The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


Growth of American academic interest in East Asia during and after the Second World War led to the establishment of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures in 1948. Japanese language had been taught at Michigan since 1936, first in summer sessions and after 1937 in the regular academic year. From 1942 to 1946 Michigan had hosted an Army Japanese Language School (Military Intelligence) for intensive wartime training, and after the war both Japanese and Chinese had become regular language offerings in the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures chaired by Professor William H. Worrell. In 1948 the Oriental program was divided into the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures.

The initial faculty of the department consisted of four members: Joseph K. Yamagiwa and Hide Shohara in Japanese, Yao Shen and Bayard Lyon in Chinese, the latter replaced by James I. Crump, Jr., in 1949. Professor Yamagiwa, Page  153who had initiated the teaching of Japanese at Michigan and had directed the wartime Army program, served as chairman of the department from its origin until 1964.

During Professor Yamagiwa's tenure as chairman, the department emphasized the teaching of basic language courses and advanced work in linguistics, and the Japanese field prospered somewhat more than the Chinese field because of the University's determination to develop a strong, broadly-based Japanese studies program. In 1947 this thrust was evidenced by the University's creation of a pioneering cross-departmental, interdisciplinary Center for Japanese Studies and its maintenance of a field research station at Okayama, Japan, for a number of years beginning in 1950. Departmental offerings were diversified somewhat during this period by the employment of visiting appointees for short terms, and a Buddhologist, Arthur Link, was a member of the department from 1957 to 1964.

Fuller and more balanced development of the departmental programs began in the 1960s. This was stimulated by the establishment in 1960 of a federally-funded Far Eastern Language and Area Center, administered by the department under the terms of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, and by a 1961 grant from the Ford Foundation to foster foreign area studies at Michigan, which, among other things, made possible the creation of a Center for Chinese Studies in that year. The University's Chinese Studies faculty quickly grew to a size and distinction challenging that of the Japanese studies faculty, and eventually grew larger. As both Japanese and Chinese area studies became more prominent in the University, the department's course offerings flourished correspondingly.

Introductory language courses were offered in summers on an intensive, wartime-like basis even in the 1950s, and in the 1960s accelerated (double-credit) first- and second-year language courses became regularly established in the department's academic year curriculum. Professor Yamagiwa led a pioneering effort among interested Big Ten universities to sponsor a unified, cooperative summer institute with intensive language courses in Chinese and Japanese; the first in a series of such institutes was conducted in Ann Arbor in 1963. Concurrently, Michigan joined other major American Page  154centers of East Asian studies in sponsoring two field programs for advanced language training: the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies (Taipei) and the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (Tokyo). Until the mid-1970s, Michigan students, after basic language training in the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, were sent to these overseas programs in larger numbers than students from any other American university.

In its expansion during the early 1960s, the department also initiated offerings in Korean language. The Korean program, however, never grew beyond small introductory language offerings taught by a part-time native informant under the general supervision of Professor Shohara, in large part because of a University decision not to develop a broad Korean area studies program. The Korean language was not offered after 1966.

Professor Yamagiwa retired from the chairmanship in 1964. After a year's interval during which Associate Professor Paul Denlinger, a specialist in Chinese linguistics, served as acting chairman, Charles O. Hucker joined the department as Professor of Chinese with a five-year term as chairman. A specialist in classical Chinese texts and Chinese history, his mandate from the College and the University was to maintain the department's sound basic language programs and develop a graduate program, especially in literature, of comparable distinction. Professor Hucker was reappointed chairman in 1970 but in 1971 asked to be relieved of administrative duties for health reasons. His six-year tenure as chairman coincided with the steadiest growth of Chinese and Japanese studies, not only at Michigan but nation-wide.

The department continued to administer the University's NDEA Far Eastern Language and Area Center, which provided steadily increased funding for both the Chinese studies and Japanese studies programs, both in and outside the department. In 1967 and 1968 it hosted summer institutes under auspices of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (the organization of Big Ten universities).

During the early 1970s, the United States felt aftershocks of 1960s social and political unrest, slowly disentangled itself from protracted civil war in Vietnam, suffered Page  155the political crisis of Watergate, and experienced steady inflation combined ultimately with a severe 1974-75 economic recession. Throughout the country the growth of Asian studies was curtailed as students increasingly chose programs that, in their perception, were strongly career-oriented. The growth of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures tapered off; enrollments declined but did not plummet, stabilizing by 1975 at a level below that of the late 1960s.

Departmental leadership during this era of transition and stabilization was provided by Professor Brower. He had been in the first group of Army trainees in Japanese sent to Michigan at the beginning of 1943, had subsequently returned to Michigan for graduate work and been granted the department's first Ph.D. degree in 1952, and had been brought to the departmental faculty from Stanford in 1966. Having served as acting chairman during 1968-69 when Professor Hucker was on leave, he was persuaded to take up the reins again in 1971 when Professor Hucker asked to be relieved, and in 1971 was appointed to a five-year term as chairman. During the transition, administration of the NDEA Far Eastern Language and Area Center passed into the joint care of the Center for Chinese Studies and the Center for Japanese Studies. Earlier, in 1969, the department had withdrawn from active participation in CIC summer institutes, there being sufficient interest among Michigan students to sustain regular summer offerings of first and third-year language courses in Ann Arbor.

Despite a tapering off of enrollments and a gradual tightening of pressure on all University budgets, the regular departmental faculty not only retained a stable size but grew with the appointment in 1973 of Luis O. Gomez as Associate Professor of Buddhist Studies, arranged jointly with the University's new interdepartmental Studies in Religion Program.

Until 1967 the department was housed in offices on the second and fourth floors of Angell Hall, virtually in the center of the University campus. Because of overcrowding in that building, in 1967 the department was moved — together with the Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Linguistics and the administrative offices of the Program in Asian Studies — into quarters rented by the University in Page  156the Gunn Building at 506 East Liberty Street. Being out of the central campus area was perhaps an advantage for the department during the Black Action Movement of 1968 and subsequent campus disorders. But in 1972 the department, together with the Department of Near Eastern Studies, was moved back onto University property, on the third and fourth floors of the Frieze Building.