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The History of Sino-Japanese Relations as seen in Japan’s Most Popular Travel Guide

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:33 pm
The Globe-trotter Travel Guidebook, which is the official English name for 地球の歩き方 (Lit: The way to wander the world) is the most popular Japanese travel guide series. All around the world you can spot Japanese tourists from dozens of meters away by their bright neon yellow Chikyû no Arukikata travel books. Among those who travel abroad, I think it is reasonable to suggest that travel guidebooks are one of the most important sources of historical information about the world that we are likely to read after the completion of our formal education along with popular fiction and media such as movies and TV. Given that fact, I think that historians might do well to consider the importance of travel guidebooks (and I mean those of our own time, since the travel guides of past ages have gotten the ample and well deserved attention of scholars). How does Japan's most popular guidebook series, 地球の歩き方, describe China's modern history in the 2006-2007 edition of its China volume (D01)? China is Japan's largest and most important neighbor, but one with which it shares a deeply troubled 20th century history. This has been a major theme in most of my postings both here at Frog in a Well and on my own blog at One would expect, then, that there would be certain important 20th century events which would need a minimum degree of coverage and be dealt with some degree of care by the authors. Below I will briefly consider how the 2006-7 edition covers some of these events in : 1) Descriptions of some of the Beijing locations 2) Nanjing locations 3) Some miscellaneous other locations and most importantly 4) in its survey essay on Chinese history located at the back of the book. Read on... Beijing The book makes several references to the destruction caused by European powers in 1860 in its descriptions of 颐和园 and 円明園, for obvious reasons. Mention of China's relations with Japan in the Beijing section only appear in the descriptions of the following locations: 中国人民革命军事博物馆 (given 1 out of 3 stars)
"Various modern weapons such as Japanese and former-Soviet made tanks, planes, machine guns, and boms are on display. There is a valuable collection of Japanese weapons requisitioned by the Chinese and later used by the PLA. Also, there are detailed descriptions of China's wars and weapons and [displays] are divided into easily understood categories of China's ancient and modern wars, weapons and themes." (50)
Notes: This museum is China's premier military museum and in terms of nationalist content, is matched only by Korea's independence memorial museum. There are major sections of the museum dedicated to the "Anti-American war of resistance" and the "Anti-Japanese war of resistance." It contains major exhibits on Japan's atrocities, including the Nanjing massacre. A few pictures from my last visit below. Img 4158 Img 3423 Img 4182 Img 4200 卢沟桥 (2 out of 3 stars)
"...Known as marco polo bridge...苑平城,on the eastern side of the bridge is the first fort occupied by the Japanese military in the Marco Polo bridge incident on July 7th, 1937 and its remains are left in their original form, including the remains of shots fired by the Japanese military." (51)
Notes: As the site of the opening of the Second Sino-Japanese war, it is remarkable that there is no context or mention of the location's significance for the war in this short description, despite much longer historical contextual descriptions for other locations. Some of my own pictures below. Img 3432 Img 3433 中国人民抗日战争纪念馆 (1 out of 3 stars)
"A historical exhibition of the Second Sino-Japanese war completed in 1987 and located about five minutes walk from the East of the Marco Polo bridge. 5490 meters squar. Historical materials related to the Nanjing massacre, Unit 731 and the Marco Polo Bridge incident are on display. There is also a large diorama reenacting the Marco Polo Bridge incident." (51)
This museum is a large structure filled with exhibits on the war. Unlike many other museums in China, almost all of the captions have Japanese translations, while English translations are fewer and far between. Some of my pictures below. Img 3441 Img 3435 Img 3445 Img 3442 Nanjing The introduction to Nanjing's history makes no mention at all of the Sino-Japanese war. In does say that it was the capital of the Taiping rebellion's government and it was also the capital of the "中華民國臨時政府" or the Chinese provisional government. This is referring to Sun Zhongshan's first government in Nanjing established in 1912 but I find this a very strange thing to note. This initial government was short lived and it would probably be better to note that it was the capital several times during the Republican period. The name 中華民國臨時政府 is ambiguous, since it could also refer to the puppet government established in Beijing during the Second Sino-Japanese war and later merged with other puppet governments when Wang Jingwei comes to power under a new collaborationist regime in Nanjing in 1940. In terms of Sino-Japanese relations, perhaps the most important museum in Nanjing is dedicated to the history of the massacre in 1937: 侵化日军南京大屠杀遇难同胞纪念馆 (1 out of 3 stars) I feel I should include the original Japanese here along with translation for reference:
