Duping Religious Freedom: Law, Politics and Economics of Regulating Religious Fraud in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong

A/Prof. Jianlin Chen1

1University Of Melbourne, Australia

Religious fraud is an ongoing legal concern in China, and surprisingly, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Despite a proud commitment to liberal democratic notions of religious liberty that otherwise preclude determination of religious falsity, Taiwan and Hong Kong have not shied away from legal interventions purported to protect the public from perceived charlatans purveying religious falsehoods. In this presentation, I will examine 1) what are the legal tools that have been employed to tackle perceived religious fraud in the three jurisdictions, 2) what the reasons for the surprising similarities and divergences in the legal tools across the three jurisdictions, and 3) what are the possible counter-productive effect of these legal tools.


Jianlin grew up in Singapore and Taiwan. He obtained his LLB from National University of Singapore, and his LLM and JSD from the University of Chicago. He is qualified to practice in Singapore and New York. He joined the Melbourne Law School in 2017 after starting his academic career at the University of Hong Kong in 2011. Bilingual in English and Chinese, Jianlin publishes widely, with a monograph from Cambridge University Press, and in law journals such as Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Law & Social Inquiry, 北大法律评论, among many others. His current primary research interests are in the areas of law & religion and criminal law, with a particular focus on legal responses to religious and/or sexual fraud, and through a combination of comparative perspectives and economic analysis.

Modernizing Sinitic Poetry in 19th-Century Japan: Sinitic Poets’ Reactions to Western Literature

Rintato Goyama

Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

The popularity of Sinitic poems did not decline after the Meiji Restoration (1868) for several decades. In this context, a movement to update Sinitic poetry by referring to Western poems took place during the 1880–1890s. The philosopher Inoue Tetsujirō 井上哲次郎 had a strong interest in Western drama and epic and composed unique, lengthy poems containing dialogues. Mori Ōgai 森鷗外, a literary giant and bureaucrat, developed ways to translate Western poems into Sinitic poems by altering their form, including meter and rhythm. Ōe Keikō 大江敬香, a journalist well known for his vigorous activity in the field of Sinitic poetry, argued that composing Sinitic poems regardless of the phonetic rules could provide a useful alternative for Japanese poets, since learning Sinitic literature was a burden on the younger generation. Although these new developments did not greatly influence the dominant group of Sinitic poets who continued to uphold traditional forms of Sinitic poetry, they brought into sharp relief the problematic nature of Sinitic poetry in the modern linguistic context. This paper seeks to examine the full extent of the arguments for modernizing Sinitic poetry in Japan and analyse their literary significance.


Rintato Goyama specializes in Sinitic poetry and prose by modern Japanese writers. In his monograph (2014), he examined the changing roles and forms of Sinitic literature during the modernization of Japan in the Bakumatsu and Meiji periods. His recent research has focused on canon formation in 19th-century Japanese Sinitic poetry.


Composing Vernacular Chinese Literature: An Early-Modern Japanese Effort

Ye Yuan

Columbia University, New York, United States

During the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), despite the predominance of literary Sinitic (or classical Chinese), there was a growing interest in a linguistic and literary form of composition that came to be known as vernacular Chinese in modern times. Elite scholars of the Tokugawa period studied contemporary spoken Chinese and composed texts in this style. As a cultural phenomenon, vernacular Chinese became an object of study not only for those who had mastered spoken Chinese, but also for those had not.

The present study focuses on Yamamoto Hokuzan’s 山本北山 (1752–1812) Sakubun shikō 作文志彀 (Mastering the Prose Composition, 1779) as a means of exploring the manner in which vernacular Chinese was then conceptualized. Hokuzan, who did not study contemporary spoken Chinese, has left us with a short story, meant to serve as an example of composition in vernacular Chinese. By juxtaposing this short story with similar examples written by masters of spoken Chinese, this study proposes a multifaceted view of vernacular Chinese that drew deeply from the premodern tradition of Sinitic literacy while, at the same time, actively expanding the scope of Sinitic education and literary practices in early-modern Japan.


Ye Yuan’s research examines the textual transmission and knowledge transformation in premodern East Asia, with a special focus on “vernacular Chinese” language and literature in early modern Japan. She is currently working on the impact of translation on the Sinographic sphere.

Imagined Tests: Imitations of Chinese Imperial Examinations in Tokugawa Japan

Yoshitaka YAMAMOTO

National Institute of Japanese Literature, Tokyo, Japan

Tokugawa Japan (1603–1868) never adopted the Chinese imperial examination system of selecting bureaucrats. Even the academic tests for samurai serving the Tokugawa shogun, begun in 1792, were conducted using a mixture of classical Chinese and vernacular Japanese, and did not imitate Chinese imperial examinations. One may expect, then, that the ability to administer or take tests in the style of Chinese imperial examinations had no place in the conceptualization of Sinitic literacy in Tokugawa Japan. However, major Japanese Confucian scholars of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, including Hayashi Gahō, Itō Jinsai, Ogyū Sorai, and Itō Tōgai, composed Sinitic prose imitating questions and responses in Chinese imperial examinations.

