Starting the Conversation

Brushtalking can be considered the sister blog to my language learning blog “En Route to Fluency“. While En Route to Fluency focuses on some reflections regarding language learning, Brushtalking will be focused on the academic side of my crazy adventures. Everything from library trips to interesting sources and even random exposition will likely find its way into here.

One other goal I hope to accomplish with this blog is to share some insight into doing research abroad (okay, primarily Japan and Taiwan as that is where I’m based/my research area). That is, I want to share useful terms for using libraries and finding resources, as well as listing out some useful places to look both online and offline for sources. While my research is primarily focused on history, I also have an interest in Chinese and Japanese literature and will share fun tidbits about that along the way as well.

The name Brushtalking, you ask (I assume you asked anyway), actually comes from the term 筆談 (bǐ​tán ; ひつだん). But what is Brushtalking and why choose that title?

“Brushtalking” used to be a way for friends to communicate. Even later, it was used as a way for Chinese and Japanese to communicate through Chinese characters–despite speaking two completely different languages. Through “brushtalking”–often poetry–the two sides could discuss recent events and what they were feeling.1

I felt this was a suitable name for this blog. In my own experiences, I’ve found how studying Chinese has opened up the world of Japanese kanji to me–that had once been intimidating and unapproachable. So, this blog looks more at the academic leg of that journey, including musings on thesis writing, working while studying, doing a degree in a foreign language, and all the other fun stuff along the way. I hope you enjoy it!


1. In case you’re interested, there’s a very good book that discusses the role of brushtalking in Ch’ing China-Japan relations called Borders of Chinese Civilization: Geography and History at Empire’s End by Douglas R. Howland.