In The Literature of Leisure and Chinese Modernity, Charles Laughlin explores a modern Chinese literary genre the importance of which cannot be overemphasized: the informal prose essay. All too rarely, however, has it been the object of Western scholarship on modern Chinese literature. Laughlin focuses his insightful study mainly on essays written during the 1920s and 1930s, a period that witnessed the revival and elevation of the genre to previously unattained popularity. In an attempt to guide the reader through the vast and indistinct corpus of a genre the writing of which was practiced in some form by practically every Chinese intellectual of the period, Laughlin chose to limit himself to a subgenre of the essay he identifies as xiaopin wen, or little prose pieces. Laughlin sees xiaopin wen as most representative of a Chinese aesthetic concept called xianqing wenxue, which essentially describes the pursuit of happiness and leisure through literary expression. Circumventing other popular forms of informal prose writing of the period, such as the satirical zawen, informal jottings (suibi), or conventional travelogues (youji), Laughlin demonstrates throughout his study not only how the Republican-period practitioners of xiaopin wen creatively drew on premodern literature of leisure in their own prose responses to Chinese modernity, but more important, how the genre was able to challenge (and at times accommodate) calls for a socially redemptive literature, and how it could persist even during the early years of the People's Republic.
Laughlin organizes the body of works he discusses around four major, if loosely defined, schools or cohorts of xiaopin wen practitioners of the Republican period who respectively shared a common aesthetic view of the forms, roles, and content of xiaopin wen. Typically aligned with one or more journals in which they published their xiaopin wen, the four cohorts are the Threads of Conversation (Yusi ), the White Horse Lake (Baima hu ), the Analects (Lunyu ), and the Crescent Moon (Xinyue ). Each is treated in a separate chapter. In addition, Laughlin identified for each of these cohorts a common criterion that heads its chapter and that can be read as a single defining aesthetic concern shared by the group's members: "wandering" for the Threads of Conversation, "learning" for the White Horse Lake, "enjoying" for the Analects, and "dreaming" for the Crescent Moon group. Throughout the study, Laughlin comments on the shifting and often overlapping nature of group affiliation and aesthetic concerns of some of the period's most influential literary figures, examines the degree to which xiaopin wen can be seen as an intrinsically Chinese response to modernity, and discusses the politicization of a body of works that its authors tended to view as strictly apolitical.
In chapter 1, Laughlin first attempts to demarcate xiaopin wen against other forms of prose writing. He elucidates the concept of xianqing wenxue as a loose canon of premodern work that was first defined by Zhou Zuoren, who was also one of the foremost pioneers of modern xiaopin wen and cofounder of the Beijing-based Threads of Conversation group, which was seminal in the revival of xiaopin wen. Because Zhou and others aligned the modern xiaopin wen with its premodern predecessors—most important, the unconventional works of the late Ming Gongan school that celebrated the personal pursuit of leisure and the art of living—it constitutes, according to Laughlin, a major challenge to the notion that modern Chinese literature is characterized by the demise of tradition. Consequently, the kind of literary wandering that defines the works of the Threads of Conversation group discussed in chapter 2 is characterized not only by spatial wandering, but also by an intertextual, cross-cultural wandering, a "cultivated wandering in creative digression" (p. 49). Exemplified through xiaopin wen by Zhou Zuoren, Yu Pingbo, and Fei Ming, the idea of wandering as digression is thus read by Laughlin as a "deliberate frustration of utilitarian readings of self-expression" (p. 76), an intention to diverge both from the ordinary and from the norms of the New Culture Movement, shared to some extent by all subsequent groups of essay writers.
The idea that utilitarian concerns and the pursuit of leisure need not constitute mutually exclusive agendas of literary expression is explored in chapter 3...
This monograph is a multifaceted and in-depth study of the debates on ritual practices at the Chinese court between 1034 and 1093. This period is primarily known for its lively discussions on political reforms initiated by Fan Zhongyan and Wang Anshi, the development of Neo-Confucian philosophy, the growing importance of the examination system, and the rise of the literati. Yet, as Meyer rightly claims (pp. 28–29), the ritual debates (Ritendiskussionen) of that time, their relation to social and political issues, and their place in the reflections of prominent Neo-Confucian thinkers have not received much attention.
Meyer splits his exhaustive study into four main parts and a summary of results. The first part considers the meaning of the term li (rites, ritual, propriety) and, primarily drawing on the findings of the German sinologist Werner Eich-horn, sketches out the system of imperial court rituals of the Song dynasty. This section can be read as a general introduction to the subject of li from antiquity through the Song period, yet at times one wishes for more clarity with regard to the relevance of particular details to the overall argument of this study.
