Conferral of Honorary Doctorate to Chi Pang-yuan

National Taiwan University
Taipei, Taiwan

Monday, February 25, 2019

From left: Indiana University First Lady Laurie Burns McRobbie, emerita professor Chi Pang-yuan, IU President Michael A. McRobbie, and National Taiwan University President Kuan Chung-ming during a ceremony to award Pang-yuan with an honorary doctor of letters degree at National Taiwan University. Photo by Ryan Piurek, Indiana University

Welcome and introduction

Thank, you, President KUAN.

My colleagues from Indiana University and I are very pleased to be back at National Taiwan University for this historic occasion.

I first visited NTU as in 2013 and signed a partnership agreement then that we are jointly working on renewing very soon. My visit to Taiwan in 2013 was, we believe, the first ever by a sitting IU president, though I first visited Taiwan nearly 30 years ago in 1990 and have visited a number of times subsequently.

We are very pleased to be here again to help celebrate what has been a productive partnership formally dating back to 2004 between Indiana University and National Taiwan University, Taiwan’s leading institution of higher education and a world-class university.

But we are also especially pleased to be here to honor a distinguished former faculty member of National Taiwan University who also studied at Indiana University for two separate periods, Professor Chi Pang-yuan.

Professor Chi, it is a great pleasure and a great honor to meet such a distinguished and accomplished scholar who has been associated with Indiana University. You have brought great distinction to IU through your association with us. And we very much look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Indiana University also looks forward to continue to build upon its long-standing ties with Taiwan.

Indiana University is very proud of its nearly 2300 alumni affiliated with Taiwan, its over 200 current Taiwanese students, and especially its 29 faculty who are also NTU alumni.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of addressing and meeting with a number of these alumni as we celebrated the official registration of the Taiwan Chapter of the IU Alumni Association with the Taiwanese government as a non-profit organization. This official recognition will greatly improve the reach and impact of what is already a vibrant alumni chapter. I am very pleased that a number of members of the Taiwan Alumni Chapter are with us today.

Indiana University also has one of the strongest China studies programs in the United States.

This includes extensive educational and research programs in the culture and history of China as well as courses in Cantonese, Mandarin, and classical Chinese languages.

IU is home to one of the few U.S. government-funded Flagship Centers in Mandarin. These highly prestigious centers are focused on further developing best practices for the teaching of this language.

These centers work closely with partner institutions in China and Taiwan, and I want to congratulate National Taiwan University for being approved as a Chinese Flagship Language Program partner, which will ensure IU and NTU will be working closely together in this area for many years to come. IU students have already studied at NTU during the summer through the Chinese Flagship Program, and more will be able to do so in the future through the whole academic year. I am very pleased that Dr. Chen Yea-Fen, an alumna of National Taiwan University and the director of IU’s Chinese Flagship program, is here with us today.

Indiana University's Maurer School of Law has also enjoyed a productive partnership with National Taiwan University involving student exchanges and faculty research collaborations.

Last year, the Maurer School of Law inducted alumnus Wang Yi-Chi into its Academy of Law Alumni Fellows. Mr. Wang is a well-known scholar in privacy and telecommunications law, and he has served as minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council.

IU is proud of its longstanding and productive relationships with some of the leading international universities in the world. These strong and active academic partnerships are essential to facilitating international collaboration and engagement.

And we are proud to count National Taiwan University as one of our most valued international partners.

Conferral of honorary doctorate

Today, we honor, with the award of an honorary Indiana University Doctor of Letters degree, Chi Pang-yuan, one of Taiwan’s best-known and most beloved contemporary writers.

For her efforts to introduce Taiwanese literature to Western readers, she has been called the "Guardian Angel of Taiwanese Literature."

Professor Chi was born in Manchuria and grew up during what was the most tumultuous time in modern Chinese history. As a member of the last generation of 20th century China to experience exile and diaspora due to revolution and war, her life is testament to the power of strength, resilience, and hope.

