Earliest Chinese Writing?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:46 pm

People’s Daily Online is reporting that 7000 year old characters have been found which seem to be direct precedents to known Chinese characters. [via]

The symbols include rivers, animals and plants, and activities such as hunting, fishing and arable farming, as well as symbols recording events, said Han Xuhang, a research fellow with the Anhui Provincial Archaeological Research Institute.

…Xu said the symbols are carved in pairs and also in groups, which express comparatively complete meanings and show the characteristics of sentences and paragraphs.

Many of the symbols are similar to the inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC) and many are still conserved in characters used by ethnic groups today, said Xu.

It’s not immediately clear to my how this is terribly important, since it’s been pretty obvious for a long time that Chinese characters evolve from pictographic origins. Still, it’s interesting.

In other news: The metal used to make Great Britain’s highest military honor, the Victoria Cross, came from China. Apparently the tradition is to use cannon captured in battle: since 1914, the metal used has been from Chinese armaments taken in the Second Opium War. These cannon were used for medals because they were not considered high quality material for recasting cannons, which is what was done with a great many other seized weapons.


Denis Twitchett and the Cambridge Histories

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:57 pm

Denis Twitchett, author of the groundbreaking Financial Administration Under the T’ang Dynasty and a strong guiding force behind the Cambridge History series for China and Japan, has passed away. [via]

The Cambridge History series has sometimes struck me as an odd duck sort of publication — I think I’m channeling one of Berry’s reviews here — a mix of “state of the art” and “timeless reference” which never quite succeeded at either. But they remain very powerful tools for students, especially graduate students, in getting a baseline on a period or a topic. They remain particularly useful, I think, as syntheses of material and findings that is otherwise only found in monographs, because most of it hasn’t been integrated into most textbooks on Asia.

I’ve never had very good luck assigning the chapters — the Japan histories, anyway — to undergraduate classes, but they have been good for students doing research.


Where are the Chinese women?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:35 pm

From IHT via some blog I forgot, here is a little review of a book on “Chick Lit” Chick Lit is a marketing category full of books about young women trying to have a career and find love. Did you see the Bridget Jones movie? Me neither, but that’s the basic idea. The interesting thing about the book is that the trend has spread all over the world, with some rather weird permutations in different places. This type of things is not very popular in Japan, since Japanese women seem to prefer fiction that deals with adolecent romance or the hell of being a Japanese wife, and skip over the independent phase. Not sure why.

Does Chick Lit exist in China? I ask because it sounds a lot like the butterfly fiction of the 20’s and 30’s, novels and such intended to be read by a new group of women and used in part as a guidebook to a strange new world. I would be very interesting in knowing if the genre has made a comeback. Are any of our countless readers up on current Chinese women’s fiction?

The Chinese are everywhere

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:22 pm

From Granta via Reason here is a little thing by Lindsey Hilsum on Chinese businesses in Africa. It’s really just a little journalistic squib mostly about how the author was surprised to find Chinese in Africa. The author has clearly not read The Star Raft. She points out, correctly, that the Chinese economy is expanding all over the place and that the Chinese demand for raw materials is being felt all over. The author points out that the Chinese are popular with charming governments like that of the Sudan because they are not all hung up on human rights.

It occurred to me that another reason the Chinese may be doing so well is that the chief barriers to doing business in Africa are supposedly corruption, chaos and a kleptocratic state. I would suspect that these would be things that would not frighten a Chinese businessman the same way they would an American.

Recent Downtime

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:44 pm

I want to apologize for the recent few days of instable contact with Frog in a Well and some downtime. I’ll expand this post with more of an explanation later but in the meantime, I hope that things will gradually get back to normal around here. We have moved web hosts and I’m still ironing somethings out. Leave a comment here or email me at konrad [at] lawson.net if you continue to have problems with some feature of the weblogs here, I will try to work out any remaining issues this weekend.


Women on the Long March

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:08 pm

Natalie Bennett reports that a new oral history investigation of the Long March experience is being published.

Over 10 months, travelling mainly by bus and train through areas little changed to this day, I found 40 of the march veterans. Talking to them, I learned that their suffering, and what they overcame, was actually much greater than we had been told, especially among the women. Some of the realities they described also sit uneasily with the myth – none more so, perhaps, than the fate of the children of the Long March: the children left behind, children given over for hurried adoption after being born along the way, the young taken on as recruits and sometimes abandoned if they could not keep up.

I can’t tell from the article, which focuses on women and children in the march, if the book will follow that emphasis, nor does it give any clues as to whether there will be any new information on the Luding Bridge incident which features prominently in Chang/Halliday’s attack on Mao’s legacy.

However, if the article is any clue as to the rich detail available in the book, it will be a valuable addition to the history and the pedagogy. Oral history is one of the most accessible sources for students, and well-done oral history is a joy to read and use.


Asian History Carnival #3

Welcome to the third Asian History Carnival!

It’s traditional for blog carnivals to have some kind of internal organization…. Heh.



Hightower Obituary

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:18 am

If you’re an H-Asia reader, you already saw this, but if you’re not, it’s an interesting look at the 20th century history of Asian literary studies in the US. James Robert Hightower has passed away, after an incredible career in Chinese literary studies and government service.

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