In the second part, Meyer turns to the core topic of his book, the Northern Song debates on the court rituals. He singles out four major issues: the debate on the sacrifices to Heaven and Earth, including the discussion on the Bright Hall (mingtang); the debate on ritual music; the debate on the veneration of Prince Pu; and the debate on the mourning ritual for the deceased chancellor Sima Guang. The sources on these controversies are scattered and fragmentary, and so one of Meyer’s major achievements is having meticulously compiled the available materials and offering careful translations and detailed paraphrases. In this way, this section offers an informative overview of the particular minutiae considered in these debates — from the color of the curtains to the sound of the bells. Moreover, the section effectively demonstrates that arguments and eventually decisions were often subject to a large array of conflicting considerations, from exegesis of the Confucian classics, through the interpretation of omens, to the pragmatic concerns of economy and power struggles. Despite the strengths of this section, the author simply lists a litany of proposals and decrees in chronological order without providing much analytical context, thereby running the risk of overburdening the reader. Particularly with respect to the exhaustive debates on the Heaven and Earth sacrifices and on ritual music, the short introductions to the key points of contention hardly suffice to guide the reader through the section’s extensive account of the deliberations.
In the attempt to analyze and contextualize the four debates, the third part begins with a description of what Meyer terms the “ritual identity of the shidafu”1 (scholar-officials) (p. 306). This section no longer focuses on court rituals but explains what implications li had, in a broader sense, for the self-perception of the shidafu during the Northern Song. The argument claims that engaging in discourses on li reassured the participants of their social and political relevance and fostered cohesion among them. Following a brief introduction to the institutional framework of the debates at the Song court, Meyer returns to his core subject, the court rituals, and analyzes the roles of different protagonists such as the emperor, chancellors and ministers, censors, court officials, and external experts.
Shifting the focus once more, Meyer then turns to some interesting reflections on the applicability of the Habermasian notion of public sphere to the Chinese context. He thereby addresses the contentious question of whether China has, or ever had, such a public sphere. Meyer convincingly concludes that neither Habermas’ concept of representative public sphere nor that of bourgeois public sphere is well suited to describe Northern Song society. Based on his analysis of the court ritual debates, he proposes the notion of a discursive public sphere. This discursive public sphere is court-centered; however, in contrast to the representative public sphere, it allows subjects outside of government to engage in court discussions.
At the end of the third part, the author investigates the relation between the debates on court rituals and the factionalism at the...
John Dardess is a senior and respected scholar of Ming history who has produced many widely read works that cover a wide spectrum of issues. From important discussions on the founding of the dynasty to one of the last major political struggles toward the end of the empire, from taking a macro view on the founding professional elites to using a micro lens on literati from a single county — Dardess has almost done it all.
With years of research and an in-depth understanding of the Ming, he is well suited to write a concise history on the subject. It would be easier, although as important, to write extensively and broadly on the Ming, such as the endeavor of the Cambridge History series. It is much more difficult, however, to write briefly on a big subject. The first daunting question to ask is, What questions ought to be asked? How does one answer these questions in less than 200 pages? How should one write so that the targeted readers stay interested?
Different historians would have approached the subject differently and taken up different themes, as Dardess honestly points out. Dardess approaches it by beginning with the outer edges of the Ming realm, thus providing us with a lively description of the Ming’s frontiers. This first chapter helps readers situate the Ming in its own neighborhood. It was very diverse, including small autonomous tribes who wanted the Ming to leave them alone and countries that wanted to rule China. The frontiers posed many different threats, from small-scale raiders to a large East Asian crisis whereby the Ming had to deploy massive land and marine troops to fight an expansive war on a foreign peninsula. The chapter is also a useful map for readers to understand the many challenges the dynasty faced, and where and why state resources were drained. In Dardess own words, the frontier management’s “mounting fiscal and human costs could not be sustained forever” (p. 24).
Dardess arranges his five approaches in a cascade beginning with the frontiers; he then proceeds inward and arranges the remaining four themes in a topdown manner based on the power hierarchy in each chapter. He starts with the emperors and continues with the officials responsible for Ming governance and the closely connected literati. He leaves the outlaws that disturbed the social order for last. Dardess provides a sketch of the sixteen Ming emperors with varying levels of contributions to the dynasty, from as complex as founding the dynasty to as simple as being a mere presence on the throne. Most of these men would probably have had a hard time making a decent living with their own intellect and skills. However, according to Dardess, it really did not matter who ruled from the Forbidden City after the first half century from the dynasty’s founding. Dardess argues that other factors kept the dynasty intact, and its final collapse was inevitable since “not even a long succession of wise and competent rulers would have sufficed to steer Ming China over the shoals of the seventeenth century” (p. 59).
