Public Lectures 2003

Grand Prize 2003: HOKAMA Shuzen

The Future of Okinawa through the Lens of Okinawan Studies
September 20, 2003 (14:00 - 16:00)
ACROS Fukuoka Event Hall
Professor Matsumoto Hirotake (Faculty of Letters, Chiba University)
Mr. Matayoshi Eiki (Writer) *
Professor Hateruma Eikichi (Affiliated Research Institute of Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts)
Professor Tajiri Eizo (Faculty of Economics, Ryukoku University)

* Mr. Matayoshi was unable to attend due to a typhoon.

Public Lecture by Prof. Hokama Shuzen was held in ACROS FUKUOKA on September 20, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture.

To begin the forum, Professor Tajiri introduced Professor Hokama's achievements while touching on Okinawan history and culture, and related that to grasp the flow of a new culture emnating from traditional Okinawan culture was at the same time to think about the wonder of Okinawa.

keynote speech

In his keynote speech, Professor Hokama commented that Okinawa is both deep and broad, that it is a treasure house in the fields of natural science, social science and the humanities, giving concrete examples.

Concerning linguistics, he spoke on the regionality of Japanese consonant  sounds that begin "h," and the prevalence of conjunctive forms over final forms for verb conjugations seen on Omorososhi. Turing to music, he took up contemporary Okinawan music, which is bound neither to the Asian pentatonic scale nor to the Western seven - tone scale, stating that in his view Okinawa could well be the source of new music for the 21st century. Concerning literature, he emphasized Okinawa was one of the extremely rate examples in the world that had not onloy narrative and lyrical but also praise literature.

Okinawa is deep and wide, not in literal but in figurative meaning. From the deep and wide Okinawa, we can see Japan. We can see Asia, and the World. But unfortunately, from Japan, Okinawa cannot be seen.

Okinawa has always been a place which can be cut off from Japan. For example, the ninth article of the Constitution made in the 21st year of Showa, enables us to enjoy the peace and happiness. But in less than ten years, tables have turned and the Seven principles of the Peace Treaty, the Peace Treaty, the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, and the Status of the Forces Agreement began to bind Okinawa with spell, as well as bind Japan itself, as it were a planned act.

Besides, there is the matter of residual sovereignty which cannot be defined by the international law. The residual sovereignty is indeed a carrot in the carrot-and-stick policy. Giving them a carrot and making whole Okinawa into a base, many soldiers went to Vietnam and Korea from the Okinawan base to fight not for Okinawa but for what nobody knows. Okinawa has always been a place as such for Japan. From Japan, Okinawa cannot be seen. However, from Okinawa we can see Japan.

Okinawa is the vast treasure-house from the scientific point of view. As for the natural science, there have been many discoveries in pure greed from vegetable to animal. And what is more important is that there are more and more discoveries in subspecies. We can almost say that no other place in the world has more subspecies than Okinawa. The Darwinian Theory can be verified in this very ecosystem of Okinawa.

As for the human science, the linguistic characteristic can be seen in the transition of the sound of the h-series of the Japanese syllabary from P-sound to F-sound and finally to H-sound. In Japanese History, we can see P-sound in the Nara period and before, F-sound in the Heiann, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods, and H-sound in Edo period, and the transition took place more than one thousand years.

But in Okinawa, “Hana” is pronounced “Pana” in the north, “Fana” in the central, and “Hana” in the south. The transition, which took place more than thousand years in Japan, should be studied with a diachronic approach. But in Okinawa, it could be seen simultaneously. The transition itself is not remarkable but the fact that we can observe it at the same time in Okinawa and we can study with a synchronic approach is, I should say, phenomenal.

Another example is a verbal conjugation. Various parts of speech have originally derived from a noun, and the verb with its basic stem could be enough to transact. But in the Japanese language system, fully developed conjugation derived from the basic stem of the verb, such as “imperfect form,” “conjunctive form,” “final form,” “attributive form,” and “imperative form."

We, in the present days, think the conjugation of verb as a matter of fact. But I was surprised to see the Omoro Soshi poems, and found that there is nothing but “conjunctive form” in the old Okinawan language. We could find no “final form” but two examples, which was imperfect.

Although we commonly share the idea that the “final form” comes first and it is at the center of verbal conjugation, in case of old Okinawan language, conjugations stems from “conjunctive form.

I discovered the difference when I was forty and deliver a paper on the discovery, but it was overlooked by the Japanese Language Society.  It was only after professor Shinn Ohno delivered the paper in which he explained the importance of “conjunctive form” and developed the idea in his work, "Manyoushu."

This is one of the characteristics in Japanese language which can be seen from Okinawa, and there are many other examples.

Next, I’m going to tell a story about music. Okinawa, I think, is filled with various kinds of music. When we learn European classic music from Bach, to Haydn, to Mozart, and to Beethoven in our school education, we are taught that octave is the range of seven musical notes, such as dou, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti, which made us firmly believe in a heptachord. But in Okinawan music, a pentatonic scale is in common. The pentatonic does harmonize well with Okinawan people’s sense of proportion. And we can find the pentatonic scale music throughout Asia.

In the Gamelan music in Bali island of Indonesia, we can find two different kinds of scale. The pentatonic one is called “Slendro,” a tuning system with five roughly equidistant intervals to the octave. The other is called “Pelog,” a tuning system with uneven intervals to the octave. It is said that European people were very much surprised to hear that.

But Chaikovskii tried to take the pentatonic scale as well with a heptachord in his symphony. When it is performed in France, the audience replied “This is not music."

Soon after, however, the pentatonic scale has gradually come to be received. Traditionally, Japanese music is the pentatonic scale, which channels its way through the KAGURA, SAIBARA, NAGAUTA, KOUTA, and ENNKA. ENNKA tickles Japanese souls, getting them feel the beauty of sound, and find their mind at peace. They are the five sounds of “dou, re, mi, sol, and la.” The fa and ti are omitted from the scale. While European people feel the beauty of scale with “fa and ti,” Japanese do feel it beautiful without “fa and ti.”

As I have told you, we can find the pentatonic scale all over Asia, and Asian people are accustomed to the melody, but Okinawan people don’t confine themselves into the pentatonic scale, nor do they into the heptachord. They mix and fuse two kinds of scale into one music.

At the Award Ceremony yesterday, the music BEGIN played was very Okinawan. It was not a scale taught in the school education, but Okinawan scale. First, music   begins gently and changes its scale smoothly, and makes audience find themselves into a heptachord. They add the sound by insensible degrees in an octave of a scale. The melody is wonderfully in equilibrium.

I think Okinawan people, indeed, have an international sense of music. They are not particular about the formality of a scale, but they express what they feel inside   and what they think beautiful. I dream the great possibility that the music of the Twentieth Century overflows from Okinawa.

Now I’m telling you about literature. There are three main genres in literature in the world---drama, epic, and lyric. When we talk about world literature, we generally refer only to European literature, where no genre of prayer exists. But in Okinawa, there is literature of prayer. Being ancient, but the very archetype of literature, the genre of prayer had existed in Japanese literature as well. We can now find them in no other place but in Africa, Papua New Guinea, and Okinawa----Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama.

Shinobu Origuchi said, “The archetype of literature is a prayer. It is the origin of literature.” What he remarked was a theory, and I have tried to prove and establish his hypothesis through field works and researches. Surely, there is literature of prayer in Okinawa. It is very rare in the world that can complete three genres of literature----prayer, epic and lyric.

Eiki Matayoshi was awarded the Akutagawa Prize with the novel, Nemeses of Pigs, which is the revival of the literature of prayer from its deep structure. The same thing can be seen in the literature of Tatsuhiro Oshiro. As an ancient, original archetype of literature is still alive in the depth of their souls, so could Okinawan people bring it back to life. Okinawan literature completes the prayer, epic and lyric as the ancient literature. In Taketomi Island, a tiny land, there are literatures of drama, prayer, epic and lyric, which is very rare even in the world.

