We get mail

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 9:21 pm

Paul Chiasson’s contribution to Menzies’ thesis has been getting press again. Though it’s been pretty thoroughly rejected by knowledgable academics — that’s studied and debunked, for those of you who don’t understand the academic process —

What is hard to understand is why, if there are what look like grave mounds on Cape Dauphin, they haven’t been excavated, and any human remains subjected to mitochondrial DNA analysis. Results of this kind of scientific investigation would then take over from mud-slinging on the Internet, such as the accusation that Library and Archives Canada, in cataloguing this book as history rather than fiction, is merely advancing “a publisher’s plans to deceive the public” (maritimeasia.ws/topic/1421bunkum.html).

I got an email earlier today following up on this:

From: Andrew Sark
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:11 pm
To: Jonathan Dresner
Subject: Chinese in Cape Breton

Dear Mr. Dresner,

Greetings from the North. I am Andrew Sark of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. I have recently come across your response to an article on the Internet “http://www.froginawell.net/china/2006/05/satire-self-parody-and-court-jesters/” I would like to share information regarding this site and possibly contribute to your University and studies with a co-authored study on the area.

I am a Mi’kmaq man, father of one son, adventurer and explorer. The Cape Dauphin area has always offered inspiration and awe, mystery and a sense of quest. I have lead many groups of people into the cave area, known to the Mi’kmaq as Kluscap’s Caves.

The notion that Chinese were here is usually disputed by local Mi’kmaq but with no academic proof. I would like to explore the ruins, investigate from every angle and offer a more precise and non-bias interpretation of the area.

If you are interested in helping me, please forward any information to my email including pictures of the area.


Andrew Sark
Cape Breton, NS-C

Mr. Sark appears to be an educator with the Cape Breton University Integrative Science Program, “which bring[s] together conventional western science knowledge and understandings from the holistic world views of Aboriginal peoples, especially the Mi’kmaq First Nations of Atlantic Canada,” particularly the Sunflower project. Mr. Sark seems to be supportive of the Chiasson/Menzies thesis, at least in the abstract, which is kind of interesting: he’s a Mi’kmaq himself, and part of a project trying to integrate conventional and indigenous ideas about ecology and investigative science, but he seems to be very doubtful about the Mi’kmaq rejection of the thesis. Mr. Sark also doesn’t seem to have read my post too closely, because what it contains is David Goodman’s viciously funny and effective review of Chiasson’s book from a full year ago.

It seems odd that there’s been nothing new in a whole year. Maybe this Menzies thing is dying down after all? Would excavations and DNA testing actually put this to rest, or would the absence of evidence be explained away by its partisans? Should we be wasting energy actually studying this stuff? (No comment on whether blogging it is also a waste of time: as long as newspapers keep printing it, we’ll have to keep reminding people of how ill-founded the whole discussion is).

Well, it’s not my field, but anyone who really, really wants to “contribute to your University and studies with a co-authored study” is welcome to contact Mr. Sark.


A rose by any other name

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:12 am

Democracy Hall

As many of our readers already know, the Taiwanese government has re-named the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taibei, now known as the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. This is actually sort of interesting, as lots of states have to deal with the “problem” of old historical monuments. This is a particularly big problem for the CKS memorial, as it is HUGE and right in the middle of town. I used to walk across it every day to change buses and stopped in to see the movie about his life about 50 times. The movie was unimpressive, but the AC in the place would lower your core temperature to the point you could walk a mile in the Taibei summer without breaking a sweat. Although there have been some protests about the renaming, the bigger problem is the symbolism. The tiles are all blue, as a symbol of the Nationalist Chinese flag. Will they be painted green? Also, the dimensions of the building are symbolic.

The square shape of the building represents the spirit of the mean and of rectitude (chung-cheng which is also Chiang Kai-shek’s name); the three-tiered staircase symbolizes the Three Principles of the People; the two-tiered eight-cornered roof eaves, built in the shape of the character jen (man) and coming together at the pao-ting converge with the sky, symbolizing revered Mr. Chang’s belief that “Heaven and Man are One”1)

Of course one could come up with Taiwanese justifications for these dimensions, which is probably what was done in the first place. It seems, however, that this will be yet another chapter in the fight over the past. Chiang actually did quite well for himself. Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang’s actually called attention to his Christianity, which was not allowed in the case of Sun. Mao had to suffer the indignity of having other revolutionaries honored in what was orginally his space. Chiang’s statue is still all by itself, and its hard to see what they can do with it.


Of course Chiang has had to suffer the ultimate indignity. The museum of his life has been replaced by an exibit on the Taiwanese democracy movement, whose chief enemy was of course Chiang. If they keep changing memorials like this Taibei will become St. Petersburg.

