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KVVAK Young Scholars’ Symposium Rethinking Robert van Gulik: New Perspectives and Approaches

We are delighted to welcome you to this one-day symposium, the third in the series of KVVAK Young Scholars’ Symposia. We have entitled the symposium ‘Rethinking Robert van Gulik’, because all of today’s presenters bring new perspectives and approaches to a subject that continues to fascinate. Robert van Gulik (1910 – 1967), or Gāo Luópèi 髙羅佩 as he is known in China,  appears to us in many guises: some see him mainly as a diplomat or collector of Chinese art; some know him for his scholarly writings on the zither (qin) or on sexual life in ancient China; others know him as the author of the famous Judge Dee detective stories.

Today’s presenters all shed new light on Van Gulik. Koos Kuiper will show us a pair of scrolls with calligraphy by Van Gulik, and discusses their meaning by looking at their seal imprints. Marc Gilbert opens a box full of lute-related materials for us, revealing a view of Van Gulik’s personal friendships. Gung Man seeks to assert new order over the collection of calligraphy and paintings owned by Van Gulik. Karwin Cheung will focus on a private trip Van Gulik made to Korea in 1949, to discuss the blending of private and public that characterised Van Gulik’s life. Shi Ye revisits Van Gulik’s Sexual Life in Ancient China by way of material culture. Paramita Paul will explore the role of Buddhism in the Judge Dee mysteries, while Hu Xuejiao discusses the many genres in which the Judge Dee books have been reimagined. Finally, Meimei Zhang sheds new light on Van Gulik’s zither by talking about its musical rival: the zheng.

This event would not have been possible without the help of numerous individuals and organizations. They include the Royal Society of Asian Art in the Netherlands (Koninklijke Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst, KVVAK), Ikigai (KVVAK’s young professionals network), the Rijksmuseum, and the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Stichting. The event is also supported by the Chair of Asian Art, in turn sponsored by the KVVAK, the HWS, the Isaac Ailion Foundation, the Stichting tot Bevordering van de Studie van China aan de Universiteit Leiden and the Jan Menze van Diepenstichting. We are especially grateful for the generous support of the late Jan Maarten Boll, Pauline Kruseman, and the Van Gulik Estate.


Time: April 9, 2021 01:00 PM Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna – 13:00 hrs. CEST
Join Online Meeting: ZOOM
Meeting ID: 623 3456 1881
Passcode: hMHU6@CA


Also available in PDF

12.45 hrs. Online walk in by Zoom

13.00 hrs. Welcome by Anne Gerritsen (Professor Chair of Asian Art Leiden University, KVVAK), Eline van den Berg (Ikigai, Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics) and Thomas van Gulik (Van Gulik Estate)

13.15 hrs. PANEL 1

 Chair Menno Fitski (Rijksmuseum Amsterdam)

Robert van Gulik’s Chinese seals and his hand scroll with seal imprints: recent gifts from the Van Gulik Family to the Rijksmuseum
Koos Kuiper (Leiden University Library)

Opening Van Gulik’s music box: scores, friendship and other goodies.
Marc Gilbert (Leiden University Library)

Robert van Gulik’s Collection of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting
Kung Man (Christie’s, Hong Kong)

The art of diplomacy: Robert van Gulik’s art collection in the context of his diplomatic career
Karwin Cheung (National Museums Scotland)

14.25 hrs. Q&A moderated by Menno Fitski

14.40 hrs. Tea break

15.15 hrs. PANEL 2

Chair Willemijn van Noord (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen/Museum Volkenkunde)

The Significance of Robert van Gulik’s Works on Ancient Chinese Sexual Life: A Material Culture Perspective
Shi Ye 施曄 (Shanghai Normal University)

Of Temple Phantoms and Bell Murders: Images of Buddhism in the Judge Dee Mysteries and the ‘Oriental Idol’ in the 20th century
Paramita Paul (Amsterdam University College)

Judge Dee’s transgeneric journey: Chinese translation and adaptation of Robert van Gulik’s Judge Dee Novels
Hu Xuejiao (Shanghai International Studies University)

Classicizing the Qin琴by Debasing its Rival: The Literary Construction of the Zheng箏 from the Wei-Jin through the Song Periods
Meimei Zhang (Occidental College, Los Angeles)

16.35 hrs. Q&A moderated by Willemijn van Noord

16.50 hrs. Wrap-up by Anne Gerritsen

17.00 hrs. Closing