Thomas Davis Lecture Series China and the Irish: Different Stories, Similar Dreams



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Thomas Davis Lecture Series

China and the Irish: Different Stories, Similar Dreams

Consulting Editor: Professor Jerusha McCormack
All lectures to be broadcast on Monday, 10 pm,

starting Monday, 9 June.

Thereafter available as a podcast from RTE website
Lecture One:

Ireland through a Chinese Mirror

Jerusha McCormack,

Visiting Professor

Beijing Foreign Studies University
This series of Thomas Davis Lectures shows how encounters between Ireland and China over the last century have become ways that Ireland can also, from new and unexpected angles, encounter itself.
Lecture Two:

Empires at Odds: The Qianlong Emperor and Lord Mcartney’s British Mission

Dr. Shane McCausland, Curator of Chinese Art, Chester Beatty Library
In 1793, Lord Mcartney, from County Antrim, led a mission aimed at exporting British goods to China to correct the trade deficit caused by importing tea. This mission failed because the two empires involved found no common ground that would allow them to set aside national self-interest. We need to understand what motivated the Qianlong Emperor to say that, as far as he was concerned, China needed nothing the West had to offer. The collection of Qianlong’s books and imperial robes held by the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin help us appreciate the China of Qianlong, its reception of Lord Mcartney, and the means by which he impressed on his English visitor the status of the Emperor himself.

Lecture Three:

Early Irish Botanical Expeditions in China: Three Generations of the Earls of Rosse (Birr Castle)

Brendan Parsons, Seventh Earl of Rosse
The Irish botanist, Augustine Henry, served in the Chinese Maritime Service in the time of Robert Hart, but his heart was not devoted to trade but to plants. In 1908, in collaboration with the Fifth Earl of Rosse, Henry organized the importation of Chinese trees and plants that were formerly unknown in this part of the world. Many of these came to Ireland where they have become quite common garden plants. These expeditions have been continued up to the present by Seventh Earl of Ross, Brendan Parsons. Today, the grounds of Birr Castle – open on a regular basis to the Irish public – are witness to three generations of botanic exploration in China and surrounding territory.

All this is far from a one-way process. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has already sent four of their best botanical technicians (two from the Botanic Gardens in Beijing and two from the Botanic Gardens in Kunming) to study and work in the Birr Castle Demesne, and in 2004, no less than three Chinese delegations were received at Birr.



Lecture Four:

Business in China: Piercing the Veil

Richard Barrett, CEO, Treasury Holdings
Over the last decade, many Irish people are now engaged in doing business in China. How do these interchanges work and what do we have to learn from them? Are they merely about making money, or are more subtle interactions involved? What is different about doing business in China – and how, if at all, has it tended to change Irish business practice?

Lecture Five:

China’s Economic Boom: Mega-Cities and Their Planning

Pauline Byrne, Strategic Planning Officer, Treasury Holdings
After eighteen months direct experience working in Shanghai and Beijing, Pauline Byrne can speak as an Irish architect and city planner about how these massive cities are being projected into the future. Shanghai has an official population of around 18 million residents, Beijing around 14 million. The scale of their problems are representative of those affecting China as a whole. How has the configurations of these new cities been affected by those of Chinese society at large – and how will it now change them? How does a Westerner assess the aims and outcomes of Chinese urban planning? And what lessons, if any, can we in Ireland learn from the Chinese experience?
Lecture Six:

From Patsy O'Wang to Fu Manchu: Ireland, China and Racism

Fintan O’Toole
A well-known cultural commentator, Fintan O’Toole will explore the migratory experiences of the Irish and Chinese people, especially in America in the 19th century. Beginning with the image of the trans-continental railroad – with Chinese workers building it from the West and Irish from the East – the essay will reflect on the connections and contrasts in their different experiences, leading to more contemporary reflections on the different ways of confronting globalisation.

Lecture Seven:

China and Ireland: Musical Meetings, East and West

Dr. Hwee-San Tan, Ethnomusicology, University College, Dublin
Dr. Tan, originally from Singapore, earned her doctorate at SOAS in London on Chinese ethnic and religious music. In her present work, she has developed a number of comparisons between traditional Irish music/practice and performance techniques and those of traditional Chinese music. It was perhaps just these similarities that allowed The Chieftains to be invited as one of the first groups from the West to visit China in 1983, where they performed both alone and together with Chinese musicians – producing a well-received CD, The Chieftains in China.
Lecture Eight:

Oscar Wilde’s Chinese Sage

Dr. Jerusha McCormack, Visiting Professor, Beijing Foreign Studies University
Until Dr. McCormack called attention to Wilde’s 1890 review of the first Zhuangzi translation into English, few realized what a dramatic impact this Chinese Daoist sage’s thought had on Wilde: on his anarchist principles, his dandyism, and his sense of Irishness. Wilde’s appropriation of Zhuangzi’s thinking and literary techniques point to sympathetic intellectual stances in these key cultural icons. Significantly, the Wilde essay most indebted to Zhuangzi’s thought, “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891), became, in translation, a favourite text of the Young China Movement which sought to modernize their country after the turn of the century.
Lecture Nine:

China Comes to Ireland

Ruadhán MacCormaic, Journalist for the Irish Times
Suddenly, Chinese young people seem to be everywhere. We have seen them on the street and working in supermarkets. Significant numbers are now studying at Irish universities, who are, in fact, competing to enroll them. In the short term, we have seen some of the effects of these new immigrants – in the development of Asian food stores and new restaurants. We now celebrate Chinese New Year. How else will their presence change an already rapidly-changing Ireland? In the long-term, a significant contribution to Ireland has already been made by the opening of the new Confucius Institute in Dublin with funds from the Chinese government: presenting new possibilities for Irish people who are interested in learning something more about the language and the culture of this emerging world power. How the Irish people regard these visible manifestations of China’s presence in their world will be the subject of this final programme




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