Prior to the 1950’s, most educated people in Taiwan were vaguely acquainted with the history and cultural climate of the Western ancient world. The extra bits and pieces of anecdotal narratives and data of that remote world, aside from what are found in the textbooks, were often passed on to them by missionaries, returned students who had studied in Europe, from occasional available reports and articles and from second hand transmission through Japanese channels. Between the 50’s and 60’s, academic instruction of this topic was piecemeal and non-systematic, sometimes even misinterpreted. At the college level, these courses were mostly an introduction to ancient Western history or topics of Western philosophy, particularly scholasticism, or an introduction to Western literature with a bent on readings of the Bible and Greco-Roman mythology. There were hardly any in-depth studies, not to mention research. When the Catholic universities began to be instituted in the 60’s, a series of courses on theology, philosophy, western literature, history and languages related to the early eras were gradually added to the curriculum in various ways. It was then that Taiwan started to widen its vision to have a clearer picture of the western historical past. From that time on, there were better avenues of intellectual exchange between the West and the East, merging traditional understanding with freshened intellectual pursuit. Nevertheless, academic courses offered on ancient and early periods of the West in most universities were sparse and centered on pedagogical enrichment, insufficient to generate in-depth research on the traditional West. Such was the dominant scholarly momentum.

  A rough sketch of the situation among major universities would be: National Taiwan University, Professors Shen Kang-po (Greco-Roman history), Wang Jen-kuang (ancient and medieval history), Hsiang Tui-chieh (philosophy), while in literature there were experts on Shakespeare and occasional instructors on Greek tragedies or Geoffrey Chaucer (by Frederick Foley). Latin was taught though not necessarily in the College of Arts. A neighboring university, National Taiwan Normal University, at the time merely offered courses on Shakespeare and Old English (from the linguistic perspective). The not so popular Old English course was in fact sporadically offered rather than on a regular basis. The Middle Ages was often branded a Dark Age without much challenge. 

  In the 1980’s, aside from the efforts of the public universities, the fledging Fu Jen Catholic University in northern Taiwan had gathered a few academics who were interested in furthering knowledge of the western classical age and the medieval period. But there were no core courses to speak of. Around 1999, Prof. Nicholas Koss managed to pull forces of specialists in the College of Foreign Languages to premiere a medieval conference. After hosting several conferences in a roll, this medieval conference became an annual celebration of Fu Jen University. Each year, a number of scholars from abroad were invited to present papers together with the domestic counterparts. Some of the papers were eventually published locally, making the conference a hub for local medievalists. On an individual basis, since the 60’s, Prof. Fang Hao, a historian at National Chengchi University, was persistently researching on early periods of Chinese-Western cultural exchanges and the western impact on China, thereby probing into ancient Western history thematically. By the 80’s, Prof. Shen Ch’ing-sung of the same university introduced topics of early philosophy to the curriculum and, in the 90’s, Peng Wen-lin, a classicist, added studies of Plato and Aristotle’s ethics to the syllabus. By 2000, Li Sher-shiueh, at the Academia Sinica, began to work extensively on the East-West scholarly exchanges and cultural receptions between the 16th and 18th centuries.

  Meanwhile, in southern Taiwan, since the late 1980’s, Francis K. H. So has endeavored to develop medieval literary courses and the more popular Shakespeare course at National Sun Yat-sen University. By the late1990’s, taking advantage of the National Science Council grants, he contacted and invited Western medievalists to come to Taiwan and give touring lectures. Keeping pace with the momentum, his colleague, Wang I-chun of the same university, started to develop non-Shakespeare Renaissance drama courses with a cultural historical backdrop. There were also occasional seminars on 17th century poetry offered by other colleagues in the department. Concerned that studies of various aspects of early Western culture should take root in Taiwan, So and Wang invited Prof. Lee Mei-wen of the music department in 2001 to hold a Renaissance festival. Subsequently they were hosting the boundary crossing conference annually so much so that in northern Taiwan there was the medieval conference while in southern Taiwan there was the Renaissance conference. Since then, the annual event has become a cherished regular event of Sun Yat-sen University. Through the joint efforts of So and Wang, Sun Yat-sen University received a special $9 million NSC grant to replenish library acquisition on books and materials for the pre-1800 literary and historical studies, thus enriching the research base of those areas in southern Taiwan.

  Elsewhere, at National Chung Cheng University, Wang Ming-yueh actively participated in the Western medieval culture studies program at Fu Jen University since 2003. In 2006 she joined the project “Expanding the Vista of Taiwanese Humanities Vision and Energy: Classical, Medieval and the Renaissance” spearheaded by Nicholas Koss. In 2009, Professor Wang founded the Western Medieval Studies Center at her university. With that platform Wang was able to invite distinguished professors from top European, American and Australian universities to do short visit and give lectures.

  Meanwhile, further south at National Cheng Kung University, Weng Chia-sheng was concentrating on teaching history of the Western antiquities. Separately, Roger Perng Hui-rong developed Renaissance studies at National Changhua University of Education and Cecelia Liu medieval feminine studies at Fu Jen University. At the same time at the Department of Foreign Languages at National Taiwan University, Michael Keevak was working on early modern studies and East-West cultural exchanges, Chiang Tai-fen on the Bible as literature, Yang Ming-tsang Piers Plowman and medieval vernacular writings, and Vivian Westbrook on meta-criticism of the Bible and Walter Ralegh.  At the same university, Perng Ching-Hsi and Beatrice Bi-qi Lei were strengthening Shakespeare and related studies. Then at Central University, Yi Peng was studying Edmund Spenser, while at National Chengchi University, Lin Chih-hsin was conducting medieval and Renaissance research as well as pedagogical planning. These are dominantly literary scholars. At National Taipei University, however, Lee Juo-yong was building up early modern historical studies, while Cheng Yueh-ting at Kaohsiung University was focusing extensively on English Renaissance drama.

