Democracy Quote of the Day

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:36 pm

“We Communists always oppose a one-party dictatorship, and don’t approve of the Nationalists having a one-party dictatorship. The CCP certainly doesn’t have a program to monopolise government because one party can only rule in its own interests and won’t act according to the Will of the People. Moreover, it goes against democratic politics.” Deng Xiaoping, 16th March 1941

Quoted in David S. G. Goodman Social and Political Change in Revolutionary China: The Taihang Base Area in the War of Resistance to Japan, 1937-1945 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, ML, 2000, p61. Cited as in Deng Xiaoping “Guanyu chengli JinJiYu bianqu linshi canyihui de tiyi” in Balujun zongbu zai Matian Shanxi renmin chubanshe, 1990, p29.


The Wall Is Great!

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:31 pm

One of these days we’re all going to get tired of Great Wall metaphors for China…. I hope. For now, it’s being over-visited by tourists and stripped for raw materials.

I recently discovered the China Blog Carnival, which gave me some hope for the Asian blogosphere, but it’s listed at blogcarnival.com as both “ongoing” and “discontinued”….

It’s nice to see a historian of China honored with a Kluge Prize: Yu Ying-shih’s prize acceptance speech gives you some idea of his breadth and depth. It’s particularly interesting, in this absurd age of cultural essentialism, to see him integrating the indigenous tradition of Tao with democracy promotion.

Like “democracy,” “human rights” as a term is linguistically specific to the West and nonexistent in traditional Confucian discourse. However, if we agree that the concept of “human rights” as defined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of 1948 is predicated on the double recognition of a common humanity and human dignity, then we are also justified to speak of a Confucian idea of “human rights” without the Western terminology. Recognition of a common humanity and respect for human dignity are both clearly articulated in the Analects, Mencius and other early texts. It is remarkable that by the first century C.E. at the latest, the Confucian notion of human dignity was openly referred to in imperial decrees as sufficient grounds for the prohibition of the sale or killing of slaves. Both imperial decrees, dated 9 and 35 C.E., respectively, cited the same famous Confucian dictum: “Of all living things produced by Heaven and Earth, the human person is the noblest.” Slavery as an institution was never accepted by Confucianism as legitimate. It was this Confucian humanism that predisposed late Ch’ing Confucians to be so readily appreciative of the Western theory and practice of human rights.

I still have some trouble reconciling Humanism with the hierarchical monarchism of Confucius, myself. Andrew Meyer notes the growth of indigenous Christian sects in China, especially their syncretic and rather traditional nature, but concludes that their Christianity is a meaningful measure of something interesting going on in rural society.

China’s interest in it’s own history remains a subject of great debate. Chinese Wikipedia will naturally be a site of contention, and the history of great powers is a natural sell. Rising prosperity in Asia may not have directly contributed to the almost US$20M price tag for a porcelain bowl, but it’s certainly going to play a role in the future.

Chang/Halliday’s Mao biography is spawning zombie errors.

Finally, some historical testimony: if you succeeded in bribing officials to overlook your crimes, would you commemorate the event in bronze? And some oral history testimonies, from an American who experienced Maoism and elderly Chinese women.


Naughty or Nice?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:29 am

As it is time to think about the good or bad behavior of children, I have been wondering why so many Chinese sage-kings had rotten kids. Lewis points out that one reason for this is that the rotten kids are actually just like their fathers in that both are those odd, extraordinary people who are beyond education. Lewis cites Huainanzi

There are those whose persons are correct and natures good, who in firm resolve perfect their excellence, who in righteous indignation carry out their duty, who by nature are open to persuasion and without study accord with the way. Such are Yao, Shun, and King Wen There are those who sink into drunkeness and licentiousness, who cannot be taught the Way nor enlightened through virtuous power. A severe father cannot correct them, nor a worthy teacher transform them. Such are Dan Zhu and Shang Jun.p83

So most people are in the category of educatable, but the sage-kings and their progeny are different. Like super-heroes and super-villains they are more similar than you might think.