The Ming lasted for almost three hundred years, and it was not sheer force that kept it together. To Dardess, “some sort of national consensus about appropriate and legitimate power relations” was also at work (p. 62). Beyond these, the structure of the Ming government also contributed to the resilience of the empire. In the Ming, powers overlapped and were divided among three major components: military officers, civil officials, and palace eunuchs. Most important among the three is the civil bureaucracy. Dardess first provides a summary of how civil officials were recruited and sketches the structure of the various offices. They played an important role that the other two groups could not because they were directly charged with the ruling of the populace, adjudicating their disputes, and collecting most of the taxes. The next step is to assess the quality of the contributions of these civil officials. Overall, Dardess believes that many generations of men had given the dynasty good and conscientious service. Although these included the military officers and palace eunuchs, most of them were literati.
The story of the literati is...
The involvement of the literati class in drama during the late Ming period is a much studied trend of the era. The Chinese male elite, particularly those located in Jiangnan, took a keen interest in every aspect of dramatic production. Literati hired and trained their own drama troupes, composed plays for reading and performance, and were impassioned critics of the aesthetics and musicality of this operatic form of drama. Many of these printed dramatic texts contain exquisite illustrations and mark a high point in the illustrative art of the era. Li-Ling Hsiao’s The Eternal Present of the Past: Illustration, Theater, and Reading in the Wanli Period, 1573–1619 is the most comprehensive study to date of illustrations in dramatic texts of the Ming era. The author argues strongly for “the intellectual ambition of the medium” of illustration in contrast to those who would see illustration as merely decorative or aesthetic, or as the result of market competition to attract readers (pp. 14, 30–31, 37). She believes drama illustrations were “highly self- conscious and purposeful and fully complicit in the most important intellectual movements of the day” (p. 36).
Chapter 1 of The Eternal Present of the Past offers a synthesis for the main arguments of the book. The following chapters deal with the controversy among drama critics about the performability of the literati play (chap. 2), illustrations in printed dramatic texts that adopted the visual imagery of the theatre (chap. 3), literati understandings of plays as bringing the past into the present through stage performance and printed renditions (chap. 4), the fruitful dynamic between illustration and painting (chap. 5), and contemporary notions of reading as a type of “theatrical experience” (chap. 6). In these chapters, Hsiao translates and discusses a large corpus of paratextual matter in Ming plays and relevant dramatic criticism. She is seeking to position her chosen dramatic illustrations within the broadest possible context of Ming literati preoccupations, including their understanding of the relationship between theatrical performance and printed text and concerns about whether excessive literary refinement detracted from the musicality and appropriateness of the operatic performance. Hsiao’s erudite discussion is often stimulating and insightful. However, the individual chapters tend to work as separate essays, and the synthesis of all these ideas, promised in chapter 1, appears somewhat elusive when one proceeds in detail through the evidence provided.
Chapter 3 is the most original contribution and adds significantly to our understanding of the theatricality of a certain type of illustration popular in dramatic texts of the Ming Wanli period (1573–1620). In this chapter, the reader is presented with a feast of illustrations from famous Ming plays and a detailed discussion of the way that these present a mimesis of dramatic performance. Hsiao argues for several modes by which this act of mimesis was effected: the use of stage design in illustrations, the use of theatrical gestures, and the inclusion of stage structures, name boards, curtains, valences, props, and so on. This chapter contains twenty reproductions from the history of Chinese illustrations, beginning with the Diamond Sutra, to assist the reader to assess the evidence.
While stage trappings can be found in earlier fictional illustrations such as pinghua (prose tales), chantefables, and novels, it is clear from Hsiao’s study that the use of theatrical imagery reached a new height in the Wanli era and was one of the most important illustrative trends of the era. Chapter 3 offers additional insight into how the poses and gestures of the characters in illustrations provide a mimesis of stage enactment. Hsiao treats gestures of entering and journeying on stage, greeting and speaking, crying and rejoicing, serving drinks at banquets, even the expression of feminine shyness. Some illustrations are even given an onstage audience, the better to create the illusion of a theatrical experience. Others offer evidence of particular types of stage (that is, a stage in the market place or a carpet stage in a private home). This chapter demonstrates through meticulous detail and analysis the importance of stage-inspired illustrations in printed dramatic texts of the late Ming.
However, as Hsiao is aware, her chosen category of “performance illustrations” was known before the Wanli era...
