Happy 2,557th Birthday to you!

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:06 pm

Yes, on September 28th Taiwan will be celebrating the 2,557th birthday of Confucius. The date may be a bit off (he is getting a bit forgetful in his old age), but to still be celebrated after all these years is an accomplishment. As in the past there will be a direct descendant to officiate, they will play the ancient music, and an offering of food will be made. (When I was there it was a dead ox carried by two rather irate Taiwanese laborers) The high point of the ritual is the dance, done by young male students carrying feathers.

Confucian Dancers

The boys practice and perform the dance to show their sincere respect for Chinese tradition and the teachings of Confucius. Also, if you get a piece of one of the feathers it is supposed to be good luck on your college entrance exams. When I was there a scrum developed after the ritual as various youngsters tried to get bits of feather, I assume being one of the dancers puts you in a good opening position.


Google Books: PDF Download Feature

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:00 pm

The Google Books project is an exciting new chapter in the world’s digitization of printed materials together with the Gutenberg project. I have blogged at Frog in a Well – Korea about some old English-language works on Korea that are available for download in text form from the latter. On my own weblog I have expressed some frustration with the limits imposed by Google Books on the viewing of works which are not protected by copyright here.

There has been a recent piece of news about the Google Books project which was announced on the Google Books own weblog here at the end of August. Many books that can be found on Google Books, which are out of copyright (or rather, which Google has decided to treat in that manner), can now be completely downloaded in PDF format.

Some notes about this feature:

1) The downloaded work is an image PDF, usually 1-15MB in size. The text metadata for each book is not in the downloaded document. This means you cannot search for text within the document once it is downloaded, but must return to Google Books in order to search the contents.
2) Some books which a) are no longer protected by copyright b) Google recognizes as no longer being protected by allowing you to browse an unlimited number of pages from the work are strangely not available for download. For example, Miyakawa, Masuji’s My Life in Japan, published in the United States in 1907 can be fully viewed online and is not protected by copyright, cannot be downloaded as of today.
3) Many of the old books, especially those which cannot be downloaded despite their lack of copyright coverage, have huge “Image Not Available” error messages where the pages should be. Strangely, you can still search the text metadata for these books and return results. Clicking on the search result pages, however, will simply show “Image Not Available.” Other books have some pages missing but some showing.
4) As I have discussed elsewhere, some books which cannot possibly be covered by copyright are only shown in “snippet mode” and in some cases, searching their contents returns completely unexplainable and mistaken results. For example, the 1910 Highways and Homes of Japan by lady Kate Lawson is bizarrely shown only in snippet mode and as this snapshot shows, searching for “Japan” within the book gives completely wrong results.
5. The page images for tables of contents are in many cases hyperlinked. You can click directly on chapter titles in the table of contents to jump to that chapter.

How to search for books related to China that are out of copyright:

The easiest way is to search for something specific on the Google Books web site. However, that will return mostly results that are still protected by copyright. See this excellent summary of copyright protection at Cornell for how to determine roughly if something is protected that was published in the United States. All things published in the United States before 1923, regardless, are now in the public domain, no exceptions. There is no reason Google should restrict access to those materials insofar as it assumes visitors are viewing the content in the United States (its website says as much in its warning to those outside the US).

IN TITLE – If you want to search for something in the title, either use the “Advanced Search” link or simply precede your search with “intitle:” For example: intitle:China or intitle:”Treaty Ports in China”

BY DATE – To restrict yourself to the period when all books are in the public domain, you can specify a date year range using “date:” So for example: date:1800-1922. You can also specifi “Full view books” in the advanced search page to see only results in books that can be fully viewed.

So searching for books with China in the title, published from 1700-1922 can be found by entering: intitle:China date:1700-1922

Some examples of books that can be downloaded completely, just by searching for those with China in the title (including Dewey’s letters from Japan and China):

An Historical, Geographical, and Philosophical View of the Chinese Empire: Comprehending a…
By William Winterbotham 1795

Odes to Kien Long: The Present Emperor of China; with The Quakers, a Tale; To a Fly, Drowned in a…
By Peter Pindar 1792

Problems of the Far East: Japan, Korea, China
By George Nathaniel Curzon 1894

China, Captive Or Free?: A Study of China’s Entanglements
By Gilbert Reid 1921

A Wayfarer in China: Impressions of a Trip Across West China and Mongolia
By Elizabeth Kimball Kendall 1913

