October 4, 2004 Vol. IX, No. 4

From left, Chinese Antiquities Research program grant winners Weimin Sun, Jeffrey Wiegley and Behzad Bavarian

Chinese Antiquities Research Awards Are Announced

Three CSUN Professors' Research to Focus on The Tseng Collection of Rare Artifacts

The first grants of Cal State Northridge's Chinese Antiquities Research program have been awarded to three professors who will base their research projects on The Tseng Collection, a $38 million collection of Chinese antiquities donated to Cal State Northridge by entrepreneur Roland Tseng in fall 2003.

An award totaling $50,000 will be shared by philosophy professor Weimin Sun, computer science professor Jeffrey Wiegley and manufacturing systems engineering and management professor Behzad Bavarian.

"The three outstanding proposals by three outstanding professors will greatly advance our knowledge and understanding of the antiquities in our care," said University Library Dean Susan Curzon in making the research grants announcement this month.

The applications were reviewed by the Faculty Senate's Research and Grants Committee, which awarded the grants.

Sun's research will focus on the cultural aspects of The Tseng Collection, with special attention to the "invaluable" pieces attributed to the ancient Ba culture of southwest China, which dates back 3,000 years or more.

Another aspect of Sun's research will center on a problem known as "Needham's Puzzle," named for a Cambridge University biochemist who sought the answer to why the ancient Chinese developed complex technologies—clearly shown by The Tseng Collection pieces—from which no mature science grew. Fascinated by evidence that China made technological strides without a "systematic and theoretic" effort to advance the sciences, Sun regards the pieces in The Tseng Collection as the perfect springboard for his studies.

"Given the unique opportunity presented by this collection," Sun said, "a new page of Chinese studies at CSUN is opened."

Wiegley will investigate safe methods—including robotic visual systems, Internet technologies and HTML publishing tools—to permit live, remote, online access to the Tseng Chinese antiquities exhibition in the Oviatt Library.

"Our primary goal is to extend the visibility and value of The Tseng Collection beyond the limited physical boundaries of the Oviatt Library and CSUN campus," said Wiegley, who also will provide an historical archive of high quality images.

Bavarian will use Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and x-ray analysis to determine the material chemical composition of the Tseng artifacts, the dates and locations of their origins, and their probable uses. In the course of his research, Bavarian will visit China to collaborate with researchers at the Chongqing Cultural Relics Institute and at Sichuan University.

Ancient Chinese artisans, skilled in thin-walled casting and composite bronze techniques, revealed impressive metallurgical capabilities in the weapons, ritual vessels and engravings collected by Tseng. Bavarian's investigation of these capabilities is expected to help researchers understand the importance of technology in China's Bronze Age.

"It will be interesting to account for their processing techniques and to attempt to explain how they were accomplished thousands of years ago," he said.

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