[Lecture Briefing] New approaches to the humanities
[Lecture Briefing] New approaches to the humanities
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.12.03 00:00
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  Lee O-young, a member of the Ewha Academy for Advanced Studies and a former Minister of Culture & Tourism, gave a series of three lectures titled, "Comparing the Cultures of Korea, China and Japan - Geographical Point of View" on November 2, 3, and 16 at the Ewha-Shinsegae Building.


  The first lecture focused on hwatoo (traditional Asian cards). Lee began by saying, if the humanities do not change their paradigms and ways of research, they will cease to exist. He used hwatoo, which originated from Japan and transmitted to Korea, to describe the cultural differences between Korea and Japan as an example of how to approach the humanities differently.


  Lee said that each image on cards could be considered as a meme; that is, a sort of social ideological gene subject selection by society in the same way as  biological genes are subject to natural selection. "By looking at the differences on hwatoo cards, we can read how the images and symbols of the plants and animals have changed along with the culture interaction between Korea and Japan throughout the history," said Lee.


  The second lecture was titled Saehansamwoo, meaning the pine tree, bamboo flower, and plum blossom, so-called three friends of winter. During the lecture, Lee discussed the concepts of homogeneity with reference to the book Fraternite which is written by Jacques Athalie, a French culture critic.


According to Jacque Athalie, if the three countries of Northeast Asia can find a common cultural text, its interpretation will allow Northeast Asia to become a homogeneous cultural region and allow the integration of Northeast Asian cultures to proceed in a positive way.


  Lee concluded that the symbol that can unite Northeast Asia is the plum blossom. "The plum blossom is shared by all three cultures. Although it is interpreted differently in each culture, it is the symbol of Asia, something which does not exist in other cultures," said Lee.


  Lee's last lecture looked at the modern civilization of Northeast Asia seen through the traditional game of rock, scissors and paper. Lee said that the game helps us understand the meaning of changeable cycles in life. "Rock beats scissors; scissors beats paper; paper beats rock. In this game, nobody wins, but it is changing endlessly; everyone is best and worst at it," said Lee.


  "And the beauty of rock, scissors, and paper is in the dynamic way the hand changes its shape. One hand can show a full cycle, like the variation of seasons. Deep philosophy lies in this simple game." Lee speculated that the game itself may well reflect Asian philosophy, and that studying rock, scissors and paper could be another new approach to the humanities.


by Ko Eun-hye


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