  1. Frederic Wakeman “Funerary Rites: The Remains of Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung” Representations 10 (Spring 1985 []


US Consular Report on Events in Taiwan after 2.28

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:53 pm

Though I haven’t read much on the events surrounding the 2.28 violence in Taiwan in 1947, it generated a lot of paperwork for the state department which I am coming across as I look through the microfilms of their documents from that year.

For those who might be interested in reading about the event, from the perspective of a US diplomat at the time, I have uploaded a memorandum from April, 1947 written by Vice Consul George H. Kerr summarizing the events before, during and in the weeks after 2.28. Kerr later published a book about the event, called Formosa Betrayed, but this shorter background report was written much closer to the events at hand.

You can download a copy of the report “Memorandum for the Ambassador on the Situation in Taiwan” in the Frog in a Well Library.


Leni Riefenstahl meets Busby Berkeley

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:57 am

Eugenia Lean’s new book is very interesting. It is a study of Shi Jianqiao’s 1935 assassination of Sun Chuanfang, the former warlord who had killed her father (also a warlord). The case became a sensation and makes a fine study because it pushed so many Chinese buttons at the time and pushes so many scholarly ones now. Shi was carrying out an act of filial vengeance despite the fact that she was female. (She was also quite media-savvy and fully aware of her own agency and how the press would shape it.) Was she doing this out of a traditional sense of filiality? Out of a desire to rid China of (ex) warlords? Out of desire for fame? Was Sun really all that bad a person? Was Shi seeking justice or publicity? Lean looks at all these questions as a way of getting at the rise of “public sympathy” in what she calls the High Republic.

After the assassination Shi became a media celebrity, and all sorts of versions of her story came out. Most interesting to me is the spoken-language play. As Lean points out, spoken-language drama, basically western-style plays, were very much a minority taste.. Intellectuals went to them, the masses were inclined to films or Chinese opera. This case seems to have been different, and a number of stage plays were produced, including All About Sun Chuanfang, which ran in Shanghai in 1935.

One of the problems with doing history of theater is that it is hard to find data on what actually happened onstage. Here there are large newspaper ads, and we can get at least some idea what the production was like. Apparently spoken-word drama was most popular when it could be tied to current events, and in this case it was tied the popularity of militarism in the Republic. The ad emphasizes that the play dispenses with the boring first act and instead opens with a “grand military spectacle, with more than 100 martial actors on stage at the same time.” The play also has “absolutely new and complete military attire, never before seen Russian-style troop movements, heart-stopping cannons, live horses that ascend the stage, and magnificent dance productions, both glamorous and sexy.”1 Lean makes all sorts of interesting points about this, but I was struck by the reportage element. People in Shanghai seem to have been eager to see what the warlord era had been like for those who had not been living in Shanghai. Given that the city had not really seen much fighting it must have been disconcerting to realize that one had just live through the era of “warlordism” and had no idea what a warlord army was or what it was like to see one in action. Less one end up feeling like a rootless cosmopolitan, one should hie themselves to the theater and see what was happening in the real China.

  1. Lean, p. 68 []


United States Wartime Propaganda in China

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:16 pm

While looking through 1945-50 US State Department documents—the same collection where I came accross Zhu De’s request for a $20 million US loan to buy off puppet soldiers-I came across over 150 pages of China Regional Directives from the Office of War Information (OWI) from early December, 1944 through mid-September 1945.

As far as I can make out these were roughly weekly sets of guidelines sent out to the various relevant agencies (these were in the possession of the US State Department) on what propaganda approach was to be taken. I don’t know much about the OWI but I think these guidelines might have been primarily for US radio broadcasts.

I was personally interested in some of these because of the many references to and warnings against Chinese collaboration. However, it struck me that this little collection would make a wonderful little primary source packet for undergraduates or even high school students studying history. There is lots of fun and interesting material in here and a lot of interesting questions that one might ask as you analyze the contents and the documents themselves.

I scanned-to-PDF the whole collection I found and uploaded it to the Frog in a Well Library where you can download the whole 37MB PDF file.

Many of the documents seem to be coming from or addressed to “Lilienthal, SX” which I think is probably Philip E. Lilienthal (1914-1984) who was the Chief of the Chinese Division for the US OWI. According to his obituary, Lilienthal also served as editor of Pacific Affairs and the Far Eastern Survey and was also important in building the Asia book selection of the University of California Press.1

The other name commonly seen in these documents is “Fairbank, WA” who I misidentified as John K. Fairbank. C. W. Hayford identifies this as Wilma Fairbank (see comments below).

Some of the guidelines suggested are quite revealing, many of them just great strategic sense while others were a mix of good sense and the bizarre. A few selections below the fold:

  1. Irwin Scheiner “Obituary: Philip E. Lilienthal (1914-1984) The Journal of Asian Studies 43:3 (May, 1984) 616-617. []


Married couples

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:54 am

2 married couples

2 married couples, from China Digital Times

As both Mother’s Day and her birthday are coming up, I thought I would post something romantic for my wife. GTF.