This volume is about the figurative work in woodblock print and painting of the late Ming eccentric master Chen Hongshou (1598–1652). Like other seventeenth-century nonconformists, including Shitao and Bada Shanren, this artist is much cherished by late modern scholars—in his case for his visual wit and irony; his consummate skill in the ink-outline idiom, especially in the depiction of drapery lineament in figure painting; his revival of strange antique modes, notably from Buddhist monk painting; his pioneering ventures as a designer into the woodblock print medium; and perhaps also for his never having succeeded as a scholar-official, despite numerous attempts, and having to make a living from selling his art. In addition, he leaves an extraordinarily large and diverse oeuvre, even for a professional, one which ranges from bespoke, one-off works for eminent patrons, to larger workshop productions—sometimes made in series—to pastiches, copies, and forgeries. Wan-go Weng’s three volume compilation of the oeuvre is testament to its size and, indeed, also points to the complexity of questions of authorship and practice. Like many other famous artists of the early seventeenth century all over the world, Chen Hongshou deviated from traditional practice by running a workshop, and his students and assistants produced a large number of works in his name, seemingly with his blessing. Forgers were also already busy in his lifetime.
Bentley’s study examines the figural element of this oeuvre, especially the woodblock print series (playing cards and book illustrations), which have not been the topic of any monographic study. Having originated as a PhD thesis (University of Michigan, 2000), this book retains some of the performative qualities of that format, while in terms of critical positioning, it is very much a product of and addressed to the North American academy. Bentley systematically explores Chen Hongshou’s series of prints spanning his career, situating them primarily within a specific stream of late Ming intellectual culture, “the Li Zhi-based discourse” or “the discourse on authenticity” (p. 11), centered upon ideas of authenticity (zhen), originality (qi) (see, e.g., chap. 1/introduction) and feeling (qing) (chap. 2). Prominent literati, including Chen Jiru and the Yuan brothers, are also featured. Chapter 3 examines Chen Hongshou’s vernacular voice. Bentley also deals effectively with the development of print culture in early modern China and Europe (chap. 4). The remaining chapters attend to late work, including figures of reclusion (chap. 5), problems of workshop production and reproduction (chap. 6), and the conflicted morality and aesthetics of his time (chap. 7). The book is rounded off with a conclusion in chapter 8. It has a bibliography and an index, and forty-two color plates in one section, as well as sixty-five monochrome figures interspersed throughout. The color plates are generally of good quality.
Bentley’s readings of images are, in the main, lively and satisfactory, although her argument is strongly geared toward analysis of intellectual and literary discourse and of innovation and diversification in the late Ming art market. Nonetheless, she gamely takes on the difficult problems of formal analysis and visual interpretation in Chen Hongshou’s work. This is much to her credit and sets her book apart from others currently appearing.
Where she cites an image, artist, or mode as a source for Chen Hongshou, as the diachronics of art history prompts, the reader would perhaps wish to have a more trenchant sense of how and why that image or that painter was relevant to him at that moment. One sometimes has the sense that it was old masterworks that controlled late Ming artists and not vice versa, as when Bentley remarks, using the passive voice, “By means of artists such as Ding Yunpeng and Chen Hongshou, these archaic styles were brought into printed illustrations” (p. 234; my italics). (This is perhaps more an issue of language than of critical outlook—see below.) Even if one is disinclined to gush about the brilliance of an artist, certain artworks retain an extraordinary power of social agency that cannot be easily dismissed. The structure of this book combines themes and chronological development and, as such, works effectively to meet current critical concerns in...
Over the last few decades, scholarly interest in the interaction of military conflict with society and politics has steadily increased. Military historians have introduced the term “new military history,” an approach wherein they are more sensitive than traditional military historians to the wider social, economic, and institutional contexts that spawn military campaigns. Not confined to stories of weapons and military operations, writing military history under this new methodological approach can be a grueling endeavor because scholars have to investigate the complete circumstances of military campaigns. This includes studying not only their strategies but all the implications of these campaigns for politics and society. Kenneth Swope has presented a book of this sort. He draws upon impressive archival research and rich published sources to explore the military collapse of the Ming dynasty, resulting in a welcome contribution to existing historical literature on the fall of the Ming and the Manchu conquest. While not precluding the traditional “drum and trumpet” paradigm to analyze the actual strategy and battle, Swope also emphasizes the relationship between the Ming political system and military conflict. In so doing, Swope has convincingly explained the reasons behind the strategies employed by the Ming commanders that led to military failure. [End Page 373]
The consensus among historians is that the Ming’s despotic political system functioned well only under a competent monarch with excellent strategic foresight who was capable both of maintaining the balance between his civil officials and military commanders and of selecting officials with military expertise and the competence to cope with military threats. There was no lack of competent field commanders and military strategists in the late Ming dynasty. Swope’s early study on the Three Great Campaigns of the Wanli emperor (1592–1598) details the important ways in which the Wanli emperor employed his talent for military affairs to conduct campaigns that successfully suppressed the Mongols, Japanese invaders, and civil rebels. As demonstrated in his A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail, the Ming government in fact maintained its military prowess and remained strong enough to stabilize its borderlands and crush peasant uprisings at least before 1600. If this was so, how do we understand the eclipse of the Ming’s strong military performance in the 1630s and 1640s, given that many skillful commanders of Wanli’s era still served his successors?