  Aside from the field of English literature, Margaret Boland, now retired from Tamkang University, was working on Old French (Marie de France) since the 1990’s. She was succeeded by Stella Guo Wang at the same university who studied Old English. At National Taiwan Normal University, Tseng Shai-shu implemented a small scale but vigorous Western art history program with a deep interest on Renaissance art. She was flanked by Candida Syndikus of the same institute and Hua Yi-fen who is now affiliated with the history department of National Taiwan University. In recent years, a younger generation of medieval and Renaissance specialists have surfaced: Chi-fang Sophia Li (medieval and Renaissance) and Lin Chih-yi (Shakespeare) at National Sun Yat-sen University, Chao Tien-yi (17th century), Sophia Ya-shih Liu (medieval), both at National Taiwan University, Margaret Kim (medieval studies) at National Tsing Hua University, Hsieh Hsin-yi (National Chung Hsing University), Chao Shun-liang (National Chengchi University), Yu Hui-chu (National Pingtung University of Education), Ruby Kuo (Ming Chi University of Technology) and a few others in various colleges and universities.

  Thus, after some fifty years of nourishment, Taiwan has now amassed a decent size of specialists contributing to the establishment of the fields, though most of them are affiliated with English literary studies.  To group up these academics and form a learned society of classicists, medievalists and Renaissance scholars has been our goal for some time. The sole purpose of such an attempt is to firm up and continue the legacy our predecessors have bestowed on us. Because of the still limited number of people in each specific area, to form three relatively “esoteric” societies (i.e., classical, medieval and the Renaissance) would have been difficult. Yet, not being able to group up this wide spectrum of scholars, soon whatever common concern or interest to cohere the scholarly activities will be dissipated. For that matter, we have decided to launch and form a visible community.

  Since Fu Jen University has a college of foreign languages, with departments of French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Italian aside from English, and a classical studies center (mainly Greek and Latin), it excels other universities in having the vantage position to promote ancient and early modern Western studies. Besides, the university has a philosophy department that places equal emphasis on Chinese and Western philosophy. Such scholarly assets are significant and unmatched by their counterpart schools. On the other hand, National Sun Yat-sen University has accumulated much experience in running programs and hosting multidimensional Renaissance conferences. The networking with interested personnel has been fairly established. After some discussion and exchange of ideas, colleagues from Fu Jen and Sun Yat-sen concurred that the time was ripen to organize a professional body of the field. 

  At long last, in 2006 at the Fu Jen international conference on medieval studies, participating scholars decided to form a medieval and Renaissance studies society. The aim was simple: to exercise the scholarly strength of a critical mass of specialists. During the conference, invited keynote speaker Prof. Piero Boitani offered us many valuable opinions.

  After months of consulting and contacting interested parties of related fields,  we began to shape up an admirable body of scholars. These fields include language studies, literature, history, philosophy, art history, drama, and music. With the required rooster in the proposal, we formally sent in an application to the Ministry of Interior Affairs. In 2007, we received official sanction from the Ministry that the Taiwan Association of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies (TACMRS) had been approved as a legal entity. Thereupon, the Association began to organize its first international conference. On that basis, both Fu Jen and Sun Yat-sen universities agreed not to hold the individual annual conference any more. Instead, the two universities joined forces to play host to the annual event alternately. It was decided that each year, the conference will maintain the international format, opening up to participants from abroad. The subject matter will involve various disciplines and include broadly the classical, medieval and Renaissance periods.

  The founding of this Association not only provides academics in Taiwan an intercollegiate and interdisciplinary platform to promote domestic humanities research, it also signifies the start up of a community that involves western classical, medieval and early modern studies in Asia. For the dissemination of scholarship and as the breeding ground of Taiwan’s fledging academics, TACMRS is set to serve its scholarly functions. Duly inaugurated in 2007, Prof. Nicholas Koss served as the first president of the Association. Thereby during the initial five years of TACMRS, Fu Jen University and Sun Yat-sen University alternated to host the TACMRS conference, adding visibility of the wide field to the Taiwan academia. The Association also made it a policy to actively engage in international exposure by sending delegates to attend overseas conferences. Even before the founding of the Association, we established links in 2006 with the Medieval and Early Modern English Studies Association of Korea (MEMESAK). Such a link continues until this day and both associations concur to send delegate to participate in either side’s conferences on a regular basis.

  Then in 2008, we allied ourselves with the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, by organizing sponsored sessions in the Kalamazoo congress. By 2009, we extended ourselves to link up with the Renaissance Studies of America (RSA) with sponsored session at its conferences. Further in 2010, we lined up with Cooperative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network (CARMEN) as probably the only Asian member to this European setup. Recently still, we began to participate at the University of Leeds medieval conference in the U.K. in an institutional fashion. As can be seen, after the founding of the Association, we have every intention to reach out to strengthen our studies, vision and exchanges with the far-off medieval Europe. Lately, we explore the vista of developing East-West relationships during the three periods concerned of our Association. Much remains to be developed.