1937年12月、日本軍は南京に侵攻し南京城を占領した。そのときに市民に対して無差別大虐殺を行ったというのが中国側の定説で、日本軍の残虐行為を後世に伝えるために建てられたのが、こん侵華日軍南京大虐殺遇難同胞記念館。記念館の中には、人骨の山の一部や生存者の証言、写真、旧日本軍の武器などが展示されていて、敷地内には、日本人によって建てられた石碑や植樹された記念樹もある。(294) "In December of 1937 the Japanese military invaded Nanjing and occupied the walled city. On the Chinese side it is generally claimed [定説=generally accepted opinion] that at this time there was an indiscriminate massacre of the city's inhabitants. This Memorial Hall for Comrades Murdered in the Nanjing Massacre Committed by the Invading Japanese Military was built to pass on knowledge about the Japanese military's massacre to future generations. In the memorial hall there is exhibited part of a mound of bones, the testimonies of survivors, pictures, former-Japanese military weapons. On the site can also be found stone monuments left by Japanese and trees planted in remembrance." (294)
Notes: The most interesting point here is, of course, the wording of the second sentence in this description. I don't think it needs any comment from me. Miscellaneous Other Cities Tianjin - Mention that Japan is among the 9 foreign settlements here. Dalian - After the Russo-Japanese war the city "came under Japanese influence" and discussion of the remains of Japanese structures. Shenyang - mention of Japanese structures connected to the South Manchuria Railroad. Changchun - Mention of it being the capital of Manzhouguo - under the name of Xinjing. Lots of Japanese lived here from 1930-1945. 伪满洲国务院 mentioned, completed in 1936, various other buildings still in use so you can't go walking around in them. Chongqing - brief mention of it as temporary capital during the Second Sino-Japanese war. Survey of Chinese History At the end of the book there is a 4.5 page survey of Chinese history. The last two sections are "China in Chaos - The Period of the Establishment of the Chinese Republic 1912-1945" and "The Establishment of the People's Republic of China 1945-Present" Below I'm quoting all of the material from just before World War I until 1945, with the exception of one paragraph on the Nationalist and Communist parties. I'm also adding the first line of the next section. Do you notice anything missing in this narrative?
...この後軍閥を中心とする抗争が激化し、そこを外国勢力につけ込まれた。特に露骨な介入を行ったのが日本だった。日清戦争や義和団の乱で中国進出の足がかりを作り、第一次世界大戦が勃発し、ヨーロッパ勢力の弱体化によって、山東半島に出兵し、対華21ヵ条の要求を突きつけ、巨大な権利の譲渡を中国側に受諾させた。1919年のパリ講和条約でこの権利を各国に承認させることに成功したが、この事情を知った中国人は反日デモを開始。瞬く間に中国全土に広がっていった(五四運動)。 [One paragraph on the formation of the Nationalist and Communist parties, the northern expedition and the transfer of power from Sun Zhongshan to Jiang Jieshi and the oppression of the Communists. No mention of Japan.] 日本はこの間隙を突いて中国東北部への進出を画策。1932年清朝最後の皇帝であった宣統帝溥儀を担き出し、満州国の建国に成功した。満州国は1945年ソ連軍の侵攻により崩壊、わずか13年で姿を消すこととなった。 中華人民共和国の成立 (1945年-現在) 日本が降伏し、中国から退場すると、国民党と共産党の間に内戦が勃発した。(705) ...After this the conflict centering on the warlords intensified and this was taken advantage of by foreign powers. Japan was especially blatant in its interference. Japan established a foothold for its expansion in China during the Boxer rebellion and the Sino-Japanese war. When World War I broke out and the European powers were weakened, it despatched troops to the Shandong peninsula, forced its 21 demands on China and accepted the transfer of vast rights in China. Japan succeeded at the 1919 negotiations on the Versailles Treaty in Paris to get other nations to accept its rights but Chinese who heard this news began anti-Japanese demonstrations. Before long they had spread throughout the country (May 4th movement). [Skipped paragraph, see above] In this vacuum [caused by conflict between Nationalists and Communists] Japan schemed to move into the Northeast of China. In 1932 Japan succeeded in persuading the last Qing emperor Puyi to come to power again and established the Manchurian Manshûkoku. Manshûkoku was destroyed by the Soviet invasion in 1945, disappearing in only 13 years. The Establishment of the People's Republic of China 1945-Present Japan surrendered and when it withdrew from China, a civil war broke out between the Nationalists and Communists. (705)
As you can see there is no mention whatsoever here about the Sino-Japanese war between 1937-1945, Japan's occupation of most of China, let alone of the atrocities etc. which have become such an issue in Sino-Japanese relations today. It looks almost as if a complete paragraph was completely cut out. Even the coverage of the establishment of the Manchurian puppet state leaves out any mention of the military campaign which first conquered the territory needed for the new state. This posting will be followed by a second post soon on the treatment of Korean history in 地球の歩き方's 2005-6 Korea edition. Although I won't be taking up the task myself, it would be interesting if someone went further and compared treatment of Chinese and Korean history in the 地球の歩き方 series across several editions, going back a decade or more (The first guidebooks by its publisher apparently came out in 1979).