In the book under review, Swope tries to answer this question, continuing his interest in the military history of the late Ming. In so doing, he provides the reader with a vivid and finely detailed account of the Ming’s military collapse. Swope is by no means the first historian to take up the fall of the Ming as an issue of scholarly concern. The classical study on this topic is Frederic Wakeman Jr.’s The Great Enterprise. Wakeman highlights Manchu military ambitions, but, in the words of Swope, “devotes far too little attention to what the Ming did wrong” (p. 6). Distinguished from previous research, Swope primarily adopts a “court-centered approach,” by focusing on how and why certain military strategies and tactics were developed in the Ming court, together with their direct impact on the battlefield. He shows that the late Ming’s inability to respond to the Manchu conquest and peasant rebellions stemmed largely from poor leadership of notable individuals, including the emperors and core military commanders, who became increasingly autocratic and failed to make sound military decisions, leaving the dynasty more vulnerable to both foreign and domestic foes.
The book is divided into eight chronologically organized chapters, covering the period from Nurhaci’s attack on the trading city of Fushun in 1618 to the Manchu army’s entrance into Beijing in 1644. The brief introduction maps out the historical context of the decline of the Ming and situates the present study within a broader historiographical scope. Swope engages with existing literature on the political and social dynamics of the Ming–Qing transition, embraced by Kai Filipiak, Lynn Struve, and Frederic Wakeman Jr. Acknowledging previous...
While few educators deny that understanding China is important for today’s students, until now most materials on Chinese history and society have primarily for the postsecondary classroom.
China and the World: A History since 1644 seeks to fill this gap and for the most part does an admirable job. Twenty chapters divided into five units cover the period from the Manchu conquest in 1644 down to the present day. The narrative and pacing of the curriculum are neat and efficient. Each unit and chapter is well structured with separate headings for chapter contents, an organizing idea, key questions, and a list of terms. While written for secondary students, the compilers and chapter authors have done a commendable job in not dumbing down important concepts.
Most international China scholars will be satisfied with the tone and content of the narrative. I qualify “international” China scholars because while the text does a fine job of incorporating recent historiography and scholarship on China, there is little mention about how the narrative presented here departs substantially from how the same topics are taught in China or are understood by many Chinese. It is important to learn China’s history, but it is equally necessary to understand how Chinese see their own past and how it relates to their present and the future.
This is not to say that a textbook written for English-speaking secondary school students ought pass muster with the PRC Ministry education, but a note or sidebar explaining alternative interpretations would be useful. For example, most foreign accounts of the Boxer movement mention that the anti-foreign Boxers also killed thousands of their own countrymen and women, a decidedly more complicated tale than that taught in PRC schools where it is taught the Boxers were heroic Chinese patriots protecting their country from foreign imperialists. It is not always necessary to “teach the controversy,” but considering this interpretation of the Boxers, as well as other events during China’s “Century of Humiliation,” is necessary to understanding Chinese nationalism in the present day. A set of related discussion questions asks students to think about how this event could be used by the government to promote nationalism. Without some background about how the Boxers as narrative is constructed and deployed in Chinese schools, students not from China may not be able to fully appreciate the extent to which events like the Boxers inform the way many Chinese view the world today.
A later chapter includes excerpts from a speech given in 1952 by Mao Zedong on the “liberation” of the Tibetans that does give some insight into the internal logic of the CCP regarding the status of Tibet. But this is presented as an artifact of history. Given the ability to include video via the supplementary CD-ROM, the authors might have considered the inclusion of more recent government statements on the Dalai Lama or clips from the 2008 patriotic viral video “China Stand Up!” This video serves as a chilling reminder that Tibet is not just a matter of history or international politics but remains an emotionally charged issue for many young Chinese.
The accompanying CD-ROM and the structure of each chapter and section make this an excellent teaching tool for secondary teachers. Each chapter comes with an array of activities, all of which develop core analytical skills while utilizing a wide variety of primary sources including texts, maps, photographs, posters, and video. The lesson plans are thoughtful and engaging and foster a high level of student interaction with the sources. Introductory essays provide a contextual framework for students’ exploration of the primary materials. Suggested activities include mapping exercises, mock negotiations, creative writing assignments, debates, discussions, and role-playing. All of the activities seem designed to help students read and appreciate primary sources and to gently wean secondary students away from textbook memorization to more active forms of engaging with history.
