International Symposium: Arts of the Ryūkyū Kingdom (14-15 December 2018)

General information

The symposium will take place at the University of Zurich on 

Friday, 14th and Saturday, 15th December 2018 in room HAH-E-11
(University of Zurich, Häldeliweg 2, 8044 Zurich)

The symposium is free and open to the public, no prior registration is necessary. 

Presentations will be held in Japanese and in English. Texts in English will be supplied for presentations given in Japanese. 

For questions, please contact the Section for East Asian Art:

Symposium abstract

The islands between China and Japan have long been embroiled in a sea of multiple identities, lasting into the present. A few of these islands, an archipelago that was called, at various points in time, the Loochoo Islands, the Ryūkyū Kingdom, and recently Okinawa, have been enmeshed in a complex mix of multiple identities throughout their history, resulting in a complex and controversial understanding of their arts and culture. The arts of these islands have been described as 1) expressions of a distinctly Japanese tradition, 2) as resulting from a mixture of Japanese and Chinese traditions, or 3) as a distinct culture of its own with receptions from other neighboring cultures. The works of arts in this symposium will be examined from these conflicting parameters in order to explore the questions of cultural heritage and national identities.

Themes of the symposium

The symposium on Ryūkyū and Okinawa arts is organized by the University of Zurich in collaboration with the Museum der Kulturen, Basel (MKB). It is part of a multi-year project between the two institutions that is based on the remarkable collection of Ryūkyū textiles in the collection of the MKB. The university, the museum, and Japanese researchers from Okinawa have been examining the museum's textile collection in a survey to be completed in 2018. This symposium marks a milestone in the project, and will be followed by major exhibitions in Japan and at the MKB.

The symposium features experts from Japan, USA and Europe and will be held over three days. The first two days will feature presentations at the University of Zurich, and are open for both scholars and members of the public to attend. The third day (limited to speakers and panel chairs) will be held at the MKB in Basel and will include the viewing of the Ryūkyūan textiles in the museum storage.

The symposium examines topic such as:

  • The history, tradition, and techniques of the Ryūkyūan textiles
  • History of the Ryūkyū Kingdom and Okinawa
  • Comparisons to textiles from other cultures
  • Alfred Bühler, Jaap Langwiess, and the collection’s provenance

Symposium program, Friday 14th December

9:30 – 10:00      Registration

10:00 – 10:15    Welcome from the University of Zurich (UZH) Organizers
Prof. Dr. Hans Bjarne Thomsen (Section for East Asian Art, UZH)
                          with Natasha Fischer-Vaidya, PhD Candidate (Section for East
                          Asian Art, UZH)

10:15 – 12:15    Panel 1: Ryūkyū /Okinawa History and Documents
                          Chair: Prof. Dr. Hans Bjarne Thomsen (UZH)

10:15 – 10:55    Ayumi Harada, Curator, Kyushu National Museum
                          「琉球 アジアの海と海上交易」
                          “Ryūkyū: The Asian Ocean and Maritime Trade”
                          Abstract (PDF, 125 KB)

10:55 – 11:35    Prof. Dr. Shinichi Aso, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts
                          “Kamakura Yoshitarō and the Culture of Ryūkyū and Okinawa”
                          Abstract (PDF, 103 KB)

11:35 – 12:15    Dr. Amanda Mayer Stinchecum, Independent Scholar, Brooklyn,
                          New York, USA
                          「作られた伝統」、伝承、歴史: 八重山ミンサー、ティサージ、
                          “Invented tradition, Legend, and History: Yaeyama Minsaa, Tiisaaji,
                          and the Spiritual Power of Women” 
                          Abstract (PDF, 40 KB)

12:15 – 14:00    Lunch Break

14:00 – 15:20    Panel 2: Collections of Ryūkyū/Okinawa Textiles
                          Chair: Sabine Bradel, PhD Candidate (Section for East Asian Art,                                   UZH)

14:00 – 14:40    Prof. Dr. Hans Bjarne Thomsen, Section for East Asian Art,                                           University of Zurich
                          “Ryūkyū and Okinawa Textile Collections through Western
                          Abstract (PDF, 32 KB)

