Washin Kai 2024 Spring Lecture Delivered by Professor Zev Handel

Submitted by Ben Rost on

Dr. Zev Handel, Professor of Chinese Linguistics and Chair of the Department of Asian Languages & Literature, delivered the 2024 Washin Kai Spring Lecture to a packed auditorium on April 3. 

Professor Handel's lecture, titled "Chinese Characters across Asia: Continuity and Transformation in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese," explored how the building blocks of the Chinese script were adapted to represent the words and sounds of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese – languages as different from Chinese as is spoken English. Professor Handel invited the audience to take part in thought experiments in which the Chinese script might be adapted to represent the words and sounds of English – and, from there, demonstrated how similar processes played out over many centuries in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, giving rise to Sinitic – or Chinese-based – writing systems in each of these countries. Finally, Professor Handel brought the discussion into the present day, discussing the fates of the Chinese-based scripts in Korea and Vietnam and why it is that today Japanese is the only one of these languages that still uses Chinese characters in its writing. The talk was followed by a lively Q&A and a small reception.

Professor Paul Atkins delivers introductory remarks at the 2024 Washin Kai spring lecture.

Professor Paul Atkins delivers introductory remarks at the 2024 Washin Kai spring lecture. 

More than two hundred people attended the lecture in person, with another 130 attendees on Zoom. A recording of the lecture can be viewed on the Department of Asian Languages & Literature's YouTube channel.

Previews of the lecture were featured in an interview with Professor Handel in the Northwest Asian Weekly and in an article published in the North American Post. 

Professor Handel's book on the same topic, Chinese Characters across Asia: How the Chinese Script Came to Write Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese, is forthcoming from UW Press in late 2024.

Washin Kai 和心会, also known as Friends of Classical Japanese at UW, was formed in 2018 with a mission of supporting the study of classical Japanese language, literature and culture. Learn more about Washin Kai and read about past and upcoming Washin Kai events

We hope to see you at next year's Washin Kai Spring Lecture, delivered by Dr. Davinder Bhowmik, Professor of Japanese at the Department of Asian Languages & Literature!