Urmas Hõbepappel is now analyst of Asia Centre

Since April Urmas Hõbepappel is fulfilling the role of analyst at the Asia Centre. What are his tasks in the new role, what is his connection to Asia and where does he focus in his research, is something he brought out in the following answers. 

1. What is your connection with Asia?

I have lived in China for five years and visited the country as a student, tour guide and a researcher so many times that I have lost count. My interests towards Asian cultures and societies emerged at the university. As an undergrad student I was particularly interested in Buddhism and other major religions of Asia, but soon began to focus on the faith of Tibetan people and then, in turn, on China. Nowadays I visit China and other Asian countries several times a year.

2. What do you focus on in your research?

I wrote my BA thesis about the possibilities of Buddhism’s spread to the Eastern Mediterranean during the last few centuries BC. Thereafter I focused on more social issues. My first MA thesis is about the concept of religious freedom in the Chinese cultural tradition, and my second MA thesis (defended at Lund University) about the idea of freedom in contemporary Chinese political philosophy, 1980-2008. In the past few years I have been writing my PhD dissertation on history politics in China and teaching theoretical courses on glocalisation and Asian and Middle Eastern civilisations.

3. What do you do at University of Tartu Asia Centre?

My task at the Asia Centre is to advise the University of Tartu and different parties of the Estonian public on matters concerning Asia, particularly China. My role is to guarantee that the university and the society are ready to face the multiple challenges and opportunities related to Asia.

4. What is your recommendation on Asia that everybody should know or be aware of?

Everyone should, if possible, visit Asia at least once. And once you are there, do not be stuck in large cities but visit also the suburbs, ghettoes and the countryside. Then you will finally realise how people of different cultures live, work and have fun.