosities over the last 100 years, and which for the first time were being read and understood.

Hyde was an expert in Oriental languages, an authority in Hebrew, Arabic and Sanskrit: now he was to become the first Englishman to receive lessons in written and spoken Chinese. As they examined the books together, Shen wrote the titles on the outer covers, to which Hyde added a brief note of the contents in Latin, the one language they had in common. In another world first, alongside the portrait and the annotated books, the exhibition includes a dozen of the scraps of paper on which Shen gave Hyde what amounted to a crash course in Chinese culture, now preserved in the British Library. Topics such as the calendar or the divination system of the I Ching related to the books they were cataloguing, but as the two men got to know each other, they talked, as any new friends would, about their own lives: where do you come from? who is in your family? what do you like to eat?

Shen taught Hyde the phrase: ‘I am a librarian’ – thanks to the strength of their working and personal relationship, these were words that he too could now echo. Together, the exhibits give as vivid and intimate an insight into the mind of Restoration England as the Diary of Samuel Pepys.

• First working encounter between Britain and China

• Loans from Royal Collection Trust, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford and British Library brought together for the first time

• Treasures from Europe’s largest collection of pre-1700 Chinese books

An events programme is being organised in conjunction with the exhibition. This will include:

Evening lectures: 12, 19 and 26 November

Conference – The World of Shen Fuzong: Art, Culture, and History – 10 November

Daytime children’s events in half term: week beginning 22 October. Workshops will include: Chinese lion dance, Chinese dragon dance, music and cookery

Events will take place at the Dickson Poon Building, entrance off Canterbury Road, or in St Hugh’s College Main Building, entrance off St Margaret’s Road.

Event booking link:

For further information about the exhibition please contact Sarah Carthew at or call 07890 519 287

For further information about the accompanying events please contact Catharine Rainsberry at or call 01865 613852

Registered Charity no: 1139717

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Are the US and China doomed to Enmity?

Tuesday, 20 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Kishore Mahbubani will deliver a lecture at the China Centre - 'Are the US and China doomed to Enmity?' Relations between China and the United States have clearly gone downhill in the past few months. Is this a temporary blip caused by Donald Trump or a manifestation of deeper problems? This lecture will argue that fundamental structural factors are responsible for the recent deterioration in bilateral relations. It will evaluate the economic, political, cultural and strategic fault lines between the US and China, and identify the key driving forces among these factors. Kishore Mahbubani is Senior Advisor (University & Global Relations) and Professor in the Practice of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, where he also served as Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy from 2004 to 2017. Before that, he served in the Singapore Foreign Service for 33 years, notably as Ambassador to the UN and twice as President of the UN Security Council. He writes extensively on public policy issues. He has authored seven books: Can Asians Think, Beyond the Age of Innocence, The New Asian Hemisphere, The Great Convergence (selected by Financial Times as one of the best books of 2013), Can Singapore Survive?, and co-author of The ASEAN Miracle. His latest book, Has the West Lost it? A Provocation was published in April 2018.

Peasant Poets: The Formation of Literati Identity During the Han

Thursday, 22 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Among the incredible Han period bamboo and wood-strip manuscript discoveries of the past century, the Cang Jie pian 蒼頡篇 stands out as curiously ubiquitous, not only in the large number of finds, but also in their diverse geographies and archaeological contexts. The Hanshu 漢書 Yiwenzhi 藝文志 bibliography treats the Cang Jie pian as a foundational primary education (‘xiaoxue 小學’) work, and it is Chris Foster's contention that this text was a primer used extensively for formal scribal training during the early Western Han. Lost for nearly a millennium, the new Cang Jie pian manuscript discoveries give us unique insight into what this education actually entailed – and perhaps even more interestingly, how control over this education came to be compromised and contested. In this talk, Chris Foster will explore case studies in which sophisticated scribal literacy 'trickled down' informally to a much broader segment of Han society, including peasant conscripts serving among the militarized frontier and bricklayers constructing aristocratic tombs. Chris Foster argues that this loss of control over scribal literacy provoked a crisis of identity and literary arms race of sorts, which contributed to the eventual formation of a literati class over the course of the Han dynasty. Christopher Foster is Stanley Ho Junior Research Fellow in Chinese at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College, and both his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Chris is interested in the manuscript culture of early China, focusing primarily on newly excavated texts from the Qin and Han periods. He has co-authored a translation of Liu Guozhong's 劉國忠 Introduction to the Tsinghua University Bamboo-strip Manuscripts 走近清華簡 with William French, and recently published the article 'Introduction to the Peking University Han Bamboo Strips: On the Authentication and Study of Purchased Manuscripts' in Early China.    

Party Spirit: Producing a Communist Civil Religion in Contemporary China

Friday, 23 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

The Chinese Communist Party is confronted with a growing gap that separates the rhetoric about socialism and party rule from the individualism and materialism caused by capitalism and opening up to the outside world. In response, the Party has developed strategies that draw on an understanding of the dedication to the Party that is specifically religious, yet does not require belief, conviction, or faith in a doctrine. These strategies revolve around the Leninist concept of ‘Party spirit’, which, paradoxically, has been turned into a commodity that can be produced, supplied, and consumed. Frank Pieke is Director and CEO of the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS).    