While the reading level, tone, and pacing of the textbook make it more suitable for the secondary classroom, creative teachers of lower-division undergraduates can adapt some of the primary source activities for their own courses. Many of the primary texts included here can also be found in standard documentary...
There are few better ways to engage the minds and imaginations of a new generation of undergraduates studying modern Chinese history than a good collection of primary documents. For the period ranging from the late Ming to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the second edition of Sources of Chinese Tradition, vol. 2 (2000), and The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection (1999) (hereafter, Search) have set the standard. The husband-and-wife team of David G. and Yurong Y. Atwill have contributed another sourcebook, one that “goes beyond the narrow boundaries of political and intellectual thought” as they explore “broad cultural, social, and ethnic trends” (p. xix). In this undertaking, the Atwills retrace the steps Pei-kai Cheng, Michael Lestz, and Jonathan Spence took in Search to illustrate “aspects of social life, political and military problems, ethical conceptions and practice, and the inner dynamics of everyday life” (Search, p. xv). In their attempt to draw on a “broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas” (p. xix) the Atwills were especially interested in exploring women’s topics, sampling Chinese literature, and highlighting popular culture. These efforts are easily seen in the very useful thematic table of contents that arranges their 170 documents in ten categories, including “Women’s Roles, Education, and Rights” (19 documents) and “Literature, Song, Television, and Cinema” (25 documents). In the former category, the selections begin with a Yuan Mei ghost story (c. 1788) and ends with Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby (1999). Other themes include education (10 documents); religious, social, and political movements (13 documents); ethnicity, nationalities, and borderlands (8 documents); and rebels, revolutionaries, and resistors (24 documents). The remaining state-oriented topics (law, rulers, foreign relations, and war) include an almost equal number (96) of documents.
The attention paid by the Atwills to social and cultural history is noteworthy. Still, students can easily situate this compelling and evocative material within the broader political histories of the Qing, Republican, and Communist periods. Interspersed with chapters keyed to political histories are other chapters such as “Qing Society, Culture, and Peoples” and chapter sections such as “Literary Currents in 1920s China,” “Music, Opera, and Plays” (dealing with the Cultural Revolution), or contemporary issues in post-2000 China. The Atwills wrote introductory essays to each chapter (as well as shorter section introductions); this material is sometimes cross-referenced to individual documents, all of which have headnotes and question sets for students. Overall control of chronology is aided by timelines for each of the three historical periods covered. Framing the timelines are annotated listings of additional readings and useful websites. The final study aid provided by the Atwills is a glossary that includes all the glossed terms first presented as footnotes throughout the sourcebook. Taken together, all of these features, when combined with classroom lectures and discussions and a standalone textbook, should provide students with a firm grounding in the primary and secondary literature and the important historiographical issues of modern Chinese history.
There is one other feature of the sourcebook that is a boon to students: the “Visual Source” that opens each of the fifteen chapters. These visual sources, which are all unpacked with a series of helpful annotations, enliven the documentary sources significantly. Examples include a reproduction of a memorial to the Kangxi emperor; the physical layout of the Canton system of Sino-Western trade; a Taiping government seal; sequential maps of the increasing number of treaty ports as the nineteenth century unfolded; 1920s advertising; political cartoons; Great Leap Forward propaganda from the 1950s; Mao images; and photos from the 1989 student demonstrations at Tiananmen.
The value-added items just described do much to distinguish Sources in Chinese History from its predecessors. While this volume does not replace Search, which also includes numerous documents of social and cultural significance, it certainly deserves a place in one’s teaching library.
Of the 170 documents in this sourcebook, many have appeared in other sourcebooks and anthologies—the Atwills’ debt to China’s Response to the West: A Documentary Suvey, 1839–1923 (hereafter, Response) is especially apparent. For the period 1839–1901, the Atwills followed the lead of Response in eight document selections even though this debt to Response can...
Among the vast pantheon of gods recognized and worshiped throughout Chinese history, Zhenwu stands indisputably as one of the most important. The earliest historical records of this god span all the way back to the Western Han (206 b.c.e .–9 c.e .) at the latest. Two thousand years later, Zhenwu temples are still found throughout virtually all parts of the Chinese world, and his worship continues to thrive. More interesting than the number of temples dedicated to him are the complex and variegated symbols and values attributed to him by different traditions at different times. Shin-yi Chao, in her book Daoist Ritual, State Religion, and Popular Practices, has provided the first detailed study of the formative period in which Zhenwu acceded to his lofty position in the front ranks of Chinese religion. She attempts to shed light on the human agents behind the formative history of Zhenwu and to show how the different symbolic values that they attributed to Zhenwu speak to the fluid religious landscapes of Chinese religion.
