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DEAS Autumn 2010

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Slurp! On front page of Yomiuri ShimbunYomiuri Shimbun features Barak Kusher's Slurp!

Dr Barak Kushner's book Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen - Japan's Favorite Noodle Soup (Brill/Global Oriental), was featured in the editorial commentary box on the front page of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest daily newspaper, on 3rd June, 2013. Click in the thumbnail for the full-size version.

John Swenson-Wright on the North Korea crisis

Media and online comentary on the developing situation

Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations in the Department of east Asian Studies, has been much sought after recently for informed commentary on the developing crisis surounding the government rhotoric and miltary activities of the Democratic People's Rebublic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea.

US is the real obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine

Israel has built 150 settlements in the territories it occupied in 1967 and the settlers have additionally erected around 100 so-called "outposts" while the government turns a blind eye. These constitute fundamental violations of Palestinians' rights. The unwillingness of the international community, including the United States, to stop these violations is the main obstacle to peace.

In-depth opinion piece written for The Conversation by Dr Lori Allen, Lecturer in Comtemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society

Yasir Suleiman elected Chairman of 'Arabic Booker' Prize

Professor Yasir Suleiman, CBE, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Professor of Modern Arabic Studiesand Founding Director, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies has been elected as Chairman of the International Prize of Arabic Fiction (IPAF), popularly known in the Arabic-speaking world as the 'Arabic Booker'. The Prize was establsihed in 2007 and is supported by a grant from the Tourism and Culture Authority in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The Prize has quickly become the premier literary recognition in the field of the Arabic novel.

Japan's Sakoku Period discussed on In Our Time

In a recent edition of BBC Radio 4s cultural programme In our Time, presenter Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Japan's Sakoku period, two centuries when the country deliberately isolated itself from the Western world. Bragg's guests include Prof. Richard Bowring, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies and Dr Rebekah Clements, Research Fellow of Queens' College and Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Barak Kushner talks to Zoom Japan

The February, 2013 issue of the monthly magazine Zoom Japan features an interview with Dr Barak Kushner, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History. The interview, A Long Story, covers his discovery and subsequent fascination with the social and cultural history of the ramen noodle.

Napoleon Chagnon, a most controversial anthropologist

At the centre of a recent controversy involving anthropologists is Napoleon Chagnon. Chagnon's writings on the Yanomamo make broad and lurid claims that are dangerous misrepresentations. A rare moment of public exposure for anthropology. And the discipline might be catching a cold as a result.

In-depth opinion piece written for Al-Jazeera by Dr Lori Allen, Lecturer in Comtemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society

Pascal Wenz competes in Japanese Speech Contest

Pascal WenzPascal Wenz, a 4th-year student reading Japanese in the Department of East Asian Studies, participated in the 8th Japanese Speech Contest for University Students co-organised by the Japan Foundation and the British Association for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language (BATJ). As a finalist Pascal delivered a 10-minute speech entitled 'Creating Japanese Buddhism in the West: 欧米における日本仏教像の創作' at Regent's College London on Saturday, 2nd March 2013.

Pascal and four other finalists from SOAS, Leeds University and Newcastle University were shortlisted through an essay-writing and a telephone interview. In his speech he discussed how misconceptions about foreign cultures occur because of selective approaches that are guided by personal interests. He illustrated this problem by analysing how Suzuki Daisetsu's reinterpretation of Zen Buddhism particularly influenced Western scholars and intellectuals who looked for an alternative religion that was neither institutional nor based on faith in the beginning of the twentieth century. In his conclusion, he appealed to his listeners to study those aspects of foreign cultures that they could not easily relate to.

Sadly Pascal was not amongst the prize winners, however, his dedication and enthusiasm should be appreciated and he deserves a good round of applause for being an excellent representative of our department.

Inquiring Into International Commissions of Inquiry

Blog post on the Middle East Research and Information Project website by Dr Lori Allen, Lecturer in Comtemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society, following the death in Israeli custody of the Palestinian political prisoner, Arafat Jaradat.

Missions and commissions leading to what?

In-depth opinion piece written for Al-Jazeera by Dr Lori Allen, Lecturer in Comtemporary Middle Eastern Politics and Society, lamenting that "No missions and commissions that have reviewed and reported on conditions in Palestine have had any salutary effect."

John Swenson-Wright on CamFM's "Orientertainment"

Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, University of Cambridge, was interviewed recently by some of the faculty's own students on the University CamFM Radio Station's "Orientertainment" programme.

New faces, old tensions

The leaders who could mean a fresh beginning for East Asia

"It is a time of tension in East Asia with growing nationalism, territorial claims between Japan and its neighbours and the persistent challenge of a nuclear North Korea. Recent leadership changes, however, offer the prospect of a fresh start in regional relations."

Dr John Swenson-Wright, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, writes in his capacity as Senior Consulting Fellow, Asia Programme, Chatham House, in The World Today, Volume 69, Number 1 (February, 2013).

Regional security challenges in East Asia

Chatham House audio podcast

Dr John Swenson-Wright also features in a recent audio podcast from Chatham House in which he looks at the regional security challenges currently dominating the region and, with new leaders in Japan and South Korea, and a new US Secretary of State, the relationships surrounding North Korea, and the domestic reasons for their foreign policies.

What is driving North Korea's nuclear test plan?

Official announcements from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) indicate that North Korea may be about to test a nuclear device - the third such instance, following two earlier tests in 2006 and 2009. Why might the North be preparing to test?

Dr John Swenson-Wright writes for the BBC News website.

