Seminar: Why China Loves Scholars: lessons from wen-wu

The Chinese Studies, the University of New South Wales

Speaker: Kam Louie

4:15-5:45pm Tuesday 19 September 2017

Morven Brown Building Rm 310, High St., Gate 8, UNSW Kensington campus

Convenor: Prof. Jon Eugene von Kowallis, tel. 9385-1020;



Building on my earlier work on the construction of wen-wu  文 / 武 (the civil and the martial) in ideal notions of Chinese masculinity, I will interrogate the role of the young scholar or caizi 才子 (literally:“talented youth”) in China. This is a figure in literature who has not yet gained his wen-wu credentials, but is considered to be in the state of budding “talent,” and, as such, is highly prized as a prospective partner in love and marriage. With this understanding, I will discuss some of the reasons why such a scholar represents the ideal lover. I do this by examining the role of Jia Baoyu 贾宝玉 (Precious Jade), male protagonist in the classic 18th century novel Dream of Red Mansions (Honglou Meng 红楼梦).  I will also tease out a corollary from my discussion of Baoyu’s love affairs: that the “talented scholar and beautiful woman” or caizi jiaren 才子佳人, a time-honoured literary and cultural formulation has always in fact been predicated on class boundaries that cannot be transgressed.


About the Speaker

Kam Louie (雷金庆) FAHA, FHKAH has had a long and distinguished career, rising to serve as Dean of the Faculty Arts and MB Lee Professor at the University of Hong Kong until his retirement in 2014. His research interests cover interdisciplinary studies of language, literature, history and philosophy. For further information, see his profile at