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ASIA KUNGLUN – Cross-border forum created by international students

Chi Hsufeng
Researcher (Associate Professor), Organization for Regional and Inter-regional Studies, Waseda University

Forum for Asian intellectuals from a corner of Tokyo

Waseda University, where over 5,000 international students study today, has about a 130-year history of proactively accepting students from different parts of Asia, many of whom have played important roles in a broad range of fields after graduation. Some of these students are known to have engaged in exchanges with intellectuals concerned about Asia, through writing and participating in association activities while in university. One of the most prominent examples is the monthly magazine THE ASIA KUNGLUN, first issued in May 1922 in midst of the Taisho Democracy.

[Figure 1] Cover of the inaugural issue
[Figure 2] Contents of the inaugural issue

Source (Figures 1 and 2): "20-seiki Nihon no Ajia kankei jūyō kenkyū shiryō: Ajia kōron/Daitō kōron (THE ASIA KUNGLUN and THE ORIENT REVIEW)" (Reprinted edition), Ryuukei Shosha, 2008

Ryu Taegyeong, a Korean in Tokyo, founded THE ASIA KUNGLUN, which was epoch-making in the sense that "three different languages (Author's note: Japanese, Chinese and Korean) were used in one magazine.” The magazine created a space for more international students and intellectuals from different parts of Asia to express their opinions. In this regard, THE ASIA KUNGLUN can be considered as an example of a "horizontal network" extending beyond ethnicity, as described as follows: "THE ASIA KUNGLUN was, albeit for a short period of time, a forum for writers from different origins and backgrounds, not only Japanese but also Korean, Taiwanese, Chinese and Indian, to express their views (Kenichi Goto, 2008)." Another distinct feature was that THE ASIA KUNGLUN envisioned "awakening the people of Asia with humanism" as its immediate goal, setting itself apart from the Pan-Asianism ideology based on the premise of Japan's dominance over the region.

Waseda-school intellectuals and THE ASIA KUNGLUN

The contributors to THE ASIA KUNGLUN included not only some of Japan's most renowned intellectuals, such as Yukio Ozaki, Tsunego Baba, Toshihiko Sakai, Ryusuke Miyazaki and Tatsuji Fuse, but also many prominent figures from other Asian countries, like Dai Jjitao, Rash Behari Bose, Cai Peihuo and Hwang Seogu. Another characteristic was that many people associated with Waseda University (faculty members, alumni and international students), including Tanzan Ishibashi, Isoo Abe, Ikuo Oyama, Kojiro Sugimori, Sakusaburo Uchigasaki, Tetsuro Sakamoto and Hidenori Takatsuji published lots of articles in the magazine, beginning from the inaugural issue.

[Figure 3] Location of THE ASIA KUNGLUN Head Office (24 Tsurumaki-cho, Waseda, near the present-day Tsurumaki-Minami Park)

Source: "Ko-chizu Gendai-zu de Aruku Meiji Taisho Tokyo Sanpo (Walk in Tokyo with Old and Present Maps)," edited and published by Jinbunsha Co., Ltd., 2003

Why was it that so many people related to Waseda contributed to the magazine? One reason was that the Waseda area, in which Waseda University is located, had been a place attracting young political activists, groups of advocates and publishers ever since the time when the University had still been called Tokyo Senmon Gakko (Tokyo College). In fact, the head office of THE ASIA KUNGLUN relocated from its original location in Nakameguro to 24 Tsurumaki-cho, Waseda (near the present-day Tsurumaki-Minami Park). This geographical factor is considered as a reason why many intellectuals and international students from Waseda University wrote for the magazine. Those who wrote in the magazine as international students included Lee Sangsu and Baek Namhun from Korea, Zhang Changyan and Tang Heyi from China, and Wang Minchuan and Huang Chengcong from Taiwan, all of whom graduated from the Department of Political Science and Economics (graduate and undergraduate courses). Besides these international students studying at Waseda University, many international students from other universities also wrote for the magazine, for example, Dai Jjitao mentioned above (he left Nippon University before finishing his course) and Fu Liyu (Meiji University).