Persian to English Literary Translation Competition

Funded by the Persian Studies at the University of Cambridge

The Persian Studies group is pleased to announce its first Persian to English Literary Translation Competition which will reward as yet unpublished literary translations of modern or contemporary Persian poetry, fiction or drama into English. The competition is for the students of European and British universities only. The deadline for receiving the translations for the 2012-2013 entry is 30th April 2013 and the result of the competition will be announced by 30th July 2013.

Prizes for the best translations are £200 for the first, £100 for the second, and £50 for the third. The awarded translations will be considered for online publication through the University of Cambridge website or print publication.

For more information, please see the entry form [PDF] or the competition web page.

Slurp!: A Social and Culinary History of Ramen

Podcast from New Books in East Asian Studies on Dr Barak Kushner's recent book.

Shahnameh discussion on BBC Radio 4

Prof. Charles Melville joined Melvyn Bragg on the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time to discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past thousand years.

The Shahnameh recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century and serves, in a sense, as a creation myth for the Persian nation. The poem took Ferdowsi thirty years to write and, consisting of over 50,000 verses, is said to be the longest poem ever written by a single author. Laced with tragedy, Ferdowsi's epic chronicles battles, romances, family rifts and Man's interior struggle with himself. Although the stories may not always be true they have a profound resonance with Iranians even today, and the poem has been referred to as both the 'encyclopaedia of Iranian culture' and the identity card of the Persian people.

Dr Schmidtpott Awarded a Gerda Henkel Foundation Research Scholarship

Dr Katja Schmidtpott, Temporary Lecturer in Japanese History at the Department of East Asian Studies, has been awarded a prestigious two-year research scholarship by the Gerda Henkel Foundation (Germany). The Gerda Henkel Foundation supports national and international academic projects in the historical sciences.

The scholarship begins in January and it will enable her to complete a book on the history of temporal behaviour in Japan in the 20th century, with a special emphasis on the promotion of punctuality and efficient time use by the Daily Life Improvement Campaign (Seikatsu kaizen undô) in the 1920s and 30s.

Identity, trial and retribution: East Asia after World War II

A major historical research project which will examine how East Asia redefined itself after World War II, with results that affect international relations in the region even today, has been announced.

The five-year project, led by Dr Barak Kushner in the Department of East Asian Studies, aims to understand how political and legal authority was established by different regimes in countries such as China, Korea and Taiwan, as the area emerged from the shadow of Japanese Imperial rule after 1945. The Department is currently advertising for new postdoctoral research positions and PhD scholarships to work on the project.

Dr Robert Weatherley quoted in LA Times

Affiliated Researcher Dr Robert Weatherley was recently quoted in a story in the Los Angeles Times in relation to the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and his expulsion from the Chinese Communist Party.

Dr Barak Kushner Awarded a 2012-2013 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship

Dr Barak Kushner, Senior Lecturer of Japanese History of the Department of East Asian Studies, was recently awarded a 2012-2013 British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship. He will use the prestigious award to complete a book entitled 'Men to Devils and Devils to Men': Japanese War Crimes and Cold War Sino-Japan Relations (1945-1965). He aims to complete an introductory historical analysis of how the Chinese adjudicated Japanese war crimes. Using recently opened Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and European government, diplomatic, and military archives he will trace key moments in the juridical process of the several thousand individuals who were tried as Japanese war criminals in ten venues throughout China. This project strives to be the first in the English language to demonstrate how competition among the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Chinese Communist Party, and the Japanese themselves, sought to implement justice under the new banner of international law at the dawn of the Cold War in East Asia.

Food, Sacrifice and Sagehood in Early China

Podcast from New Books in East Asian Studies on Prof. Roel Sterckx's recent book.

First fruits of Sanskrit Manuscripts project online

As part of the AHRC-funded project "The intellectual and religious traditions of South Asia as seen through the Sanskrit manuscript collections of the University Library, Cambridge" led by Dr Vincenzo Vergiani, the first batch of catalogue records and digital images of South Asian manuscripts can now be accessed through the UL Digital Library webpage at

Through Persian Eyes

Charles Melville featured in BBC Radio 4 series on Iran

Prof. Charles Melville was featured, providing a guide through the story of the Mongol hordes, in edpisode 2 of this the BBC Radio 4 series Through Persian Eyes.

Episode details and podcast link on BBC Radio 4 website

Saying Goodbye Again and Again

BBC Radio 3 feature on Xu Zhimo's 'Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again'

Each year thousands of Chinese tourists visit Cambridge, not to see the usual sites, but to pay homage to a poem they all had to learn by heart in school - Xu Zhimo's 'Saying Goodbye to Cambridge Again'.

Few non-Chinese speakers will have heard of it but on Saturday, 30th June, 2012 a programme about it was broadcast in BBC Radio 3's Between the Ears fetaure. "Saying Goodbye again and again" takes a sonic journey along the River Cam capturing the voices of teachers, students, tourists, punt chauffeurs, a tour guide, a translator and experts on early 20th century Chinese poetry.

Details and podcast link on BBC Radio 3 website

al-Kindi discussion on BBC Radio 4

Dr Amira Bennison and Prof. James Montgomery joined Melvyn Bragg on the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time to discuss the life and work of the 9th-century Arab philosopher and scientist al-Kindi on Thursday, 28th June, 2012.

The author of more than 250 works, al-Kindi wrote on many different subjects, from optics to mathematics, music and astrology. He was the first significant thinker to argue that philosophy and Islam had much to offer each other. Today al-Kindi is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic world.

Details and podcast link on BBC Radio 4 website

Direct podcast download link

Tales of Persia

ABC Radio interview with Charles Melville

Prof. Charles Melville talks about the Shahnama on ABC radio (Australia) in an epidode of the weekly programme Creative Instinct broadcast on Saturday, 9th June, 2012.