Chao’s study of Zhenwu focuses on the long period spanning the Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties (roughly 960–1644). She demonstrates a remarkable versatility in her handling of the immense collection of historical records at her disposal, including “scriptures, liturgical manuals, hagiographic accounts, government documents, epigraphy, iconography, gazetteers, anecdotes, and popular literature” (p. 7), and she does a marvelous job of letting these records speak for themselves by way of her superb translations. Throughout the course of her study, we begin to perceive the fascinating history lying behind Zhenwu, as he emerged into the major Daoist god of exorcism, a minor Daoist god of internal alchemy, a source of political legitimization for the ruling dynasty of the time, and a powerful target of popular worship, all of which led to his ultimate ascendancy as the central god of one of the most important holy sites of the Eastern world, Mount Wudang.
Chao’s study begins with a provocative introduction, to which I will return. Chapter 1 provides a historical examination of the pre-Song images and values attributed to Zhenwu. Initially associated with the northern constellations of the night sky, and called by the name Xuanwu before having his name changed to Zhenwu, he was located in one of the five palaces into which the sky was divided, according to the five-phase theory that became fully standardized in the Han dynasty. Soon this image was assimilated as one of the Four (or Five) Animals serving as directional indicators (p. 19). Chao makes a substantial contribution to the study of Zhenwu by successfully arguing that he began his career as a cosmological symbol, and it was not until the Tang dynasty that Zhenwu became anthropomorphized, specifically and initially as a Daoist god of exorcism (p. 27). Here, Chao demonstrates that, at first, Zhenwu was named as one of the four saints, working under the authority of the north emperor in carrying out exorcisms. It was not long before Zhenwu was singled out by Daoists and laity alike as a god of outstanding efficacy in chasing off demons and providing other benefits to humans, and this led to his receiving individual worship. As Chao writes, “Xuanwu the exorcist general assimilated Xuanwu the cosmological symbol. From this point on, his godhead rapidly developed and mutated. Eventually he became a god of multiple faces that symbolized the interests of the various groups in society” (p. 28).
In chapter 2, Chao explores the historical documents dating from the Song (960–1279) that show the growth and spread of Zhenwu throughout virtually all parts of China. Briefly recalling the results of the previous chapter, Chao states, “The god’s debut in the Daoist pantheon in the mid-tenth century brought him to the attention of the public” (p. 29). There are two parts to this chapter; in the first part, Chao presents a documented history of the construction of Zhenwu temples, in which she notes their growing geographical distribution throughout the empire. According to her sources, Song dynasty temples built for Zhenwu were initially constructed through collaborative projects involving Daoist abbots and government officials in state-sponsored temples, but in the later...
Westad teaches international history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He says he is not a China specialist, but credits Michael H. Hunt, his teacher, for creating in him an interest in Chinese history, sustained for more than twenty-five years. Dedicated to Michael and Paula Hunt, Restless Empire is about how Western ideas and institutions influenced and were incorporated into the Qing dynasty, beginning 250 years ago. As an empire, it was at its height in the year 1750. Designed largely by the Italian Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione, the Yuan Mingyuan gardens (five times bigger than the Forbidden City) were the concrete symbol of Qing power at its zenith. The magnificent gardens were totally [End Page 395] destroyed, burned to the ground by the allied forces of seven Western nations plus Japan, in squelching the Boxer uprising against foreigners and Christians in 1900. Westad’s position is that despite the forceful entry of the West and Japan into China, resulting in it being semi-colonial, quite a bit of Western ways and lifestyles were nevertheless absorbed by China and the Chinese, but were expressed in different forms of hybridity. The notion of hybridity is used by Westad in several places in the book to show “China’s capacity to form hybrid or at least eclectic forms of social identities, and its propensity for internalizing worldviews created elsewhere” (p. 14).1
Restless Empire is easy and interesting reading, enhanced by the fact that its many historical facets hang together coherently as one continuous story. The book is also entertaining. Westad is a careful historian, attested to by the detailed notes in the eleven chapters. He is a great storyteller, adorning his narrative with interesting tidbits of facts and information as well as actual names of significant players at different times and occasions. Many of his cited remarks or descriptions provide a touch of humor. In his acknowledgments, Westad states in bold letters, “I AM DEEPLY INDEBTED TO ALL THE SCHOLARS and writers whose work I draw on for this book of synthesis.” The book, he adds, “is primarily intended for a general reading public” (p. 477). Having read and reviewed several of the scholars from whom Westad has drawn, I find his use of secondary material skillful and imaginative in offering this informative volume to the reading public. As an artist in popularizing history, he by no means has compromised any of the scholarship of his sources.2
Westad’s use of one or two simple words (all with broad ramifications) to encapsulate each of his eleven chapters is ingenious. These are chapters: 1, “Metamorphosis” (China’s transformation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries); 2, “Imperialism”; 3, “Japan”; 4, “Republic”; 5, “Foreigners”; 6, “Abroad”; 7, “War”; 8, “Communism”; 9, “China Alone”; 10, “China’s America”; and finally 11, “China’s Asia.” The chapters are sandwiched between his overview of the Qing by the two categories central to the book, “Empire” and “Modernities.” Having teased out the important antecedents of an outward-looking Qing (under Western and Japanese domination), Westad as historian makes no overt predictions, but leaves the task to his readers. His conviction, however, is that “[h]istory therefore influences Chinese ways of seeing the world in a more direct sense than in any other culture I know. . . . Although it is impossible to predict the future based on the past, it is necessary to understand it in order to have at least some means of navigation at hand” (p. 2). It is Westad’s view that by the first half of the twentieth century China had been internationalized, and that by the year 1940 it had become integrated into a capitalist world of expanding markets. His focus is not limited to state-to-state diplomatic relations; he also depicts the people-to-people relations and interaction that have helped to transform China and the Chinese. Despite much Chinese resistance, there were the influences of “missionaries and [End Page 396] businessmen, advisers and adventurers...