The China Martyrs of 1900: A Complete Roll of the Christian Heros Martyred in China in 1900
By Robert Coventry Forsyth 1904

Railway Enterprise in China
By Percy Horace Braund Kent 1907

Treaty Ports in China: A Study in Diplomacy
By En-Sai Tai 1918

Ordered to China: Letters of Wilbur J. Chamberlin Written from China While Under Commission from…
By Wilbur J. Chamberlin 1903

Religion in China: Containing a Brief Account of the Three Religions of the Chinese with…
By Joseph Edkins 1893

The People of China: Their Country, History, Life, Ideas, and Relations with the Foreigner
By J. W. (John William) Robertson Scott 1900

Opium-smoking in America and China
By H. H. (Harry Hubbell) Kane 1882

Rambles in Central China
By W. Arthur (William Arthur) Cornaby 1896

Old China and Young America
By Sarah (Pike) Conger 1913

China Through the Stereoscope: A Journey Through the Dragon Empire at the Time of the Boxer…
By James Ricalton 1901

Buddhism in China
By Samuel Beal 1884

The Provinces of Western China
By Pruen 1906

The Great Empress Dowager of China
By Philip Walsingham Sergeant 1911

One of China’s Scholars: The Culture & Conversion of a Confucianist
By Howard Taylor 1904

Letters from China and Japan
By John Dewey, Harriet Alice Chipman Dewey 1920

The Taeping Rebellion in China: Its Origins, Progress, and Present Condition
By W. H. (William Henry) Sykes 1863

The Diseases of China, including Formosa and Korea
By W. Hamilton (William Hamilton) Jefferys 1910

Five Years in China: From 1842 to 1847
By Frederick E. (Frederick Edwyn) Forbes 1848

The Manchus, Or The Reigning Dynasty of China: Their Rise and Progress
By John Ross 1891

Contributions towards the materia medica & natural history of China
By F. Porter (Frederick Porter) Smith 1871

A Retrospect of the First Ten Years of the Protestant Mission to China: (now, in Connection with…
By William Milne 1820

The Jesuits in China and the Legation of Cardinal de Tournon: An Examination of Conflicting…
By Robert C. (Robert Charles) Jenkins 1894


Frederic Wakeman, 1937-2006

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:30 pm

Obituary here

We used his Fall of Imperial China as a text when I was an undergrad, and The Great Enterprise was one of the first things I read in grad school. Great Enterprise was typical of his work, in that it was on a really big scale. Not just that it was a big book (although it is), but because it took on a big issue and tried to deal with it in the most comprehensive way. Future historians who want to know what the field was interested in at various points could do worse than to look at his titles, which ranged from the early Qing to the Communist period and across a wide range of approaches.

I only met him a few times. The first time I saw him was when I gave my first ever paper, at AAS. It was in a room that held about 300 people. There were maybe 8 people there, but Wakeman was one of them. After he was pointed out to me I dialed my goals back from impressing the audience to not embarrassing myself, which I suppose I managed.

The more things change

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:44 am

An article by Teh-Wei Hu on the politics of smoking in China. This is a subject I have some interest in, and I was not surprised to see that very little has changed in the politics of smoking in China. The Chinese government wishes the people would smoke less, for reasons of public health. (I also wish Chinese people would smoke less, for reasons of personal health.) One way to get them to smoke less is to raise taxes on smoking, which will both reduce use and raise money. This used to be called  寓禁於征Suppression through taxation.

As in the past there are different parts of the government with different views on this. In particular we get some parts of the state pointing out the damage this will do to the peasants who raise the crop, who are of course just honest sons of the soil trying to make a living. We even get a repeat of the questionable claim that peasants are forced to grow this crop by local governments.
There are some changes, of course. Now they are smoking tobacco instead of opium, and the worry about provincial  governments challenging the center due to the financial independence provided by drug  sales is not there. Still, if history is not repeating itself it is at least rhyming.


Arrrrgh, Jun lad,

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:07 pm

Today is international talk like a pirate day, which was created to prove that the internet does not always have to be a place of serious scholarship and high-minded debate.


There is actual scholarship on Chinese pirates, but most Americans know Chinese piracy if at all from the old comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and its villainess, Dragon Lady

Dragon Lady

Dragon Lady was apparently based on an actual female pirate named Lai Choi San, who was interviewed by an American journalist who was apparently quite taken by her

What a woman she was! Rather slender and short, her hair jet black, with jade pins gleaming in the knot at the neck, her ear-rings and bracelets of the same precious apple-green stone. She was exquisitely dressed in a white satin robe fastened with green jade buttons, and green silk slippers. She wore a few plain gold rings on her left hand; her right hand was unadorned. Her face and dark eyes were intelligent – not too Chinese, although purely Mongolian, of course – and rather hard. She was probably not yet forty.