Details and podcast link on ABC Radio website

Prince Khosrow and his Redemption Mission

Griboedov Studies and the Contemporary World

Dr Firuza Melville, Afiliated Researcher in Persian Studies at the AMES Faculty and Head of the Shahnama Centre, Pembroke College, attended a conference in Alushta, Crimea, on 'Griboedov Studies and the Contemporary World', organized by the Pushkin House (St Petersburg), Historical Museum of Alushta and Taurida University. There she presented a paper entitled "Persian sources about the Persian mission of 1829 to Russia" on the topic of Prince Khosrow and the results of his Redemption Mission to St Petersburg after the murder of A.S. Griboedov, Russian plenipotentiary minister, in 1829.

Griboedev Conference Attendees Outside the Conference Venue
Conference Attendees outside the Museum
(click to enlarge)

Development in the 21st Century

Humanitas 2102 Visiting Professorship in Statecraft and Diplomacy

Dr John Swenson-Wright took part in a panel discussion which formed part of the seminar series on development in the 21st century led by Helen Clark, (Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of the United Nations Development Group; former Prime Minister of New Zealand) who holds the Humanitas 2012 Visiting Professorship in Statecraft and Diplomacy.

Love and Devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads
Charles Melville gives opening keynote address

The 'arts of the book' and the diffusion of Persian culture

Lecture FlyerProf. Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge, delivered a free public lecture as the opening keynote address of the conference Love and Devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads organised by the State Library of Victoria. Click on the thumbnail to see the flyer.

In his lecture, Prof. Melville focused on illustrated and richly illuminated manuscripts that address different aspects of the themes of love and devotion. He examined some of the themes of love found in Persian literature and how they travelled to neighbouring lands, the afterlife of the texts themselves and the arts of the physical books in which they lived.

Sankei Shimbun interview with Barak Kushner

Sankei Shimbun interview with Dr Barak KushnerDr Barak Kushner, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese History at the University of Cambridge, gave an interview to Sankei Shimbun in Japan concerning the first year anniversary after the tsunami in Japan and reflections on the past and future.

It was published on March 11th, 2012. Click on the thumbnail to see the article (in Japanese).

Professor Philip Kuhn presents China Research Seminar

Prof. Philip KuhnProfessor Philip Kuhn (Francis Lee Higinson Professor of History and East Asian Langauges and Civilizations at Harvard University) visited the Faculty on Wednesday, 7th March, 2012 and gave a lecture in the East Asian Studies Department's China Research Seminar Series.

His lecture pointed out important continuities in relations between business and officialdom from the seventeenth century to reform China and how this can shed light on our understanding of Chinese cultures of migration. The event attracted a large and appreciative audience not just from Cambridge but from across England. The audience listened in hushed silence as Professor Kuhn provided a master class in historical analysis.

Professor Philip Khun with audience members

Joseph Needham – Philip Mao Chair at Hong Kong University

On 17th February, 2012 Prof. Roel Sterckx delivered a public lecture entitled "Modern agendas through ancient texts: ecology and environment in early China" in the Senate Room of the University of Hong Kong. The lecture was delivered to celebrate the endowment of the Joseph Needham – Philip Mao Chair in Chinese History, Science, and Civilization at the University of Hong Kong. HKU Press release.

Attendees at the signing ceremony
click to enlarge

The photo shows Dr Kenneth Mao, Prof. Lap-Chee Tsui, Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University, Sir David Li Kwok-Po, Professor Angela Leung, Professor Roel Sterckx and members of the Hong Kong East Asian History of Science Foundation.

DEAS Student John Richardson awarded Monbukagakusho (MEXT) Japanese Studies Scholarship

John RichardsonJohn will be reading an MSc in Intelligence Science (Natural Language Processing) at Kyoto University under Professor Sadao Kurohashi. His provisional research topic is analysing Japanese collocations using optimised stochastic and large-corpora search algorithms with a view to creating English-Japanese translation software and/or advanced study software (automatic collocation verification) for L2 Japanese learners. John's research topic for his undergraduate dissertation was looking at how people can use speech recognition systems for more effective L2 Japanese prosody acquisition (particularly pitch accent), including designing a prototype system for teaching pitch accent in Japanese classes.

World Prize for the Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran

The book by Gregor Schoeler: The Biography of Muhammad: Nature and Authenticity (London: Routledge, 2010), edited by Professor James Montgomery, has been awarded a World Prize for the Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran.

Bequest from distinguished alumnus Wilfred Lambert

Prof. Wilfred Lambert FBA, who was an undergraduate at Christ's College and graduated in Hebrew and Akkadian in 1950, became Professor of Assyriology in Birmingham, and had a world-wide reputation for his mastery of Akkadian literary texts and his knowledge of the British Museum collections of cuneiform tablets. After his death in November 2011 at the age of 85 we have learnt that he bequeathed to the Faculty over 600 Assyriological volumes which our library does not already have. This will greatly enhance our holdings and will be much appreciated by undergraduates, research students and staff alike.

Cambridge Islamic Manuscripts Collection on Radio 4

The BBC Radio 4 programme In our Time included a series of five programmes featuring the Cambidge University Library's digital collection of Islamic ManuscriptsJames Montgomery, Professor of Classical Arabic at the Faculty, contributed to these programmes.

Naqqali on UNESCO "intangible cultural heritage" list

Prof. Charles Melville was interviewed for the BBC World Service's World Today programme on the subject of Naqqali and UNESCO considering it for its "intangible cultural heritage" list. Listen to an off air recording of the interview.