Lewis goes on to show that all children were regarded as dangerous. One group of dangerous children were those who were too much like their parents, born on the same month, born with eyes open, etc. More common were animal children, like Yangshe Shiwo who howled like a wolf when he was born, or triplets (born in large groups like animals). According to Lewis -all- children are animalistic as “the belief that the child was not fully human was and extension of the conventional Chinese idea that humanity was not given at birth but fashioned through education and ritual practice.”(p.88) Thus all the fears of childbirth, nursing women, etc. that you find in later Chinese culture. There are of course various ways of dealing with all these fears, and of teaching children to be good, but threats involving Santa do not seem to be part of the Chinese tradition

From Mark Edward Lewis The Flood Myths of Early China


Announcement: East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:19 am

The Frog in a Well project is expanding. While we hope our three bilingual collaborative weblogs dedicated to the study of East Asian history will continue to develop and add more contributors, I would like to announce a new project that we are hosting here, the East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki, or EALA:

The East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

This wiki will serve as a central collection site for information about archives, libraries, museums, etc. in East Asia that are of potential interest for anyone doing research on or in East Asia. It will also include sections dedicated to other kinds of resources but its primary focus it to provide researchers with a good starting place and reference for information on sites they may be visiting. While many archives have websites, my experience has been that they vary significantly in quality, convenience, organization, and speed of access. Also, visitors to archives can often provide extremely useful information to future visitors that may not be of the kind you are likely to read on the archive’s official homepage. The two most important aspects of each archive entry will be: 1) Basic reference information that will help a researcher plan ahead for their visit and easily find links to more details 2) Provide a place where researchers may record their personal experiences in the archive. As a wiki, anyone will be able to edit the individual entries, update information that might be out of date, and record their own experiences.

The East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki was originally founded in 2003 and originally hosted in a similar form at Chinajapan.org. It was inspired by the Chinese archives website at UCSD which hosts a range of useful, if somewhat outdated information for students and scholars wanting to do research in the archives of China.

I hope that other students and scholars of East Asia will share some of their experiences and, as they conduct their own research will consider updating information available. You may read more about the site here, and there are numerous help files on how to edit and create pages on the site here. The wiki has links to a blank archive form (PDF, Word, and wiki formatted text) for convenient note taking on your visit. I have posted a few entries from my time in Japan, which I added to the original site in 2003-4. To get an idea of what kind of information entries can include, see for example the entries for International Library of Children’s Literature, the Ōya Sōichi Library, and the Yokohama Archives of History.

While it is off to a slow start, I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce the Frog in a Well Library, or the 文庫, where we will host various primary documents related to the history of East Asia: The Frog in a Well Library


Such are the guidelines for students

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:47 pm

For the end of the semester, Guanzi on Duties of the Student from the Rickett translation

The teacher presents his teachings; students take them as standards for their behavior.
By being docile and reverential and keeping their minds completely open, their learning is maximized
On seeing goodness, they follow it; on hearing of righteousness, they submit to it.
Docile and compliant, filial and respectful toward their elders, they never display arrogance nor resort to physical force
Never false nor depraved in purpose, their conduct is certain to be correct and straightforward.
Observing constant standards whether abroad or at home, they are certain to seek out those who are virtuous.
Their features being well composed, their inner thoughts are certain to be exemplary in their correctness.
Though they awaken early and go to bed late, their dress is certain to be tidy
Mornings being devoted to enhancing their learning and evenings to practicing what they have learned, they are ever cautious of doing anything wrong
Being ever diligent in concentrating on these things—such are the standards for study

Nothing terribly new here. Students are docile and reverential, their minds are open, their appearance is neat and tidy. A standard
picture of the start of the semester be it today or during the Warring States. The text gets more interesting as it goes into the rituals of learning, especially the rituals of how students serve their teachers.

