井底之蛙

10/10/2006

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

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