Student Photography Competition 2011

Catherine Pelton (Murray Edwards) with Prof. Geoffrey Khan (Faculty Chair)The Faculty is pleased to announce the winners of the Student Photography Competition 2011.

First prize in Middle Eastern Studies was awarded to Harriet Armston-Clarke (Homerton) for her study of West Bank children being taught music. First prize in East Asian Studies went to Catherine Pelton (Murray Edwards) for her characterful portrait of a dog. Catherine also took third prize for her image of a workman taking a break.

Other prize winners in Middle Eastern Studies were Nadia Mkinsi (King's) and Larissa Normanton (Trinity), while second prize in East Asian Studies was awarded to Hugh Grigg (Downing) who also won a prize in last year's competition! The prize winners all received certificates and prizes from Prof. Geoffrey Khan, the Chair of the Faculty.

All the winning pictures, and other entries to the competition are on display in the faculty foyer. There are some photographs here of the display, and of Catherine receiving her prizes and certificates - the only winner available to do so in person.

A big thank you to all who took part – choosing the winners was not easy!

DEAS Student Freddie Feilden awarded Monbukagakusho (MEXT) Japanese Studies Scholarship

Freddie Feilden has been awarded a Monbukagakusho (MEXT) Japanese Studies scholarship to study at the University of the Ryukus for the academic year 2011-12. Following an interview and exam in March, he was recently chosen as one of four British representatives by the Embassy of Japan in London. A third year student, elected to a Senior Scholarship at Trinity College, Freddie visited the Yaeyama Islands, the southernmost islands in Japan, last Summer with the aid of Trinity College's Projects' Fund to investigate local architectural idioms. He hopes to use research conducted during this year abroad as the basis for his undergraduate dissertation.

Ji Guoqing presents painting to the Faculty

Eminent artist Ji Guoqing recently presented a painting to the Faculty. Professors Hans van de Ven and Roel Sterckx were delighted to accept the gift on behalf of the Faculty. The painting will be placed on display in the Faculty building. Event photos.

Prof. Yasir Suleiman awarded CBE

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, published on 11th June, it was announced that Prof. Yasir Suleiman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Chair of Modern Arabic Studies, is to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Nezami Ganjavi - workshop and conference papers

To celebrate the publication of A KEY TO THE TREASURE OF THE HAKIM. ARTISTIC AND HUMANISTIC ASPECTS OF NIZAMI GANJAVI'S KHAMSA (J-C Buergel and C van Ruymbeke eds), Amsterdam SPUI25 (The Academic Cultural Centre of the University of Amsterdam) organised a workshop-debate with key-note speakers Drs Christine van Ruymbeke and Asghar Seyed-Gohrab of Leiden University on Wednesday 25th May 2011.

The volume contains the papers of the 2007 Cambridge conference on Nezami Ganjavi and is published by Leiden University Press. It contains the cutting-edge of present-day Nezami-studies. Contributors are : J.C. Buergel, L. Anvar, G. van den Berg, M. Casari, P. Franke, A. Piemontese, C. van Ruymbeke. C. Saccone, A. Seyed-Gohrab, P. Soucek, M.I. Waley, K. Talattof, Z. Vesel and R. Wuersch.

Juvenile Delinquency in 19th and 20th Centuries: 
East-West Comparisons

Dr Barak Kushner gave the keynote speech at this conference in Berlin.

Held at the Centre for British Studies in Berlin, the conference was organised by Heather Ellis (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and Lily Chang (Oxford) and was generously sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, Cologne. The conference brought together junior and senior scholars from a wide range of institutions and disciplinary backgrounds to discuss the different ways in which juvenile delinquency has been constructed historically in the cultural fields of East and West. The central aim of the conference was to encourage dialogue amongst scholars to move beyond conceptualising the subject of juvenile delinquency from an exclusively national perspective. The majority of papers addressed individual aspects of juvenile delinquency in schools, families, courts, prisons, the world of science, and in relation to the state, but many of them also stressed the comparative and transnational elements of their findings to a broader audience.

In his talk, entitled ‘Empire's Little Helpers: Juvenile Crime and the State in East Asia, 1900-2000’, Kushner highlighted many of the key themes of the conference, in particular, the crucial relationship between the construction of juvenile delinquency and the processes of state formation as well as the complexities of defining concepts of youth and childhood using the terminology of ‘east’ and ‘west’. Kushner drew especial attention to the ways in which discourses of juvenile delinquency may be developed and deployed by state institutions and agencies in order to pursue political goals. This raised, he argued, crucial questions about the agency of youths and children in the construction of ‘delinquent’ behaviours in situations of political instability and war. He also argued for the ability of studies of juvenile delinquency and its relationship with state structures to shed new light on traditional topics of social and political history. He pointed in particular to the important role which children and young people have often played in determining the course of events in well-studied historical developments such as the rise of Japan to the status of an imperial power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Food, Sacrifice and Sagehood in Early China

New book by Prof. Roel Sterckx

Reflections on Knowledge and Language in 
Middle Eastern Societies

A book edited by DMES graduates, Mr Bruno De Nicola, Mr Yonatan Mendel and Dr Husain Qutbuddin has been published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Article by Dr John Swenson-Wright on the Tsunami, 
Earthquake and Radiation issue in Japan

Dr John Swenson-Wright writes on the recent Tsunami and its after effects in Japan.

PDF here

Link to online Chatham House article here

Prof. Roel Sterckx hosts Asia House organised event, 
Chinese New Year at Clare College.

Sir John Boyd KCMG, Chairman of Asia House delivered a keynote address at Clare College in February which was followed by a discussion with Corporate Strategy and Business Intelligence leaders. The event to celebrate Chinese New Year was chaired by Hugh Davies CMG, Chairman of the China Association, Vice-Chairman of the Great Britain China Centre, member of the Executive Committee of the CBBC and of the Committee of the 48 Group. Prof. Roel Sterckx chaired the Dinner address.

