Japan Sinologist surprised to win Tang Prize

Taipei, A Japanese scholar who was named a winner of the 2018 Tang Prize in Sinology on Wednesday said it never occurred to him he would win a prize with a name that originated from a glorious period of Chinese history and is being awarded by a hub of Chinese culture.

Yoshinobu Shiba was announced as a recipient of the Third Tang Prize award for Sinology for his mastery and in-depth and insightful analysis of Chinese socio-economic history, particularly that of Song China (960-1279).

"I was truly surprised," he said in an interview with CNA. "At first I dared not believe it, but then I thought that for Sinology, my efforts seemed to have been helpful. It makes me very happy. Thank you very much."

Shiba, 88, is the executive librarian of Toyo Bunko, or Oriental Library, a library and research institute in Tokyo dedicated to the study of Asian history and culture. It is one of the five largest centers in the world for Asian studies.

A well-known Chinese history expert in Japan, Shiba was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure (Second Class) by the Japanese government in 2004.

Two years later, he was honored as a Person of Cultural Merit, and in 2017 he was awarded the Order of Culture for his achievements in the research of Chinese history.

He said that in Japan, many branches of knowledge originated from China and only by studying Chinese culture can Japanese gain a full picture of the world.

"In Japan, there are many people who study such fields as Chinese philosophy and Chinese literature," Shiba said. "Without a good knowledge of China, it would be difficult to understand many parts of the Japanese language, literature and history."

His book, "An Inquiry into Commercial Activities during the Song Dynasty," draws on a wealth of official and private historical material to give an account of business development during the Song Dynasty and its impact on society.

The book has earned highly positive reviews by scholars at home and abroad and is seen as a must-read for Western university students and faculty members studying the history of the Song Dynasty.

For Shiba, Sinology has been a lifelong passion and he said he was very pleased to be recognized for his research.

He will share the Tang Prize in Sinology with Stephen Owen of the United States.

A Tang Prize award ceremony is scheduled for September in Taipei.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel