Activity Report (1995) Preface


THE ASIAN REGION, which encompasses an unparalleled diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, as well as immense human and natural resources, has in recent years experienced extraordinary economic growth. Such growth has both deepened structural interdependencies and influenced the society and culture of each country in many ways. The region still faces numerous problems that it is difficult for any one country to solve on its own and thus require increased mutual collaboration among the region's nations. And rapid social change and globalization have led to a reevaluation of national identities. On balance, there is a trend toward increased levels of mutual collaboration and exchange among the countries of Asia.

Against this background, the Japan Foundation, a semi-governmental organization dedicated to international cultural exchange, founded in 1990 the ASEAN Cultural Center with the purpose of introducing the cultures of Southeast Asia to Japan. The ASEAN Cultural Center carried out public education projects in various fields of the arts, including mounting public exhibits, sponsoring visits of performing arts groups, film showings, and lecture series, and established a library on Southeast Asia open to the public.

In October 1995, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Foundation decided to expand the ASEAN Cultural Center to include other countries of Asia and to add programs to promote intellectual exchange and cultural vitality in the Asian region more generally. This new entity became the Japan Foundation Asia Center (referred to hereafter as the "Asia Center"). The Asia Center comprises two divisions: the Culture and Information Division, which basically takes up the role of the former ASEAN Cultural Center, now expanded, to enhance understanding of Asia among the Japanese people; and the Intellectual Exchange Division, which focuses on promoting intellectual exchange and encouraging cultural vitality in the Asia region.

The primary objectives of the Asia Center are: (1) to promote mutual understanding through dialogue and exchange at various levels of society in the Asian region; and (2) to encourage international collaboration in coping with common problems in the region.

The Asia Center has a flexible variety of modalities for implementing these goals. It can, for instance, initiate projects on its own (the main modality for the Culture and Information Division's programs). Or, it may collaborate in the planning, implementation and administration of projects with other governmental or non-governmental organizations, both within and outside Japan. Finally, it can (through the Intellectual Exchange Division's grants program) provide funds in support of projects that are proposed by organizations in Asian countries in an open grants competition.

This Activity Report lists and describes in two parts the projects and programs that the Asia Center's Intellectual Exchange Division has initiated itself or in collaboration with other organizations and the projects that have been carried out by other organizations in Asia with the support of grants from the Asia Center. All of these activities were carried out in fiscal year 1995 (April 1, 1995 to March- 31, 1996).

ojects Administered by the Asia Center

THE PROJECTS that the Asia Center has initiated and administered, whether by itself or in collaboration with others, are grouped in two large categories: "Intellectual Exchange," by which is meant activities to facilitate dialogue and cooperation among various international partners on a wide variety of topics; and "Cultural Preservation and Vitality," which is concerned not only with preservation as an end in itself, but also with how cultural knowledge is transmitted from one generation to another, and how cultural heritage, whether tangible or intangible, can be interpreted and understood in rapidly changing social contexts. To a certain degree, of course, these two categories can and do overlap; cultural preservation projects can also involve "intellectual exchange" as a matter of course. The second category should, therefore, be seen as representing a particular program emphasis of the Asia Center, at least in this, its first year of operation.

Intellectual Exchange

In 1995, the Asia Center convened two meetings that celebrated or reflected on its own founding, A Message for Mutual Understanding and International Advisory Panel.

Support was initiated for two programs that will be continuing over the next few years, both of which encourage young intellectuals or those in non-profit public service in Japan and other countries of Asia: Asia-Pacific Youth Forum and Fellowships for Leaders of the Next Generation.

The Asia Center takes an especial interest in how the countries of the former Indo-China are coping with rapid social and political change and thus sponsored a meeting, Helping Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as New Members of ASEAN, that will also be the beginning of a series of activities.

Finally, evincing a strong desire to help in the formulation of new paradigms in the study of Asia, and to encourage such study by Asian scholars at Asian institutions, the Asia Center initiated a Support Program for Centers of Asian Studies at three key institutions (Hong Kong University, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, and Indonesian Institute of Sciences) and joined with the Toyota Foundation in administering the Southeast Asian Studies Regional Exchange Program (SEASREP). Both of these programs will continue over the next several years.

Cultural Preservation and Vitality

In its inaugural year, the Asia Center took as a prime area of activity support to help government museums and libraries in Asia meet the challenge of developing their human resources. This involved, in four separate projects, sending Japanese experts abroad and inviting Asian professionals to Japan for study and training: Study Tour for Asian Museum Professionals; Workshop at the National Museum of Bhutan; Research Mission to National Library of Mongolia; and Museum Staff Training Course (in Mongolia).

The role of Asian traditional arts in both the cultural and economic spheres was stressed in a program to bring Asian textile experts to Japan. General issues of cultural preservation and promotion were explored in two other projects, one co-organized with SEAMEO-SPAFA, Use of Audio-Visual Documentation for the Preservation and Promotion of Intangible and Tangible Culture, and the other co-organized with the Tokyo National Institute of Cultural Property, Preservation of Cultural Properties in Asia.

rojects Supported by Asia Center Grants

THROUGH an open grants competition, the Asia Center responds to requests for funding from a variety of organizations, providing grants to cover partial expenses of carrying out international collaborative projects that may involve research or documentation, workshops or conferences, training of human resources, or dissemination of research through print or audio-visual publications.

