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Japanese, US scholars awarded Taiwan's Tang Sinology Prize

Yoshinobu Shiba (L) and Stephen Owen (Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- The 2018 Tang Prize in sinology was awarded Friday to a Japanese scholar and an American academic for their work in Song China economic history and Tang China poetry, respectively.

    Yoshinobu Shiba, a professor emeritus of Osaka University, was honored for his contribution in the area of the economic history of China's Song Dynasty (960-1279).

    He shares the NT$50 million (about $1.65 million) prize with Stephen Owen, a Harvard University professor emeritus who was recognized for his research into Chinese literature of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

    Speaking at the award presentation ceremony held at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Shiba said that he was happy and "deeply moved" that his works are recognized internationally and hoped that the younger generation of scholars will explore the field all the more.

    "Without the encouragement and advice provided by teachers, senior scholars, colleagues and friends, my work would probably not have appeared," Shiba said in English.

    It is the second time for a Japanese national to receive the Tang Prize following Japanese biologist Tasuku Honjo, who shared the prize in bio-pharmaceutical science with a U.S. immunologist in 2014.

    Shiba, 87, was the first Japanese scholar to obtain a doctoral degree in Chinese history after World War II. He is one of the 150 selected lifetime members of the Japan Academy, which aims to advance education and science in Japan.

    The Tang Committee praised his "mastery and depth of insight in Chinese social-economic history achieved through his original theoretical lens that fuses the distinctive fortes of Chinese, Japanese and Western scholarship."

    "He tendered original and pioneering insights into changes since the advent of the Song Dynasty in areas ranging from the rise in production, division of labor, commercial development and its impact in China, and even East Asia," it said.

    Also present at the ceremony, Owen said every recommendation and nomination in this field is a different and legitimate version of some possible vision of this field for the future.

    "Sinology remains deeply grounded in the Han Chinese past while always seeking new ways to keep that past alive for new eras, both the one in which we live now and those to come," he said.

    Owen, 71, is a sinologist and prolific translator specializing in Chinese literature, in particular Tang poetry and comparative poetics.

    He is recognized for "systematically compiling and translating an anthology of representative works that spans 3,000 years of Chinese literature."

    Across his many works, Owen was praised by the Committee for bringing "not only penetrating sinology, but also a breadth of comparative applications and theoretical sophistication that have made his scholarship unique worldwide."

    The biennial Tang Prize awards excellence in research in four categories -- sinology, sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, and rule of law. The winners were announced in June and the award presentation ceremony was held Friday.

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