On April 11th, 2016, Stanford University Professor Ban Wang conducted a lecture entitled “Love and Passion in Chinese Film” at the College of William & Mary. Wang was invited to speak by the William & Mary Confucius Institute as part of the Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series, which aims to invite one eminent and nationally acclaimed expert in various fields of Chinese Studies to campus each year. The Scholar is encouraged to interact with faculty, staff and students and enhance campus knowledge about China and Chinese culture.
Professor Wang currently holds the title of the William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies in East Asian Languages and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Before that, he served as the Yangtze River Scholar at East China Normal University from 2010-2013. Over the course of his career, Prof. Wang has written and edited many books on Chinese culture and art, specifically concerning the intersections between east-west cultural relations, aesthetics, cinema, and international politics.
The lecture utilized Chinese film imagery to discuss the tension between individual and collective love and passion versus the idealism, community, and hardships found in China when the films were made. Wang emphasized the narrow difference between passion and love—one is fiery and full of emotion, the other intentional and communicated—that is represented in Chinese cinema. The two are opposites, but intrinsically linked, and often work together to ignite relationships in Chinese cinema. The brief scenes from the films he showed reflected the insights Wang provided about cultural values of love during the 30s- 60s in China.
A question and answer session followed the lecture, in which students and faculty posed many insightful questions to Professor Wang, showing their interest and engagement in the subject matter. Many lingered after the lecture to continue the discussion over refreshments during the reception that followed.
The day after the lecture, Wang participated in a Junior and Senior Scholars colloquium, organized by Professor Calvin Hui of the Chinese Studies program. Scholars of Chinese Studies from the Virginia area presented their works-in-progress on Chinese socialist literature, film, and cultures and the group held discussions, critiques, and encouraging talks between the scholars.
The lecture drew a crowd of around sixty people, filling the small lecture space of Blow Hall 201. The audience consisted of American students and Chinese International students, faculty, and community members from as far as Richmond. The Distinguished Scholar Lecture series is expected to continue next year.