Ancient Chinese sex advice

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:12 pm

One scholar who has had a lot of influence on my teaching on Early China is Mark Edward Lewis. I sometimes assign Sanctioned Violence in Early China, and if I had the courage I would assign Writing and Authority. The thing I like about his work is that not only does he know literally everything about everything, his work centers around figuring out what the categories of early Chinese thought were. It is a commonplace that the Han dynasty distinctions between the 100 schools of philosophy are to some extent false divisions forced on a much more complex history. Lewis takes this further and tries to uncover what the categories of thought were in Han and pre-Han China. Part of this, particularly in Writing and Authority, is the importance of patterns. There are patterns that govern the changes in the universe, human affairs and the body, and understanding and adjusting and adjusting to these patterns is what knowledge is all about. (Lewis explains all this a lot better than I do.)

One aspect of this is the sage, the person who has learned to be a master of patterns. There are lots of different aspects of this, one of which is medicine. One’s body is of course governed by the same patterns as everything else and thus being a doctor, preserving one’s health and attaining immortality through alchemy and ruling the empire all involve the same sort of knowledge. Those with a proper knowledge of patterns can avoid all sorts of nasty things and can also draw power from the universe. A good example of this is sex, as explained in the 素女經 (Sunu jing) The Classic of the White Girl.1

Huangdi asks Sunu “I am feeling a lack of energy and a disharmony in my body. I am sad and apprehensive. What shall I do about this?”

Sunu replies: “Men are likely to make a mistake during lovemaking. Women conquer men as water conquers fire. Those who know the art of lovemaking are like those who know how to mix the five flavors in a cooking pot to produce a good meal, and like those who know the way of yin and yang and enjoy the five pleasures. Those who are ignorant of this are die young, without enjoying the pleasures of life…. A man must know how to control his emissions and also take medicine. He cannot enjoy life if he is ignorant of the art of love. Men and women are like Heaven and Earth, whose eternal nature lies in their unity…Those who understand the principle of yin and yang will experience immortality.”

A nice equation of different forms of knowledge of patterns. Sex, medicine, and cooking. If you ever wondered why so many famous Chinese writers and statesmen were good cooks, this is why.

Huangdi asks: “What will happen if one abstains from sex?”

Sunu replies: “That is absolutely out of the question. Yin and yang have their alternations as does everything in nature. Human beings should follow the rhythms of yin and yang just as they follow the rhythms of the seasons…”

Again the patterns of the universe and the body are the same. Also, one can’t really absent oneself from the world.

Huangdi asks: “What are the essential elements that bring about a harmonious union of yin and yang?”

Sunu replies: “For a man, the essential element is to avoid weakening his strength: for a woman what is important is orgasm. Those who do not follow this method will decline into weakness. The function of female sexual sensibility is to keep the balance of one’s energies, to calm one’s heart, to strengthen one’s will, and finally to clarify one’s mind”

“The person concerned should experience a deep sense of well-being, without feeling heat and cold, hunger and satiety, thus the body enjoys is pleasure in peace. The aim of this method is orgasm for the woman, and preservation of energies for the man.”