What is left in Okinawa is nothing else but what Japanese people originally had. Those things were in the Japanese culture which derived from Fukuoka, Kyushu. After Yayoi Culture is introduced, it is from here, Fukuoka, to the southern Okinawa, and to the northern Kanto, that the very characteristics of Yayoi Culture---rice crop, earthen ware, and iron ware---flowed. In Okinawa, there accumulated those ancient cultures in layers, and besides there comes and is formed the new culture of islands.

I think here lays the reason to pursue Okinawan Studies.

What led me to Okinawan Studies was, frankly speaking, trifle. Without a cause and remarkable aptitude, I had come to specialize in Okinawan Studies. But never do I regret any more. Now I feel proud about my work, and I can throw my chest out to engage myself on Okinawan Studies.

Thinking backward, it was my first occasion to be initiated into Okinawan Studies that I encountered Kyosuke Kindaichi, who told me,” To study Okinawan Dialect, the best material is the Okinawan classic, Omoro Soshi. Why don’t you make a research on Okinawan Dialect, Hokama-kun.

At that time, I never thought that I would become a scholar of Okinawan Studies. I had been thinking to study the literature of Toson Shimazaki, but I was forced to study Ryukyu Dialect. Thus I encountered Omoro Soshi poems.

I had been an athlete until I was 29 years old, but I was told by Prof. Kindaichi again, “You should study hard,” and suggested to go to Prof. Shiro Hattori of Tokyo University to undertake the study of Ryukyu Dialect legitimately.

The history of Okinawan Studies started at the same corner of Hongou as Fuyu Iha started the study of Omoro Soshi poems in the 36th year of Meiji(1903).

This year, the 15th year of Heisei (2003), is exactly 100 years since then, and we can say this year is the commemorative centennial anniversary of Okinawan Studies. And I might say it is a strange coincidence that it is exactly 50 years since I started the Omoro Soshi study.

I have made every effort to make a bridge of Okinawan Studies to Asia, and to the world, the result of which Fukuoka has thoughtfully recognized. Asia can be looked out from Fukuoka. The Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize is bestowed, I think, not on me but on Okinawa. I greatly appreciate Fukuoka and I would like to express my deepest gratitude. Thank you very much.


Professor Matsumoto followed on with a lecture entitled "The Richness of Ryukyu Dialects" centering on the dialects of the Amai Islands, with a detailed explanation of regional differences between Ryukyu dialects and their commonality with Kyushu dialects.

Professor Hokama continued by speaking of his particular joy at receiving the Grand Prize in 2003, because it was the 100th year since the start of Okinawan studies and also marked 50 years of his own involvement with the field. He also related stories from the time o his initial contact with Okinawan studies, and when he stated with obvious ride how he had thrown himself into the discipline, spontaneous loud applause arose from the audience.

Even without the appearance of Mr. Matayoshi Eiki who was also scheduled to take part but was unable to reach Fukuoka due to bad weather, Profesor Hokama, with his obvious enthusiasm for Okinawa was able to make a very substantial presentation.

Academic Prize 2003: Reynaldo C. ILETO

The Politics of Memory in the Shadow of Empire
September 21, 2003 (13:00 - 15:30)
ACROS Fukuoka Event Hall
Professor Ikehata Setsuho (President, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies)
Professor Arima Manabu (Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)
Professor Shimizu Hiromu (Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University)

Public Lecture by Prof. Reynaldo C. Ileto was held in ACROS FUKUOKA on September 21, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field in his lecture  talks with panelists.

The forum opened with Professor Shimizu explaining the historical relationship between the Philippines and Japan, and posing the problem of how we should think about the Philippines in the present age, on the basis of a study of its history.

Keynote speech

In his keynote speech, Professor Ileto discussed "remembrance and forgetfulness" of wars in the Philippines, summarized in the following: The War of Independence against Spain was an event that is deeply etched in memory as fundamental to the formation of the Philippine nation and its people. The memory of the Philippine - Americal War has been lost, with encouragement of the perception that the Americans were liberators. The Anti - Japancese War is remembered as an event during which the Philippines fell into a dark period, but was erased from public memory with the intensification of the Cold War. Commenting on the Filipino attitude towards the present war on terrorism, he said it reflected the politics remembered from previous wars, and that the study of history was indispensable when investigating the fundamental causes of war, asserting the importance of the reemergence of memories hidden in the shadow of empire.

In the southern Philippines today there is a violent war taking place between government forces, helped by the Americans, and a Muslim separatist movement led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In the discourse of world politics today, this war in Mindanao and Sulu is considered part of the global “war on terror.” Filipinos have been divided in opinion about this war. Even President Gloria Arroyo and Vice-President Teofisto Guingona are at odds with each other, particularly on the issue of American participation. In this lecture I show how the positions Filipinos take on this war on terror are greatly influenced by collective memories of past wars.

What are these past wars that maintain their ghostly presence over the country today? The first is the war of independence from Spain--a very memorable event. It began in 1896, when a secret society named the Katipunan mounted a rebellion against the Spanish authorities in the outskirts of Manila. As the Katipunan society grew, this rebellion led to a major war between a Filipino separatist movement and the government of Spain.

The war against Spain culminated in the formation of a Filipino republican government in 1898. No sooner had the Filipino government been formed, however, when the United States intervened in 1899 and proceeded to destroy it. And so we come to the second “great war” in Filipino memory: the Filipino-American war. This bitter conflict led to the deaths of nearly half a million Filipinos. This war officially ended with the proclamation of American victory on July 4, 1902.

When the Americans administered the Philippines from 1902 on, they made sure that this “original war” of 1899-1902 would become largely a forgotten event. During the 40 years of American rule in the islands, educated Filipinos were brought up to think that the future of their country lay in a special, permanent relationship with the United States.

The cozy relationship, however, was put to the test when the Japanese Army arrived in December 1941 to conquer the Philippines. And so we come to the third “great war” in Filipino memory: the war with Japan from 1942 to 1945. This consisted of a joint effort by Filipinos and Americans to resist Japanese

No sooner had the war with Japan ended when a rebellion by the Huks, a peasant army in Luzon led by the Communist Party erupted in 1947. The war against the Huks and other movements led by the radical Left was part of the global “Cold War.” Only recently has the Cold War been declared over, but soon after that, the war on terror began.

The present war on terror, then, was preceded by four great wars starting with the war of independence against Spain that began in 1896. Let me now explain how Filipino attitudes towards the terror war reflect the politics of memory involving the past wars.

War number one--the war against Spain--is deeply etched in the collective memory. In fact this war, which Filipinos call the Revolution of 1896, is the “foundational event” in the life of the nation-state. Without a collective memory of the first war, the nation-state would have no meaning to its citizens.

The war of 1896 to 1898 is foundational because this was the first time that the term “Filipino” was used to refer to the inhabitants of the islands—not just the Spaniards living there but also, and most importantly, the indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the notion of a Filipino identity was given political form in the sovereign republic of 1898.

The intellectuals and military leaders who led the separatist war against Spain are called “the first Filipinos.” Most of our national heroes stem from this first war: Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini, Andres Bonifacio, and Emilio Aguinaldo. They are remembered through their inscription in textbooks as the “founding fathers” of the nation. To facilitate their remembering, monuments have been built to commemorate their deeds; their birthdays have been declared national holidays; and their images are inscribed in postage stamps, billboards, magazine covers and town halls.

The way that the collective memory of the war against Spain was shaped during the 20th century can only be understood by connecting this war to the Filipino-American war that followed it. The first and second wars are closely intertwined, yet the first is remembered while the second is largely forgotten.

The Americans became implicated in the first war when they themselves declared war against Spain in May 1898. Commodore George Dewey, commander of the US navy’s Asiatic fleet, helped the Filipino rebels in two ways: first, by destroying the Spanish fleet in Manila bay, and second, by bringing the Filipino leader Aguinaldo back to the Philippines from Hong Kong where he had lived in exile. Aguinaldo then reorganized his army and captured the Spanish garrisons one by one in the interior of Luzon. He declared the independence of the Philippines from Spain on June 12, 1898.