At mealtimes, when the teacher is about to eat, a student prepares food for him.
Having pulled up his sleeves, washed his hands, and rinsed his mouth, the server then kneels down to present the food.
When the sauces, grain, and various dishes are set forth, it must be
done in an orderly fashion.
Vegetable stews are served before dishes of fowl, meat, fish, or turtle. Both the stews and sliced meat dishes are placed in the middle but kept separate.
Meat dishes having been placed in front of the sauces, the entire setting forms a square. The grain is served last; on the left is the wine, on the right is water.
Having reported that everything is ready, the student withdraws and, cupping his hands before him in obeisance, stands to one side.
[The normal meal consists of] three servings of grain to which soup is added twice,
The student holds in his left hand a pottery serving dish, in his right chopsticks or a ladle.
He refills the various dishes in order as soon as he sees they are becoming empty. If two dishes become empty at the same time, he refills them in the order they were originally served.
Having refilled all the dishes, he begins the cycle again.
Since his serving implement has a foot-long handle, he does not need to kneel—such are the guidelines for making refills.

This tradition has basically died out, students no longer serve meals to their teachers. The whole text reflects a very different level of intimacy between students and teachers than we have today, and a different purpose to education, which was in this context more about moral training than about filling their heads with knowledge and skills.

More interesting to me is the ritual presentation of the food, which is matched by equally detailed descriptions of how to sweep a floor. I’m sure if the teacher had been in the mood he could have explained the ritual importance of serving food in the proper order, and how a proper ritual creates the proper relationship between teacher and student. Of course many students would not have grasped this at first, and would have been forced through the ritual over and over again without understanding it. Most teachers would probably regard that as o.k. Just going through the ritual does you good. The modern historian’s comparison is probably footnotes. A thing full of meaning for us, but no matter how often we explain it they tend to see it as a pointless bit of ritual. Of course it can sometimes seem a pointless bit of ritual to the teacher as well, (who has not though their students were going through the motions) but still they are convinced that ritual practice will have some effect.

When the teacher is about to retire, the students all stand. They respectfully present him with his pillow and mat and ask him where he would like to place his feet. The first time they arrange his sleeping mat, they request this information, but once the pattern has been established, they do not.

Another dead ritual, as students no longer tuck their teachers into bed. Although a fair number of students think, like the author of this text, that teachers do not exist outside of the context of teaching. I am always amazed by the number of students who seem to think I lie motionless in a coffin through the break until students appear again and I re-animate. Actually, I have a life of my own and spend most of the break acting like a normal human.

After the teacher has retired, each student seeks out his friends,
Dissecting and polishing,
Each one strengthens his arguments.
The day’s routine having been completed, the next day it begins
anew. Such are the guidelines for students.

And so the semester ends, and students go off to contemplate and perfect what they have learned.


Source: The China Provincial Atlas and Geography

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:13 am

This posting is the first of what I hope will become a more frequent kind of offering here at Frog in a Well. I’m not sure how it will go yet but I hope that we can gradually expand Frog in a Well to incorporate a few new projects. The first new project I wish to announce is the Frog in a Well Library or the 文庫. Here we will post raw sources and scanned materials of interest to those who study the history of East Asia.

井底之蛙的文庫 – The Frog in a Well Library

The first addition to the library is a scanned copy of a 1935 book on the provincial geography of China put out by the North-China Daily News. It will be interesting to anyone who wants to see descriptions of each province, the shape and names of locations (in English), descriptions of the “character” of the “racial types” of each province, short descriptions of major cities, details of roads and railways as of ’35, industry, and even how many protestant/catholic missions there are. There is a separate section for 滿州國 and the foreign settlements in Shanghai, as well as a few interesting paragraphs on the “peculiar” status of Tibet (interesting to note that there is nothing on the “peculiar” status of Manchuria, or of Mongolia at the time) and after discussing Soviet influence concludes that Xinjiang “faces West rather than East.”

Library Download Page: The China Provincial Atlas and Geography

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