‘preservation of energies’ means not giving up your yang essense. The woman does have an orgasm, and thus does give up yin essence. It's really a creepy sort of sexual vampirism. The educated man can get energy out of the universe. In this case it is out of another person, which makes it exploitative.

Huangdi asks: “Lately even when I have a strong desire for sex, my ‘jade stalk’ does not rise. I am so embarrassed that my face is covered with shame and beads of sweat. Yet my desire is so strong, I have no choice but to seek the assistance of my hand. How should I do it?”

Sunu replies: “Your question is a common one. When a man wishes to have a sexual relationship, he must observe traditional preliminaries. First the breathing needs to be harmonized, and then the ‘jade stalk’ is aroused according to the principle of ‘five consistencies’, while sensations flow through the nine parts. As for a woman, the five colors are to be noted. Upon the change of color, the man collects saliva from the woman’s mouth, which it turn in transformed and fills marrow of his bones as well the internal organs of is body. The man must obey the ‘seven deficiencies’ follow the ‘eight benefits’ and observe the ‘five constancies.’ In doing so, the disorder will be cured as energy strengthens the body. When his internal organs are harmonized his face will shine. Should desire come, the ‘jade stalk’ that has been strengthened becomes erect. Where then is the shame? ”

Huangdi asks “How can one tell if a woman is experiencing orgasm?”

There is a long section on how to tell if a woman is having an orgasm, but frankly the modern method (asking her) is a lot easier. But being able to read the signs properly is how you can tell how the exchange of energy between you and the universe is going. It's a nice little reading that I think I will use in my Early China class next fall.

1 Translation from Robin R. Wang Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture Hackett, 2003


No need for Clever Speech

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:49 pm
No Need
It is recorded in the Han chronicles that when Emperor Wen visited his pleasure park he went to the area called Tiger Garden. There he questioned the official in charge of the park about the various animals. The official did not respond. The caretaker beside him, however, answered in great detail. Emperor Wen instructed Zhang Shizhi [an attendent] that the caretaker was to be given administration of the gardens because of his ability. But Zhang reminded him of Zhou Bo and Zhang Xiangru, who were virtuous with words to those above them in rank. Zhang advised that if Wen accepted the clever speech of the caretaker as a virtue and raised him in rank, the world must then bow to [the vagaries of] the winds. People will compete in clever speech and truth will become unimportant. The emperor agreed and the clever caretaker was not promoted. Gerhart “Tokugawa Authority ”Monumenta Nipponica 52.1 Story from Shi ji 102

This is sort of an odd story, since Han China is supposed to be the beginning of Chinese bureaucracy, which is supposed to be meritocratic. In fact this is a great story for illustrating Han ideas about slander and bureaucracy. Early Chinese rulers and thinkers were obsessed with slander, which is attacked over and over again in many texts. The problem with slander is that it is very effective. Particularly in times of social change you are what people say about you, and if they say bad things you are a bad person. Words create reality. The most important ability for a ruler is the ability to control how words create reality.

The message to the emperor here is that he needs to not be gulled by a clever tongue, but rather put his trust in the bureaucratic system, the established mechanism for the regulation of words. One of these guys outranks the other and there must be a reason for it. Don’t trust your ears, trust Human Resources. (Actually, don’t make any decisions at all.) Interestingly I found the story and the picture in an article on the Tokugawa Shoguns, so apparently this is one of the standard stories told to East Asian rulers, at least when they are trying to set up bureaucratic states.


Military history MIA? WIA? KIA?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:22 pm

There has been a good deal of discussion on Cliopatria and elsewhere on the topic of military history. This discussion was sparked off by a piece in the National Review, in which John Miller argued that academic military history is dying because of opposition from tenured radicals. To the extent that military history still exists “Social history has started to infiltrate military history, Trojan Horse–style” and instead of getting “Blitzkrieg, the Bismarck, and the Bulge” students hear about French hairdressers. It is a very ignorant piece. Here is the webpage of Steve Zdatny, the poser who Miller attacks for claiming to teach military history. Zdatny seems to be an interesting guy whose research seems to touch on a lot of issues having to do with war and resistance in France. I bet Zdatny, unlike Miller, also knows the difference between a teaching field and a research field.

