Third edition of the Rombouts-Shilin Graduate Conference

On September the 2nd and the 3rd, the third edition of the Rombouts-Shilin Graduate Conference took place. Located at the Academy Building of Leiden University, students and professors from both Leiden University and universities abroad came together to share their knowledge concerning the theme “primary sources”.

On Saturday, Prof Dr Hilde de Weerdt kicked off with a lecture on using digital methods to explore history. Next, the first panel named “Official Sources and Chinese Media” took place, and four students from Leiden University were up to discuss how Chinese media, politics, propaganda and nationalism are linked. Pieter Velghe focused on technology policy and the Internet of Things, Chen Wenxi on the influence of local gazetteers during periods of restoration, Tjerk van Loenhout on media discourse on Trump and the United States, and Milan Ismangil on nationalism and discourse in the online game Dota 2. After their individual presentations, the floor was opened for discussion.

Furthermore, Dr Julian Ward from the University of Edinburgh gave a workshop on the film Hibiscus Town. He presented questions such as why certain scenes were omitted from the BBC version of the film. Were these choices connected to political motives or were they made just to make the film shorter or easier to understand?

The first day of the conference ended with two simultaneous workshops. Prof Dr Stefan Landsberger elaborated on Chinese propaganda directed at the Chinese population and at a foreign audience, providing the audience with a varied reel of propaganda to analyse. PhD candidate Manya Koetse presented us with trends in China and Chinese social media. Amongst others, she founded the blog whatsonweibo and explained why Sina Weibo is such a relevant primary source and how users voice their opinions regarding different topics.

On Sunday, the first lecture was given by Dr Xin Xin from the University of Westminster. Having done research on Xinhua News Agency, she concluded that Xinhua has maintained a propagandist function, but that it is also changing due to marketisation and new business opportunities.

Dr. Xin Xin about her research at Xinhua News Agency

The second and last panel of the conference was called “Literary and Philosophical sources”. Xun Liu from Trinity College explained how many translations neglect Chinese cultural features, taking Hawkes’ English translation ofThe Dream of the Red Chamber as a case in point.  Alice Simionate discussed The Manifesto of 1958 and how this is a form of renewing Confucianism around Western discourse. Henriëtte Hofman presented us with a discussion on the notion of filial piety in the Manchu text 120 Tales of Old Men. Last but not least, Joep Smorenburg reflected on Zhu Xi’s will for revenge after military conflict between the Jin and the Song in the twelfth century. His analysis also included the notion of filial piety, as the relationship between the ruler and the people is often compared to that between father and son.
To end the conference, visitors could once again choose between two workshops. The first was given by Dr Paul Vierthaler, who provided his audience with programming tools, which enable humanities scholars from many fields to add statistic depth to, and improve the scale of, their research. In addition, Dr Xin Xin once again took the stage before flying back to London. By showing two video examples of propaganda, she challenged us to think about the implications and impacts of propaganda.

The panel and discussion

We would like to thank organisers Joep Smorenburg, Jorrit Weeda, Jonas Lammertink, and Milan Ismangil, and all of the above-mentioned lecturers and panel members for making this an unforgettable conference. We extend special thanks to Piet Rombouts, without whom such a conference would not have been possible at all.