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DAMES Senior Lecturer Emeritus Eric Henry’s “Garden of Eloquence” / Shuoyuan 說苑 now published!

February 28, 2022

Hot off the presses of UWA Press, read more about Garden of Eloquence and Eric Henry’s accolades below!

Garden of Eloquence / Shuoyuan 說苑 (January 2022)

By Liu Xiang

Introduction and Translation by Eric Henry

In 17 BCE the Han dynasty archivist Liu Xiang presented to the throne a collection of some seven hundred items of varying length, mostly quasi-historical anecdotes and narratives, that he deemed essential reading for wise leadership. Garden of Eloquence (Shuoyuan), divided into twenty books grouped by theme, follows a tradition of narrative writing on historical and philosophical themes that began seven centuries earlier. Long popular in China as a source of allusions and quotations, it preserves late Western Han views concerning history, politics, and ethics. Many of its anecdotes are attributed to Confucius’s speeches and teachings that do not appear in earlier texts, demonstrating that long after Confucius’s death in 479 BCE it was still possible for new “historical” narratives to be created.

Garden of Eloquence is valuable as a repository of items that originally appeared in other early collections that are no longer extant, and it provides detail on topics as various as astronomy and astrology, yin-yang theory, and quasi-geographical and mystical categories. Eric Henry’s unabridged translation with facing Chinese text and extensive annotation will make this important primary source available for the first time to Anglophone world historians.

Authors & Contributors

Liu Xiang (79–08 BCE) was a scholar-official of the Western (Former) Han dynasty. Eric Henry is senior lecturer emeritus of Asian studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What are people saying?

Perhaps more than any other scholar of early China, Liu Xiang was responsible for determining the content and configuration of official Chinese knowledge. Henry’s translation makes audible in English a hitherto unheard but important voice.

Sarah Queen, Connecticut College

With his usual wit and style, Eric Henry brings to life Liu Xiang’s Shuoyuan. This engaging compendium of anecdotes and aphorisms addresses the various means to achieve an enlightened government. But it is also an important source on other topics, such as music, morals, yin-yang theory and rhetoric. The text also embodies the Han fondness for mining historical anecdotes for useful models of administering the state. In short, the Shuoyuan is essential reading for understanding the political and administrative concerns of the late Western Han dynasty.

Anne Behnke Kinney, University of Virginia

The Shuoyuan is one of the most important texts that have come down to us from the Han dynasty. Eric Henry’s complete and profusely annotated translation includes the establishment of a carefully collated critical text based on the best modern critical editions published in China. Professor Henry’s work, based on many years of meticulous research, makes a very substantial contribution to the study of ancient Chinese intellectual history.

Christoph Harbsmeier, professor emeritus, University of Oslo

This definitive translation of a very important classical Chinese text with its useful scholarly apparatus will be of great value to the fields of Chinese history and literary studies.

J. Michael Farmer, University of Texas at Dallas

DAMES Korean Program Achievements!

February 28, 2022

What’s been quiet during COVID? Not the DAMES Korean program! Please find below a brief snapshot of our students’ incredible achievements over these past couple of years, evidence of their hard work and determination in the face of global crisis.

  • Celilia Lin (Yuchen Lin), who was in Dongsoo Bang’s KOR 204 (Intermediate Korean II) class, received the “Korean Culture Award” at the Online Korean Speech Contest hosted by the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles on October 9, 2020.
  • Yanjun Shen (Eunji Lee’s KOR 102 class) received the 1st prize (non-heritage Level 1) at the 4th Southeastern US Korean Speech and Quiz Contest on April 10, 2021.
  • Tessa Mannell (Dongsoo Bang’s KOR 204 class) was placed 3rd (non-heritage level 2) at the 4th Southeastern US Korean Speech and Quiz Contest on April 10, 2021. (A note: Prizes were only given up to 2nd place in the non-heritage level 2, so Tessa’s name was not included in the list of awardees.)

The Online Korean Speech Contest was a nationwide contest and the participants at the 4th Southeastern US Korean Speech and Quiz were college students from universities in the Southeast (e.g., Duke, Vanderbilt, UGA, Emory, U of Kentucky, etc.).

Congratulations to these awesome students!

