Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Free and useless at Fudan!

Had my first proper visit to Fudan University today. This is the old gate (the university was founded in 1905), out of the way of the 30,000 students from all around the world who now study there. As a New Schooler I am of course agog at any kind of university campus, but even by more normal standards this is a big one, with many pretty tree-lined paths. I first had lunch with an old Princetonian at the Center for American Studies who now directs four centers (and journals) relating to religion, American and Christian, in connection with international relations. He told me he'd coined the phrase "believing China" (not sure what the Chinese is), corresponding to a population at least the size of the US, in his efforts to persuade people that religion in China ought to be accepted as normal and unthreatening. He also told me everyone at Fudan knows and loves the motto 自由而无用的灵魂, which he rendered a free and useless soul. Liberal arts! I feel at home already!
Next I met my official host at the International Center for Studies of Chinese Civilization, evidently a sort of shared outfit for receiving foreign scholars maintained by the departments of History, Literature and Philosophy. He's a historian (actually trained in what he called "Chinese biblical studies," the Confucian classics and the history of their interpretation), but heads the Religious Studies program, which is housed in Philosophy. This is the sort of interdisciplinary gnarliness I love but it also makes perfect sense for him: a recent work of his is an annotated edition of the Chinese translation of Aristotle's De Anima made by the Jesuits in the 16th century - another kind of gnarly! ICSCC has furnished me with a carrel in their office on the 8th floor of the west (left) tower of Fudan's huge signature Guanghua Tower (below), and will help me get proper calling cards, too. A most promising start!

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