Cultural Enterprises of Southwest Chieftains during the Ming-Qing Transition

Monday, 26 November, 13:00 - 15:00 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Taiwan lecture on Chinese Studies. This lecture will be given by Siao-chen Hu, Research Fellow and Director, institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia Sinica. Event co-sponsored by Taiwan (ROC): National Central Library and Center for Chinese Studies

China and the World: International Connections in Technology and Counter-Insurgency

Monday, 26 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at Lucina Ho Seminar Room

International History of East Asia seminar Tan Ying Jia, Wesleyan University: ‘Envisioning Integrative Development: TVA and Sino-American Technological Diplomacy, 1941-1948’ Xiu Guangmin, Sichuan University: ‘How the UK Gained External Support During the Malayan Emergency’  

Kaifa, Kaiken, Kaifang: Nature and Development on the Chinese Frontiers

Tuesday, 27 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Kaifa, Kaiken, Kaifang: Nature and Development on the Chinese Frontiers. In the first half of the twentieth century, discussions in military and political circles and among intellectuals in China about economic development, more efficient and intensive uses of natural resources, and science came together in a flourishing discourse on frontiers. During this period of political and cultural transition, the frontier came to be seen as a laboratory for the accumulation of new knowledge about agricultural modernization and the exploitation of natural resources. This frontier discourse, articulated by social scientists, was translated by modernizing military officers and bureaucrats into concrete policy decisions to economically develop the frontiers, in the process reinforcing modern Chinese territorial boundaries. Global examples of frontier settlement refracted through China’s unique history to shape a new territoriality that informed the process of modern Chinese state formation. Shellen Xiao Wu is Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She received her PhD from Princeton University and BA from Harvard University. Her first book, Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860-1920 was published by Stanford University Press in 2015 as part of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute Publication Series. She is particularly interested in the history of science in modern China and how changes in the uses and exploitation of natural resources affected the modern Chinese state and society.  

Designing Authoritarian Deliberation: How Social Media Platforms Influence Political Talk in China

Thursday, 29 November, 17:00 - 18:30 at the Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre

Discussion is often celebrated as a critical element of public opinion and citizen participation in politics. Recently scholars have suggested that the design and features of specific online platforms shape what is politically expressed online and how. Building on these findings and drawing on 112 semi-structured qualitative interviews with information and communications technology experts as well as Internet users, we explain how major Chinese social media differ in terms of their structure and the company’s motivation. We specify which features are more likely to facilitate the emergence of online public opinion in Chinese social media and provide evidence from a nationwide representative survey as well as an online experiment. Results show that the public Twitter-like Weibo facilitates political discussion, while the private WhatsApp and Facebook-like WeChat inhibits political expression. These effects are stronger when political talk is less sensitive. Technological design matters only within the boundaries of authoritarian discourse. Daniela Stockmann is Professor of Digital Politics and Media at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.  Before joining the Hertie School faculty, she was Associate Professor of Political Science at Leiden University.  She received a PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2007) and an MA in Chinese Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London (2001).  Her research interests include comparative politics with a specialization on China, public opinion and political communication, research design, and more recently digital methods, big data, and data science as an emerging field.  She applies theories and methods developed in research on media and public opinion to authoritarian politics, placing China into a broader comparative context.  Danie's research has been published in Comparative Political Studies, Political Psychology, Political CommunicationProblems of Post-Communism, the China Quarterly, the Journal of Contemporary China, and other journals and edited volumes.  Her book, Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China (Cambridge University Press, 2013) has received the 2015 Goldsmith Book Prize for best academic book on media, politics, and public affairs by the Shorenstein Centre at Harvard University.  Her current research project, funded by a Starting Grant of the European Research Council (ERC), explores the impact of technological design of social media platforms on user behaviour regarding politics.  More information is available at  

Mandarin Forum

Friday, 30 November, 13:00 - 14:00 at Language Lab 2

Past the Belt, at the End of the Road: China’s Pacific Adventure

Thursday, 6 December, 17:00 - 18:30 at Ho Tim Seminar Room

The larger narrative of China-Australia relations in the South Pacific tracks a gradual deterioration from a time where cooperation seemed possible, to an era of increasing competition on economic and military lines. Lost in this is the reality of China’s growing engagement with Pacific nations and Pacific communities. What is driving PRC migration, aid and investment in a region where China has few historical ties? Graeme’s research ties in with Matthew Erie’s ERC-funded project 'Illiberal Law & Development: China and the World', taking Vanuatu as a case study. In this seminar, he will suggest ways newly arrived actors from the People’s Republic may be influencing Pacific institutions. Graeme Smith is a fellow in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. His research has explored the demand for organic produce in Chinese urban centres, the political economy of service delivery in rural China and the role of local officials in China's rural development. He studies Chinese outbound direct investment, aid and migration in the Pacific, with ongoing projects in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Samoa. He also hosts the award-winning Little Red Podcast with former BBC and NPR correspondent Louisa Lim, covering China beyond the Beijing beltway.