Dr. Tae Hyun Kim teaches courses on Pre-modern Chinese Literature and East Asian Religions.
As a researcher, Dr. Kim is interested in re-assessing traditional discourses and frameworks on the intellectual and religious history of China in the formative stage of the civilization, circa the fourteenth century BCE to second century CE, by reading newly excavated manuscripts such as oracle-bone inscriptions, bronze inscriptions, or bamboo-slip manuscripts in comparison with received classics. He has conducted his research in the excavated manuscript studies at various universities in mainland China, including Wuhan, Fudan, and Tsinghua.
Dr. Kim received a Ph.D. in Chinese with the Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2019, and before joining WashU, he taught courses on both Chinese and Korean Literature and Cultures at UC Berkeley.
In his dissertation, “Memory, Story, History – The Formation and Change of Collective Memory and Narratives of the Past in Early China,” Dr. Kim examines many stories of past events preserved in some canonical transmitted texts of “history” such as Guoyu, Zuozhuan, and Shangshu in comparison with the counterparts in numerous excavated manuscripts. By doing so, he demonstrates how diverse memories and stories of the past had been re-written in multiple editorial efforts to produce more completed ones over time and handed down through their codification in the “canonical texts” in the tradition, being labeled “authentic.” Thus, Tae Hyun concludes that what we believe now as the history of Early China is ultimately a specific version of a fiction that had been socially authored and revised over time as a representation of the society’s collective memory of the past in pursuit of answering who they are at the moment. He is now revising this dissertation to turn it into a book manuscript.
Currently, Dr. Kim is exploring a new topic, how the novel idea and discourse of “universal history” emerged and developed in Early China, around the second to first century BCE. In this study, he examines numerous excavated parallel texts and investigates how early fragmentary memories and stories of the past came to be re-arranged and re-organized in some specific temporal manners in the changing socio-political context of Early China. Especially, he pays special attention to the emergence of typical linear timelines that stretch from an imagined starting point of the civilization through the early Western Han, the best example of which is seen in the Basic Annals of the Shiji, too often simplistically reduced to the authorship or editorship of a heroic senior archivist named Sima Qian.
As a teacher, Tae Hyun Kim inspires his students to read and understand traditional East Asian classics by asking them to imaginatively relate the subject matter of the texts to their own experiences in life and reflect upon the potential meaning of the subject in the students’ own contexts of living. In Dr. Kim’s courses, students are strongly encouraged to speak out and discuss what this East Asian classic means to us here and now. In this, he seeks his students to participate as an “interpreter” in the active construction of meanings dialogically, rather than to stay outside of the text as an “audience.”
Moreover, Dr. Kim also pursues his courses on traditional East Asian classics to be a critical venue for students to awaken their minds and reflect upon what they have believed about themselves, their family, community, and the world. He believes that engaging literary and religious works from different times and spaces would often breed empathy with other people and ultimately deepen our understanding of ourselves, our fellow beings, and our world. Hence, as an educator, Tae Hyun ultimately pursues to help his students grow as citizens more tolerant and open-hearted to their neighbors and willing to work together for the better welfare of the underprivileged in our community.
In his free time, Tae Hyun watches a movie or listens to pop music. He loves hiking and taking long road trips.