On Saturday, March 22, 2008, the 5th SIA-DAY was held. This year’s event focused on Shanghai cultures with the theme of “Living is Eating – Shanghai Power Undergoing Rapid Growth.” The event hall, designed to look like a café in the historic Xin Tian Di district in Shanghai, was packed with approximately 170 students and general visitors.
SIA, which stands for Soaked in Asia, is a project led by Ms. Nobuko Takagi, an award winning novelist and special guest professor at Kyushu University Asia Center. The goal of the SIA project is to “widely introduce contemporary Asian cultures as seen and felt by novelists.” The past four SIA events featured the cultures of the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia respectively.
The 5th SIA-DAY events included a lecture on the cuisine of Shanghai, a modern city undergoing rapid growth, but one that still retains vestiges of its pre-war era of foreign concessions. The events also included a recital of “Xie Qiuniang, Forever,” a short novel depicting a beautiful but icy woman. It was penned by Ms. Pan Xiangli, who has a reputation as one of the most outstanding writers in contemporary China. This was followed by a recital of “Throw,” a short novel written by Professor Takagi and inspired by Ms. Xiangli’s novel. The day also featured three photodysseys – essays accompanied by photographs - about Shanghai. During a break, an event called “Snack SIA” was held, in which participants were offered glutinous rice sesame balls and other sesame-based Chinese sweets. Starting from the 4th SIA-DAY, attendance at the SIA can be counted for credit in the Kyushu University graduate course common curriculum. As part of this, after attending the SIA event, graduate students from various departments engaged in a heated discussion, led by Professor Takagi.
Overall, the event ended as a great success, as evidenced by the responses to the survey conducted after the event. Comments included:
“I am quite impressed with the highly successful approach to understanding the whole picture of Shanghai by focusing on women and local cuisine”
“Professor Takagi’s lecture was both interesting and inspiring: it encouraged me to live a more active and free life as a woman, and motivated me to visit Shanghai someday.”
The two novels recited during the event can be seen in the monthly literature magazine “Shincho” (2008 April issue), published at the same time as the SIA-DAY event, and the photodysseys will appear soon in “Bungei Shunju” magazine. A report of the event is available at WEB SIA (http://blog.goo.ne.jp/wensia), along with photographs.
What is SIA (Soaked in Asia)?
To love beyond Understanding
SIA is a project of the Kyushu University Asia Center initiated by an award winning writer, Takagi Nobuko to interact with Asia through literature. Takagi selects the short story from Asia, visit the country to have a dialogue with the writers to get herself “soaked” in Asia, and shares what her sensitivity had grasped. Literature is one of the powerful tools which enable us to think of what ordinary people in Asia dream, desire, antagonize and cherish. Literary works convey intimate feelings that we can sense at the bottom of our heart and allow us to capture the world that may go beyond logical explanations. SIA sees literature not merely as art form or entertainment but rather as carrier for ‘information of heart and soul’ and undertake literary exchange with the writers in Asia. When the life of an individual in today’s Asia was narrated as a ‘story’, those on the receiving end can vividly visualize the world and think about them more personally and affectionately. Using the inspiration and insight gained from the interaction with Asian writers, Takagi writes her short story and essay and shares her ideas through multiple of media such as public forum, print and visual media and internet.