Frog In A Well Project wins Best Group History Blog

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 6:55 pm

Cliopatria Award: Best Group Blog 2005

The Cliopatria Awards for best history blogging have been announced and the three Frog in a Well blogs have been selected the Best Group Blog

“After much thought, the judges chose the Frog in a Well project as a whole, rather than singling out any one of its constituent parts: not only do they feature overlapping personnel and a considerable degree of shared identity and purpose, all have been characterized by diverse contributors, strong historical content and consistently high quality writing. Both individually and as a whole, they represent a great achievement and a model to inspire and challenge in the future.”

Thanks, both to the judges and to all the bloggers who have made this such a great project to be part of. Special thanks, of course, to the creator and technical master (and a damn fine blogger) Konrad Lawson.

I’m really looking forward to the next year of Asian history blogging here!

1950 Gallup Poll on Chinese Troops in Korea

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:26 am

While trying to track down two Gallup polls from 1947 and 1948 related to the role of the United Nations, I came across an interesting US Gallup poll from December 1950, soon after the Chinese enter the Korean War in November:

If the Chinese communists continue to send hundreds of thousands of troops into Korea, far outnumbering our forces there, what do you think we should do?

No specific suggestions – *%

Use the A-bomb (atom bomb), except on Russia:

Use a-bomb if necessary – 26

Take fight to Russia, attack – 2

Intensify fight against Red China, declare war (unspecified)–or on China, fight it out, call their bluff, bomb them to hell, stay in Korea, retreat only if necessary, give (General Douglas) MacArthur more power, follow his plan, increase our manpower too – 24

Strategic retreat: retreat to where we can make a better stand, retreat and attack again when stronger – 4

Withdraw completely, get out of Korea, withdraw and try something else, stop – 29

Negotiate: Try peace talk, meet Chinese delegates, make peace with them, call an armistice – 2

Do not use A-bomb (atom bomb), should only be used as a last resort – 1

Abide by U.N. (United Nations) decision, all nations should support U.N., make other U.N. nations do their share, get U.N. to sanction military action in Korea – 2

Miscellaneous – 4

Don’t know/No answer/Hard to say – 10

POPULATION: National adult
QUESTION NOTES: * = less than .5 percent Adds to more than 100% due to multiple responses
SURVEY NOTES: Sample size is approximate
BEGINNING DATE: December 3, 1950
ENDING DATE: December 8, 1950

Note: I don’t have any more info on how the poll was done and the questions were asked.


Gang of Four is Gone

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:23 pm

Yao Wenyuan, the last surviving member of the Gang of Four — the others were Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, and Zhang Chunqiao — has died (Xinhua report here).

A former propaganda official and Shanghai journalist, Yao wrote the article in 1966 that signalled the start of the Cultural Revolution. During the revolution, hundreds of thousands of people died, many of them committing suicide after being harassed by Mao’s Red Guards, the shock troops of the revolution.

A month after Mao’s death in 1976, the Gang of Four was arrested, marking the end of the Cultural Revolution. Yao was convicted of trying to gain power by persecuting officials and members of the public and spent 20 years in prison.

As for the others, Jiang reportedly committed suicide in jail in 1991, Wang died in 1992 and Zhang died in May last year.

As usual, this raises the question of the interpretation of the Mao legacy. I have yet to finish Chang/Halliday (honestly, I haven’t gotten past chapter three, because I didn’t take it with me over break) but I’ve been struggling with the question of how to handle it in the next iteration of my 20c course. If I assign it, I’m going to be spending the entire semester arguing with it. If I don’t, it’s the elephant in the living room….

Katrina Gulliver: Self-introduction

Filed under: — katrina @ 8:38 am

I have just realised that despite posting a couple of times here, I have not actually introduced myself properly to the Frog in a Well community! So belatedly, here goes: I am a PhD student at Cambridge, doing research on China and Southeast Asia. My topic has drifted somewhat, suffering the slings and arrows of new publications altering the state of the literature. Broadly, I address Western perceptions of ‘the East’, specifically I am using women’s writing, c.1880-1930. I also keep a blog (http://www.katrinagulliver.com/commentary.html).

