Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Columbia’s New Tang Center Dedicated to Study of Early Chinese Civilizations opens in October

Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang

Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang

Oscar Tang, a private investor and philanthropist, and his archaeologist wife, Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang, PhD, a cultural policy advisor to UNESCO and the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee and a documentarian of the Mysteries of China archaeology series on History Channel Asia, have donated a $5 million endowment gift to Columbia University and its Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures towards the creation of the Tang Center for Early China.

11887935_1611373932459346_7169657066629707828_nThe Tang Center will be officially inaugurated on October 2, 2015, and will be located in Kent Hall, where the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures is located. The new center will help advance society’s understanding of the richness and importance of early Chinese civilizations as part of a broader common human heritage.

Updated: 10/3/15

Photos: Columbia University’s Tang Center for Early China Inaugural Reception

“When discoveries made possible by modern archeology open new frontiers of knowledge, we are obligated to seize the opportunity to learn all that we can,” said University President Lee C. Bollinger. “Oscar and Agnes understand that responsibility. By helping us to establish this new center at Columbia that will bear their name, they are ensuring that future generations will benefit from the cultural and intellectual wealth of early Chinese civilization.”

Dedicated to promoting awareness of the cultural and historical legacy of China and to supporting teaching and research of early Chinese civilizations and archaeology, the Tang Center aims to:

  • Spread knowledge and interest in Early China through public events.
  • Bring together scholars from across the world in a common effort to study newly discovered texts and artifacts.
  • Offer a critical window for introducing new archaeological discoveries in China to Western audiences.
  • Help deepen the mutual understanding between China and the United States.

Specifically, the Tang Center will sponsor an Early China Seminar lecture series, a special annual lecture in archaeology, workshops and conferences, as well as a monograph series that breaks new theoretical or methodological ground in the field of Early China studies. The Tang Center will also offer fellowships for visiting scholars and give research grants to PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

“Columbia University was one of the founders of the study of China in the United States, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, one of the strongest departments in the world in this field of study, will become home to the Tang Center,” said Haruo Shirane, the Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and the department’s chair. “We are proud to accept this mission to develop the Tang Center into the best institution in the study of Early China and its civilizations.”

“Every field has its big time, and this is clearly the big time for the Early China field,” said Professor Li Feng, the inaugural faculty director of the Tang Center. “Over the past 30 years, huge quantities of materials have been pulled out of the ground in China, including texts central to Chinese civilization. The Tang Center will make a systematic effort to bring light to these new materials and ensure that their value is appreciated by society.”

“Understanding China’s past is the key to knowing contemporary China,” said Tang, a longtime trustee at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Every year, significant archaeological discoveries are revealing new information about Early China, and we believe that Columbia, through this new center, is poised to shape the research and scholarly conversation around this rapidly growing area of study.”

Since 2006, Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang has served on UNESCO’s scientific committees, led an expedition to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and authored a white paper on the multi-national nominations of the Incan Road and the Continental Silk Road, which became UNESCO World Heritage Sites in June 2014. She also advised the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee on the current US-China bilateral agreement to reduce the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

Dr. Hsu-Tang was trained at Cambridge, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford. She was first introduced to the Columbia University Seminar on Early China while she was on the faculty at Brown University. The Early China Seminar has been meeting on the Columbia campus since 2002.

Her research and publications focus on ancient maps. Since 2008, Dr. Hsu-Tang has worked with TV networks to develop documentaries on Chinese archaeology, history, and art. She is the bi-lingual host and narrator of the 2013 award-winning documentary The Lost City of Jinsha on History Channel Asia and a new series on contemporary Chinese art and society Chineseness on Discovery Channel that premiered during the 2014 Art Basel Hong Kong. Dr. Hsu-Tang led the first foreign production team to enter and film the controversial tomb of Cao Cao. Her previous credits include The Giant Buddha at Leshan (2009) and Xi’an: China’s Forgotten City (2010) on Discovery, China’s Terracotta Warriors on PBS (2011), and History Channel’s Mankind: The Story of All of Us series (2012).

Agnes-Hsu Tang and her husband Oscar Tang, Lia Chang and Ping Chong at the opening reception of Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion at the New-York Historical Society in New York on September 23, 2014. Photo by Don Pollard

Agnes-Hsu Tang and her husband Oscar Tang, Lia Chang and Ping Chong at the opening reception of Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion at the New-York Historical Society in New York on September 23, 2014. Photo by Don Pollard

Dr. Hsu-Tang lives in New York City and is a trustee of the New York Historical Society, the Metropolitan Opera, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: Inside “China: Through the Looking Glass” at The Met with Wong Kar-Wai, Vivienne Tam, Wendi Murdoch, Anna Wintour and More
Tusks! Gold! Sacrifice! Unmasking the Lost Kingdom of Jinsha with Archaeologist Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang at Bowers Museum on February 21
Photos: Art Salon with Artist Yang Chihung and Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang at New-York Historical Society
Oct. 2: New-York Historical Society Presents Screening of Discovery Channel Asia’s Chineseness with Artist Yang Chihung and Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang
Oct. 15: An Evening with Hollywood Legend Nancy Kwan at the New-York Historical Society
Photos: Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion on View through April 19, 2015 at New York Historical Society

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Blog, Jade Magazine and

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