At the end of 1992, after five and half years of graduate studies, I obtained both my MA and PH.D. degrees, and hastily left my respected advisor Professor Katheryn Linduff and the University of Pittsburgh. I was returning to Taiwan with an uneasy heart, wary of the unknown challenges that awaited the next phase of my academic life.
In the 20 years since my return, I have been on faculty at Taipei National University of the Arts (TNUA) and at what became Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA), teaching mainly courses on the Art and Archaeology of Ancient China and on the Methods of Art History. During my first year of teaching, in order to prepare for four courses each week, I was working daily almost nonstop from morning through much of the night until one day, overcome by mental and physical strain, I fell ill to acute peritonitis, but luckily escaped death after an emergency operation.
Survival tends to be for the sake of new missions. In 1998, invited by the founding President of the then-Tainan National College of the Arts (TNCA) to develop courses in Chinese antiquities, I left the city of Taipei for rural Tainan to join the nascent Graduate Institute of Art History and Art Criticism. As I was soon to discover, this decision meant not only a change of habitat, but also a major reorientation of my professional functions. Ever since, I stopped being only a teacher, but devoted much energy to different domains of administration for the development of the emergent university. Over the last 14 years, I have served as Director of the University Library, Chair of the Graduate Institute of Art History and Art Criticism, Founding Chair of the Undergraduate Department of Art History, Dean of Student Affairs, Dean of Academic Affairs, Acting President, and Dean of the College of Letters and Cultural Heritage under the University scheme, usually holding down two or more positions concurrently. Among these, the most difficult yet most unforgettable experience was planning and building in 2003 of Taiwan’s first and only undergraduate Department of Art History. The program prepared students for entry into one of our three graduate programs: Art History & Art Criticism, Museology, and Conservation. This task not only tested my training in art history and administration, but turned out to be crucial for the rooting and sustainable development of the discipline of art history in Taiwan.
To date, there have been approximately 200 BA graduates from the Department, and there are also 30 graduates (from TNNUA and TNUA) who have completed their MA or Ph.D degrees under my supervision. Most graduates work or pursue further education in fields related to art history, while some are already teaching art history at universities. As for myself, I continue my yearly research excursions all around China and, if I say so myself, thanks to Professor Katheryn Linduff and Professor Hsu Cho-Yun’s thorough tutelage, I have garnered fruitful results in the study of ancient jades in China as well as East Asia’s Pacific-rim areas. The research has moved the study of Chinese jades forward, spreading more widely the understanding that it is not an either or choice between art history and archaeology, but of working in both fields in an integrated manner.
My dual engagement in research and in education fully reflect the teachings of my alma mater that have endowed me with motivation as well as research and teaching skills. These seminal gifts have strongly influenced the steady growth of the Tree of Art History in Taiwan. And all thanks are due to my beloved teachers Katheryn Linduff and Hsu Cho-Yun, and to the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Pitt!