Every move she made and every word she spoke told plainly that she expected to be obeyed, and as I had occasion to learn later, she was obeyed.

What a character she must be! What a wealth of material for a novelist or journalist! Merely to write her biography would be to produce a tale of adventure such as few people dream of.

Full story here

Acting quickly, he formed a committee to study the issue

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:48 am

Via Crooked Timber, an adaptation of Little Sisters of the Grasslands that will appeal to anyone who likes Maoist kitsh, or who works in an American university, or who has a sense of humor, or who has ever been a T.A.
Direct link here


AHC Call for Posts, plus

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:09 am

Roy Berman, the MutantFrog himself, will host the next Asian History Carnival at Mutant Frog Travelogue on the 18th. Get your nominations in to him directly (roy dot berman at gmail dot com), through blogcarnival.com or with del.icio.us tags. Remember, if you don’t submit anything, we may pick the worst thing you ever posted publicly….

A few other news notes:

Pandas are cute particularly when they move

China establishes new rules for News services, and they’re not liberalizing them, either.

“No surprises”: Korea-China History Wars Continue, in anticipation of the collapse of North Korea. Or just because.

Jeffery Wasserstrom reviews Peter Hessler’s Oracle Bones, and finds it superior to Kristof and WuDunn among others. It’s going on my shortlist for next semester’s “Issues and Problems of Contemporary China”.

NPR’s take on the new Mao-lite Shanghai textbooks.


Elvis is everywhere

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:45 am

Elvis in China

A nice little picture from Shenbao, one of Shanghai’s most important early 20th century newspapers. The caption complains about Chinese women. Specifically it points out that Chinese women have taken up the habit of smoking on the street, and that when Westerners see them doing it they point out that in the West women don’t even smoke at home, much less in the street. Yet another example of how different commodities fit differently in different societies. Smoking is a particularly tricky one (not the most relevant link, but the best film of struggling with use of cigarettes I could find.) The cigarette is the best way to walk around while smoking, and to make smoking a part of all your everyday activities, rather than a separate social space, like gathering around an opium pipe or a complex tobacco pipe. For a western woman to smoke in the street at this point would have been a defiance of gender roles. For a Chinese woman it marks you as modern. The caption-writer seems to be trying to create a less brazen definition of modern Chinese femininity. It seems to have worked, too, since Chinese women today are a lot less likely to smoke in public than men.

Of course the picture is also cool because it seems to be an early Elvis sighting.


The Shanghai Taxicab test

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:41 pm

Go look at this.

Not much to say, other than that it seems to confirm that the Chinese are starting to catch up to the South Koreans in becoming video game fanatics.


Braudel in Shanghai

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:51 am

There has been a good deal of comment on Chinese history textbook revisions of late. Mao is gone! For foreigners who can only name one Chinese historical figure this must be troubling. The project is supported by Zhu Xueqin, and according to one of the authors of the new textbook they are trying to take a more Braudelian approach, emphasizing social change over politics. According to Zhou Chunsheng,

“History does not belong to emperors or generals,” Mr. Zhou said in an interview. “It belongs to the people. It may take some time for others to accept this, naturally, but a similar process has long been under way in Europe and the United States.” via NYTimes

I have not seen the textbooks, but at least for the pre-modern period it seems like a good change. Memorizing a list of dynasties and events without making any attempt to explain why they matter is bad history teaching, and it seems to be common in China. Dropping the whole revolution is bad, but perhaps better than doing the old revolutionary catechism. Needless to say there has been some controversy. Danwei has a nice summary.

The thing I found most interesting is that almost all the Western commentary claims that it is Chinese textbooks that are being revised. Actually it is just in Shanghai so far. The old narrative of Chinese history stressed class struggle, that the ordinary people of China were being oppressed, mostly by foreigners, but also by fellow Chinese. I like most of Zhu Xueqin’s ideas, but I also suspect that Shanghai authorities like his ideas in part because if anyone is oppressing people in Anhui today it is likely to be people from Shanghai. Emphasizing harmony and unity over the revolutionary power of the exploited masses is probably a good idea, and also fits in well with the interests of the Shanghai elite.

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