Right now I am at the AHA in Philadelphia, if any other Frog in a Well contributors are about!!


Why you could not be the Son of Heaven

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:58 pm

Late last night I found myself watching TV, and there was the World’s Strongest Man competition, taped in Chengdu last October. Apparently the competition consists of very large men carrying very large things around and puffing a lot. As it was in China they added a special event, the “ding carry” I can’t find a picture of the one they used on the web, but they had a large bronze ding (the three-legged kind) and the contestants had to see how far they could carry it.

A man with no neck explained to the audience that a ding () is an ancient symbol of China. Actually, it is much more than that. It is one of the forms of bronze ritual vessels that were used to make sacrifices to the ancestors. Yu the Great made a set called the Nine Bronze Tripods which had the names of all the dangerous creatures in the world on them, and thus gave the owner, the Son of Heaven, the ability to control nature. They became a symbol of the authority of the Son of Heaven, and both the Shang and Zhou kings held on to them as symbols of their position. As the authority of the Zhou kings declined various feudal lords tried to get their mitts on them. On one occasion the Tripods ran away from an evil usurper (hey, they have legs.) When the First Emperor tried to drag them out of the Yellow River a dragon cut the rope and they fell back in, never to be recovered. Chiang Kai-shek put them on his currency.

One interesting aspect of this is that the weight of these ding were a topic of some importance in the Warring States period. There was a story (In the Zuo, I think. 20 minutes of searching did not find it) about one of the feudal rulers asking how much the Nine Tripods weighed and how hard it would be to move them. He was told they were too heavy for him to move. The answer, it turns out, is that a ding weighs 175 kg. And to be the Son of Heaven you need muscles like this.


This is Manusz Pudzoanow of Poland the eventual champion. He carried the ding 90 meters, and I think he could have gone further.

The other interesting thing, of course, was that the event was in China. Apparently the assimilation of China to the modern world of sport and spectacle is proceeding apace. If China had managed to get an event like this 15 years ago they would have held it in Beijing and lots of bigwigs would have turned up. Now it only rates Chengdu.


Chinese Philology Meets Canadian Politics

Filed under: — Matthew Mosca @ 5:01 am

This is not history-related per se, nor indeed more than a triviality, but I am spending a few weeks in Vancouver (now in the midst of the Canadian election) and was interested to see that the proper interpretation of a Chinese expression has become a minor election issue. To summarize, a candidate for the governing Liberal Party described the leader of the New Democratic Party as having a “boiled dog’s head smile” (煮熟狗頭般齜牙咧嘴). What exactly this means, and the degree to which it should be construed as offensive, have both become points of debate (see English-language coverage in the Globe & Mail [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20051230/ELXNLAYT30/TPNational/Canada] and Chinese language coverage in the World Journal, a Taiwanese newspaper chain with a local BC branch [http://www.worldjournal.com/wj-va-news.php?nt_seq_id=1289053; http://www.worldjournal.com/wj-va-news.php?nt_seq_id=1289054]). It is interesting to note that neither the man who proferred this expression nor his target are Chinese, and so both had to invoke different (conflicting) Chinese authorities to defend their positions. As an additional tie-in, this comment was first reported on a blog, a fact that has not escaped Canadian election-related bloggers (http://bdoskoch.electionblog.ctv.ca/default.asp?item=123729). The larger issues – if there are any – can be debated by the readers of this blog, but I dare say this is one of the few times an expert could pontificate about the subtleties of Cantonese folk-sayings on a current events show. I will leave you with the thought of politico concerned, David Emerson:
“I really value many Chinese expressions because they’re very creative ways of articulating things.”

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