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Taiwanese modernity

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:26 pm
One of my colleagues asked me a question about Hou Hsiao-Hsien's Three Times. For those of you who have not seen it, it is a set of three love stories all set on Taiwan with the same two actors, one in 1966, one in 1911 and one in 2005. She had a question about the middle story. In this segment the female lead (Shu Qi 舒淇) works in a fairly high class brothel, and the story revolves around the possibility that Chang Chen (張震) will buy out her contract. He is portrayed as an idealistic young man who is opposed to concubinage and is tied up with the idealistic Mr. Liang (I assume Liang Qichao).My colleague asked me how accurate the movie's portrayal of Taiwanese politics was. I was a bit stumped by that. Visually at least it was hard for me to see the middle segment as being Taiwan in 1911. It was all interior shots in the brothel, so I suppose you would not expect to see some of the signs of colonial rule. On the other hand. -The male lead wears a queue. Would a follower of Liang Qichao outside China in 1911 have done that? I know that in some contexts on Taiwan keeping the queue was a sign of anti-japanese feeling, but obviously cutting it off was a sign of being a radical modernizer, which is what he seems to be. Is this a mistake or was Taiwan different? -When one courtesan is sold the contract is in Chinese. Would a legal contract have been in Japanese by that point? (I did not see the date on it ) -The only signs of Japanese rule or of any change at all is that the money used to buy the one girl is Japanese-issued money. I was just bothered by that fact that the whole segment (physically at least) could have been set in 1860 or 1720 for that matter. Both of the other segments had a strong sense of place and time, but not this one. It seemed to me like a timeless "traditional China" with the date of 1911 stuck on it. Did anyone else get this impression, or am I ignorant of the material culture of Colonial Taiwan? Or was there some point Hou was trying to make that I am missing?


Teaching Confucius

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:26 pm
Tomorrow I get to teach Confucius to my Rice Paddies class. This used to be a fairly easy thing to do, until the unspeakably annoying E. Bruce and A. Taeko Brooks published The Original Analects It is a very good book, but unfortunately it is based on the (correct) view that Analects as we have it is not the words of Confucius, a man who died in 479 BC, but rather the ideas of a school of thought that were written down over a long period of time and attributed to a semi-mythical founder. This is to some extent not news. It has long been accepted that at least some bits of Analects are much later than Confucius, and that some classical texts were created through accretion over a period of time (Guanzi, the outer chapters of Zhuangzi, etc.) Applying this model to the Analects is of course going to ruffle feathers, but there is nothing revolutionary about the idea itself. It does present problems, however, for those who want to teach the period. While we are in the process of deconstructing and reconstructing Confucius what do you do in class? There are two poles to this debate. One is the E. Bruce Brooks position, which seems to be that until you have the philology 100% down you don't say anything Another pole is the Charles Hayford position. Long ago, after reading Luke Kwong's Mosaic of the Hundred Days in a graduate seminar I asked him how the book would change his teaching of 1898. He said in effect that at least for this semester he would not change anything, since he was not sure what to make of things. I tend towards the later pole. Part of teaching is presenting (in various ways) a somewhat coherent narrative, and if you really wanted to you could immobilize yourself as a teacher by pointing out all the problems with your views and the general fraudulence of your existence. On some topics and in some types of classes that is what you should do, but then in other circumstances you have to come up with something.((Frankly if some students come away with anything that is fine. If some of them leave my class thinking that the Dong Zhongshu or Zhuxi version of Confucius is the timeless truth of the Sage, well, that is something. I can use a pretty broad brush when I want to.)) Just ignoring recent work is a fine solution for a while, but it becomes increasingly embarrassing. When you buy a new house you can blame awful interior decorating decisions on the previous owners for a couple of years, but after a while you need to make some changes or admit this is the best you can do. In the case of Confucius the accretion theory actually helps. You need to get into Confucius somehow, and one of the few lines that Brooks and Brooks identify as being from Hillock himself is Analects 4.1
The Master said. It is best to dwell in ren. If he choose not to abide in ren how will he get to be known? 子曰:「里仁為美。擇不處仁,焉得知?」


