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THE T'ANG STUDIES SOCIETY FOUNDATION AND FUTURE PROSPECTS Christopher I. Beckwith. Treasurer Indiana University Although I have been interested in one or another aspect of the T'ang period in East Asia for exactly twenty years now. it was only around six or seven years ago that I first felt the lack of a scholarly society or newsletter devoted to T'ang studies. It appeared that Western scholarly societies or newsletters had been organized for nearly all major periods of Chinese history except one--the T'ang. This fact--rather surprising in face of the widespread interest in the literature and art of the period--brought me to suggest to several colleagues the creation of a newsletter. While all approved of the excellence of such an idea. no one actually took it very seriously. Then. a few years later. Dr. Larry Clark. a colleague involved in Altaic studies. produced the first issue of the Manchu Studies Newsletter. which was met with an overwhelmingly positive response. Unfortunately, the whole project was a one-man operation, and without assistance--editorial, organizational, or financial--he has found it very difficult, if not impossible, to produce further issues. This lesson caused me to rethink my previous idea of producing a newsletter by myself. In the summer of last year the spirit moved me to conceive the idea of attempting or organize a society devoted to T'ang Studies. After consulting with several interested friends. I asked the advice of my colleague Professor Friedrich Bischoff. He made several excellent suggestions. and eventually I decided--not without second thoughts--to go through with the idea. With the cooperation of the Association for Asian Studies, and particularly of Carol Jean Johnson. the Administrative Officer in charge of the annual meeting of the A.A.S., an organizational meeting was arranged for April 3, 1982, in Chicago. At our first meeting, the minutes of which are summarized in this issue of T'ang Studies, the T'ang Studies Society was formed, officers were elected, and the nature of the Society's publications was discussed. In addition to the idea of a periodical. T'ang Studies. that of a publication or series of publications of another sort seems to have been well received. Howe~er, the attendees could not agree on the organization of the latter type of publication, although it seems clear that most of the discussants assumed it should he a reference tool. Since there was some uncertainty as to what exactly I had in mind by raising the subject of an encyclopedia, I would like to discuss that question briefly here. Interest in the T'ang period is so broad that it is 6 already nearly impossible for anyone person to keep up with all of the specialized scholarship that has been and is being produced. On the other hand, there is no general reference tool available to laymen or to researchers working in any area of Tlang studies. Thus I proposed that the Society consider the production of an encyclopedic work along the lines of the Dictionary of Ming Biography, but including geographical and possibly bibliographical information as well. Now, it is manifestly obvious that the Society does not at present have the resources to produce such a work, However, the point which I attempted to make was that any publication of an ambitious nature needs much thought and planning. I.e., the earlier we begin to think about such a project, the better. Of course it may be possible for the Society to not begin publishing short monographs in the near future, but in my opinion it is not necessarily a desirable course of action. Monographs are not less costly to publish than encyclopedia fascicles, and in any case both types of publication would require outside subventions. (The possibility of the Society cooperating for this purpose with other organizations devoted to T'ang studies should be considered.) In short, if mernbers of the Society could spend a little time over the next few years speculating about the nature of an encyclopedic reference tool for T'ang studies, when the chance comes for us to actually do something we will be ready. Finally I...


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