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Upcoming Lecture



Speaker: Agnes Hsu (徐心眉)
Date: Dec. 3, 2011, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm


Contemplating the Ancients -

A Dedication to My Ancestors

Xu Guangqi and Ji Yun


Xu Guangqi and Matteo Ricci 

Agnes Hsu

Ji Yun

(This lecture will be in English.)   

        The Renwen Society has invited China Institute's own Dr. Agnes Hsu for a special talk memorializing two preeminent figures in modern Chinese history, Hsu Kuang-Ch'i (Xu Guangqi) and Chi Yun (Ji Yun) on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011.  As a descendent of the Hsu and Chi families, Dr. Hsu will talk about her paternal family's Catholic origins tracing back to Hsu Kuang-Ch'i's conversion in 1603 under the influence of Matteo Ricci, and colorful tales of her maternal great-great-grandfather, Chi Yun, Chief Editor of China's most important literary encyclopaedia, Siku quanshu (Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature).

       Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), simply known in Ming history as "the Grand Minister" for his illustrious service, was an agricultural scientist, astronomer, and mathematician. Xu was a colleague and collaborator of the Italian Jesuits Matteo Ricci and Sabatino de Ursis and together they translated several classic Western texts into Chinese, including part of Euclid's Elements. Hsu was one of the "Three Pillars of Chinese Catholicism" and is known in Vatican history by his baptismal name Paul Hsu.  Ji Yun (1724-1805), best known by his sobriquet Ji Xiaolan, was a prominent figure in Qing cultural history, with many anecdotes recorded about him.  In his prolific career as a scholar and minister, he is best known for his magnum opus, Siku quanshu.  From 1773 onwards, Ji Yun edited this massive work together with Lu Xixiong, in compliance with an imperial edict issued by the Qianlong Emperor.

       Dr. Hsu was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan.  She studied Classical Archaeology, English Literature, and East Asian Studies at Bryn Mawr College; she received her M.A. in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and Ph.D. in Chinese Art and Archaeology, both from the University of Pennsylvania.  In 2002, Dr. Hsu was the first American graduate student to receive a Mellon Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship especially dedicated to the study of ancient Chinese science at the Joseph Needham Research Institute on the grounds of Cambridge University, UK.  From 2004 to 2007, Dr. Hsu was on the faculty at Brown University and in 2007 was recruited by Stanford University as the Mellon Research Scholar for a special project on Rome and China.  Dr. Hsu joined China Institute in late 2008, first as its Director of Education and Dean of the Confucius Institute.  In April 2010, Dr. Hsu was appointed as the Institute's Resident Scholar and Director of Arts and Culture.

       Dr. Hsu's research and publications have focused on cross-cultural studies of early empires, including The Exceptional Universal Value of the Road Systems in Ancient Empires: A Comparative Study of the Chinese Oasis Route of the Early Silk Road and the Qhapag Ñan, a chapter in Geography, Ethnography, and Perceptions of the World from Antiquity to the Renaissance, and "An Emic Perspective of the Ancient Mapmaker's Art," which was published by Cambridge University Press and considered for the Barwis-Holliday Award for Far Eastern Studies by the Royal Asiatic Society.  Her forthcoming article on the origin of the parallel perspective in ancient Chinese maps and subsequent use in the painting tradition will be published in a special edition of East Asian Science, Technology and Medicine.

       Since 2006, Dr. Hsu has consulted the UNESCO World Heritage Centre as an International Expert; she served on two scientific committees for the Qhapag Ñan (the Incan Road) and the Continental Silk Road.  She has conducted fieldwork in Xinjiang and traveled to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan on behalf of UNESCO and the American Museum of Natural History.   She consults and has appeared in Discovery Channel's Ancient Manmade Marvels series on Chinese archaeology.

       Dr. Hsu studied Western opera and the Chinese zither and gave professional concerts, including at the Strathmore Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, where she is a native.

Admissions: free for Renwen members and $5 for non-members. Advance registration and payment are requested. To register online, please fill out the following form. To make payment online, please click the following button.  by phone, please . For inquiries, please call (646) 912-8861 or email  

Location: China Institute, 125 East 65th Street, New York, NY 10065


Click here to register for this lecture (Lecture Code: 120311)


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