2012 Student-Faculty Fellows Program Report: Roanoke College

Reinvented Tradition in the Age of Globalization:
The Silk Road and Its Legacy in Contemporary China

Mentor: Professor Stella Yingzi Xu
Students: Thomas Emerson, Zachary Hottel, Mathilda Nassa, Kathleen Chenya Ouyang

At the entrance of the Lingying Temple, which says: only one step away from the Western Paradise.

Project Abstract

Our group from Roanoke College traveled to Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Urumqi and Dunhuang to facilitate four individual student research projects. Thomas Emerson’s project focuses upon the early Sinification of Buddhism and the revival of Buddhism in contemporary China. Zachary Hottel’s work is an exploration of the rapid growth of Christianity in China during the past few decades and a search for unique aspects of Chinese Christianity that seem almost indigenous despite their obvious connection to the West. Mathilda Nassa’s study is on the current status of Chinese medicine within the context of globalization. Finally, Kathleen Chenya Ouyang’s work is a study of insiders’ and outsiders’ views of the newly structured National Museum of China in Beijing and how the museum has functioned in representing the history and culture of China domestically and internationally, intentionally and unintentionally.

Thomas Emerson
My research centers upon an investigation of the practice of Buddhism in contemporary China and the reasons for its recent revival and growth. I visited numerous Buddhist sites including major temples such as the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, the Yonghe Temple in Beijing, and the Shaolin Temple. I also visited important grottos and historical Buddhist sites in Dunhuang and elsewhere. I observed prayer practices and examined the architectural layout of these temples. I conducted interviews with a lay Buddhist member and an associate abbot at the Guanghua Temple in Beijing. The abbot provided me with much statistical information about Buddhism in China, and we discussed the role of the Beijing Buddhist Association as the intermediary between temples in the area and the government Office of Buddhist Affairs. During this academic year, I plan to write a significant paper based upon these observations.

Zachary Hottel
My research in China focuses upon the growth of Christianity during the past few decades and has been facilitated by the opportunity afforded me to view and analyze original documents, mostly travel accounts by early Christian monks/missionaries, about earliest Christianity in China; site observations of current Christian churches (a Catholic Church, a Family Church, and the Chongyi Protestant Church in Hangzhou); attendance at Christian church meetings; and finally interviews with members and leaders of these churches. During this academic year, I plan to write an important paper based on this research.

Mathilda Nassa
My decision to become a participant in Professor Xu’s “Student-Faculty Fellows” program is based on my interest in deepening my understanding of traditional Chinese medicine. It is also a personal one. For years I have struggled with skin and acne problems, and Western doctors have prescribed different antibiotics and topical creams to solve this problem with little success. Given this failure, I became a researcher and also the sole patient in this study as I sought an Eastern cure for my problem. Within a few short weeks, by relying upon a solution provided through Chinese medicine, my skin has improved remarkably. The challenge is now to deepen my investigation of the science behind this cure and write a significant paper on this.

Kathleen Chenya Ouyang
The focus of my research in China has primarily been the national Museum in Beijing to discern how this museum portrays Chinese national identity particularly in two of its main exhibits, “Ancient China” and the “Road to Rejuvenation.” As part of my study, Professor Xu arranged for me to interview, Mr. Yang, the Director of Archaeology at the museum. My research done in Beijing has also been supplemented by information gathered by visits we made to a number of provincial and regional museums and archaeological sites in Shaanxi, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Xinjiang.