The art of light: Yale Center Beijing hosts intercultural dialogue on theater

Participants at the Yale Center in Beijing on June 26.

“Theater is the art of light,” said Yale professor Yuri Kordonsky during a recent discussion at Yale Center in Beijing.

On the evening of June 26, over 80 participants gathered the center for a dialogue between two renowned theater experts: Kordonsky, professor in the practice of directing at the Yale School of Drama, whose productions have received numerous international awards, and Liu Tianchi, associate professor at China’s Central Academy of Drama, who is renowned for her mentoring role on two hit Chinese TV shows, “An Actor Is Born” and “I Am The Actor.”

Kordonsky and Liu shared their views on theater as well as how acting affects our perception of the world around us. Their dialogue was part of the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium series at the Yale Center Beijing. The colloquium is made possible by the generosity of Maurice R. Greenberg, chair and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. and a recipient of the China Reform Friendship Medal in 2018.

Kordonsky, who did not enroll in acting school until after finishing his college degree in mathematics and computer science, said that theater, from hobby to vocation, is the most pleasant surprise. Liu, who discovered her gift of acting at an early age, said that theater is destiny.

Despite their different backgrounds and experiences, Kordonsky and Liu found much common ground during their conversation. Kordonsky said he defines acting as a psycho-physical embodiment of storytelling, while Liu said she sees an actor as a capable gamer. To excel at the game of acting, Kordonsky contended, imagination — the ability to live a rich life in imaginary circumstances — is key, while Liu held that an “ability to believe in everything” is necessary.

We regularly ignore the vast majority of the richness in our world around us,” Kordonsky told the audience members. “An actor needs to learn the world around us and learn to respond to the world.”

To provide an education for aspiring actors,” said Liu, “we need to create an absolutely safe space in which students can touch, smell, feel, see, and talk to each other.” Theater, she asserted, “is a game for the brave and the focused.”

Kordonsky and Liu agreed that theater is also inherently philosophical. “Shakespeare, Chekhov, Sartre … all the great playwrights were great philosophers as well,” Liu told the audience. “If you want to act well, you need to get onto the level of those philosophers.”

Yuri Kordonsky and Liu Tianchi during the discussion.Yuri Kordonsky (left) and Liu Tianchi (center) during the discussion.

During the Q&A session, members of the audience raised questions that sparked debates about the roles people play in real life and the current challenges facing global theater. Liu said that switching between our roles in everyday life may not be as mysterious as it seems — that as we function in various roles in life, we are guided by our changing behaviors. Theater, said Kordonsky, is ultimately a human exercise.

The two experts also considered the difficult issues facing theater today — such as the critical lack of funding for small, independent theaters in both China and the U.S. Liu advised aspiring actors to be certain that theater is their true passion before deciding to embark on a career in acting, for financial constraints can be a real challenge in the theater industry. Kordonsky acknowledged the financial difficulties, but contended that acting does not need to be confined to the stage, and that even amateur actors can achieve spiritual enlightenment through acting.

Promoting in-depth discussions such as this one is part of the central mission of the Greenberg Distinguished Colloquium, which seeks to convene leaders from all sectors who play active roles in building bridges among China, the United States, and the rest of the world.

The colloquium previously featured Dr. Unni Karunakara ’95 M.P.H., former international president of Doctors Without Borders and assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Public Health; Stephen Roach, senior fellow at the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and senior lecturer at the Yale School of Management; Odd Arne Westad, professor of history at Yale; Ma Yansong ’02 M.Arch., founder & principal partner, MAD Architects; and Derek Chang ’89, CEO of NBA China.

The Yale Center Beijing, Yale’s first university-wide center outside of the United States, is a convening space and intellectual hub that advances the Yale’s mission to improve our world, and develop leaders worldwide who serve all sectors of society. Founded in 2014, the center acts as an activity space for Yale’s collaborations in China, enables the university to expand existing activities and form new partnerships, supports research and study from each of the university’s schools and divisions, and serves as a gathering place for alumni from throughout Asia.

National Cancer Center Partnership Expected to Advance Cancer Research at YSPH, Yale

Representatives from Yale and the National Cancer Center of China exchanged gifts in recognition of their new partnership.

On May 1st, representatives from the Yale School of Public Health, the Yale Cancer Center, and the Yale Institute for Global Health met up with representatives of the National Cancer Center of China in order to sign a memorandum. This marks the beginning of a new partnership between Yale and the National Cancer Center of China, which will allow for collaborative research and workforce training between nations.

Internally, both institutions have been collaborating informally on workforce development and research training through the NIH Fogarty training program. Nevertheless, the new program formalized the collaboration and will likely make data and research sharing easier and more accessible for researchers at both institutions.

Louisa Lim Decries the ‘Forgetting’ of Tiananmen Revolt as 30th Anniversary Approaches

Louisa Lim, award-winning journalist for the BBC and NPR and author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, spoke about the revolt at a Poynter Fellowship on April 23rd. According to YaleNews, Lim stated,

[People] have colluded with this forgetting because remembering is not just inconvenient — it’s of no benefit, and the cost of memory has intensified over time,” Lim explained, adding that “those people who refuse to forget are punished.”

For more information and a complete report of her talk, visit YaleNews.