An Interview with Dr. Yaghoobi, New Director of Persian Studies

December 9, 2021

Recently I interviewed our wonderful professor, Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, about her appointment as the new inaugural Director of Persian Studies here at UNC. This was the multilayered question I asked her:

In your appointment letter, which I was given to read by Lori prior to this interview, [our dean] stated that you have a “terrific track record” (we here in DAMES obviously agree!) in building the Persian Studies program on campus. How will your new appointment impact your current endeavors? Are there projects you’ve been working on that will expand as a result of the appointment, for instance? In the letter, one of your duties is stated as “continuing to elevate the profile of Persian Studies,” and to you, does that mean a campus-specific approach, or do you intend to go farther by reaching beyond the boundaries of UNC itself?

Below is Dr. Yaghoobi’s reply and thoughts on her new appointment:

As part of my responsibilities as the director, I would be promoting research, scholarly opportunity, and artistic exchange related to Persian Studies on the UNC campus. This entails organizing scholarly events, promoting speakers, supporting exhibitions, and developing workshops that strengthen the community of faculty, students, and staff pursuing Persianate Studies. For these events, I identify and pursue external funding opportunities to support programming. However, this is what I was already doing before this appointment. What changes with the appointment is the need for me to engage in fundraising efforts both for programming and for supporting graduate students, holding meetings with the Persian Studies Advisory Committee to solicit input, overseeing Roshan graduate student fellowship, ensuring the breadth of curricular offerings, and consulting with Vice Provost of Global Affairs on university-wide about alignments between Persian Studies and the university’s global unit.

The most significant change that this appointment embodies is the coordination aspect of it – what I mean is that we have Persian Studies faculty, students, and funding in various units and departments on campus. With this appointment, there is a director to coordinate all of them and receive feedback and support from all.

One of my priorities for this academic year was to establish a Persian Studies Advisory Committee which we did and held a meeting a few weeks ago. With the Advisory Committee’s input, we have formalized a co-sponsorship procedure where we would be happy to fund and/or co-sponsor Persian-related events. We have also discussed how to hold a celebratory event for Nowruz or Persian New Year, and other events this year. We have created a coherent annual lecture series around specific themes. We have also discussed strategies for fundraising this and next academic year – in short, the committee has already been actively working towards our shared goals.

The next project on my list is to highlight the committee members’ research, teaching, and service at UNC. To do this, I have asked the committee members to prepare brief 2-minute videos introducing themselves and their work. The goal of these videos is to introduce the Persian Studies committee to campus, the broader community, and potential donors. These videos will be posted on the Persian Studies Facebook page, on social media, and on the campus webpage.

Congratulations on the new appointment, Dr. Yaghoobi! We’re so fortunate to have you here in DAMES!

Dr. Pitelka, Japanese Ceramics, and the Ackland Art Museum: A Video Lecture

October 14, 2021

On Friday, October 8th, the Ackland Art Museum opened a new exhibition entitled Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society, on view until January 9, 2022. Don’t miss it, and before you go, consider watching this lecture from our very own Dr. Pitelka about one of the pieces in the collection, commissioned by the Ackland to complement the new exhibition:

Consider a Major in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

October 9, 2021

Interested in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean? We have language and culture classes regardless of your starting level, and separate major and minor tracks for each culture. Interested in Hindi-Urdu and the films and literatures of India? You can major in South Asian Studies or minor in the Hindi-Urdu language. Interested in the Arab World? You can major in Arab Cultures or minor in Arabic. We also have minors in Hebrew, Persian, or Middle Eastern Languages, and in addition offer language courses in Turkish and Vietnamese. Perhaps our most flexible option is the Interdisciplinary major and minor, which allows you to mix-and-match and explore comparisons across cultures. 

What can you do with a major in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies? Read about some of our alums, like Erin Posas (2016), doing graduate work in Environment and Sustainability with a concentration in Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan, and Matt Coss (2016), doing his PhD in Second Language Studies at Michigan State University. Or Sarah Mackenzie, who graduated in 2020 with a minor in Arabic, who won a Rhodes Scholarship! Or Will Powers (2008), who appeared on the reality TV show The Tester and had a career at Sony. Or Faith Virago (2020) who won a spot at Peking University’s Yenching Academy after completing her senior honors thesis in DAMES! Or Rashad Hauter (2007), who is now a District Court Judge at Wake County District Court! Or Jason Mortimer(2006) who lives in Japan and works for Nomura Asset Management! Find many more stories of DAMES students, faculty, staff, and alumni on our blog:

To learn more, talk to your instructor or reach out to our Student Services Coordinator, Ash Barnes, who is also a DAMES alum! You can easily make a virtual appointment with her right now:

I am also happy to meet in person or virtually, or to answer questions by email: 

Join us in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies!

