Professor searching for ancient culture


Professor Christopher Lupke gives a lecture in Thompson Hall 209, Tuesday, April 29.

A WSU professor of Chinese will travel to Canada on a scholarship in the hopes of writing a book based on his research of ancient Chinese culture.

Professor Christopher Lupke was awarded the Fulbright scholarship, awarded to only 40 U.S. researchers or lecturers a year, said a Fulbright ambassador and WSU associate professor.

“It’s a big honor for not only Dr. Lupke but also WSU,” Ambassador Mushtaq Memon said.

Lupke will travel to the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada in August for a semester to continue writing a book about filiality, Lupke said.

Filiality is an ancient Chinese philosophical notion that stems from the ancestral belief system that people must please celestial beings in ways such as following good morals and treating living elders with respect, he said. He said he was inspired to write a book on filiality when he found there was no systematic research done on the subject.

The University of Calgary invited Lupke to apply for the scholarship to conduct research at the university, he said. University of Calgary has a large Chinese studies department, a strong Chinese library connection and a large native Chinese-Canadian population.

Lupke has received the Fulbright award three times prior, he said.

People who receive the Fulbright award travel to another country to conduct research or teach. They are compensated with a stipend.

During his other Fulbright scholarships, Lupke spent a year in Taiwan and two months in mainland China, he said. He worked on his dissertation and then went back to continue his research.  

“Not one day during my life since I’ve started Chinese studies have I woken up in the morning and said to myself, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,'” he said. “I’ve always felt that it was extraordinarily rewarding.”

In May, Lupke will return to Henan University in Henan, China, he said. Lupke returns once a year to Henan to lecture and interact with the faculty and students as part of an ongoing stipend.

Lupke is on the Fulbright Academy Advisory Board, Memon said. As a board member he attends monthly seminars in which he discusses his past experiences and visions for other Fulbright recipients.  

Understanding cultures other than one’s own is vital to understanding the world, he said.

“China is an important country,” he said. “It’s very different from us, socially and the way people think. Filiality is very big component of it. Most Americans don’t even know what it is. How can we understand China, how can we deal with them economically and politically if we don’t know something that’s a cornerstone to their civilization?”

Aware of the knowledge and cultural competency he gained traveling across seas, Lupke encourages his students to study abroad to learn Chinese culture and language.

Anna Breigenzer, a senior math and Chinese major, said Lupke encouraged her to study abroad as a freshman.

Although Breigenzer thought studying abroad would be too expensive, Lupke told Breigenzer to apply for a prestigious scholarship, she said. She received the scholarship and studied abroad in China during her junior year.

“He’s always been that teacher that’s pushing me a little bit beyond what I initially want to do, but in the end it always turns out great,” Breigenzer said. “I’m happy with the results and it’s exactly what I want.”

Lucas Grisham, a senior Chinese and philosophy major, said Lupke inspired him to study abroad in Harbin, China last year. Grisham will also study abroad in Taiwan this summer. He said he will apply for the Fulbright when he graduates next year.

“He’s made a very difficult topic very accessible,” Grisham said. “He’s made Chinese very learnable. You can extrapolate that to making anything learnable if you can learn Chinese. If you can tackle a language like Chinese, calculus doesn’t seem so hard.”

Although his job can be frustrating, the joy he finds as an educator compensates for negativity that may crop up, Lupke said.  

“There’s no substitute for being able to take a group of college students who know nothing about a subject like this one — filiality — and to work with them for a semester and at the end they really know the ins and outs of the issue,” he said. “It’s just exhilarating.”