US and China: From Co-Evolution to Decoupling

Henry Kissinger secretly visited China in 1971 to restore US ties, and the Chinese have respected him since. With a trade war underway and US concerns about intellectual property theft, the relationship has soured and transformed: from co-evolution, described by Kissinger as pursuit of domestic imperatives and cooperating as possible to decoupling. “The parochial outlook in the United States and the growing nationalism in China is heading toward disengagement,” explains Vincent Ni, journalist and 2018 Yale Greenberg World Fellow. Ni describes this as disruptive and dangerous, forcing countries to choose sides. Ni urges Chinese and US leaders to develop new rules for 21st century trade, economics and technology while finding ways to cooperate and contribute to global public goods while coexisting militarily. As Kissinger suggested in his writings, a good relationship is essential for world peace and progress even as both nations pursue their own paths of exceptionalism. – YaleGlobal

59th Annual Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture: “China’s Rise and the Security of East Asia”

The Council is pleased to present the 59th Edward H. Hume Memorial Lecture in Chinese Studies. Dr. Thomas J. Christensen (Professor of Public & International Affairs and Director of the China and the World Program, Columbia University) presented “China’s Rise and the Security of East Asia” on Friday, November 9, 2018. Many see a rising China as a security threat to the United States and its friends and allies because it seeks to drive the United States out of East Asia, dominate that region, and challenge the United States globally in a new Cold War. These concerns are overblown. But the good news ends there. The difficult challenges posed by China’s rise are real and take two forms: dissuading China from settling its many maritime disputes with weaker neighbors through coercion and military force and thereby destabilizing a region of growing global importance; and encouraging China to contribute to global stability by using its economic clout to help solve global problems such as nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran.



US Free Speech vs China’s Censorship

The US-China trade clash centers on intellectual property theft. “An underlying factor is the Chinese government’s rigorous censorship of imported cultural products,” explains Ge Chen, professor of law. The US Constitution protects speech as a check against excessive government power with the First Amendment and describes the purpose of copyrights to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” After early printing technology emerged, China allowed the practice of duplicating copies in the 10th century but only with government permission. “In Sino-US trade talks at the end of the 19th century, the Qing government agreed to copyright protection for books from US publishers on the condition that the government would censor politically sensitive content beforehand,” Chen explains. Versions of the policy have been in place since, with only a few disruptions like the Cultural Revolution. Such policies attract public curiosity to banned works and associated devices, he concludes, and China’s “entrenched system of suffocating the free flow of ideas is bound to buttress the legitimacy of piracy in China and generate conflict with any tangible or intangible products carrying free speech.” He concludes strong copyright protection by China for both domestic and foreign creators would eventually promote freedom of expression. – YaleGlobal

China Fuels Vietnam’s Protest Movement

protests in Vietnam; China's President Xi Jinping meets Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Phu Trong

Vietnam has a long and troubled history with China. After the chill caused by the 1979 Chinese invasion of Vietnam and subsequent tussles over the South China Sea, the two nations normalized relations in 1991 for cross-border trade and diplomacy. Still, the Vietnamese people are not so quick to forget as indicated by unprecedented protests during summer of 2018 over a proposal to designate three special economic zones in sensitive areas with 99-year leases that would likely land with Chinese corporations. “Vietnamese leadership today walks a tightrope of balancing official condemnation of Chinese actions in the South China Sea with a pragmatic approach to trade and investment cooperation,” explains journalist and filmmaker Tom Fawthrop. “June’s mass protests reflected sentiment that Vietnamese people no longer trust their government to achieve the right balance with Chinese investment projects often tainted by corruption, lack of transparency and land-grabbing.” Protests united anti-communist dissidents and former government officials alike, forcing the government to delay the law’s passage until May 2019. Fawthrop concludes that Vietnamese leaders must develop a vision for development and a strategy for protecting the nation’s culture and independence from China’s regional hegemony. – YaleGlobal


Basketball team showcases student-athlete experience in China

Cheered on by over 4,000 Chinese fans at Shanghai’s Baoshan Sports Center, Yale triumphed over the University of California, Berkeley 76 – 59 on Saturday.

But besides training for the big win over Cal, the basketball team also toured the Alibaba headquarters, enjoyed a riverbend cruise and ate local cuisine during its one-week trip across China, which included stops in Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai. Before the trip, basketball players participated in language and culture classes as well as weekly workshops where they learned about Chinese history and practiced basic Chinese phrases. For Director of Athletics Vicky Chun, who was appointed to her position last spring, the team’s trip to China was a realization of her vision to emphasize the dual nature of the student-athlete experience at Yale.

Program offers Chinese youth leaders perspectives on U.S. government

Participants in the sixth annual China-Yale Youth Leaders Dialogue appear with Pericles Lewis at the Greenberg Conference Center

Participants in the sixth annual China-Yale Youth Leaders Dialogue appeared with Pericles Lewis, Yale University’s vice president for global strategy and deputy provost for international affairs (above, at center), during the program’s closing ceremony held recently at the Greenberg Conference Center.

Established in 2013, the Dialogue was created through a partnership between Yale University and the All-China Youth Federation. The visiting delegation, comprised of provincial youth organization leaders, government and party officials, and private sector executives, spent a week at Yale engaging with faculty, students, World Fellows, and local officials to discuss topics ranging from U.S. politics and policies to innovation, education, and governance. The group then traveled to Washington, D.C. for meetings with U.S. government officials and experts on U.S.-China relations to discuss other matters of mutual interest.


The MacMillan Report featuring Taisu Zhang – The Laws and Economics of Confucianism

Taisu Zhang is an Associate Professor of Law at Yale Law School. He works on comparative legal history, specifically, economic institutions in modern China and early modern Western Europe. He has published a number of articles and essays in academic journals and popular outlets and is the current president of the International Society for Chinese Law and History. We talk with Professor Zhang about his new book, The Laws and Economics of Confucianism: Kinship and Property in Pre-Industrial China and England, which recently received the Gaddis Smith International Book Prize from the MacMillan Center.

Learn more about Taisu Zhang.

Click in and learn!