In effect, the Filipinos won the war of independence from Spain with American help. The Americans were initially welcomed as liberators of the Philippines from the tyranny of Spanish rule. Both the Filipino and the American governments in late 1898 depicted the Spanish colonial past as a Dark Age, when the spread of liberal ideas was suppressed by the Catholic Church. After the victory over Spain, Filipinos hoped that their nation-state would be recognized by the Americans, who, after all, had won their independence from the British not that long ago.

The American liberators, however, had other ideas about what to do with their Filipino allies. By the 1890s the United States had recovered fully from its bloody Civil War; its Westward expansion across the continent was complete and so it was keen to join the family of imperial powers consisting of Britain, France, the Netherlands, and others. The Pacific was their zone of expansion, and the Philippine islands were to be their stepping stone to the establishment of trade and influence in the Asiatic mainland. There were also profits to be made in the exploitation of Philippine agricultural and mineral resources. The Americans wanted, therefore, to take over the Philippines from Spain, but the Filipinos were not about to hand it over without a fight.

War number two—the Filipino-American war—began in February 1899 when American troops crossed the line separating the U.S. and Filipino armies in Manila. During the first year of the war, the U.S. army managed to subdue the main Filipino defense forces in central and northern Luzon. The following year, it concentrated on taking southern Luzon and managed to control the major towns by the middle of 1900. At the point, Filipino resistance took the form of guerrilla warfare.

Even after General Aguinaldo was captured in April 1901, and even as more and more Filipinos were beginning to collaborate with their new American overlords, guerrilla resistance continued for another year. By the end of 1901, in regions such as Samar, Leyte, the Ilocos and southern Tagalog, the U.S. army introduced all-out measures such as the reconcentration of villagers, the burning of houses and food supplies, the torture of prisoners, and search-and-destroy operations. The remaining guerrilla leaders were forced to surrender owing to battle injuries, hunger, desertions by their troops, and fear of tremendous American firepower.

My wife’s grandfather, Pedro Carandang, became involved in the Filipino-American war when he was appointed mayor of Tanauan, Batangas, after that town was occupied by the Americans in 1900. But Mayor Carandang only served the Americans during office hours. The rest of the time, when his bosses weren’t looking, he provided the guerrilla units with food, money, information, and secret access to the town. When the Americans discovered this, they arrested and imprisoned mayor Carandang until the end of the war.

My own grandfather, Francisco Ileto, participated in the war by providing information about the Americans to his friend General Isidoro Torres, the guerrilla commander of Bulacan province north of Manila. The Americans intercepted a letter that my grandfather sent to Torres in 1900 and thus identified him as an enemy spy. But I do not know whether the Americans arrested him or not.

The reason I do not know what eventually happened to my grandfather is because, remarkably, neither he nor my wife’s grandfather passed on their memories of the war to their children and grandchildren. They chose to keep such memories private, and to let their children carry on in life as if this war against America had never happened. However, they did pass on to their children their memories of the war against Spain. They spoke freely to their children about Rizal, Bonifacio and the Aguinaldo who declared independence from Spain. But they kept silent about Malvar, Lukban and the other Aguinaldo who had called for a guerrilla war against the Americans in 1900.

How do we explain this selective transmission of the memories of the two wars? After the Americans had pronounced victory over the Filipinos on July 4, 1902, they proceeded to reshape the collective memory of those long years of war from 1896 all the way to 1902. The aim of the politics of memory was to encourage the remembering of the war against Spain, and the forgetting of the war against the United States. This was conducted through the censored press, civic rituals and, above all, the colonial school system.

What the Americans wanted Filipinos to “remember” above all was that they came as liberators to help free the country from oppressive Spanish rule. This was true at the beginning; the Filipinos indeed hailed them as “redeemers.” But how could the liberators justify not recognizing the Filipino republican government? How could they justify their bloody suppression of any resistance to their takeover of the islands? How could liberators justify killing the people they were supposed to have rescued from Spanish tyranny? The other, suppressed, meaning of the coming of the Americans in 1898 was that it was just another foreign invasion, following soon after the Spanish withdrawal.

In order to combat the negative meanings and to establish the official memory of the two wars, the American colonial government did the following:

First, it recognized the liberal aspirations of the leaders of the 1896 war of independence against Spain. The Americans specially promoted the ideas of the nationalist intellectual Rizal, who preferred a more gradualist road to self-rule through the education of the populace. The other hero of the first war, Bonifacio, was downplayed by the government because he led a secret society that advocated armed struggle.

Second, the American regime recognized the aspirations by Aguinaldo and the Filipino educated class to form a republican state. However, the Americans insisted that Filipinos in 1898 were not prepared for democracy and self-rule. As “proof,” American writings pictured Aguinaldo as a despotic president, and the masses of the people as blind followers of their local bosses. The colonial administration wanted the new generation of Filipinos studying in the public schools to “remember” the coming of the Americans in 1898 as an act of “benevolent assimilation,” wherein the Americans would stay for as long as was needed to help prepare the Filipinos for democracy and responsible self-government.

Third, it follows from the above that the war of resistance to U.S. occupation would be regarded as a “great misunderstanding.” In fact, these were the very words David Barrows, the superintendent of schools, used in his high school textbook to describe the Filipino-American war. If only, he said, the Filipinos had fully understood the noble motives of America, and if only the Filipinos had accepted the fact that they were still an underdeveloped people needing to be uplifted by the superior civilization of the Americans, then they would not have resisted the U.S. occupation, and so the disastrous war would not have taken place.

Fourth and finally, the American colonial regime decreed in 1902 that anyone who continued to oppose their presence would be arrested for sedition, and that armed groups that attacked government forces would be treated as bandit gangs, religious fanatics, and remnants of the defeated guerrilla armies. They would be treated as plain criminals and terrorists. Instead of resistance to foreign occupation, the war would be remembered as a time of banditry, fanaticism, disorder and dislocation.

In order to succeed in school, to become employed in the colonial civil service, and to embrace the modern ways brought by the Americans, Filipinos were made to “remember” the Filipino-American war in the terms that the American colonial administration dictated. Understandably then, my grandfather, who came to terms with American occupation when he was recruited as a teacher in the public school system, chose not to transmit his memories of the war to his children.

The American colonial grip over the shaping of public memories was most effective in the schools. As the English language spread, so did the official view of the past. The official management of the collective memory, however, did not fully subsume the private memories of the Filipino-American war. After all, countless Filipinos had been involved in the anti-imperial struggle; hundreds of thousands were killed or injured. Many veterans of the Filipino-American war chose to keep alive these memories through veterans associations, patriotic societies, labor unions, and religio-political sects, most of which were illegal. Beneath the official cluster of memories about the two wars, we can identify alterative modes of remembering.

One of the focal points of alternative memories was a veteran of the first and second wars: Artemio Ricarte. Trained as a school teacher, Ricarte became a military commander in battles against the Spaniards and rose to become a general in the war against the Americans. When the war ended, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States and was imprisoned. But he managed to escape, first to Hong Kong, and then later to Yokohama. From these places of exile, Ricarte continued to keep alive memories of the wars against Spain and the United States, treating them both as a single, unfinished event. From 1904 up to 1935, he inspired various secret societies and peasant movements which awaited his return from Japan to liberate the country from the Americans.

In order to understand the third war in our series—the Filipino-Japanese war—we need to relate it to the first two. Filipino revolutionists had always sought the help of Japan in their wars against Spain and the United States, but except for small shipments of arms, Japanese involvement in the Philippines was slight. The American victory over the Filipinos in 1902, however, followed by Japan’s momentous victory over Russia in 1905, signaled the beginning of American–Japanese rivalry for dominance in the Asia-Pacific.

The rise of Japan as an Asian power did not escape the notice even of the new generation of Filipinos learning English in the American schools. The fact that the venerable Ricarte came to be based in Yokohama heightened among Filipino nationalists the consciousness of Japan as an alternative model of development. And so when the Japanese came to occupy the Philippines in 1942, bringing with them Ricarte, there were a few Filipinos who welcomed them as liberators.