Miller’s piece has led to a good deal of reaction, especially from Mark Grimsley, a military historian at Ohio State, who claims that reports of the field’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Grimsley says a lot, but one thing that struck me was how little play the distinction between the Old and the New military history is involved in this debate. Of course for anyone familiar with the field I suppose we should call them the Old and the Ancient military history, since the drum-and-trumpet school of set-piece battle scenes and the rosy-fingered dawn stretching across the valiant heroes in their serried ranks has been dead in academe for a while. Grimsley seems to be defending military history as it exists as a modern academic field: the study of war as something important in its own right, but also connected to a lot of other things going on in a society. Miller and some of the people he quotes are defending “operational military history” the study of war and battle for the purpose of figuring out why one side or another won. In extreme cases they flee from any connection to non-operational history like it will give them liberal cooties. “It’s becoming harder and harder to find experts in operational military history,” says Dennis Showalter of Colorado College. “All this social history is like Hamlet without the prince of Denmark.”

One reaction to all this comes from Hugo Schwyzer, who ruminates about how much military history he actually does in his classes. He, like me, does not want to be one of those silly people (and they do exist) who reject the study and teaching of war for no rational reason, and convinces himself that he is one of the good guys. I started doing the same thing Hugo did, but then I decided to come up with some data. What books do I assign in my classes? I made a list. This list does not include textbooks. It is only for survey classes, not special topics, methods and such. That mostly means Modern World, East Asia, Early China, Modern China, Modern Japan. It does not include things from the Elder Days (I once taught the first part of Western Civ. Honest.) It does not include book chapters on reserve, source readings, etc. Nor does it include anything I forgot. These are not really in any sort of order.

Books I have assigned

Keene trans. Chushingura Sei Shonagon, Pillow Book Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen Ibuse, Black Rain Varley, Warriors of Japan: As Portrayed in the War Tales Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II Allison, Nightwork; Sexuality, Pleasure and Corporate Masculinity in a Tokyo Hostess Club Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Liang Heng, Son of the Revolution Rae Yang, Spider Eaters: A Memoir Baumler, Modern China and Opium Nakae Chomin, Discourse By Three Drunkards On Government Hane, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan Tatsuzo Ishikawa, Solders Alive Tanizaki, Some Prefer Nettles Katsu Kokichi Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai Vlastos Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan Zhuangzi (various editions) Analects (Brooks and Brooks. I am a brave soldier) Lewis, Sanctioned Violence in Early China Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China Farrer, Opening Up: Youth Sex Culture and Market Reform in Shanghai Gernet, Buddhism in Chinese Society Walthall, The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration Allan, The Way of Water and Sprouts of Virtue Yamplosky trans. Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Lao She Rickshaw Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers As Event, Experience and Myth Kuhn, Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768 Harrison, The Man Awakened From Dreams: One Man’s Life in a North China Village 1857-1942 Wang Shuo Please Don’t Call me Human Schneewind Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China Wang Zheng Women in the Chinese Enlightenment: Oral and Textual Histories Hawkes, trans. Songs of the South Waley, trans, Book of Songs Fukuzawa Yukichi, Autobiography Shen Fu, Six Records of a Floating Life Spence, Death of Woman Wang Graves, Goodbye to All That Mintz, Sweetness and Power Voltaire, Candide Conrad, The Secret Agent Levi, Life and Death in Auschwitz

First, I should point out that I’m not really all that old, honest. There also lots of factors that go into picking books that are accidental. What is available in paperback, timing (can’t give them a paper in the first or last week, just doesn’t work), not repeating books in classes that overlap, etc. Still, I am pretty happy with the list.

So, how much of this is military history? Depends on how you define it. Assume you leave Rickshaw out despite the fact that his rickshaw is stolen by soldiers, and you leave Zhuangzi out despite the story about the crossbow. I suppose a modern historian like myself or Grimsley might include

Levi, Life and Death in Auschwitz Graves, Goodbye to All That Waley, trans, Book of Songs Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers As Event, Experience and Myth Lewis, Sanctioned Violence in Early China Vlastos Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan Tatsuzo Ishikawa, Solders Alive Varley, Warriors of Japan: As Portrayed in the War Tales Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II Ibuse, Black Rain

One could add more. Candide takes a position on war (against). The Weak Body of a Useless Woman has a lot on the origins of revolutionary violence, although in the end all they do is behead some statues. The Three Drunkards talk a lot about the role of war in modern society. Chushingura is Chushingura. Still, even with this list it’s 10 out of 43 and I’m a military historian. (And a quantitative historian too.)

