Newsletter No. 87

Time to Reperiodize History, Says Wei Lun Visiting Professor Prof. C. Warren Hollister, professor of history and medieval studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, gave a lecture at the University in his capacity as Wei Lun Visiting Professor on 28th March. Entitled 'The Decline and Fall of the Middle Ages: Reperiodizing European History', the lecture reexamines the periodization of European history and its imposition on Asian history. Prof. Hollister points out that the idea of a thousand-year era dubbed the 'Middle Ages' is increasingly at variance with historical research on Europe. Research by recent historians has resulted i n a new periodization which runs thus: Classical Antiquity (c. 500 B.C. to A.D. 180 ), Late Antiquity (c. 180-1050), Traditional Europe (c. 1050-1789), and Modern Europe (c. 1789- present, o r 1789-1945, followed b y Postmodern Europe). The newly reordered civilization termed 'Traditional Europe' saw the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the beginning of the French Revolution. Whether or not this new periodization is adopted in postsecondary curricula i n Europe and the United States, Prof. Hollister believes that changes to the periodization of Asian history should be seriously considered. A distinguished historian and medievalist of international repute, Prof. Hollister obtained his BA in history from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from UCLA. His list of offices include chair of the University of California Press Editorial Board, president of the Medieval Association of the Pacific, and president of the American Historical Association (Pacific Coast Branch). Prof. Hollister has received many honours in the United States and from international institutions for his teaching and writing. His 12 books have been translated into a number of languages and he has published over 45 scholarly articles on medieval history. CONFERENCE AND BOOK FAIR TO PROMOTE TRANSLATION To enhance bilingualism i n Hong Kong and to develop Chinese translating studies, an academic conference was held at Cho Yiu Conference Hall from 1st to 3rd April by the Department of Translation. The theme o f the conference was 'Studies i n Translating into Chinese'. Forty eminent scholars in the field from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong presented papers and Prof. Ambrose King, pro-vice-chancellor of the University, officiated at the opening ceremony. Concurrent with the conference, a book fair of translation and bilingual publications from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong was held from 31 st March at Sir Run Run Shaw Hall. The events were sponsored by the Translation Society of Hong Kong, Commercial Press (HK) Ltd., Longman Asia Ltd., Oxford University Press (China) Ltd., and Reader's Digest (Far East). Tellin g th e Poiso n fromth ePil l The University's Chinese Medicinal Material Research Centre (CMMRC) has developed two methods t o distinguish the poisonous adulterant gwai kou from the genuine herb wai ling sin. Gwai kou has caused nine poisoning cases in Hong Kong in February and March this year, three last year, two in 1989, and several i n Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur. The Health Department has advised all herb shops to stop selling wai ling sin. Research on the poisonous herb began in 1989. But due to the increasing seriousness of the problem, a special committee has been set up in the University for research into methods of distinguishing the two herbs. Dr. Paul But, director of CMMRC, disclosed that two reagents had been developed for spot check of gwai kou. The herbs can be identified within minutes of contact with the reagents by their different colour changes and exudates. As the preparation of the reagents i s complicated, CMMRC will not disclose the formulae to the public at this stage, but will supply the reagents to herb dealers and authorities in charge of drug control. I t will also propose to have the reagents and methods added to the Chinese pharmacopoeia. CMMRC has recently entered into an agreement with the National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products in China to collaborate in the research and development of quality control methods and standards of Chinese medicines. The institute is affiliated to the Ministry of Public Health and is responsible for the nationwide quality control o f pharmaceuticals and biological products. Nine-year Compulsory Education under Probe An education research project proposed by researchers from CUHK and the University of Hong Kong has been awarded $1.7 million in funding by the Commission of Education. Entitled 'Research o n th e Aims, Objectives, Targets, Enforcement of Nine-year Compulsory Education and the Assessment and Allocation System', the project focuses on three aspects of the nine-year compulsory education: aims and objectives, implementation and effectiveness, and when and why students fail. Compulsory education was first introduced in Hong Kong in 1978. The chief investigators are Dr. Wong Hin- wah from the University's Faculty o f Education, and Dr. Andrew Wong from the HKU Faculty of Education. Other collaborators from this university include Dr. Hau Kit-tai, Prof. John Lee, and Dr. Ni Yujing. Document analysis, questionnaires, interviews and seminars are used to solicit data. Subjects of the research include over 10,000 school principals, teachers, primary and secondary pupils. The project began in March 1996 and is expected to last four months. Close Relationship between Politics and Religion in Ancient and Medieval Times An academic conference on 'Politics and Religions in Ancient and Medieval Europe and Asia' was held on campus on 26th and 27th March. Jointly organized by the Department of History and New Asia College, the conference was the first of its kind in Hong Kong. Scholars from mainland China, Taiwan, and the University presented a total of 18 papers. Prof. C. Warren Hollister— renowned medievalist from the University of California at Santa Barbara and Wei Lun Visiting Professor—gave a keynote speech on 'Anglo-Norman Political Culture and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance'. In his speech, Prof. Hollister examines the background and causes of the outburst of historical writing by monks, often on the deeds of monarchs and nobles, during the twelfth- century Renaissance i n Western Europe. According to Prof. Hollister, this not only demonstrates the intellectual vigour of the period but also the symbiosis binding monastic- ism and the ruling secular order. He moreover attributes i t to the intellectual movement i n twelfth-century Western Europe which viewed the cosmos as a rational order created by a rational god, and therefore open to human intellectual exploration. Cause and effect thus came to dominate history-writing. These new trends also prompted an immense shift towards written administration in royal governments, and an upsurge in systematic thinking i n theology and law, architecture, and the arts.