The majority, however, regarded the Japanese as invaders. The Filipino-American joint resistance to Japanese occupation was premised on the colonial construction of history propagated in the schools since 1903. In this history, the Filipinos had defeated the Spanish government with American help, and the Americans had stayed in order to train the Filipinos for future self-government. By the 1930s the vast majority of Filipinos had already forgotten the Filipino-American war. They saw their fate and that of the U.S. as intertwined. And so when the Japanese forces arrived, they were seen as nothing but an army of invasion. After the defeats of the Filipino-American forces in Bataan and Corregidor, a guerrilla war of resistance continued to be waged indefinitely. Actually, it was pretty much a replay of the Filipino-American war!

The Japanese Imperial Administration sought to legitimize its occupation of the country by encouraging Filipinos to revisit the history of the first and second wars. All of the heroes of the war of independence could be held up as examples for the youth. And no longer was it considered taboo to excavate memories of the Filipino-American war. Veterans and descendants of these two wars who had never forgotten that the Americans had come as invaders were encouraged to speak freely about the past and to play leading roles in organizations supportive of the Japanese administration.

If we examine the backgrounds and ideas of some of the leading “collaborators” of the Japanese, we find connections with the forgotten war against the Americans. Jose Laurel, President of the Republic of 1943, came from the province of Batangas, a region devastated by U.S. armed operations in 1902. His father had died in an American concentration camp and a cousin was killed in an encounter with American troops. Claro Recto, Secretary of the Interior, remembered his mother crying while being interrogated by American officers who were hunting down his uncle, a guerrilla leader in Tayabas province. The veteran General Emilio Aguinaldo graced the independence ceremony in October 1943 and hailed the Republic as a fulfillment of the dreams of 1898.

For these leaders of the wartime Republic, there was no particular love for their Japanese sponsors, but there wasn’t much nostalgia for American rule either. They remembered the war with Spain, the war with the United States, and the war with Japan as variations on the same theme: resistance to foreign domination. Their aim was to ensure the survival of the Filipino nation which had become sandwiched in a conflict between imperial powers.

I have no doubt that had the Japanese occupation lasted longer, there would have occurred a reprogramming of public memories, similar to what the Americans had accomplished. The Filipino-American war would have been resurrected from oblivion, the Americans remembered as invaders, while the Japanese would perhaps have come to be perceived as liberators. But, as General Douglas Macarthur solemnly declared when he left in defeat, “I shall return.” And so did the Americans return in 1945 to liberate the Filipinos from the tyranny of the Japanese rulers. This moment in Philippine history is called “the Liberation.

As soon as the American-sponsored Commonwealth government was reinstalled in Manila, it proceeded to restore those collective memories that the wartime period had begun to erode. For example, in a 1945 speech President Osmeña compared General Macarthur’s liberation of the Philippines to his father General Arthur Macarthur’s entering Manila in 1898 to free the Philippines from Spanish rule. What Osmeña conveniently forgot was that General Arthur Macarthur had commanded the American troops who fought and defeated the Filipino Republican army in 1900!

The final six months of the war with Japan were very similar to the final six months of the war with the United States. Homes and buildings were razed, civilians suspected of aiding the guerrillas were tortured and executed; disaster accompanied the path of the retreating Japanese forces. Meanwhile, American planes inflicted destruction from the sky. Personal experiences of the final months of the war were for the most part sad and tragic.

Post-war Filipino presidents such as Osmeña, Roxas and Quirino promoted the official memory of the war with Japan as a time when Filipino and American soldiers fought and suffered side by side to defend the Philippines. The official interpretation, propagated in public speeches, radio broadcasts, and the school system, encouraged the Filipino people to remember the American colonial period as a golden age, when peace and prosperity reigned. This age of happiness was shattered when the Japanese came and plunged the country into a dark age. The darkness was only lifted when the liberator Macarthur returned. Liberation meant the recovery of a lost age of happiness under America. As promised, the Americans granted independence to the Filipinos on July 4, 1946.

It was not difficult to establish such public memories because they touched a chord with the countless private memories of death and destruction suffered at the hands of the Japanese army. Note that in this official construction of the past, again the Filipino-American war is a non-event; it is encouraged to be forgotten.

Not everyone, however, could forget the Filipino resistance to American occupation, especially since its remembering had been encouraged during the Japanese occupation. A new generation of nationalist intellectuals had been nurtured during this wartime period – they included historians such as Teodoro Agoncillo and Renato Constantino. For them, both the war against the U.S. and the war against Japan were to be remembered equally.

One well-known organization that would not forget the Filipino-American war was the Hukbalahap, or “People’s Anti-Japanese Liberation Army.” Formed during the war against Japan, the Huk army saw itself as a successor of the armies that fought the Spaniards and the Americans. Most of its leaders belonged to families of veterans of the first two wars. After “independence” in 1946, which the radical nationalists considered fake, the Hukbalahap, led by the Communist Party, transformed itself into a national liberation army opposing U.S. imperialism and its local Filipino clients. This was the start of the Cold War in the Philippines.

I shall not go into detail about this war that divided the world into Leftist and Rightist camps, one led by the communist and the other by the capitalist superpowers. What I would like to stress is that during this war, memories of the past wars were shaped and made to conform to the political exigencies of the times.

As stated previously, the immediate postwar governments of Roxas and Quirino highlighted the joint struggle by Filipinos and Americans against the Japanese. This strategy was aimed at solidifying the alliance between the Philippines and the United States. It was targeted at the Huks and the Communists who, being aligned with the Soviet Union, were critical of U.S. imperialism. However, after Laurel and most of the collaborators with Japan were pardoned in 1948, and as the Cold War intensified in the 1950s, the war with Japan gradually faded in official memory. After all, Japan was a staunch Cold War ally now, and Japanese war reparations were forthcoming. Officially, the war with Japan was to be forgotten during the Cold War, although privately it continued to be remembered as a dark age by those who had lived through it--my father’s generation.

The real battleground for Cold War memory-makers was the Filipino-American war. Few veterans of that war were now left to remind the younger generation of their experiences. The government, of course, persisted in its official forgetting of that war. Even during the recent centennial celebration of the revolution held in 1998, there was hardly any mention of the violent U.S. invasion. To remember the war with the Americans would harm the Cold War alliance.

The official view was nevertheless challenged by a vocal group of activists who struggled to restore the memory of the Filipino-American war in public consciousness. Among them were politicians and intellectuals Claro Recto, Teodoro Agoncillo, Leon Maria Guerrero, Renato Constantino, Cesar Majul, and even wartime president Jose Laurel who founded the Lyceum school to promote a pro-Filipino rather than a neocolonial understanding of the past. Some of them had served the Republic during the Japanese occupation. As a result of their reeducation campaigns in the 1950s and the 1960s more and more educated Filipinos came to learn about the “suppressed history” of the Filipino-American war. A new collective memory of that war became established particularly among the youth.

The collective memory of the war against Spain also became a terrain of conflict during the Cold War. The anticommunist camp, including the Catholic Church, continued to endorse the intellectual Jose Rizal as the hero of the revolution. The radical nationalists, on the other hand, championed Andres Bonifacio, the working-class founder of the Katipunan. President Marcos condemned the student movement’s worship of Bonifacio and portrayed himself as another Emilio Aguinaldo (who, by the way, had ordered the execution of Bonifacio in 1897). The struggles over what to remember about the war with Spain were numerous and intense during the Cold War, and they are far from over. Why did President Ramos identify with Aguinaldo? Why did President Estrada portray himself as Bonifacio? Obviously they were tapping the collective memory of the war against Spain, but they were not keen to revive memories of the war against America.

Our excursion into the politics of memory surrounding the past four wars should help us understand how Filipinos position themselves in the present war on terror. When American soldiers returned to the Philippines in the early months of 2002 to help the government pursue the war on terror, a majority of the populace led by President Gloria Arroyo welcomed them with open arms. They remembered the Americans as their allies and even their liberators in the war against Japan. Only a minority saw the return of the American army as a ghostly echo of their arrival in 1898 to occupy the Philippines by force. Most Filipinos read about the war in Iraq and fail to see it as a mirror of their own country’s experience in 1899. They have largely forgotten the Filipino-American war.

