Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
So far our readers have responded favorably to the new journal and its "unpretentious" title." Road to East Asia tells me precisely where I am going," says a reader in Toronto, Ontario. "The destination is not Malaysia, which is in Southeast Asia, or India, which is in South Asia, or . . . Turkey!"
Two Montrealers like the title for similar reasons. "It promises a pleasurable trip to a distant land," says Ghislaine Pharand, a literacy promoter. "For me, trips and sweets are the best things in life." Greg Marcotte, staff at the Quebec government, thinks it offers a gateway to new experiences. "Cela me cappelle le film A Passage to India," he says, "and I enjoyed watching that film."
Gail Ogilvie, staff at the municipal government of Edmonton, Alberta, notes that the essays deliver what the title promises -- a journey to discover China in this issue, and Japan as well as Korea in later issues. "I appreciate the writers' imagination and scholarship," she says. "Lucidly written by students rather than experts, the journal provides a fresh approach to materials which otherwise would have been less engrossing to me."
Vivian Casper, professor of English at Texas Woman's University, is also impressed by the writers. "Road to East Asia is interesting," she says. "The students seem earnest, and they write well."
As yet Richard Wilbur, American poet laureate and Pulitzer prizewinner, has not surfed the net. "I don't have a computer, and the Internet is only a rumor to me," he writes, "but I have enjoyed looking at [the] students' imaginative responses to Liu Binyan's A Higher Kind of Loyalty." Printouts of the articles were made available to Wilbur.
Meanwhile the articles on Liu Binyan remind Pharand of human rights violations in foreign countries although she is baffled by the plethora of names. She lauds "the sense of poetry," especially the kite image used by Liu. "The kites fly freely in the open sky, going wherever they please, in direct contrast to the incarceration of human beings."
Although Linda Jaivin is not "wildly impressed" by "predictable old Liu" as he is portrayed in one of the interviews, she thinks "his heart's in the right place." Based in new South Wales, Jaivin is an American China hand, who has been following Liu Binyan's career for more than a decade.
Huguette Fontaine, however, is intrigued by the dissident journalist. "The interview is very informative and full of details that we do not find in newspapers," she says. "It is interesting to learn more about the people who have the courage to defy the communist authorities and to open a window of hope to the Chinese people." Fontaine, a translator at Zurich Canada, thinks East Asian Literature reflects the region's way of life and its philosophies. "They will be very important in the next century," she adds. "The journal gives me some knowledge of a world I always want to explore."
A few respondents caution us against undue bias. "Let us not confuse the issues," writes an anonymous reader, who cites human rights violations worldwide that he or she deems equally outrageous or more deplorable than the 1989 killings in Beijing. "This is not at all to justify what happened in Tiananmen Square, but just to help see things in perspective."
Sinologist Geremie Barme of Australian National University also sounds a cautionary note. "Congratulations on your journal," he says. "Very exciting stuff. Hope your journal takes something of a more skeptical view of the literary luminary of China. Have you seen The Gate of Heavenly Peace?This film should give you some food for thought. I think it adds a few much-needed complicating factors to the discussion of Chinese culture." He is the main writer and an associate director of the film.
In response, a student at the University of Toronto, who demonstrated in Hong Kong during the Tiananmen incident, says it is distinctly different from other human rights violations such as ethnic cleansing. "The 1989 killings show that the government can be dangerously self-destructive," she says. "It is like murdering one's own children, regardless of the number of deaths, and destroying China's future."
Politics aside, our readers offer comments on the literary and other aspects of the journal. Laurie Kern, a librarian at International Christian School in Hong Kong, says Road to East Asia is "an interesting resource" for her. "I'm glad to have discovered your web page," Kern writes. "I am always on the lookout for Asian literature in English. Thanks for your efforts -- keep up the good work."
At York University, both Professor Marianne Kelly, academic advisor of Founders College, and Professor Patrick Taylor of Caribbean studies have sent words of encouragement. Kelly says, "What great work you're doing on the WEB with your students." Taylor praises the journal as "an excellent class project" and a "creative approach to East Asian literature in English," which is likely to generate lively discussions in the works the students are reading. "I am also impressed at the way this Web page has been constructed," he adds. "It provides a very good forum for the electronic publication of student work. It also provides training in writing, editing, and computers."
Other readers send their compliments on the journal's physical appearance. "Looks great," says James Hynes, who teaches Internet courses at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto. "Impressive," writes Rob Symthe, who monitors a computer lab at the University of Toronto. "The details to the coding of these pages are an excellent example of how to do HTML editing."
Jim Borland commends "the uncluttered look" of the journal. "I was interested to see it on the World Wide Web," says the manager and editor of Nickel Development Institute. "As a novice to the Internet, I found it a good example of the wealth of information available through my computer. I have placed it on my list of 'bookmarks' so that I can revisit it. When I first looked it up, I scanned it and turned to Michael Kociuba's article 'Tribute to Humanism: 1957 Revisited' because of the introductory paragraph on your table of contents -- perhaps the reference to the [Milwaukee Braves] caught my eye."
As well, Leon Comber of Monash University and Vivienne Monty, a librarian at York University, have sent their congratulations. "My very best wishes for your continued success," says Comber, who is managing editor of Asian Studies Review, published by the Asian Studies Association of Australia. "Great stuff," says Monty. "Have bookmarked it for Scott library. Keep up the good work."
John Cayley of Wellsweep Press in London, England, asks us to link our journal to their site. (See Useful Links on Homepage of this journal.) "I've just published two books by Yang Lian, one of the more prominent Misty poets," he writes. "He is coming to live in the United Kingdom for a time."
Some of the readers write to us for information on East Asian literature. Larry Ousley, on behalf of a college student, asks about Tomioka Taeko. I happened to have interviewed her in the big-budget cultural festival Horizonte '85 in West Berlin a decade ago. Now 60, Tomioka is a leading poet and fiction writer in Japan, who tends to probe the psyche of abandoned women. The story "Family in Hell," for example, is modelled on her marriage to the famous Japanese painter Mazuo Ikeda. He took her with him to America and then left her. For further details, please consult the volume of Japanese literature in English published by Japan's Pen Club.
David Kelly of Australian Defence Force Academy, who teaches an introductory college course on Korean politics, seems appreciative of our literary approach. "This is a very promising location," he says. "Please keep it up. . . . Can your members help me create a set of readings using fiction, biography, etc. to supplement the standard academic political science material?" We recommend Flowers of Fire: Twentieth-Century Korean Stories , edited by Peter Lee (University of Hawaii Press, 1986). The second issue of Road to East Asia , due out in March, will feature discussions on selected pieces from this anthology as well as on Booker prizewinner Kazuo Ishiguro's A Pale View of Hills, which is set in Nagasaki shortly after the atomic holocaust.
On behalf of our writers and editors, I would like to thank all our readers for their comments, compliments, and constructive criticisms. This report will be updated regularly as new responses reach us.
Copyright © 1996 by the author. Information from this article should be attributed to the author.