Welcome to 井底之蛙, the newest addition to Frog in a Well. This new academic group blog is primarily focused on the study of the history of China, broadly defined, but some of our contributors will be writing from the perspective of other fields.
This is the sister blog to 井の中の蛙, or Frog In a Well – Japan, focusing on Japanese history, and this weblog shares similar goals. Its name 井底之蛙 is a proverb that comes from the writings of Zhuangzi, one of the founders of what we now call Daoism (In the Burton Watson translation of his Basic Writings the story can be found in Section 17 “Autumn Floods” on pages 107-8). A frog tries to convince a turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he is a master. After trying to get in and getting stuck, the turtle withdraws and tells the frog instead of how deep and wide the sea is. The frog is left dumfounded. The proverb, which grew out of this Daoist fable, has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside one’s own immediate environment. Our weblogs begin from this position of humility, and we look forward to a useful and lively exchange of ideas and perspectives on the study of China.
We have a great list of starting contributers, each of whom are graduate students or professors studying China and have agreed to share some of their ideas, discoveries, and other comments online here. I will invite each of them to introduce themselves so you may learn a little more about their respective interests and background and will then add them to the list of authors in the side bar. Information on how to contact us is also available in a link from the sidebar.
Let us hope that this new weblog, which will eventually be a multilingual Chinese and English weblog, will not only make a useful contribution to online discourse about Chinese history but also catches the interest of other academics who may have yet made the plunge to share their thoughts and research directly online. For those who are interested, below is a more detailed description of the goals, audience, and content for this weblog.
1) CONTENT – To bring together graduate students and scholars who study China on a single group blog to share information about their own research, passing discoveries they have made, and an opportunity to discuss and critique current research and scholarship in our field. In addition to our own research, we may end up posting links to other articles, write reviews of books read or presentations attended, make comments on interesting passages found in the archives, and information on useful resources available to those interested in studying China etc.
This is primarily a weblog about the history of China but we will be welcoming a number of contributors from other fields or working between them. Many of us already dabble in literature, anthropology, and other areas and all of us can benefit from rich interdisciplinary interaction. Also see below under transnational.
2) WEBLOG AUDIENCE – My greatest hope is that our audience will include our peers – other scholars and students studying China who will find an interest in what we write and will post comments and criticism to our postings, or even better: will be motivated to continue the discussion online by creating their own weblog or at least makie an effort to bring their ideas online in some format so that everyone has access to it.
Too much of the best research by leading scholars in our field continues to be accessible to only small number of us who can consult expensive online databases and large libraries. Time and time again I have heard academics and students complain about the poor quality of content on the internet related to our fields of research. Until we contribute ourselves, there is little to be gained from such dismissals.
Thus ultimately, while I hope blogs like this will attract scholars and students of history and China specifically, the Frog in a Well-Japan blog has already shown that there is a large audience of non-specialists out there who are interested in reading our postings regularly and post comments and questions, even when such postings are of a detailed and academic nature.
3) MULTILINGUAL – While we begin with no contributors who are native speakers of Chinese or students/scholars who are studying Chinese history in China proper, Taiwan, or other academic communities who are deeply connected with Chinese language scholarship but we hope to eventually welcome a number of students and scholars who may wish to post in Chinese. The idea is for posters to use that language they feel most comfortable with when they write or respond to our postings, despite the sacrifice in readability which this will create for our non-Chinese reading audience. The original idea behind Frog in a Well, and indeed the reason I chose this Chinese proverb was the frustration I felt at the fact that many of us studying in the US or outside of East Asia are often ignorant of the newest developments in the scholarship by those active in the Chinese language academic communities. Most of us recognize that there is a large amount of very high quality research in the Chinese language that we don’t have the time to read or simply don’t know about.
It is the hope of many of us that Frog in a Well blogs will eventually have many contributors who are working in a number of academic communities, scholars based in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea etc. who know what is going on and who are interested in coming together on a weblog with students/scholars studying the history of this region elsewhere. There needs to be more of this interaction and this blog is one way to do this – but only if students/scholars whose native language is Chinese feel comfortable posting and commenting in the language they work best in.
4) CROSS-POSTING AND TRANSNATIONAL – Many of us are working on areas that do not comfortably fit into just “China”. Postings here may include some which are transnational but might be of strong interest to those who want to read about “Chinese history”. We will settle for the broadest and most inclusive definition possible for our postings. While Frog in a Well may eventually have a specific blog dedicated especially to transnational history focused on the Asian/Asia-Pacific region, for now, postings that may be of interest to readers of the Japan or Korea blogs that are hosted here at Frog in a Well, may be cross-posted at both blogs so that readers who regularly visit just one can find our postings.