Today we are being told to take sides in the war on terror, just as during the Cold War we had to take sides. “You are either with us or against us,” we are warned. And of course the Philippines, being a poor country in need of aid, has been compelled to join the coalition of the willing. But it is not just poverty or pragmatism that has led to this. What we see are the effects of a century of manipulation or reshaping of collective memories about past wars. The war on terror is being built upon a massive forgetting of past invasions, past injustices, and acts of terror on the part of the coalition itself.

To fight without question the “terror” perpetrated by Moro rebels means forgetting the past injustices that led the Muslims in the south to a separatist war. Having American troops fighting side by side with Filipino troops may bring back memories of the joint struggle against Japan, but it also entails forgetting the equally terrible Filipino-American war. Did Filipinos fight those past wars only to end up serving the empire of the day? If history is to serve its function as the codifier and guardian of collective memories, it should participate in the present war, not to endorse its goals but to interrogate its very rationale. By remembering past wars in all their dimensions, by resurrecting those memories that are hidden away in the dark shadows of empire, then and only then shall we begin to see an end to the present war.

Panel discussion

In the Panel discussion, Professor Ikehata and Professor Arima gave instances from their own experiences of the remembrance and forgetfulness of history, and discussed the stratification in the formation of historical perspective dipending on rememberance and forgetfuless, and the connection of this with political issues.

They also gave their opinions on how the politics of remembrance and forgetfulness in the Philippines should be, and said that it was neccssary for the Philippine people to confront heir historica perspective.

Professor Shimizu closed the form by stating that now 50 years had passed since the Second World War, its perpetrators and victims may be able to speak about history as equals.

Arts and Culture Prize 2003: XU Bing

Xu Bing, Letters from the Sky
September 21, 2003 (16:00 - 17:30)
Sculpture Lounge, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
Mr. Yasunaga Koichi (Director, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum)

Public Lecture by Mr. XU Bing was held in Fukuoka Asian Art Museum on September 21, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field special performance.

Mr. Xu presented a large number of slides while introducing his childhoold, the path he has followed as an artist, and stories relating to the production of various works.

During his explanation of An Analyzed Reflection of the World - Book from the Sky, a collection of 4,000 fake Chinese characters he created over a 4 - year period, Mr. Xu presented some of the implements used in its creation and described the work as a joke originated by one person over countless years. In giving his thoughts about his art, he said art is born when one finds oneself in an environment with problems and discord. In commenting on a series of works created using characters, such as those depicting scenery formed from a combination of Chinese characters and characters based on his "New English calligraphy" drawn on windows, and landscapes drawn with Chinese characters, he related his feelings as a Chinese artist saying how proud he was to have been able to attain expression that was simultaneously calligraphy, paintings and poems. Concerning his intention in creating the New English Calligraphy, his representative work of the 1990s, he emphasized that he had wanted people to change ways of their thinking and to find a new point to explain things through this method.

There were many questions from participants relating to the New English Calligraphy, reflecting their keen interest in this work. Even after the forum was concluded, Mr. Xu was surrounded by participants wanting to shake his hand and get his autograph. The interaction continued until much later. The forum was held at same venue as the " Xu Bing Exhibition" (Xu Bing Art Exhibition) specially organized to mark the award of the Arts and Culture Preze. The atmosphere was filled with excitement as some partcipants tried the Computer Font Project by entering their names in alphabetic characters and watching as these were deiplayed as characters besed on the "New English Calligraphy," while others looked with great interest at his latest work entitled First Readers.

Hello everyone, my name is Xu Bing.  Thank you for holding this wonderful event.  The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum feels like a home to me.  I am extremely satisfied with the outcomes of both when I presented my work, Your Surname Please? here four years ago and of the current exhibition commemorating the awarding of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize.  So many people took part in the course of realizing this show including museum staffs and volunteers.  I would like to deeply thank you all for coming here today.

Cultural Revolution

During the Cultural Revolution almost thirty years ago, young graduates of middle and high schools had to head out to the countryside to live and work with the peasants.  The government preached they had to transmit culture to the farmers who needed it, and at the same time learn from the peasants.  Following this, those of them who excelled in calligraphy and painting had to contribute their talents.  I spent about three years in a village, taking part in numerous propaganda activities such as making handmade literary journals for the local peasants.

After my father was labeled reactionary, lots of problems befell upon my family.  Back then, if one’s father had a problem, his family was also considered as having problems by others.  I tried my best and worked hard to be seen as a better person.  This is not to say that I had an interest in politics.  I was rather merely driven by my sincere interest in the beautiful and writing beautiful characters almost to the point that they appeared as though they were printed.

This served as my training period.  Years later, when I presented works relating to ‘calligraphy’ and ‘written words,’ someone commented, “Your calligraphy is wonderful,” and I remember answering, “That is because of the ‘training’ I received during the Cultural Revolution.”

Central Academy of Fine Art

In 1977, I entered the printmaking department of a very conservative school called the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.  I received a conventional academy style art education there, and became famous by making many works which depicted images from my experience in the countryside.  Some people even call me a good artist today because of this firmly grounded training I received and the so-called “official” path I walked.

A Book from the Sky

My work started to change between 1985 and 1987.

This is a work called A Book from the Sky. The gallery space was literally transformed into a prison of words.  Five scrolls were hung from the ceiling, while 500 books were placed open on the floor, and the walls bearing large word panels.  These amazingly beautiful books leave a sacred and solemn impression on the viewer.  However, as you approach to read them, you cannot grasp any story or information out of them, because all the words written there were imaginary words created by myself.  Those who saw this work at that time recall the experience as very strange.  You expect those relentlessly beautiful books to carry important messages but in fact they are void of meaning.  The moment you discover this, you feel strange and cannot help but to dwell upon human culture that lies beyond them.

These books come in a set of four volumes and the fourth volume takes a form of a dictionary.  Small letters explain the large letter that is printed above.  However, since these small letters themselves carry no meaning, it is a strange situation of nonsense explaining the nonsense.  In front of these ‘letters’ and ‘books’ everyone is equal—educated, uneducated, Chinese, and non-Chinese.  After all, they are equal in that no one can read what is written.

I designed every letter, carved them, and had them hand-printed in a small printing house I found.  It can be seen as a vast joke that a single person spent many years on making.  There is also a deep connection with the Chinese traditional culture as seen in its reference to Kanxi Dictionary.

Ghosts Pounding the Wall

This is a work I made by taking ink-rubbing of the actual walls of the Great Wall.  The three-dimensional wall is transformed into two-dimensional through the act of ink-rubbing. I made this work a few months after the Tiananmen Incident.  The cultural and political situation in China had undergone a tremendous change after the incident.  It had a great impact on contemporary art.  My previous artwork had become a target of criticism by traditional and conservative artists and leaders of the art circle.  One of them had called my work ‘a ghost pounding the wall art.’  ‘Ghost pounding the wall,’ is an old Chinese idiom suggesting that a person has a mental block.  You are stuck in one place without knowing you are actually surrounded by a wall.  I was fed-up with the stifling atmosphere of the intellectual circle.  So I took some students and local farmers into the mountain, and completed most part of the ink-rubbing after one month. When I found the reference of ‘Ghost Pounding the Wall’ regarding my work in the newspaper, I thought it was a good title for my new work.

I like ink-rubbing because you have an extremely close contact with the source object.  Any image that arises from this method is powerful and is capable of delivering special information.  It works the same way with people holding hands or kissing to achieve deeper communication.

This is contrary from photography where what you get is merely a shadow of an object.

When I finished the outdoor rubbing of this work in 1990, I was invited to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as an honorary fellow.  The university museum showed a great interest in the photos of this new work although it was not completely finished then.  They arranged the rubbing to be shipped from China and provided me with a large studio space, which finally enabled me to complete this work in the United States.


This is a work I made using ceramics.  I used Chinese characters to represent the 26 letters of the English alphabets phonetically.  For example, A was written as Ai, and B as Bi. For those English alphabets needing more than one Chinese character, I used two to three characters like Ai-Ke-Si. You are left with a very awkward and strange feeling trying to read this.

