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For immediate release
June 8, 1999

Japanese Government To Honor Barbara Ruch, Columbia Professor, With Imperial Decoration

Professor Barbara Ruch will be honored by the Japanese Government for her efforts to broaden understanding of Japanese culture.

Ruch, Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture and Director of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, which she established at Columbia in 1968, will receive The Order of the Precious Crown, with Butterfly, during a ceremony at the residence of Ambassador Siiechiro Otsuka, Consul General of Japan, in New York, on September 10.

The Imperial Decoration, first conferred in 1888, honors broad cultural achievement and has historically been conferred only rarely. It is comprised of a pendant of gold, pearls, and multi-colored cloisonne, an art that dates back to the 7th century in Japan.

Ruch, who stimulated study on the medieval book and scroll format known as Nara ehon, is a leading specialist on the popular literature of medieval Japan and has played a major role in bringing to light cultural studies of the Kamakura and Muromachi periods from 1185 to 1600.

She was the first scholar to gain entry to the 13 remaining Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto and Nara. For the past decade, she has directed an international research team that for the first time is surveying the diaries, records and art treasures held by these convents from the 13th century to the present day, and studying the religious life of the nuns. A collection of the convent treasures was exhibited for the first time through Ruch's efforts last fall when several Abbesses and nuns visited the United States to conduct a Buddhist memorial service in honor of their spiritual founder at Columbia's St. Paul's Chapel.

In 1991, Ruch was the first person ever to receive the Minakata Kumagusu Prize for a life's work in the Japanese humanities. In 1992, she was the first non-Japanese to receive the Aoyama Nao Prize for Women's History for her book on medieval Japanese literature and culture, written in Japanese, Mo hitotsu no chusei zo (Another Perspective on Medieval Japan). She founded the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia and served as its first director.

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