Event photo

For news of next year's event please

Dr John Swenson-Wright and Chatham House in Joongang Monthly

An article, in Korean, in the March, 2011 edition of the South Korean current affairs periodical, Joongang Monthly, features Chatham House and, amongst other matters, provides some details on recent tensions on the peninsula. It also features a conference convened by Dr John Swenson-Wright there last December on the topic of Human Security in the DPRK.

Resurgent Trilateralism in Northeast Asia

Chatham House publishes Programme paper by Dr John Swenson-Wright

“A Critical Edition of the Kāśikāvṛtti” - Project Launch

January, 2011 saw the official launch of the project "A Critical Edition of the Kāśikāvṛtti", which will be carried out by Dr Eivind Kahrs (Project leader) and Dr Vincenzo Vergiani in collaboration with Prof. Malhar Kulkarni, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, and Prof. Saroja Bhate, Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit, University of Pune.

The Project is funded by a British Academy grant in the frame of the International Partnerships Scheme with South Asia. It aims, over three years, at preparing a critical edition of the whole first book of this 7th-century work attributed to Jayāditya and Vāmana, which is the oldest complete commentary on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, while investigating its role in the history of Sanskrit grammatical thought.

Denis Crispin Twitchett (1925 - 2006)

memoir, by Prof. David McMullen, of "a totally dedicated scholar of medieval Chinese history with wide sympathies, rare erudition and prodigious energy ... [whose] contribution to shaping the field of Chinese Studies in his generation was enormous".

North Korea: Breaking the Deadlock - A Different Approach

Lord AltonProfessor Lord Alton of Liverpool gave a talk on this subject in the Asian Studies Centre's Seminar Series on Monday, 31st January, 2011.

The text of his talk and photographs of the event are now available.

Korea: A Glimmer of Hope

Dr John Swenson-Wright discusses international opinion on the intentions of the Kim Jong-il administration in The World Today, a Chatham House monthly publication.

The Hitler costume fiasco shows Japan has lost touch with its past

Dr Barak Kushner, University Lecturer in Modern Japanese History, writes in The Guardian's Comment is Free section.

Former Student awarded Philip Leverhulme prize

The Philip Leverhulme Prizes, with a value of £70,000 each, are awarded annually to outstanding scholars who have made a substantial and recognised contribution to their particular field of study, recognised at an international level, and where the expectation is that their greatest achievement is yet to come.

Dr Julia Lovell, a former student and Affiliated Lecturer of Chinese Studies at the Faculty who is now with the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck, University of London, was among the prizewinners for 2010. Her prize was awarded in the Medieval, Early Modern and Modern History category for her work on Modern Chinese History.

Dr Swenson-Wright discusses the Korean exchange of fire on Radio 4

John Swenson-Wright, University Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Politics and International Relations, spoke on the BBC Radio 4's Today program on Tuesday, 23rd November, 2010 in response to the North Korean exhange of fire with South Korea.

Dr Swenson-Wright was also cited in articles on the developing situation in the New York Times, in the Independent, in the Korea Times, on the Channel 4 news and on the Chatham House website.

Prof. Melville discusses the Shahnameh on Radio 4

Charles Melville, Professor of Persian History appeared on BBC Radio 4's Today programme to talk with Zubeida Malik about the artistic legacy of the 1,000 year old Persian epic the Shahnameh, the world's longest poem, which is is on display in Cambridge. The interview is available to listen online at:

Daewoo Securities support teaching of Korean in Cambridge

Mr Dong Young Park, Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Global Markets at Daewoo Securities in Seoul, visited Cambridge on 9th November, 2010 and had lunch in Robinson College with Michael Shin, Mark Morris, John Swenson-Wright and Peter Kornicki. He was accompanied by Mr Sean Kang and Mr Warren Kim of the Daewoo Securities (Europe) London office.

The visit was to mark the generous donation of £20,000 to support the teaching of Korean in Cambridge, which will do much to stabilise the Korean language teaching programme. We are most grateful to Mr Key Young Im, the CEO of Daewoo Securities, whom Peter Kornicki met in Seoul in September, and to the company as a whole for their timely and much appreciated support.

Prof. Montgomery discusses the Volga Vikings on Radio 4

Professor James Montgomery joined Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time on Thursday, 11th November, 2010 at 9 am to discuss the Volga Vikings.

In the 8th century AD a group of Norsemen travelled through the land now known as Russia into Central Asia and founded settlements there. They penetrated so far east that their activities were documented by Arab scholars: one, Ahmed ibn Fadlan, recorded that the Volga Vikings were perfect physical specimens but also "the filthiest of God's creatures". Through trade and culture they brought West and East into regular contact for the first time; their story sheds light on both Scandinavian and early Islamic history.

The programme was repeated at 9:30 pm and is now available as a podcast.

The Devil Inside: the image of Japan in 20th century Chinese humor

Dr Barak Kushner was recently invited to Pennsylvania State University in the USA to give two talks. One of these talks, "The Devil Inside: the image of Japan in 20th century Chinese humor", was delivered on Monday, 25th October, 2010. Penn State recorded it and it can be viewed (a bit muffled unfortunately and preceded by an advertisement) at the address below:

Library of Arabic Literature Established

NYU Press and NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) have announced the establishment of the Library of Arabic Literature (LAL). This new long-term project, funded by a grant from NYUAD’s research center, the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, will initially publish 35 English translations of the great works of classical Arabic literature. The translations, rendered in parallel-text format with Arabic and English on facing pages, will be undertaken by renowned scholars of Arabic literature and Islamic studies. The translations will include a full range of works, including poetry, poetics, fiction, religion, philosophy, law, science, history and historiography.