During this period I was making small installation works and projects and all of them dealt with my personal experience of moving to a new cultural environment in the United States.  It is required for every artist to come face-to-face with the surrounding environment.  Art emerges out of the very process of questioning and engaging critically with the surrounding.

New English Calligraph

Let us move on to the ‘New English Calligraphy. In ‘New English Calligraphy,’ I replaced radicals of Chinese characters with letters of the English alphabet. It is a writing system in which a character appears Chinese when seen as a whole, but it can be decoded and read when you break down the character into small components. It took me many experiments and studies in order to achieve what would appear closest to the Chinese character. I then took ‘New English Calligraphy’ to cyberspace as you see here exhibited. The computer program transforms the typed message into ‘New English Calligraphy.’ I am working together with a Japanese computer company and it is still in the makings.

A scene at the Xu Being Exhibition

Once completed, we can use the program to even print a whole newspaper using the character set of the New English Calligraphy.   

I also use this writing system to make calligraphy works.  They appear to be East Asian calligraphy at a first glance, but the truth shocks a viewer.  The Western culture is covered beneath the Asian face.

People often ask me, “What is your motive behind designing such calligraphy? Do you wish your own writing system to be extended to English?” and I answer “I use English simply because it is easier and more convenient for communication.”

My hope is to shake up the conventional thinking pattern of the people through this calligraphy.  For instance, we usually think of Chinese character as something that fits into a square while letters of the can be written by simply adding lines.  But in my calligraphy, both rules become impotent.  In order to comprehend, we must come up with a new concept from an alternative perspective.  Our minds become more open through this process.

I also made a large banner that says “Art for the People” in ‘New English Calligraphy’ for the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy

I have also taken the ‘New English Calligraphy’ into a classroom setting inside a gallery space.  Inside, I place textbooks entitled “Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy,” various calligraphy tools and a television.  Visitors are invited to experience the ‘New English Calligraphy.’  It is open for anyone to experiment.  The ‘New English Calligraphy’ seems strangely familiar, and at the same time opens a very new sensation to a viewer.  Asians may think of them as Chinese characters from their appearance but cannot read them without the knowledge of English.  In contrast, a Westerner might find the Chinese-like writing to be exotic and appealing but may think impossible to appreciate it on a deeper level unless you understand the culture of Chinese characters and calligraphy.  However, once you experiment with it, you will experience a surprise you have never known before.

This work has been exhibited worldwide. 

Once a school even placed an order for the teaching materials of ‘New English Calligraphy’ for they wanted to nurture a thinking that was open to art and other cultures. 

Two days ago I also visited a high-school in Fukuoka and held this class.    When I asked the students for their impressions afterward, one of them made a very interesting comment, “My mind opened up.  From today, I choose not to blindly follow what books or teachers tell me, but try to think independently.”


This work also deals with words.  I use the New English Calligraphy to write characters on large windows of the museum lobby so that they match with the landscape outside.  When a visitor stands at the particular point, the written calligraphy on the glass match exactly with the landscape.

For instance, if you see a concrete building outside, I write the character for concrete, if you see a sculpture, I write the character for art in ‘New English Calligraphy’ on the window.

As a viewer moves inside the gallery, the relationship between the viewer, the artwork, and the landscape changes constantly.   Owing to the characters written on the window, the viewer finds the gallery space extending beyond.

I have also made landscape paintings that are composed of Chinese characters.  Since Chinese characters are pictographs originally, when we write bamboo, we are also ‘drawing’ bamboo.  The same applies also to the characters for rock, rice seeding、tadpole, water, boat and various kinds of vegetables.

I began this series in 1999 when I went to the Himalayas.  I sat down on the mountain and ‘painted’ the mountain in front of me using Chinese characters.  I tried to follow the movement of nature by tracing the clouds, direction of lights, the ups and downs of the mountain ridges. I found out that once you transfer the writing to English, the outcome appears like an avant-garde poem. 

Chinese or Asian literati are proud of traditional art, which combines calligraphy, painting and poem in one piece.  I believe I have found a way to unify those three elements even stronger through this work.  It is at once calligraphy, painting and poem.

Reading Landscape

This installation work at the North Carolina Museum of Art developed out of the idea for Landscript. The museum gallery had some windows, beyond which you found a beautiful green landscape with a pond.  So I used characters for ‘water’ and ‘tree’ and transferred and reconstructed the outdoor landscape inside the gallery space.

The exhibition room was a space for their permanent collection.  Using Chinese characters, I extended the space.  For instance, if there was a mountain depicted in the painting, I extended it outside of the painting frame by writing the character for ‘mountain.’  There were even birds flying out of the paintings.

The Living Word

This work also developed from the same idea.  The work begins with the description of the word, ‘bird,’ taken from a Chinese dictionary written in simplified characters.  The ‘bird’ then undergoes a transformation from the simplified (implemented by Mao Zedong) to Kaishu, Lishu, Zhuanshu and finally a pictograph.  We can understand the culture of Chinese characters through this work.

In this culture, the relationship between the concept of the word and the signified object is ambiguous.

The interesting contrast to this work is a work by Joseph Kosuth, an important conceptual artist.  In his work, One and Three Chairs, the dictionary entry for chair is juxtaposed with a drawing of a chair, and a real chair.  In the Western cultural system, the concept and the signified object have a clear comparative relationship.

Monkey Grasping the Moon

In my new installation work, the word for monkey in twenty-one different languages is represented abstractly.  Every word is designed by taking the cultural context of the region in consideration.  There is one made according to the tradition of a Korean folk calligraphy.  The Hebrew one is written from right to left.  Also included are French and Indian languages.

The abstracted monkeys link with each other and together forms a long chain.

The space used to exhibit this work is also very unique.  There is a high ceiling, and an opening at the top through which outdoor light penetrates, and a pond at the bottom.  Considering every monkey is four feet long, you can imagine how high the space is. 

This exhibition opened at a national museum in Washington D.C. immediately after the 911 attack of the World Trade Center in New York, which led many people to ponder on the issue of how humans can join hands with each other as they looked at this work.  As you all know, in the basing story for this work, monkeys try to catch the moon that is reflected on the water at the bottom, but the moon disappears the moment they touch the water.

I should stop my talk here and let us begun a discussion.

Question from the Audience

Question 1: Is it possible to decode the ‘New English Calligraphy’ if you know English or is there a certain rule needed?

Xu Bing:  Perhaps it is easier for English speakers to read the letters.  But as in any of my work, there is always a gap between the appearance and what is actually inside.  Although they appear to be Chinese characters, they are English inside.  The amalgamation of something completely different is at work here.

When I gave a lecture in the USA before, a person in the audience asked “weren’t you criticized for changing Chinese to English?” and I said “the fact is that I changed English to Chinese, so they are actually happy.”  This work is neither English nor Chinese but it lies somewhere in between.

I live in the USA now and I have Chinese friends who live in the USA.  One of them was extremely frustrated about his son would not learn Chinese.  He wanted his son to retain his culture even living abroad.  To our surprise, his son upon discovering ‘The New English Calligraphy,’ started to practice it, although he still resisted writing Chinese characters.

In China, it is common for people to use calligraphy by famous people in the company or restaurant logo.  I often get asked in the United States to use the ‘New English Calligraphy’ as the logo.  The Hong Kong University Press also uses the ‘New English Calligraphy’ in their logo.

Thus, we can say that the ‘New English Calligraphy’ is also promoting the culture and tradition of using calligraphy in masthead to the West.

Question 2: I think that the New English Calligraphy reflects the culture and customs carried in each language or letters.  For instance, looking at Japanese names spelled out in the ‘New English Calligraphy,’ the letters A and O and diagonal lines strike out the most. This is deeply connected to the structure of vowels and consonants in the Japanese language.  I think that by replacing Japanese with English alphabets, the characteristics of Japanese become apparent in return, what do you think?

Xu Bing: It is true that there are many letters of A and O in Japanese and Japanese names.  Such linguistic pattern is probably reflected in my work as well.