Zhu De’s Request for a $20 Million Favor

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:42 pm

In the Sino-Japanese conflict that stretched from the 1930s until 1945 Chinese “puppet” military forces were to be found wherever Japanese occupation forces reached, and in the earlier stages, sometimes beyond the edges of its direct control. These treasonous troops sometimes worked closely with the Japanese, sometimes launched campaigns to suppress Communist and other insurgency forces, sometimes engaged in wild banditry, but more often than not, tried to stay alive and carefully monitor which way the wind was blowing in the war. They have been almost unanimously dismissed as being militarily ineffectual. Regardless, these forces, whether they originated as bandits, surrendered Nationalist units, or fresh levies, did not have a major impact on the outcome of the war.

As the war drew to an end, however, there emerged a debate among the contending forces in the Chinese theater of what to do with these military forces, many of whom had experience fighting guerrillas. The Nationalists in particular, had significant internal debate about whether or not these forces were a great asset to be immediately absorbed into the national army for possible use against Communist forces in the coming civil war (Jiang Jieshi, He Yingqin, and Bai Chongxi), or were a treasonous poison which would offer little help militarily but result in a public relations disaster (Chen Cheng). Many of them were eventually incorporated into the Nationalist forces, but without great effect.1 A much smaller number were used by Communist forces, not necessarily because they didn’t want them but because puppet troops were much less likely to be willing to surrender to Communists. Some that did switched to the Nationalist side when given the opportunity to do so.2 At any rate, the relative little use of these puppet troops by the Communist side in the civil war was a propaganda victory. In the mainland historiography and contemporary reports, as Chen Cheng warned, the Nationalists were harshly criticized for being willing to quickly use these traitors to preserve their feudalistic reactionary regime and wage a war against the Communists.

1st Page of Zhu De's letter As I was looking through microfilms of China related documents in US State Department today, however, I found a document which adds to the common sensical idea that, if given the opportunity, the Communists would have been happy to incorporate these “puppet” forces. I found a translation of a letter, dated January 23, 1945 from China’s premier military commander, Zhu De, to General Albert C. Wedemeyer (a committed anti-Communist), asking for a “favor” (not sure what the original Chinese for this was) of a $20 million dollar loan, to be repaid after the war.

In the letter Zhu De claims that 3.8% of the 900,000 puppet troops he estimates to be active had been “turned over” and provides detailed statistics in what can only be described as a proposed puppet bribing budget. He estimates that with another $20 million and continued Allied victories, they can bring this up to 10%, or 90,000. He then proceeds to budget the bribe expenditures and reserve fund that will be needed.

After they were “turned,” Zhu De reports that the forces would be reorganized, paid their original salary, given “comfort gifts,” offered subsidies to have some “puppet families” resettled and would then be used to engage in sabotage attacks against the Japanese.

This is, of course, good realist style wartime politics going on here. Zhu De has no qualms about asking their US ally for the loan, or to use this loan to bribe and make use of the traitors against the enemy. Nothing terribly surprising, but worth keeping in mind given the “clean hands” memories of the Communist wartime effort, untainted by the relations with traitors that they frequently point out on the Nationalist side.

I saw no other documents showing Wedemeyer’s reply, but I think it is highly unlikely that the US approved the proposal, especially since most the other documents from this time are expressing huge alarm at increased power and influence of the Chinese Communist forces throughout rural China.

I have uploaded this document to the Frog in a Well Library, and you download the full 5 page PDF of the letter:

Zhu De’s Request for $20 Million from General Wedemeyer

  1. At least according to Liu Hsi-Ming (Ximing) in the most recent book I have seen on this subject: 劉熙明,《偽軍-強權競逐下的遂卒子 (1937-1949)》台北:稻鄉出版社,2002。 []
  2. ibid. 436-7 []


How air-minded was China?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:45 pm

    Airplanes and airpower were an important part of Chiang Kai-shek’s vision of a new China. In part I think this may have been connected to his disappointment with the generally poor state of the Chinese army. He was well-known for his disdain for the lack of spirit in the Chinese troops, and for his desire to improve their “spirit.” Part of this was moral education and training, but part of it was also technical training, the more high-tech the better. For me as a modern American technology and “spirit” seem to be contradictory goals. This was not the case in the Guomindang, however, as shown by Chiang’s subordinate Hu Zongnan. Hu was particularly obsessed with flight. In his speeches he emphasized that cadets should develop a “scientific mind” and a “steel body”( 科學頭腦﹐鋼鐵身體). As he put it in a 1939 speech.

If one has a scientific mind one can use machinery, one can use electrical power to fly into space. Fly, fly, ascend to 10,000 meters. Scout planes can travel 400 km in an hour, pursuit planes 500 km, bombers can fly 450 km and attack the enemy. Aircraft are our wings.1


  1. Speech to the 19th graduating class, 1939. From 宗南文存 p.13 []

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