This presentation will consider why such prose pieces, titled “imitations of examination responses” (擬対策) or “unofficial imitations of examination questions” (私擬策問), were composed in Tokugawa Japan. I will point out that these scholars idealized the examinations of Chinese and Japanese antiquity (Han; Nara and Heian) rather than contemporary China, and used imaginary test questions to advance their own interpretations of Confucian classics, at times subverting the orthodox, neo-Confucian interpretations that informed the civil service examinations in contemporaneous China, Korea, and Vietnam.


Yoshitaka Yamamoto’s research is primarily on classical Chinese texts by Edo and Meiji-period Japanese authors, with an emphasis on Confucian scholars in service of the Tokugawa shogunate. Recently, he has written about the role of imitation in Sinitic poetry by Confucian scholars prior to Ogyū Sorai.

Re-evaluating Hentai Kanbun in Heian/Kamakura Japan


Ferris Women’s University, Yokohama, Japan

Hentai kanbun 変体漢文 (variant Sinitic prose or pseudo-Sinitic prose) can be defined as “the archaic Japanese writing style employed for recording Japanese in a way that outwardly resembles Chinese” (Aldridge, 2011). It is probably best known as the main notation of Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters). However, this notation was not only specific to Kojiki, but it was widely used for writing diaries, ceremonial books, and letters. These documents, seemingly lacking in artistic worth, have not been evaluated as highly as literature in the traditional sense, such as waka, monogatari, and Sinitic poetry. Yet it should be noted that these practical writings were created and read by the aristocracy as much as literary masterpieces.

This presentation will focus on how the Heian nobility manipulated hentai kanbun to verbalize their thoughts by taking as an example Gōdanshō 江談抄 (The Ōe Conversations), a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to Ōe no Masafusa (1041-1111), a renowned Confucian scholar of the late Heian period. Through close examination of Gōdanshō, this presentation will show how hentai kanbun was a practical style required for the educated society of the Heian period and beyond.


Han Song’s primary research interest is in Sinitic literature of Heian Japan, focusing on the stylistic development of poetry and prose written by Confucian scholars throughout the period. He is also interested in the style of China’s Six Dynasties poetry, especially on Ruan Ji and Zhang Hua’s works.

Rethinking the Scope of Sinitic Literacy in Japan: Conceptualization and Composition

Mr Matthew  Fraleigh1, Mr Han  SONG2, Mr Yoshitaka YAMAMOTO3, Ms Ye YUAN4, Mr Rintato GOYAMA5

1Brandeis University, Waltham/Boston, United States, 2Ferris Women’s University, Yokohama, Japan, 3National Institute of Japanese Literature, Tokyo, Japan, 4Columbia University, New York, United States, 5Keio University, Tokyo, Japan

Co-Chairs: Ye Yuan and Yoshitaka Yamamoto


In light of scholarly efforts to eschew geopolitical divisions in premodern East Asia, the regional framework of the Sinographic sphere, premised on a shared written culture based on Sinitic texts, has gained prominence as a new way of understanding the cultural history of East Asia. While attention has been paid to the varied realizations of Sinitic literature and culture in different parts of the region, the nature and mode of such realizations remain unclear. By focusing on Sinitic literacy and learning in pre-1900 Japan from Heian to Meiji periods, this panel inquires how Japanese intellectuals in different time periods conceptualized and practiced, particularly by way of literary composition, the Sinitic language and literature within their respective cultural milieus.

The primary goal of this panel will be to challenge and question the currently accepted notions of what constituted Sinitic literacy in pre-1900 Japan. By emphasizing the process of Sinitic study rather than the literary products, the panelists will consider specific examples of Sinitic writing that expanded and redefined the scope of Sinitic literacy in Japan, ranging from prose compositions in variant Sinitic and vernacular Chinese to imitations of Chinese imperial examinations and attempts to modernize Sinitic poetry.


Duterte’s Words are His Followers’: Imitations and (Re)Articulations of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Rhetoric in Online Discourses about Human Rights in Mindanao under Martial Rule

Charles Erize P. Ladia

The University of the Philippines, Philippines

Martial rule under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos left a bad mark in Philippine history, especially because of the violations against human rights and the curtailment of democratic processes that it entailed and engendered. No wonder that presidencies that came after 1986 looked at this political strategy with utmost caution and care. This, however, changed on 23 May 2017, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216, which declared Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao. To date, this decree has been extended thrice and has been approved by the Congress and the Supreme Court. Online discourses about Martial Law in Mindanao lay bare how pro- and anti-Martial Law advocates (re)construct and (re)define the concept of human rights. Such discursive efforts proliferate at speedier rates in an avenue such as the Internet, which offers its users a purportedly democratic platform for free speech, a high degree of anonymity, and a charged political engagement. In this light, this presentation extracts discourses on human rights that online users form and transform during this specific period in Philippine politics. It shows how these discourses are imitations and (re)articulations of Duterte’s human rights rhetoric. In the end, the presentation problematizes these attempts of Duterte and his followers in the online word to redefine what it means to be human.