Question 3: As a Westerner, the realm of Chinese character seems forbidden and unapproachable.  There is a huge wall in front of it.  The New English Calligraphy also took me almost 20 minutes to figure out it was English.  For someone like to me to study Chinese characters, how should one deal with this wall?

Xu Bing: The fact that you feel the presence of the wall tells that you have received a very solid education, for it does not take too long for children to learn the ‘New English Calligraphy.’  My works always deal with the issue of intellectuals.  They spend their lifetime immersed in books.  With my work such as the Book from the Sky, they find it extremely frustrating to encounter a book that is unreadable no matter how much effort they put in.  So, in order to read the ‘New English Calligraphy,’ my advice is to put your education aside, and approach it with an attitude of recalibrating your pre-established concept of culture.

The New English Calligraphy follows the rule of Chinese characters.  Your stroke is always from top to bottom, left to right, from outside inward, and must fit within a square. Only a slight change has been made, but we feel this change to be drastic.

Question 4: I just saw your work First Readers. There were many shapes including a cloud-like or an ice-cream cone like shape with their names carved in English and Chinese, but why do they carry different names in the two languages?

Xu Bing: My previous works may have been rather intellectual or gave the impression of a solemn literati style.  Some people say my work gained a bit more humor since my daughter was born 3 years ago.  It is true that the birth of my daughter has given new inspirations in my creation.

My daughter is being raised in the United States and speaks in English and Chinese.  Once she held a banana to her ear and said “Hello, daddy.”  Unlike us, she still has not made a close linkage between objects and words.  The relationship between the word or concept and the actual object has not been established yet.  For her, this can be pooh or an ice cream cone at once.  This can be a potato or a cloud.

The views of we adults are quite limited as if we are placed inside a box, but unlike us, their fields of view are open widely.

Following the question and answer session, there was an open drawing to win the New English Calligraphy practice books and Chinese folk paper cuts.  The forum ended with Xu Bing himself drawing the numbers and handing out the gifts.  The excitement lingered on with the audience crowding around Xu Bing, asking for handshakes and autographs, and viewing the works on exhibit.

Arts and Culture Prize 2003: Dick LEE

As Musical Journey in Search of My Asian Identity
September 20 (18:00 - 20:00)
IMS Hall
James Tengan (LOVE-FM AJ)
Professor Fujii Tomoaki (Chubu Institute for Advanced Studies)

Public Lecture by Mr.  Dick LEE was held in IMS Hall on September 20, and he introduced his idea and thought on his specialized field  special performance.。

Professor Fujii presented a biographical introduction of Mr. Lee and reiterated the reasons for and background ageinst which he had been awarded a Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize.

Mr. Lee's performance developed as he accompanied himself on piano and talked. He played a series of representative numbers from The Mad Chinaman, a big hit in 1990 when he made his Japan debut, as well as from his Asia Major, Fried Rice Paradise and Nagraland albums, and also a number called Celadon from the album Rice that was subsequently released n October 2003. He talked about being born and raised in Singapore with its complex fusion of cultures, and spoke of his continued search for his identity while bringing his own original music into bloom, music that was not an imitation of Western style but emphasized his own culture.

At the following charity auction, the venue came alive as five members of the audience successfully bid for some of Mr. Lee's personal possessions and other items. According to Mr. Lee's wishes, the money raised was donated to the Exchange Students Scholarship Fund operated by the Fukuoka International Association.

Even after the last song the venue was filled with excitement and the audience was very sad to see him go.

Forum Outline and Introduction of the Laureate

FUJII TOMOAKI:  Allow me to speak first about the background as to why Mr. Dick Lee has been nominated for, and awarded with the Arts and Culture Prize for the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes 2003.

Sports are not the only event that the Olympics are all about!

While the Olympic games have surely become the world’s most celebrated sporting event, it has also made a great contribution in the field of cultural promotion.  As some of you may recall, the opening ceremony for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was highlighted by the music of the Aboriginal people, the indigenous inhabitants of Australia.  As President of the Asia Pacific Society for Ethnomusicology, I participated in numerous discussions over this opening ceremony prior to the Sydney Olympics.  In the end, we came to the conclusion that the unique cultural traits particular to the region should be presented in the opening ceremony and thus, the aboriginal music was chosen to represent Australia.  This particular choice in music reflected our message that the ethnic minorities and indigenous inhabitants who have been somewhat neglected from time to time should be more valued and appreciated along with their unique culture.

International Art Conference 

The International Art Conference was held consecutively in Paris in 1999 and in Sao Paulo in 2000.  The focus of attention at the conferences was drawn to issues surrounding regional arts and culture peculiar to one particular nation, ethnic group, or a particular regional society, which has been faced with phenomenal globalization.  Various new styles of music were brought up in the conference, which included Sunda Pop, a style of music sung in the local language of the Sunda region of Indonesia, Pop Morlam, a mixture of pop and the traditional art performance of Morlam which is popular in Thailand and Laos, and Aboriginal Pop, a blend of the aforementioned Aboriginal music and pop.  These styles of music provided some good examples of the culture that is deeply rooted in the respective regions, yet is becoming increasingly acknowledged by the rest of the world.  Thus, one of the major trends seen in the arts and culture of the 21st century was confirmed in the conference.

“Proclamation of Masterpieces” by UNESCO*

In May 2001, UNESCO created an international distinction entitled “Proclamation of Masterpieces” and the Nogaku Theatre was officially proclaimed as a masterpiece from Japan.  The second Proclamation of Masterpieces is scheduled to be made official later this year.  The world is now faced with rapid globalization and modernization. In response to such profound changes, this initiative will reflect the existing trends to protect the diverse cultural assets that have been nurtured in respective regions, and that are also commonly appreciated in other parts of the world.  Asian Pop has been gaining attention in this regard.  Pop as a form of culture represents not only music but also movies and arts.  There has been increased global recognition of Asian Pop, which is spreading widely and exerting a great influence over many people.

* The official name is “Proclam ation on Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” adopted by UNESCO in 1998.  From Japan, the Nogaku Theatre was added to the list in the 1st proclamation in May 2001, and the Ningyo Johruri Bunraku Puppet Theatre in the 2nd proclamation in November 2003.

The background for awarding Mr. Dick Lee, the Fukuoka AsianCulture Prize Laureate

As enlightened audience may have already known, that is exactly what Mr. Lee’s work has encapsulated.  Mr. Lee released “Mad China Man” in Tokyo in 1990, an album that garnered him high acclaim.  His work is deeply rooted in Asia, yet it is presented in a very sophisticated style with a rock music beat.  His music is also familiar to us all.  In this sense, Mr. Lee is definitely a prominent artist and pioneer in the genre of Asian Pop. 

Mr. Lee grew up in Singapore, a country where various cultures coexist.  When Mr. Lee went to live and study in England, he said that he felt at ease, as if England had been his home.  Yet, he also admits that the experience made him realize the Asian blood that was within him.  Through such experiences, Mr. Lee has come to create music that emphasizes and encompasses various cultures of Asia.  For example, Mr. Lee intentionally uses a great deal of “Singlish” in his music, which is a variety of English spoken in Singapore.  By doing so, his message has been successfully delivered that language, the most common tool in our everyday life, should be acknowledged and valued.  Mr. Lee has created a wide variety of music.  However different forms his music may take, Mr. Lee never fails to search for his identity as an Asian in his work.  He has created his own style within one genre of music, pop music, and presents it in an easily comprehensible manner, yet with extreme sophistication and profoundness.  Paying keen attention to the unique culture of each region, in Asia in particular, Mr. Lee successfully expresses his views with a rock beat, the common language of the world.  In the arena of music production, Mr. Lee has played a vital role in highlighting Asia and introducing it to the rest of the world.  For these marvelous achievements, Mr. Lee is truly worthy as a laureate for the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.

“Rice”: The newly released album of Dick Lee

The title of Mr. Lee’s new album is “Rice,” and this title also deliberately contains his assertion.  Indeed, rice is consumed and appreciated by all Asians. This album is definitely dedicated to the Asians who live on rice, a common staple food in Asia.  .