Of course if one looks at things from the point of view of a hardcore operational military person, the count would be closer to 0. Graves, Goodbye to All That is about the military, but you will not come out of it with an understanding of why the Allies won WWI, especially not the way I teach it. Lewis, Sanctioned Violence in Early China has no battle descriptions or anything about any specific wars, really. Varley, I have been informed, is not real samurai history because he talks about culture too much. Soldiers Alive might count, although it is more like Goodbye to All That than operational military history.

Frankly, the way I teach is not very operational either. I talk about Okehazama, but more as an example of what a Sengoku daimyo is than because I care about the battle. I do the Yalu, but more as comparative technological borrowing than as operational history. I do Valmy because John Lynn was on my orals committee, and thus I can bring in all sorts of cool revolutionary stuff. To be honest, I’m fine with that. There is a place for really hardcore Buddhist philosophy, but it’s not in surveys of East Asia or even Early Japan. To the extent military history is the type of stuff Mark Grimsley does and talks about the fact that it is less prominent in academe than it should be is a problem. To the extent military history is operational history that wears its lack of connection to any other part of history as a badge of honor its decline to a very limited and specialized role is a Good Thing.


Getting the Chinese to work hard

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:05 pm
NYT has an article on American firms' opposition to new Chinese labor laws. China has been pushing unionization of foreign firms, forcing even Wal-mart to accept unions. In particular the All Chinese Federation of Trade Unions has been trying to organize migrant workers. The basic complaint of the foreign firms is that it will be hard to get workers to work hard enough if you are forced to coddle them. The laws themselves are apparently not all that big a change, but the impression seems to be that these laws may actually be enforced. “If you really abide by the Chinese labor laws,” said Anita Chan, an expert on labor issues in this country and a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, “migrant-worker wages would go up by 50 percent or more.” Labor groups have always been fairly critical of the ACFTU, for the obvious reason that they are not going to be mistaken for the IWW any time soon. I suspect that these laws will not represent a change in the nature of Chinese unions and that these will continue to be "enterprise" unions. Probably one reason for this push for unionization is simply a desire to have more state control over things. On the other hand, state unions would not have to do much to make the situation of Chinese workers considerably better, as this interview shows
Li Qiang: How is the method to count piecework? Do you know your pay rate? Worker: The pay rate is different for different products. Li Qiang: Can you give me an example for the pay rate? Worker: Such as changing color dolls... Li Qiang: What is the brand of it? Worker: Disney. Li Qiang: What is the piecework rate for it? Worker: It used to be 11.20 Yuan for 100 pieces, or 0.112 Yuan each. Li Qiang: How many people are needed to work it out? Worker: Eight people. Li Qiang: That is eight people work on the doll, getting 11.20 for 100 pieces. Worker: But the rate is lowered to 7.80 Yuan. Li Qiang: Why? Worker: Because some workers would get over 1000 Yuan monthly if calculated by 11.20. The factory administration lowered the pay rate to reduce cost.
So this is not really hourly work, nor is it peicework. Workers get 1000 Yuan a month period. This is exactly the type of thing unions are supposed to fight for. Not just the right to bargin for a particular wage, but the right to have a wage at all. There are all sorts of things reported in the press, late payment of wages, strange living charges etc., that add up to not just a bad deal for labor but no deal at all. Making even the most marginal effort to improve the position of workers would be popular, make the government look good, and not really cost anything. I have doubts much will happen, and no illusions that gains will happen everywhere in China, but there is at least a possibility that things will improve. If nothing else, there are limits to the number of poor workers even in China, and eventually firms are going to have to bargin with their workers. Even the most limited set of legal rights would help.


Asking Stupid Questions… so you don’t have to

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:51 pm

My father, in his brief teaching career, used to say to his students "If you have a question, you have to ask it. Odds are good that other people have the same question, and they'll be grateful to you for asking." He also said that "There are no stupid questions. Only stupid answers." So, I appeal to the wisdom of the collective....