Prof. James Montgomery appointed Executive Editor

LAL will be directed by a group of distinguished scholars from around the world. Philip Kennedy, Faculty Director, NYUAD Institute, will serve as the General Editor; James E. Montgomery, Professor of Classical Arabic at Cambridge University, and Shawkat M. Toorawa, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cornell University, will serve as the Executive Editors.

Epic of the Persian Kings: The Art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh

This exhibition at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum explores the artistic legacy of the 1,000-year-old Persian Book of Kings, known as the Shahnameh. Open now, it runs through to January, 2011.

Completed by the poet Ferdowsi in 1010 AD, the Shahnameh stretches to more than 50,000 couplets – making it twice as long as the Iliad and Odyssey put together – and tells the "Iranian version" of the history of the world, with warring kings, heroes, dragons and demons.

The Fitzwilliam exhibition includes nearly 100 paintings from the poem’s illuminated manuscripts, spanning 800 years. Persian miniature paintings from the 14th to the 19th centuries are also on display, drawn from public and private collections in the UK.

series of evening lectures at the Faculty accompanies the museum exhibition.

The Faculty's Professor of Persian History, Charles Melville, has studied the Shahnameh for many years and recently edited a volume of Shahnamah studies. He was interviewed by the Cambridge Evening News at the opening of the Fitzwiliam exhibition.

2010 Purandocht Pirayech essay prize

A £500 prize is offered for the best essay written by second-year undergraduate students (studying Persian in this Faculty) on their experience during their year-abroad in Iran in 2010-11.

2010 Essay title: Continuity of the Persian Medieval Literary Culture in Contemporary Iran.

Ideally the essay, written in English, should deal with a mixture of direct experience in Iran, backed up by some relevant reading.

Length of the essay: between 3000 and 5000 words.

This competition is open only to current second-year undergraduate students studying Persian in this Faculty and spending part of their year abroad in Iran.

The deadline is on the last day of Michaelmas term 2010, viz: Friday, 3rd December. No late essays will be considered.

Only one prize will be offered. If the quality of the essays are not deemed sufficient, no prize will be offered that year.

All submissions should be sent by e-mail to

The winner will be announced before Christmas.

Graduate awarded Japanese MEXT scholarship

Sven Palys - Cambridge BA GraduationA recent graduate of the Faculty, Sven Palys (Selwyn, 2006) was awarded one of Japan’s most prestigious scholarships by the Ministry of Education, which will fund a two-year Master's degree course in Japan. After four years of juggling academic work and editorship of The Cambridge Student, he plans to unite his passion for the Media and Japan by researching the history of Japanese newspapers at the University of Tokyo for the next two years. Sven moreover hopes to take his interest onto a Ph.D., before embarking on a career in the media – writing about the cuisine of East Asia.

Dr Bennison & Prof. Montgomery discuss al-Birni on Radio 4

Dr Amira K. Bennison and Professor James Montgomery joined Melvyn Bragg on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time on Thursday, 10th June, 2010 at 9 am to discuss the life, times and work of the scientist al-Biruni (d. 1050). The programme was repeated at 9:30 pm and is now available as a podcast.

Research Training in Old Chinese

A two-day workshop, the third in a series of five under the above title, was held in Cambridge on 24th - 28th March, 2010. A report on the workshop has now been released along photos of the attendees and a session in progress.

Student Photography Competition 2009-2010 - Winners Awarded

The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is pleased to announce the winners of the Student Photography Competition 2009-10.

First prize in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies was presented to Zach Brown (Arabic/Persian, St.Edmunds) for his image of the colourful market in Aleppo, Syria, and first prize in the Department of East Asian Studies went to Laura Pilkington (Chinese, Clare) for her picture of the night market in Beijing.

Other prizewinners were Ivan Gladstone, William Smith, Hugh Grigg and Kylie Moore-Gilbert, some of whom are seen here receiving their certificates and prizes from Prof. Hans Van de Ven, the Chair of the Faculty.

All the winning pictures, and other entries to the competition are on display in the faculty foyer and the Common Room. A big thank you to all who took part – choosing the winners was not easy!

2009 Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award

Dr Amira Bennison

Dr Amira Bennison has been awarded the runner-up prize in the Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award 2009 for her book The Great Caliphs: The Golden Age of the 'Abbasid Empire (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009).

2009 Honorary Doctor of Letters - Professor Wang Gungwu

On 12th June 2009, Professor Wang Gungwu of the National University of Singapore (NUS) was conferred Honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of his contribution to international scholarship as a historian of China and the Chinese. He was presented to the Chancellor, HRH Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh at the 800th Anniversary Degree Congregation at Senate House, alongside nine other eminent individuals from the fields of religion, business, science, music, history, philanthropy, politics and economics.


Prof. Wang & family

Professor Wang (centre) outside Senate House with his daughter 'Mei', wife Margaret, Professor Roel Sterckx and Dr Adam Chau.

Sterckx v de V & Wang Gungwu

Professor Wang with Professor Roel Sterckx (Head, Department of East Asian Studies) and Professor Hans van de Ven (Chairman of the Faculty Board)

The first Chinese historian to be honoured by the University, Professor Wang is Chairman of the East Asian Institute and a Professor of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at NUS and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. His work focuses primarily on Chinese history and the history of relations between Southeast Asia and China. His publications since 2000 include The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for AutonomyDon’t Leave Home: Migration and the ChineseAnglo-Chinese Encounters since 1800: War, Trade, Science and GovernanceDiasporic Chinese VenturesDivided China: Preparing for Reunification, 883-947, China and Its Cultures: From the Periphery (in Chinese) and Chinese Civilization and China’s Road Ahead (in Japanese translation). Click here for the full press release. Click here to watch the ceremony.