I should stop talking and let Mr. Lee himself present his music to you.  Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the performance by Mr. Dick Lee.


A mini-concert was held featuring Dick Lee’s musical performance, in which he shared with the audience his sincere pursuit of music and his thoughts about Asia.

JAMAS TENGAN (hereafter indicated as J):  Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dick Lee.  Please welcome him with a round of applause.

J: Dick Lee, welcome to Fukuoka and congratulations on winning the award. 

You have promoted Asian culture through music and through performance.  These fans have been waiting since this morning.  I think many of them traveled a long way to see you.

The setting on the stage is designed to look as if we were visiting Dick Lee in his living room.  Let me have a seat here and enjoy the performance with the audience.  Dick, please stand by.

Dick Lee (hereafter indicated as D):  I’m going to start by playing a song from my new album called “Rice.”  It’s an instrumental album, and I would like to play a piece called “Celadon.


D: Today, I will tell you a little bit about how I went on my Asian journey.

I come from Singapore, and Singapore is a multi-racial country.  Therefore, I grew up with many different cultures side by side, taking such different cultures for granted.  Singapore is a part of Malaya and it was one of the Malay states.  For this reason, the national language of Singapore was, and still is Malay.  Singapore was also a British colony at one time, so British English was widely spoken and has also remained as our official language.  I grew up with all these influences and no real strong sense of myself.

I knew I wanted to write songs but I didn’t know where to start.  I wasn’t so comfortable with Malay.  I can’t speak Chinese.  And if I sang in English, it would be as if I was trying to copy English people.

The music I listened to as a child varied widely.  My mother would listen to Chinese pop songs.  My father was a Jazz fan and particularly liked big band Jazz, such as the Glenn Miller Orchestra and other American big band music. These musical varieties surrounded us at home all the time. 

Here is an example of a Chinese pop song that my mother loved and played all the time at home.


D: I actually recorded this song for my album “Mad China Man” because it had left such a strong impression in my mind.

Another song that I also listened to a lot in school was this song called “Little White Boat.”  We learned and sang it in Chinese, but it actually is a Korean song.  I’ve put English words to it.


D: A very simple song, isn’t it?  I think I was about seven or eight years old when I first sang this song.  I used to love all the singing lessons we had at school, but I didn’t like piano lessons.

My mother won a piano in a lottery.  One day, the piano appeared in my house and I was forced to take piano lessons.  I was very angry with my mother but now I thank her from the bottom of my heart for making me take the piano lessons.

I realize that Singapore is a very young country and we have no folk songs of our own.  I would feel very lucky and happy if the music I’m making would become the folk songs for my country in the future.

So, here is a song I wrote for a musical called “Kampong Amber.”  When the president of Singapore saw the musical, he liked it so much that he asked for it to be adopted as a national song.  


J:  Dick, could you tell us what “Bunga Sayang” means?  Where does this title come from?

D: It’s a Malay word.  “Bunga” is a flower and “sayang” is love.  So, it means the Flower of Love.

Now, I’m going to sing a song that started my music career when I was sixteen years old.  I wrote this song myself.  Professor Fujii was talking about Singlish -- that is Singapore English.  In Singapore, we say, “Yeah-lah” (yes), or “No-lah” (no).  That’s Singlish.  I tried to write a song that was truly Singaporean and that didn’t copy anybody else’s work.  So I wrote the song using a lot of Singlish in it. 

And this song is the song that got me my first record deal 30 years ago.  “Fried Rice Paradise.”


D: This album, recorded in 1989 and 1990, changed my life.

I recorded several albums in the 80’s as I was trying to find my way in music in all of these albums.  What I was doing then was mainly copying a lot of western styles.

And in 1989, I had the offer to release one last album.  So, I thought, “OK, I’ll do this one last one.”

I thought I would try any kind of music that I wanted since this was going to be my last album.  Therefore, I decided to put in a lot of music that had influenced me and made me what I am.  I put in a lot of Chinese pop songs, Malay pop songs, Indian songs, and all kinds of music that I grew up with.

The album that embraced all of those was “The Mad China Man.”


D: When I came to Japan with the “The Mad Chinaman” album, I suddenly became the ambassador for Asia.  It was 1990, and everybody was very surprised to know that Singapore had such a man like myself.  It seemed that Japan, at least, was very surprised to see someone like me who comes from Singapore.  And I said, “Well, it’s nothing special.  I’m just an Asian like you.  We are all Asians.”

We are all the same.  Although Japan is an island country, we are from the same continent, aren’t we?  We may have different cultures but we share a common spirit, which is Asian.

And this spirit derives from “rice,” which is why I named the next album “Rice.”

In “Asia Major,” the next album following “The Mad Chinaman,” I decided to do what I did in “The Mad Chinaman,” which was to take old songs and make them new.  So, I made one in a Japanese style. 


D: hat was “Sukiyaki.”

While I studied a lot about different music in Asia and traveled all over Asia, the country, or the island that really inspired me the most was Bali.  I loved the music of the Gamelan and I found it so familiar.  It wasn’t long before I realized that the music of Bali, or the scale of the Gamelan was exactly the same as the scale of the Shamisen.  For example, in “Celadon,” my first piece in “Asia Major,” I use a lot of the Balinese scale.  Listen to this.

(♪Musical Scale♪)

Doesn’t it sound like Japanese music?  This is a Balinese scale.  Next time you listen to Gamelan music, I’m sure you will recognize a touch of Japanese music.

In 1993, I wrote a musical called “Nagraland,” which was inspired by Bali.  So, here is a love song from “Nagraland.”


D: Traveling around in Asia has also awoken the Chinese side of me.  In Hong Kong, I was able to meet with a very famous Singaporean, Sandy Lam.  I invited her to sing “Lover’s Tears” from my album, and we became really great friends after that.  She invited me to be her guest performer in her first very big concert in Hong Kong.  I felt very proud when I was standing on the stage in front of 6,000 people in the audience in Hong Kong.  I thought that my mother would be very happy because she always wanted me to be a Chinese pop singer.  After that, I worked with many other Chinese pop singers and one of the most famous ones I worked with was Leslie Cheung.  The news of his suicide was very sad.  But we will always miss him.  And I’d like to dedicate this song to him, which I wrote for his movie.


D: That was for Leslie…

I’ve worked quite a lot in the Chinese music industry recently and I’ve noticed that their music is becoming increasingly sophisticated.  And one of the most sophisticated Chinese pop singers from Singapore is here in Fukuoka now.  Tanya (Chua).  She’s here to perform on stage at 7 o’clock tomorrow for the Asian Month festival.  She’s a very talented singer.

I have written many songs about Singapore.  And I would like to do this one now, which I wrote in Japan when I became homesick for Singapore. 


J: Thank you, Dick.  By the way, how do you maintain your youthful looks so well?

D: That’s my secret.  Well actually, I don’t do anything in particular regarding skin care.  I just use soap and water, and the only thing I do is just color my hair.

Here is a song about Asia called “Modernasia.”


D: The next song is something that I’m very proud of because I performed it in the presence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan in Osaka for the Namihaya Kokutai.


Charity Auction

A Charity Auction was held for items which were private possessions of Dick Lee and included one of his out-of-print records.  Five avid fans made successful bids and profits were donated to the Exchange Students Scholarship Fund managed by the Fukuoka International Association.

Items included in the five auctions:

A Dick Lee record released when he was 23 and is now out-of-press. 

A notebook and a portrait with Dick Lee’s autograph.

A necklace and a bracelet set Mr. Dick Lee wore as an amulet during the 1990 “Mad China Man” Concert.

A set of a poster and T shirt for the 1990 “Mad China Man” Concert.

A set of a man’s shirt designed by Dick Lee himself and a metal pin for the “Asia Major.”

Last Song

J:  Now, here is the last song from Dick Lee.


D:  Thank you very much.

J:  Please give Dick Lee a warm round of applause.  Thank you very much, Dick.

It is not Japan and Asia, but in fact, Japan with the rest of Asia.  I’m sure Dick’s message that Japan is part of Asia was brought home to everyone tonight.  Thank you very much for coming. 

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