In a recent article, Tom Englehardt wrote

When a dynasty fell in ancient China, it was believed that part of the explanation for its demise lay in the increasing gap between words and reality. The emperor of whatever new dynasty had taken power would then perform a ceremony called "the rectification of names" to bring language and what it was meant to describe back into sync. We Americans need to lose the emperor part of the equation, but adopt such a ceremony. Never have our realities and our words for them been quite so out of whack.

The rectification of names is an old established Confucian principle, to be sure, and I can believe that it plays a role in the Chinese historiography (though I admit I haven't spent a lot of time reading traditional Chinese histories of the ends of dynasties, so I can't be sure), but I really wonder about the ceremonial aspect of this. Did the Imperial institution actually reify the principle into ritual?

It also came to my attention recently that the famous Chinese Communist quip on the effects (or success) of the French Revolution -- "It's too soon to tell" -- is variously attributed to both Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai (a.k.a. Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai) (Ho Chi Minh gets mentioned sometimes, too). The Zhou stories seem to have a bit more detail to them (though he wasn't alive on the Revolution's bicentennial, the sesquicentennial's a possibility), but both attributions range from the pre-'49 era to the 1970s, have various interlocutors (mostly "a journalist," though Kissinger comes up a lot, too) and I can't find any specific citations. Does anyone have a specific citation which might pin this down?

Update: In the absence of answers, I've now thrown the question to the H-Asia folks. We'll see if they come up with something interesting.

Catching Up… lots of catching up.

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:51 am

Mea maxima culpa. Due to a regrettable lack of focus on bloggerly things, I've let my carnival friends down. First, I never congratulated Roy Berman on a wonderful September AHC. If you haven't read it yet, you should: he did a great job of rounding up and presenting the material, and it could well inspire you to .... submit to the upcoming carnival: That's right, the next AHC is just days away (two days, to be exact), so get your nominations for your best work over the last month to Nathanael Robinson, Quickly!

While you're considering what of your recent blogging is good you might also consider taking a look at the September Carnival of Bad History, and if you think any of your blogging is worthy, send it in to that one, which is also coming up shortly. If you've got history blogging which is more Early Modern (actually, they still need a host for October, which I can tell you, is really fun), or just plain ol' Historical (Jeremy Boggs is hosting this weekend's edition of the grand HC, and I have very high expectations), you've got plenty of outlets.

Finally, a rare political plug: American Historical Association Members needed for free speech resolution

In Other News: It could be Menzies, or it could be garden variety nationalism, but Zheng He's getting more popular in China.

And, A brief history, including new DNA analyses, about Taiwan's indigenous populations


Double Ten

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:07 pm

Coming soon is Double Ten, the anniversary of the Oct. 10, 1911 Wuhan revolt that led to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the foundation of the Republic of China.

Journalism is supposedly the first draft of history, but in this case the first draft was surprisingly good.

Chinese Troops Revolt


Desert to Rebels at Wu Chang After

Two Conspirators Are Beheaded

HANKOW, China, Oct. 10.- Troops at Wu-Chang have gone over to the rebels and cut off communication with that place, following the arrest of twenty-eight revolutionaries at Wu-Chang, capital of the Province of Hu-Peh, and the beheadings of four of the number in front of the Viceroy’s Yamen to-day. The arrests and executions followed the discovery of a revolutionary plot in the Russian concession here. A bomb was exploded, whereupon a search revealed a factory for the manufacture of explosives and a plan for an attack on Wu-Chang. Much firing can be heard this afternoon in the direction of Wu-Chang. Several large fires are seen.
The authorities had feared that the soldiers were disaffected. Chinese gunboats are patrolling the harbor. A message from Chung-King says that the leaders of the movement, in protest against the Government’s plan of building railways with foreign capital, are protecting the missions in the district where the rebels are operating.
New York Times, Oct. 11, 1911


Electrons, the ultimate export

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:48 pm
Preview of a documentary on gold-mining in China I hope my son never sees this post, which suggests that you really can make a living playing video games. I suspect I will end up showing it to my students as an example of the new Chinese economy. The comments also show a nice divide between those who think the movie is about the exploitation of Chinese labor and those who think its about those awful Chinese ruining games

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