International students on the realities of their respective countries, real-time

Waseda University’s international students wrote articles for the magazine in Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Many of them reflected the problems faced by their home countries and the realities of anti-Japan protests at the time. For example, Tang Heyi published his opinion under the title "Pai-ri (`Anti-Japan’ in Chinese, Vol. 1-5)" in the 1920s, when China was facing serious situations, such as the Warlord Era and anti-Japan protests. In the article, he analyzed the reasons behind the Anti-Japan sentiment in China and urged Japanese readers to join forces with Chinese people to promote understanding and friendship between the two countries. While students from China called for an equal China-Japan relationship, the interest of contributors from Taiwan, which was under the Japanese occupation like Korea, was focused on eliminating inequality between mainland Japan and Taiwan. Given the fact that the realities of the Japanese rule of Taiwan were hardly reported by mainland Japanese media in those days, THE ASIA KUNGLUN was perhaps one of the precious and rare media outlets that allowed Taiwanese people to expose the realities of such inequality to mainland Japanese people.

Aiming to be more open for intellectual discussions

Despite these harsh censorship imposed by the Japanese authorities, THE ASIA KUNGLUN continued to provide opportunities for intellectuals from different parts of Asia to have discussions with each other on equal grounds. It aimed to be a forum for sharing and embracing the diversity of Asia, despite nationality, ethnicity or class. These international students began to establish direct and indirect interactions and partnerships between their counterparts. With Japanese people, they used THE ASIA KUNGLUN as a platform for intellectual exchanges, resulting in the gradual formation of one large network.

It has been more than 70 years since World War II has ended. However, the people of Asia are still facing various historical and political issues that remain unsolved to this day, sometimes as "visible barriers" and other times as "invisible barriers." One possible action that could be taken to make a difference is to create a grassroots forum for a more positive and open-minded discussion under the leadership of international students. THE ASIA KUNGLUN, which transcended the boundaries of different languages, ethnic groups, schools and nations, has given us hints as to what we can do.

Chi Hsufeng
Researcher (Associate Professor), Organization for Regional and Inter-regional Studies, Waseda University

Chi was born in Tainan City, Taiwan. He obtained his doctoral degree from the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies (Ph.D.) at Waseda University. He is serves as a researcher (Associate Professor) at the Organization for Regional and Inter-regional Studies, Waseda University, and a part-time instructor at Tokyo Woman's Christian University and the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo. He is an expert on the history of international students and Japan-Taiwan relations.

[Major publications]
Author: "Taisho-ki Taiwan-jin no Nippon Ryugaku Kenkyu (A Study of Taiwanese Students in Japan During the Taisho Period)" (Ryukei Shosha, 2012)

Co-author: "Higashi Ajia no Chishiki Koryu to Rekishi Kioku (Intellectual Exchanges and Historical Memories in East Asia)" (Northeast Asian History Foundation, 2009)

Co-editor & co-author: "Ajia Koron/Daito Koron (THE ASIA KUNGLUN and THE ORIENT REVIEW)" (Ryukei Shosha, 2008)

Author (Paper): "Taisho-ki Taiwan-jin Ryugakusei Kishukusha Takasago-ryo no Secchi Katei (How the Dormitory for Taiwanese Students, Takasago-ryo, Was Founded in the Taisho Period)" ("Nihon Rekishi Vol. 722", Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 2008)

Co-author (Paper): "Senzen-ki Waseda Daigaku no Ajia-jin Ryugakusei no Kiseki: Chugoku-jin to Taiwan-jin Ryugakusei no Doko wo Chushin ni (History of Asian Students of Waseda University in the Pre-war Era: Mainly About Chinese and Taiwanese Students)" ("Ryugakusei no Waseda: Kindai Nippon no Chi no Sesshoku Ryoiki (International Students of Waseda: Intellectual Contacts in Modern Japan)," Waseda University Press, 2015)