Pilkington Teaching Prize awarded to Mrs Haruko Laurie

Mrs Laurie is one of twelve of the University’s very best teaching talents, who have been honoured at the annual Pilkington Prizes awards ceremony. The Pilkington Teaching Prizes were established in 1994 by businessman and alumnus of Trinity, Sir Alastair Pilkington during his term as Chairman of the Cambridge Foundation. The aim was to ensure that excellence in teaching at the University was given proper recognition.

Mrs Laurie of Selwyn College is a Senior Language Teaching Officer at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She has run the Japanese language teaching programme for more than twenty years and is credited with transforming it with a combination of superb efficiency and true commitment. Haruko's dedication, and her rich knowledge of Japanese language and culture, has won the respect of her peers and students alike. Click here for the full press release.

2nd year PhD student George Mak shortlisted for Sir George Staunton Prize

Congratulations to George Mak, a 2nd year student in the Department of East Asian Studies who was shortlisted for the 2nd Sir George Staunton Prize of the Royal Asiatic Society for his article 'Laissez-faire or Active Intervention? The Nature of the British Bible Society's Patronage of the Translation of the Chinese union version.' The article will be published in a future issue of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Departmental newsletters published

The first issues of the newsletters for the Department of East Asian Studies and the Department of Middle Eastern Studies are now available. Just click on the links below. We hope you enjoy reading them.

World Prize for the Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran

We are delighted to announce that Dr Christine van Ruymbeke, Ali Reza and Mohamed Soudavar Lecturer in Persian Studies, has been awarded a World Prize for the Book of the Year, Islamic Republic of Iran for her work Science and Poetry in Medieval Persia, the Botany of Nizami's Khamsa.

One of the winners in the Iranian Studies field, the book considers the verses of Nizami Ganjavi, one of the foremost figures in Persian poetry who lived in Azerbaijan in the second half of the twelfth century. His reputation is that of a difficult and refined poet, who introduced into his verse vocabulary, expressions and allusions to the then-known sciences. Through the exploration of his use of botanical imagery the work illuminates the extent of the education of medieval poets and their readership.

The award ceremony will be held on February 7th 2009 in the presence of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Cambridge RAE 2008 results announced

The RAE results for 2008 have now been published. The Department of Middle Eastern Studies has produced an outstanding result by coming top of all UK Middle Eastern studies departments. East and South Asian Studies at Cambridge were ranked third best nationally.

New Prize! Undergraduate Dissertation Prize in Middle Eastern Studies

The Department will award a prize of £150 and a great deal of glory in acknowledgement of a student writing the best fourth-year dissertation. To be considered for the prize, dissertations must display a high level of scholarship and research, linguistic facility and originality.

The decision will be made at the annual departmental Tripos Examiners’ meeting in June. Decisions will be based on the reports of the internal and external examiners. Two prizes may be awarded in a single year if more than one dissertation is judged exceptional.  In addition to the prize, with permission, recipients will have their work published on the FAMES website.

Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards 2008

Former DMES student Mark Dickens received Honorable Mention in the Humanities category of the Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards 2008 for his PhD Dissertation entitled Turkaye: Turkic Peoples in Syriac Literature Prior to the Seljuks.

Mark is currently working as a Research Assistant on an AHRC-funded project based in the Department for the Study of Religions at SOAS entitled The Christian Library from Turfan, cataloguing all the Christian manuscripts in Syriac script that are contained in the Collection in Berlin. Mark's doctoral supervisor, Dr Erica Hunter (former Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic at DMES) is heading up the project. The manuscripts in question have remained uncatalogued in the century since they were brought back to Berlin from Turfan in NW China. Further details can be found on the SOAS website

First Annual Festival of Ideas
22nd October to 2nd November, 2008

The Faculty was delighted to participate in the very first Festival of Ideas, the University’s new festival of the arts, humanities and social sciences. Over 5000 visitors of all ages attended more than 200 events, talks and hands-on activities in faculties, departments, museums and galleries across the city.

Organised by Dr Qian Kan, the Faculty’s contributions included lectures on medieval Muslim travellers, Persian miniature painting, China’s role in World War II and East Asian Film. Hands on activities included an Arabic calligraphy workshop, a Magic Lantern show and Chinese paper cutting session for children. All events were extremely well attended, with queues forming outside the building before the doors had opened for the day. All participants and volunteers enjoyed meeting attendees and it was a pleasure to host the events for such an enthusiastic audience.

Due to its huge success the Festival will be held again in 2009 so we look forward to welcoming visitors to FAMES again next year - we do hope you will join us.

butterfly girlPhoto: Jonathan Lewis

R. A. Nicholson Prize 2008 awarded to Fraser Clark

The Department of Middle Eastern Studies is pleased to announce that Fraser Clark has been awarded the R.A. Nicholson Prize. The Prize is awarded annually by the Examiners for Part II of the Oriental Studies Tripos for distinguished work in the examination in Arabic and/or Persian.

Fraser and friends

( The Euphrates at Deir Azour, Syria. Left to right Bill, Rob, Fraser and Jenny)

From Fraser's dissertation

"Over the course of my reading of the Shahname, time and again I have enjoyed vignettes of delicately crafted emotional intricacies, embedded in all the hallmarks of high literary expression: wit, sympathy, irony, metaphor etc. I have come to believe that Firdausi's unreal epic landscape is no reason to question his acumen for crafting distinct, genuine individuals inhabiting this environment."

