By Oluwapelumi Osunrayi and Sydney Woodward
On April 21, The Council on Undergraduate Research is having their first Virtual Posters on the Hill Showcase for undergraduate researchers. Researchers from across the country will come together online to share their research. Posters on the Hill is an annual event that is an important for the advocacy of undergraduate research funding at a federal level. If you want to participate in the virtual showcase on April 21, visit Twitter and follow CUR at @CURinAction and search #POH2020 and #POHgoesVirtual.
Representing the state of Oklahoma, is Grace Wray, a Professional Media Major with minors in History and Asian Studies here at the University of Central Oklahoma. Her project, “James Legge: A Powerful Global Citizen,” explores the historical importance of James Legge, the first professor of Chinese at Oxford and a pioneer of bringing Western Culture into Hong Kong. Wray’s project is based on archival materials obtained in Britain including handwritten letters and sermons from the Bodleian Library at Oxford and the London Missionary Society collection at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Wray sought materials that explained Legge’s worldview since he studied Confucianism at a time when most Christians said that philosophy was offensive. He was highly successful in evangelizing at his church in Hong Kong and at teaching British subjects about China because he understood the thoughts of both cultures.
Wray was first interested in doing a project that involved the history of China. Grace’s late father studied Chinese and visited Beijing when she was young. She grew up in an environment that encouraged global awareness. Dr. Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen, Grace’s faculty mentor, told her about the RCSA research opportunities, and talked about her interests until they found James Legge. Wray was interested because he was a link between British and Chinese history, and she loves storytelling. Legge was a master translator and brought Chinese poetry and religion to the West in easy to read volumes. She was fascinated by the stories he chose to translate and what impact they had on different cultures.
Focusing on James Legge is important because it shows Americans the importance of a global education. Being a global citizen has always been a concept close to Wray’s heart so bringing leaders like James Legge in the light is something she is proud to be working on. Additionally, the work and life of James Legge is an under-researched topic and Wray’s work provides original and unique contribution to the study of Legge as scholarship published about James Legge in the last ten years has not relied on his letters. Most of these articles and books relied on his publications.
As far as her future direction for her work, Grace Wray hopes to return to London and look through more of his materials as stateside access is not available. She would like to continue researching about his life and philosophy. This year was also cut short for her due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19. She hopes to keep presenting her work at future conferences.
The most exciting about her work for Grace is the hope that someone reads her work and decides to be more globally minded. “It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone with people that look and think like you. However, James Legge proves that extraordinary accomplishments and outreach are achieved by putting himself out there into new territories. The environment he placed himself in couldn’t have been more different then his life in London, but he chose to thrive and make his impact on the world.”
When asked about the what was the coolest thing about her research, Grace said, “I love the fact I get to work with his original documents. This is research that hasn’t been done before to the extent I plan to take it. It is really cool I get to handle papers that Legge created when he was alive. The London trip also prepared me to be a little more confident in myself. I have been to London; but before but being there without my family was really rough at first. In the end however I really enjoyed taking advantage of being in such an international city and wish I was back in London every day.”