Written by historian Jonathan Goldstein, this monograph examines the involvement from 1784 to 1824 of Stephen Girard (b. 1750–1831)—one of the first American millionaires and philanthropists—in the old China trade, the earliest direct contact between the United States and China, from 1787 to 1824.
The first American foray into the Asian Pacific in 1784 not only brought North America into the framework of international exchange in Asia, it also initiated the rapid rise of the United States as China’s second-largest trading partner by the turn of the nineteenth century. Traditionally, two interpretative strands—the dependency and modernization models—have shaped the broad contours of scholarly writing on the early America-China trade. The dependency school contends that the old China trade—the commercial component of a westward Pacific movement by the United States—was intrusive and imperialist, with the United States gaining capital for development at the expense of others. The modernization paradigm, on the other hand, suggests that American enterprise in China ultimately stimulated China’s long-term modernization efforts. Combining these perspectives, Goldstein’s work contributes to the growing body of recent scholarship that emphasizes the complex interactions among competition, profitability, the Chinese way of conducting commerce, foreign notions of free trade, and the changing business environment.
The book is divided into five chapters, grounded in comprehensive secondary and primary sources including the Girard papers, housed at Girard College in Philadelphia. Chapter 1 contextualizes the old China trade that fueled the new nation’s push for overseas trading markets as far away as East Asia. Following independence, a severe economic depression and Anglo-American rivalry prodded Americans to push their way into world markets. Chapter 2 focuses on Canton and Philadelphia, the two cities at the epicenter of Chinese and American international trade. In chapter 3, Goldstein suggests that Girard’s entry into Philadelphia’s China trade was a result of the political, commerical, and industrial revolutions that reshaped Girard’s home country, France, and much of Western Europe and the Americas at the end of the eighteenth century. Favorable American tariff policies toward Chinese goods shipped by American entrepreneurs also helped Girard gain a foothold in the China trade.
Chapter 4 discusses how Girard and his designers overcame technological challenges and built a special class of ships for the China trade. Among the factors leading to the competitiveness of Girard’s ships in the China market were meticulous management, trading in opium contraband, exploitation of the three-legged (U.S.-Europe-China) trade route, the cultivation of working relationships with reputable Chinese hong merchants, and a sound understanding of the market forces of supply and demand. Chapter 5 connects the withdrawal of Girard from the China trade to the Terranova Incident in fall 1821. Francis Terranova, an Italian sailor on the Baltimore opium ship Emily, was strangled by the Chinese authorities without a proper trial on suspicion of causing the death of a Chinese woman. In addition to this case, the author identifies several other factors, such as the availability of advanced sail- and steam-powered vessels and the risks involved in dealing in an illegal drug, which also had a significant impact on Girard’s decision to quit his China business after thirty-four years.
What is less clear in Goldstein’s case study is the actual process whereby Girard decided to stop sending opium to China and eventually withdrew from the China market in the early 1820s. It appears to have been largely a practical business decision—based on a calculation of risks versus earnings—rather than the product of a clash between Chinese economic norms and “Girard’s intent to maximize profit,” as the author argues (pp. 85–87). A similar calculation was brought to bear, for example, when Canton was blockaded by British forces in 1839–1840, and influential American merchants, such as Robert B. Forbes of Russell and Company, continued to trade with China, making lucrative journeys up and down the Pearl River.
This minor reservation aside, Goldstein’s book is an important study; it encourages us to reassess the mechanisms that activated the old China trade as well as the rapid rise of the United States...