Fraser's reflections on writing and study

It was this observation which fired the intellectual boilers of my dissertation, propelling it towards the accolades of the RA Nicholson award. Over the course of some 12,000 words I investigated the character arc of the Shahname's headlining hero, the mighty Rostam. Ferdowsi's genius is in full flow as he writes of Rostam, portraying a character whose life crosses from the epic to the romantic, via the great tragedy of his life, his unknowing filicide.

The depth to with which I mined Ferdowsi's thousand-year-old text would not have been possible without the well-crafted final year of the tripos. During this I was able to investigate any course-related subject attracting my attention, and to pursue those investigations at some length. This brilliant opportunity was the high point of my undergraduate degree, representing the culmination of all that had come before.

Prof. Geoffrey Khan article:

Prof. Khan explores endangered dialects of Aramaic in Research Horizons (pages 20-21)

New Publication:

Lodewijk Brunt and Brigitte Steger (eds): Worlds of Sleep. Berlin: Frank & Timme 2008. For further details please see the Press Release.

Undergraduate Handbook 2008-2009 
The Tripos System
New Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Tripos

1. Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Tripos, General

2. Summary of the introduced changes

These pages provide information on the new Tripos that the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is introducing for undergraduate students beginning their studies at Cambridge in the autumn of 2008.

The new Tripos is divided into two pathways, one for East Asian Studies (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and one for Middle Eastern Studies (Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian). The essential structure of the new Tripos is that it prescribes for both pathways a core set of language papers (examinations) which students will have to sit at Part Ia at the end of their first year of study, Part Ib at the end of their second year, and Part II at the end of their fourth and final year of study. Students will also take subject papers in history, literature, culture, and so on. At Part Ib and Part II, students will have a choice of such papers. Some are announced in the Tripos regulations while others will be specified by the Faculty Board two years in advance.

It will be possible to combine Middle Eastern Studies with Modern and Medieval Languages. For example, you can combine the study of Arabic with French or another European language. This is not the case for students following the East Asian Studies pathway. They must concentrate on either Chinese or Japanese, although they will be able to combine Chinese and Japanese during their third and fourth year of study. They will also be able to take Korean as part of their course. Most students will spend their third year of study abroad.

The two documents linked to this page provide detailed information on the new Tripos. They are, I am afraid, written in a rather bureaucratic style to conform to Cambridge procedures and it might take you some time to find your way through them. But they do contain all the information you need.

The first document contains the regulations covering the new Tripos in full. If you scroll through this document, you will also find Supplementary regulations with short descriptions of the papers that we will offer. The second paper sets out the changes with the old Tripos.

If you have any questions, please contact Laura Hancock, the Faculty’s Undergraduate Programmes Administrator at or your Director of Studies.

Hans van de Ven
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


“A Critical Edition of the Kāśikāvṛtti” - Project Launch

January, 2011 saw the official launch of the project "A Critical Edition of the Kāśikāvṛtti", which will be carried out by Dr Eivind Kahrs (Project leader) and Dr Vincenzo Vergiani in collaboration with Prof. Malhar Kulkarni, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, and Prof. Saroja Bhate, Emeritus Professor of Sanskrit, University of Pune.

The Project is funded by a British Academy grant in the frame of the International Partnerships Scheme with South Asia. It aims, over three years, at preparing a critical edition of the whole first book of this 7th-century work attributed to Jayāditya and Vāmana, which is the oldest complete commentary on the Aṣṭādhyāyī of Pāṇini, while investigating its role in the history of Sanskrit grammatical thought.

International Indology Graduate Research Symposium (IIGRS)

Thursday, 23rd & Friday, 24th September, 2010

A two-day conference designed to bring together graduate students working with primary sources in Indology so that they can present, discuss and publish their research.

For more information, please visit:


Sanskrit Life-Worlds: Antiquity to Early Modernity

Tuesday, 11th May, 2010 from 10:00 - 16:00
CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

A colloquium with Professor Sheldon Pollock (William B Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, University of Columbia, US).

The Great Chain of Academic Being

A View from the Bottom: Reflections on the Non-Western, the Non-Modern, and the Philological

A lecture by Professor Sheldon Pollock (William B Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, University of Columbia, US)

Thursday, 13th May, 2010 from 17:00 - 19:00
CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge.


Ideas of India in Britain 1857-1947

Friday, 14th and Saturday, 15th May, 2010
CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

A workshop aiming to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of ideas of India in Britain between 1857 and 1947.


Top Prize to a Cambridge Student in a UK Varsity Chinese Competition

A 4th-year student from the Department of East Asian Studies, Miss Frances Gregory (Selwyn College), won the top prize at the 7th UK Varsity Chinese Competition, which was held at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 15th March 2008.

Eleven students representing different universities in the U.K. participated in the competition, at which students had to do various tasks in Chinese including making speeches, giving Chinese artistic performances, answering questions about Chinese history, culture, society, geography, current affairs, etc. Miss Gregory impressed the judges and the audience by getting a full score in answering questions related to architecture in Beijing, Chinese proverbs, Chinese traditional embroidery, etc. In her speech, she used both Chinese and Western examples to argue against the biased view that women were inferior to men. She also gave a performance of Chinese sword-dancing, which was enthusiastically received by the audience.

Miss Gregory’s teacher, Miss Pei-yi Wu, a Lector in Chinese at the Department of East Asian Studies, was awarded the prize for Best Instructor. This is the third time that Cambridge has sent a representative to participate in the competition and Cambridge has won the top prize in every competition it has participated in.   

Miss Gregory will represent the U.K. in the 2008 World Varsity Chinese Competition to be held in China in July 2008.