Although 1995 was the first year of the Asia Center's grant-making, a sizeable number of applications was received and after a process of assessment, evaluation, and recommendation by Japan Foundation staff abroad and in Tokyo, the Foundation's Board agreed to dispense a total of almost \240,000,000 for eighty-two projects that first year.

A summary of each project, the name of the grantee, title of the project, and amount awarded are provided in Part 2 below. Here we shall provide an overview of the kinds of projects that were funded, organized according to the Asia Center's five program priorities. It should be noted that these categories unavoidably overlap and the classification is mainly for purposes of retrospective analysis.

Increasing Mutual Understanding and Tolerance for Diversity

A large proportion of grants fell into this category, many of which were initiated and proposed by institutions in Japan, though all involved substantial collaboration with Asian partners and a focus on regional issues.

Several projects addressed how information is shared and how regional information networks can be developed and strengthened, especially making use of new media technologies, such as the Internet. See, for example, Exchange of Information on the "Information Superhighway" in Asia; Strengthening the Supply of Academic Information in Japan and Thailand; Using the Internet to Promote Collaborative Research; and Creating a Computer-based Asian Studies Information Network for Internet Users.

Under this rubric, too, are included projects that focused on the academic study of Asia broadly conceived, such as Promoting Asian Studies in Asia; Toward a New Framework of Asian Studies; Dialogue of Civilizations Seminar Series; Asian Women's History; Leaders of Modernization in East Asia; Future Academic Dialogue; Asian Traditions of Rice Cultivation; Conference on Asian Sociology; and Sociology of Law [in Asia].

Other projects looked at subregional or bilateral topics such as Transformation in Southeast Asia in the Past 50 Years; Japanese and Korean Literature; Oriental Medical Science and Cultural and Medical Exchanges between Japan and China; Japan-China Forum on Islamic Studies; Prospects for Japan-China Relations; Thai-Burma Studies; and Myanmar Traditions in Current Perspective.

Finally, going beyond purely academic exchanges, this category also includes a project that encouraged exchange between non-profit organizations, Prospects for International Cooperation among Asian Foundations; and two youth exchange projects, 2nd Student APEC Teleclass Conference and Model Asia-Pacific Conference.

Addressing Common Problems Requiring International Cooperation

Projects looking at international relations, trade, or security in the Asia region fall under this rubric. For example, Pursuit of Paradigms in the Asia-Pacific Region; Asia Pan-Pacific Forum for Japan-China; Peace in East Asia; Korea, Japan, China in the 21st Century; New World Order in the Post-Cold War Era in Asia; North America and the Asia-Pacific towards the 21st Century; Perspectives of International Security Framework, Global and Regional; and China and the World Trade Organization.

Several projects focused on issues of governance, democratization, and human rights: Regional Initiative on the UN Decade for Human Rights Education; Reform for a Democratic Asia; Economic Change, Political Pluralism, and Democratic Reform in the Asian Region; and Human Rights and Migration.

Finally, another important issue requiring international cooperation, that of preserving and sustaining the natural environment, was the concern of two projects in this category: Effects of the Urban Environment on Health in Shenyang, Liaoning, China and Cooperation for Regional Sustainability.

Contribution to the Development of an Equitable and Open Society

The end of the Cold War era has brought a rethinking of various economic, political, and legal paradigms. To explore some of the ramifications of such paradigm changes, the Asia Center supported in the above category several projects that look at changes in legal systems in socialist or formerly socialist economic systems: Study Tour to Japan by Vietnamese Researchers to Examine Industrial Development Literature; Changes in Civil Legal Systems Brought by the Introduction of Market Economies in China, Vietnam, and Mongolia; Comparative Studies of Decentralization Reform in China, Japan, and Korea; Japanese Contributions to the Enactment of the Chinese Contract Code; and New Developments in International Trade Law.

The profound changes affecting the Indo-China region were the focus of several projects supported by the Asia Center in 1995: The Japanese Experience and the Development of the Central Region of Vietnam; Reporting on Business, Finance and the Economy; and Exchanging Community Service Programs in the Indochina Region.

Preserving, Documenting, and Increasing Access to Tangible and Intangible Culture

Under this heading, the Asia Center supported efforts to preserve or increase access to historical and literary documents (Preservation of Dunhuang Documents; Basic Literature on Khmer Culture; Traditional Lao Literature); to ensure the transmission of musical traditions (Documentation of Intangible Cultural Property of Central Asia and the Indus Valley; Course in Nha Nhac (Court Music) at Hue National University, Vietnam); to preserve the built environment (Preservation of Architecture in Hanoi, Vietnam; Conservation of the Mausoleum of Emperor Ming Mang in Hue, Vietnam; Asia and West Pacific Network for Urban Conservation; Indonesia's Architectural Heritage; Study of Loulan, Western China; Community-based Conservation and Sustainable Development of the Architectural Heritage [in India]); and to promote and preserve traditional handicrafts (Lao Textiles; Traditional Textiles in Cambodia; Preservation of Thai Handicrafts).

Sustaining the Vitality of Artistic Traditions in Changing Contexts

The projects in this category share some concerns with the previous one-cultural preservation-but the emphasis here is on the links between modern, creative expressions and the region's rich cultural heritage.

Thus, an exhibit and symposium entitled "Roots": Exhibition of Asian Architecture explored what is distinctly Asian about modern Asian architecture. And a symposium held in conjunction with an art installation looked at prospects of collaboration among artists and cultural workers (Asia Edge 1996). Finally, support was given for the Asia volume of the World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theater, which surveys the history of contemporary theater in the region.

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