The New York Conference on Asian Studies (NYCAS) encourages the development of the skills of scholarly writing by awarding annual prizes for excellent student papers dealing with Asia. Two such prizes are awarded each year, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student. Runners-up are named in each category.

The prizes honor the outstanding service of Dr. Marleigh Grayer Ryan, former Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Professor of Japanese Literature, and Coordinator of Asian Studies at SUNY New Paltz; and longtime Executive Secretary of NYCAS


Eligibility: Undergraduate and graduate students at a college or university in New York State.

Field: East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Asia in diaspora, and Asian American studies.

Awards: The First Prize winners in the Undergraduate and Graduate categories each will receive a $100 prize.

The Graduate Paper Prize winner will receive a complimentary one-year membership to the Association for Asian Studies and will be eligible to participate on a panel sponsored by the AAS Council on Conferences at the AAS annual meeting.

The winning papers will be published on the NYCAS website and considered for presentation in a panel at a future NYCAS meeting.

Format of papers: Papers should include a cover page giving the title of the paper, the student’s name, category, institution, and contact information (including current email and permanent mailing address).

Submission of papers: A student may submit only one entry. Papers may be submitted by the student author or by a faculty member acting on behalf of a student. A faculty member may not provide any evaluative comments at the time of nomination.

Papers should be submitted by email attachment only. Include an abstract of up to 150 words. Undergraduate papers are limited to 40 pages. Graduate papers are limited to 60 pages.

A submitted paper should stand alone and not be a segment of a larger work, such as a Senior Thesis, Masters’ Thesis, or Doctoral Dissertation.

Please include a completed cover sheet with your application. Attach the pdf cover sheet along with your paper in your submission email.

Entry deadline: June 1, 2024

Notification of awards by July 15, 2024

Submit papers by email attachment to:

Professor Tiantian Zheng, Chair

NYCAS Marleigh Grayer Ryan Prize Committee

Application Form: MGRAppForm2024

NYCAS Congratulates the Winners of the 2023 Writing Prize Competition!

Graduate Prize Winner

Jeung Hyun Kim

Syracuse University

 “Grandparenting, Filial Piety, and Well-being of Chinese-American Older Adults” 

Abstract: This study explores the association between grandparent caregiving by Chinese- American older adults and their perception of filial care and respect (i.e. filial piety) received from their adult children. Drawing on arguments regarding norms of altruism and reciprocity based on social exchange theory in the context of intergenerational relationships, this study examines whether more active engagement in grandparenting results in higher levels of filial piety among adult children and whether that in turn results in better well-being through reducing loneliness. It uses data from Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago, a survey of the well-being of Chinese-American older adults in Chicago. The results show that more hours of grandparent caregiving relate to higher amounts of filial piety in the view of older parents. However, more pressure to take care of a grandchild from adult children reduces perceived filial piety. Furthermore, grandparent caregiving can reduce loneliness among older adults, and receipt of filial piety mediates the association. Discussion focuses on how grandparent caregiving can strengthen intergenerational relationships while contributing to psychological well-being among older Chinese-American adults. This research contributes to the discussion of normative aspects of the intergenerational solidarity theory and holds policy implications for the promotion of well-being among Chinese-American older adults based on their grandparenting practices.

Graduate Honorable Mention Winner

Caiyang Xu

Columbia University

“The Politicization of the Mahāyāna Distinction in Modern China, 1911–1953”

Abstract: In Buddhist studies, scholars generally divide Buddhism into two camps—Mahāyāna and Theravāda. However, the mapping of Asian Buddhist nations into either of these exclusive categories only took currency since the late nineteenth century. Given the pervasiveness of this classification, this paper offers a genealogy of the Mahāyāna distinction from 1911 to 1953 in China. By “Mahāyāna distinction,” I mean the differentiation of Mahāyāna from Hīnayāna (Theravāda Buddhism, or Mainstream Buddhism), as well as the superior religious vision that “Mahāyāna” entailed. In this process, its symbolic distinction fueled this differentiation to become a hierarchical ordering of Asia Buddhist countries. Instead of viewing Mahāyāna and Theravāda as ahistorical categories, this paper investigates how the meanings of this distinction evolved along with the social-historical landscape in early 20th-century China. In doing so, this paper challenges the essentialization of Mahāyāna as an apolitical ideal of the “Great Vehicle.”

Undergraduate Prize Winner

Wanqing Zhou (Iris)

University of Rochester

“What Do You Mean by ‘Love’: Intimacy, Commodification, and Community among Chinese Kpop Fans”

Abstract: This paper examines the Chinese K-pop fandom groups forms on social media platforms, an evergrowing online grassroots community that has arisen around the Korean popular music industry in China. Drawing on fifteen months of digital ethnographic research between January 2021 and April 2022, I analyze Chinese K-pop fans’ narratives and discourses of “love.” Fans borrow tropes of romantic love to construct an imagined intimate relationship with their idol. They purchase photo cards, albums, and products endorsed by their idol to express their affection. They also organize collective actions based in consumer activism to demand better treatment for their idol. Ultimately, I characterize fandom as a powerful site for presenting female creativity and agency rather than a congregation of manipulated consumers: it is an illustration of how love consolidated a community of horizontal connections that influences both its members’ online and offline lives, simultaneously emotionally and materially.

Undergraduate Honorable Mention Winner

Kirstie Yuen

Skidmore College

“Does a Daoist genuinely value close relationships?”

Abstract: This paper explores the close interpersonal relationships of a Daoist by examining the Daoist characteristic of fasting the heart-mind and the practice of wu-wei (non-action). Although the capability of a Daoist having close relationships has been previously established in other publications, it might be called into question whether Daoist detachment is sufficient to convey value and care for their loved ones. This paper delves deeper into this investigation by establishing how the fundamental practice of wu-wei not only promotes emotional resilience, but also presents an alternative way of genuinely valuing their close interpersonal relationships.