14:40 – 15:20    Ichiko Yonamine, Chief Curator, Okinawa Prefectural Museum &
                          Art Museum
                          「沖縄の染織 -紅型の発生について-」
                          “Textiles of Ryūkyū: The Background of Bingata Dyeing”
                          Abstract (PDF, 83 KB)

15:20 – 15:50    Coffee Break

15:50 – 16:30    Keynote Speech
                          Prof. Dr. Yoshikuni Yanagi, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts
                          “Okinawan Textiles with Woven Patterns at the Japan Folk Crafts
                          Abstract (PDF, 99 KB)

16:30 – 17:00    Welcoming Speeches
                          Prof. Dr. Christian Schwarzenegger, Vice President Faculty Affairs    
and Scientific Information (University of Zurich)
                          Minister Katsuya Ikkatai (Japanese Embassy)
                          and others

17:00 ~              Reception, Häldeliweg 2, 8044 Zürich

Symposium program, Saturday 15th December

10:00 – 12:00   Panel 3: Ryūkyū/Okinawa Textile Collection of the Museum der
                         Kulturen, Basel 

                         Chair: Alessandra Lardelli, PhD Candidate (Section for East
                         Asian Art, UZH)

10:00 – 10:40   Minako Hirata, Research Associate, Okinawa Prefectural
                         University of Arts
                         「Museum Der Kulturen Basel 所蔵の紅型について」
                         “The Bingata Textiles of the Museum der Kulturen”
                         Abstract (PDF, 85 KB)

10:40 – 11:20   Prof. Dr. Setsuko Nitta, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts
                         「Museum Der Kulturen Basel 所蔵の沖縄織物について」
                         “Okinawa Textiles with Woven Patterns in the Collection of the
                         Museum der Kulturen”
                         Abstract (PDF, 99 KB)

11:20 – 12:00   Stephanie Lovász, Curator, Museum der Kulturen, Basel
                         “Provenance of the Okinawa Textiles in the Collection of the Museum
                         der Kulturen in Basel”
                         Abstract (PDF, 39 KB)

12:00 – 13:30   Lunch Break

13:30 – 15:30   Panel 4: Lacquer, Ceramics and Documents in Ryūkyū/Okinawa
                         Chair: Jonas Rüegg, PhD Candidate (Harvard University)

13:30 – 14:10   Prof. Shigeru Tōma, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts
                         “Regarding the Decorating Techniques and Restoration of the
                         Ryūkyūan Lacquer Arts”
                         Abstract (PDF, 115 KB)

14:10 – 14:50   Yōko Yamada, Curator, Naha City Museum of History
                         “Ryūkyū Kingdom Shō Family Records in the Collection of Naha City
                         Museum of History”
                         Abstract (PDF, 133 KB)

14:50 – 15:30   Tarō Kuranari, Curator, Naha City Museum of History
                         “History and Special Characteristics of Okinawa Ceramics”
                         Abstract (PDF, 103 KB)

15:30 – 16:00   Coffee Break

16:00 – 18:00   Panel 5: Case Studies in Object-Based Research on
                         Chair: Alina Martimyanova, PhD Candidate, (Section for East
                         Asian Art, UZH)

16:00 – 16:40   Jonas Rüegg, Harvard University
                         "Pictograms and Knot-Ropes: Administrative Records in the
                         Borderlands of Early Modern Ryūkyū”
                         Abstract (PDF, 31 KB)

16:40 – 17:20   Tessa Meier, University of Zurich
                         “Object Description of a Ryūkyūan Textile”
                         Abstract (PDF, 36 KB)

17:20 – 18:00   Maria Stepanova, University of Zurich
                         “As Seen on Woodblock Prints: Banana Fiber Bashō-fu from Museum
                         der Kulturen Basel”
                         Abstract (PDF, 41 KB)

18:00 ~             Dinner for speakers and staff

The symposium is organized by the Section for East Asian Art, University of Zurich and the Museum der Kulturen Basel, and is supported by the Swiss-Japanese Society, the University of Zurich Foundation (Hochschulstiftung), the Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies, the European Association for Asian Art and Archaeology, the Museum der Kulturen Basel, and anonymous donors.

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