700 scholars and students join Harvard-Lingnan Symposium exploring contemporary Chinese literature from a Hong Kong perspective

5 Dec 2023

Lingnan University and Harvard University jointly host the second Harvard-Lingnan Symposium: “The Avant-Garde X Hong Kong and the New South”.

Lingnan University and Harvard University jointly host the second Harvard-Lingnan Symposium: “The Avant-Garde X Hong Kong and the New South”.

Lingnan University and Harvard University jointly hosted the Harvard-Lingnan Symposium: “The Avant-Garde X Hong Kong and the New South” at the Lingnan@WestKowloon at M+ Tower of West Kowloon Cultural District from 4 to 5 December 2023. The symposium brought together 18 distinguished scholars from top universities worldwide, along with three prominent Sinophone writers: Ban Yu from Northern China, Chen Chuncheng from Southern China, and Lee Wai-yi from Hong Kong. The symposium attracted an online audience of more than 600 and 100 scholars and students were present at the venue. Taking Hong Kong as both a physical nexus and symbolic vantage point, the symposium explored the theoretical prospects of the avant-garde in relation to the emerging discourse of the “New South”, a concept derived from recent studies in Chinese literature.

The symposium was co-hosted by Prof Cai Zongqi, Director of the Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies at Lingnan University and Prof David Wang Derwei of Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature and of Comparative Literature, Harvard University. In his welcoming address, Prof Cai Zongqi expressed his honours for co-hosting the symposium with Harvard University, “Lingnan University has always attached great importance to research and the Chinese humanities. The Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies has been a pioneer in this area since its establishment. We will continue collaborating with international institutions to enhance Lingnan University's global academic influence and promote the communication between Chinese and Western liberal arts education.”

Prof Cai also pointed out that the symposium fosters in-depth scholarly exchanges between institutions and scholars in Chinese studies worldwide that enhance Lingnan's international reputation for the finest Chinese and Western liberal arts education. The University is very grateful to the scholars and writers who have come to Hong Kong to exchange cutting-edge ideas and research results. The collaboration between Lingnan University and Harvard University is crucial in stimulating international cultural exchanges and communicating Chinese culture. Lingnan University will continue to organise academic seminars to promote the University’s educational philosophy of “Education for service”.

Prof David Wang Derwei, in his opening speech, highlighted the significance of exploring contemporary Chinese literature and its potential from the “Hong Kong perspective”. He said, “The ‘New’ brings to the fore a revisionist perception of cultural productions taking place in land and oceanic spaces along and beyond China’s Southern corridors. But the ‘New’ also implies a cultural subjectivity in formation – one that is in alignment with the convolutional, mercuriality, and heterogeneity embedded in the topology of the ‘South’. The unceasing fluctuation and unfolding of the ‘New South’ heralds renewed undertakings of the avant-garde, which are time and again called upon to embrace and manifest ingenious interventions in response to their times.”

Throughout the two-day symposium, participants engaged in a variety of panel discussions such as “Networking Avant-Gardists During Wartime”, “The Avant-Garde Ends and Begins”, “Cultures versus Counter-cultures”, “Solidarity and Liminality” and “Toward the ‘Radical Potential’”. There was also a special Literary Dialogue, titled “Bottoming Out: Writing the Subterranean”, where Prof Wang moderated discussions with writers Lee Wai-yi, Ban Yu, and Chen Chuncheng.

The meaning of Avant-Garde

Traced back to its etymological root, the avant-garde denotes the most advanced corps of an army; they are the ones at the very forefront who pioneer the march into unknown territories of a future that has yet to come. As its use was extended to the cultural realm, the avant-garde came to represent nothing but the most indefatigable confrontations of aesthetic productions with their times.

Please click HERE to visit the Harvard-Lingnan Symposium website for more details.