She is, of course, the preeminent expert and interpreter of Taiwanese literature, and has made it her mission to make works of Taiwanese literature available globally.

She translated and edited An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature: 1949-1974, which was published by Taiwan’s National Institute for Compilation and Translation and the University of Washington Press. It was the first of its kind, and it introduced works by Taiwanese authors to the world.

With Professor David Wang of Harvard University, she helped edit the series Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan, which has published nearly 30 books by authors from Taiwan. She also jointly edited with Professor Wang the volume Chinese Literature in the Second Half of the Modern Century, which we are proud was published by Indiana University Press.

It is no exaggeration to say that Professor Chi led the establishment and development of the study of Taiwanese literature as a discipline in global academia.

She was the founding chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at National Chung Hsing University, and, of course, she served for more than a decade on the National Taiwan University faculty.

Over the course of her distinguished career, she also helped establish graduate programs in translation and interpretation at other institutions, and she taught a generation of scholars and translators who benefitted from her kind-hearted mentorship.

After her retirement from the faculty of National Taiwan University, she became editor of The Taipei Chinese PEN, a widely-respected journal that published translations of Taiwanese literary works.

Her 2009 memoir, The Great Flowing River, was an acclaimed best-seller.  The book has subsequently been translated into Japanese, German, Korean, and English. And the book is being taught this semester at Indiana University in at least one course that focuses on advanced language practice with texts in humanities disciplines.

In The Great Flowing River, Professor Chi remembers fondly her time at Indiana University.  She came to the United States in 1967 as a Fulbright Scholar, and taught at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College near Terre Haute, Indiana, which is about an hour away from the Bloomington campus of Indiana University.

Soon thereafter, Professor Chi came to Bloomington to study English and Comparative literature at IU. "The literature classes," at IU, she writes in her memoir, "were among the best in the United States."1

Among the professors under whom she studied was Kenneth Gros Louis, a dedicated scholar known for his writings on medieval and Renaissance literature and history. Professor Gros Louis went on to serve for many years as the chancellor of the Bloomington campus.

Professor Chi was also heavily influenced by Professor Clifford Flanigan, who served as chair of her master’s committee. I understand that one of Professor Chi’s prized possessions is a letter she received from Professor Flanigan 40 years ago informing her that she had passed her M.A. qualifying exam.

Professor Chi writes that, while at IU, she took advantage of every “stolen” moment to study, and she counts her time in Bloomington as among the most rewarding in her life.

Although she did indeed pass her M.A. qualifying exam and was only six credits away from completing her IU degree, Professor Chi needed to return to Taiwan to support her family just as her visa as an exchange scholar was about to expire.

Her experience in Bloomington, however, helped build for her what she called "an academic stairway," built "book by book, climbing upward with every word and sentence I read."2

Indiana University is proud to confer upon her today an extremely well-deserved honorary IU doctor of letters degree in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the world of literature.

We honor her as a great internationalist, who, through her dedicated and painstaking efforts to bring Taiwanese literature to the world, has helped build bridges of international understanding.

And we honor her as a pioneering and visionary scholar of the highest caliber.

I ask Professor Chen Yea-Fen, director of the Chinese Flagship Center at Indiana University, to escort Professor Chi to the podium. IU Vice President for International Affairs, Professor Hannah Buxbaum, will assist.

Professor Chi, in consideration of your lifetime of remarkable achievement, it is entirely fitting that Indiana University recognize your outstanding accomplishments and your service to the world by conferring upon you an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

And so, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the trustees of Indiana University, I am proud to confer on you, with honor, this degree, with all attendant rights and privileges.


Source Notes

1. Chi Pang-yuan, The Great Flowing River: A Memoir of China, from Manchuria to Taiwan, (Columbia University Press, 2018), ProQuest Ebook Central,, 307.

2. Ibid., 311.