Charles Erize P. Ladia is an assistant professor of Speech Communication at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts of the University of the Philippines where he also received his BA (Speech Communication) degree. He finished Master of Public Management (Public Policy)
and is currently a doctoral student at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines.

[Insert Expletive Here]: The Poetics of Vulgarity, The Spectacle of The Ordinary, And the Construction of Affective-Political Space in Dutertean Speech Performances

Alwin C. Aguirre

Built on the Bakhtinian premise that the vulgar and obscene are the domain of the powerless in resisting dominant culture, I view Duterte’s penchant for strong and offensive language in his official speaking events as an appropriation of said subversive potential. In speaking the supposed vernacular of the masses, he arrogated upon himself the persona of the ordinary, which ironically, is transformed into a spectacle in various speaking engagements as covered by mainstream media in and out of the country. When asked for an explanation behind his ‘crude’ (bastos) language, Duterte claims that he is ‘pursuing the limits of civility’ (Romero 2019), essentially admitting an intentionality to his actions as opposed to attributing it to mere force of habit or unconscious predisposition. Employing an affective-discursive analysis (Wetherell 2012) of presidential speech transcripts, media coverage of his speaking engagements, and post-speech discursive interventions (e.g. official clarifications of the president’s statements), I demonstrate, in accordance with Mbembe (2001), a particular kind of poetics (e.g. manner, materials, context) by which state power deploys obscenities and vulgarities in order to ‘dramatize its own magnificence’ to its subjects (p.104) and construct a limited affective space of political engagement.


Alwin C. Aguirre teaches at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He finished his PhD at the Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication, Auckland University of Technology. He is co-convenor of the UP Diliman Discourse Studies Group.

The Duterte Presidency as Selective Subversion: Repudiating Some Practices, Reaffirming Others

Gene Segarra Navera

This paper examines how the rhetoric of Rodrigo Duterte as president subverts the long-standing tradition of presidential rhetoric in the Philippines. His rhetoric of subversion is both refreshing and unsettling. On the one hand, he goes against some of the practices of previous presidents and this renders him heroic among the nationalist and/or anti-elitist electorate. On the other, his brand of subversion unsettles because it is curiously selective. In his speeches, Duterte merely reaffirms other practices adopted by his predecessors, but this is often eclipsed by his attention-grabbing subversion of selected practices. The paper proposes that subversion in Philippine presidential rhetoric is never radical; it is only selective. This is because the president, in his exercise of his expressive function, remains circumscribed by tradition; a strong and powerful schema always precedes him. The possibility of unshackling from tradition remains elusive as long as the president is tied to dominant and enduring interests and is encumbered by previous discourses. Cases involving subversive rhetoric by previous presidents are brought to the surface in order to support this point.


Gene Segarra Navera is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for English Language Communication of the National University of Singapore where he teaches ideas and exposition modules on the following topical foci: Oratory and the Public Mind and Discourse, Citizenship and Society. He holds a PhD in English Language Studies (NUS) and writes in the areas of rhetoric and public address, critical discourse studies, and writing and speech communication pedagogies. He is the author of the book The Rhetoric of PNoy: Image, Myth and Rhetorical Citizenship in Philippine Presidential Speeches (New York: Peter Lang, 2018).

Acts of Speech, Bites of Sound: Rodrigro Duterte’s Oral Flexing and its Discontents

Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr.

1The University Of Melbourne, Australia

Other than its deadly war campaign against illegal drugs, the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte is also notorious for polluting the Philippine soundscape with double-speak and verbal assaults inclusive of cuss words and sexist jokes. This presentation listens along and against the speech acts and sound bites that Duterte has engendered so far to come up with a concept-work about how a head of state’s “oral flexing” becomes a crucial part of doing politics and becoming political in 21st-century Philippines. The presentation first describes the ability of Duterte to at once captivate and saturate his audiences through his characteristically sprawling, almost rambling, presidential speeches. It then reflects on the reconfiguration of the politics of orality under a regime that revels in the spectacles of presidential speech, while also constraining the critical voices of others. Finally, the concluding section of this presentation highlights how some Filipino citizens and social collectives perform their dissent through systems of speech and sound that operate as counterpoints to Duterte’s cacophony.


Oscar Tantoco Serquiña, Jr. is a PhD Candidate in Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is also an Assistant Professor (on leave) at the Department of Speech Communication and Theatre Arts of the University of the Philippines. His essays have appeared in Humanities Diliman, Kritika Kultura, Philippine Studies, and Theatre Research International, among others.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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