-Morgan Pitelka, Chair

Apply to our 2022 fall MA program!

October 8, 2021

The Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (DAMES) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is accepting applications for its Fall 2022 Master’s program.


  • Priority deadline—December 14, 2021
    • NOTE: If you want to be considered for FLAS and university scholarships/fellowships, you need to submit all application materials by December 14.
  • Final deadline—June 14


Why Study with Us?


  • The DAMES M.A. offers humanistic training to students in one of two tracks: either the broad, interdisciplinary area of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, or the more focused field of Chinese studies.
  • Our program provides the chance to improve proficiency in one or more languages designated “critical” to the future of America by the State Department (Chinese, Japanese, Korea, Vietnamese, Hindi-Urdu, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish), as well as significant expertise in the culture of a country or region in Asia or the Middle East.
  • Our students develop advanced skills beyond those already mastered as undergrads to enhance future careers in higher ed, politics, international organizations and non-profits, journalism, the military, and business and finance.
  • Reach out to us with questions! We include scholars of literature and environmental humanities, experts in critical theory, historians of culture, specialists in film and visual culture, anthropologists of medicine, and experts in language teaching among other topics.


Please visit our website ( for more information about our faculty, financial information, funding opportunities, and applying. If you have questions, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies at

Meet the Grad Students: Samir Sefiane!

September 24, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Samir, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I graduated from North Carolina State University last year with a Bachelor’s in History and a Middle East studies minor. My initial plan had been to stick with History in my graduate studies, but I kind of fell in love with Middle East studies, so here I am! Studying Arabic is a big part of my field, so I was pleased to be part of the CLS (Critical Language Scholarship) Program over the summer.  It was supposed to be in Ibri, Oman, but due to COVID, we did it online. It was still a great experience, and I really feel like it took my Arabic abilities to the next level. In my free time, I enjoy reading/watching sci-fi (go see the new Dune movie!), playing chess, and spending time with my partner and our lazy cat.

What program track did you choose?

I chose the Interdisciplinary track and intend to focus primarily on Middle East studies

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I was thrilled to be accepted into the DAMES program here at UNC because I tend to shy away from academic overspecialization, and the program’s commitment to a humanist approach to the decidedly complex issues that accompany Asian and Middle East Studies really resonated with me . I look forward to improving my language abilities, making connections with other departments, and interacting with my fellow DAMES students.

Meet the Grad Students: Caroline Williams!

September 13, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Caroline, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I’m from Cumming, Georgia, and I graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2021 with a BA in History and a BA in International Affairs (go dawgs!). A fun fact about me is that I grew up on a farm, and during my time at UGA, I participated in the Disney College Program and spent a semester working at Disney World. I also completed a (virtual – thanks, 2020) summer study abroad with the University of Oxford. I’m already loving it here in Chapel Hill and am so excited to be a Tar Heel!

What program track did you choose?

Here in DAMES, I’m on the interdisciplinary track, focusing on the Middle East. I’m currently studying Arabic, and my research interests lie in gender and security studies, especially in Egypt.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

Through my experience at UNC, I hope to gain new perspectives for analysis in my field. I’m already enjoying my classes and finding new points of interest, and I’m sure DAMES is going to offer me many more valuable connections!

Meet the Grad Students: Kun Meng!

September 13, 2021

Here’s a little bit about Kun, one of the students in the first DAMES graduate program cohort!

Tell us about yourself!

I am Kun Meng, an incoming graduate of UNC at Chapel Hill. I am from the People’s Republic of China, a beautiful country which is growing and flourishing in its own way. I obtained my bachelor’s degree (BFA) in Sha’anxi Normal University and my master’s degree (MFA) in East China Normal University. During both experiences, I have majored in studies of traditional Chinese painting. After graduating from ECNU, I engaged myself to be a volunteer of Shanghai Library. Plus, I got a job as a teacher of Asian culture!

What program track did you choose?

I chose the Chinese track to be my program, specifically transcultural and political studies of ancient China.

What are you hoping to gain from your experiences here in DAMES and at UNC?

I think I will improve my ability of writing and analyzing in this program. Also, I hope I can acquire the knowledge of research methods of Western countries, to examine and judge the ancient Chinese cultures from a different perspective.