Others translate this differently, but I like the Brooks translation best one because it seems to be a better reading of the text (quaint, I know) but also because it works well to tie Confucius to the earlier, supposedly simpler age of the Western Zhou that he was trying to revive. Here the early, 'real' Confucius finds the meaning of ren ((humaneness is a common translation)) unproblematic. You either abide in it or you don't, all the later Mozi stuff on proving things to be true is later, as is all the Mencius and Xunzi stuff on human nature (where you start from). He also has a pretty straightforward idea -why- you should do this. If you behave well this will be noted by those around you and be rewarded. Heaven and man have not yet parted ways, and virtue will be rewarded. This will very much not be the position of the later Confucius, who will go on at some length about how you should be ren even if (as you should expect) people hate you for it. 4.1 is Confucius at the opening of the age of philosophers. I'm hoping this will make a good intro. We have a nice little quote (Confucius works well for putting quotes on the wall and reading them together) and our first untranslated term in a context that encourages us to dive into what ren is. That will lead us into ideas about self-cultivation and what sort of person Confucius thinks you should make yourself into. Questions about your life's course and what sort of person you should become are interesting to a certain type of 19 year old. Then, finally, some politics, which should be the most alien part of it for them, but might make more sense if it is grounded first in personal behavior, which is, as Brooks points out, more or less the way the school developed, only coming to be concerned with state policy and cosmology and such much later. In the long run the accretion approach may make teaching easier. Further updates if events warrant. If nothing else I can bring up the first part of 5.10
Zai Yu slept in the daytime. The Master said: Rotten wood cannot be carved; a wall of dung cannot be decorated. What is there in Yu for me to reprove.? 宰予晝寢。子曰:「朽木不可雕也,糞土之牆,不可杇也;於予與何誅!」



How to get rich in Chinese business

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:15 am
This is from the Hawai'i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture ((This is a wonderful book that includes translations of all sorts of things that do not ordinarily turn up in sourcebooks. The preface says that it is intended for use in classes on the "history, culture and society of China, both modern and premodern" How it could work for a Modern class I can't guess, as there are only and handful of readings from the Qing and later. I'm also not sure how well it would work for a straight history class, as it seems more geared to a culture class. Still, there is a lot of cool stuff in here.)) It is a wonderful reading to use in classes, as our hero Dou Yi manages to make dough in pretty much every way that you can imagine in the Tang-Song period. He is sponsored by a temple, does commercial agriculture, invents something new, (the 'firewood') creates personal connections with foreign merchants, swindles someone out of a piece of jade, reclaims land, gets involved in commercial entertainment, sucks up to powerful officials and sells offices. The only real question is if the essay's emphasis on his frugality makes him more of a Confucian merchant or if his Zhuangzi-ian use of things at hand makes him more of a Daoist entrepreneur.
Dou Yi, a Mid-Tang Businessman Dou Yi of Fufeng was thirteen years old. His various aunts on the paternal side had been royal relatives for several reign periods. His paternal uncle Dou Jiao was honorary president of the Board of Works, commissioner for the palace corrals and stables, and commissioner of palace halls and parks. [Dou Jiao] owned a temple yard in Jiahui Ward. Yi's relative Zhang Jingli served as aide in An Prefecture. After he was relieved of his duty by his replacement, he returned to the city [of Chang'an]. An Prefecture produced silk shoes. Jingli brought with him more than a dozen pairs of those to give to his nephews and nieces. All except Yi fought for them. Soon only one slightly oversized pair was left behind by the nephews and nieces. Yi bowed twice before he accepted them. Jingli asked him why. He just kept quiet. Little did they know, Yi harbored great ambitions for business success like Duanmu. So he went to the market and sold them for 500 cash, which he stored away in a secret place. Quietly he had two trowels made at a smithy, and sharpened their edges. At the beginning of the fifth month, Chang'an was covered with elm seedpods. Yi swept together more than a hu (bushel) of them. He then went to his uncle's (Dou Jiao) place to borrow his temple yard for study. The uncle granted his request. At night Yi would secretly rest in the Fa'an Shangren Courtyard of the Baoyi Monastery. During the day, he went to the temple, where he cultivated a piece of spare land with the two trowels, digging four thousand closely aligned furrows, 5 cun (inches) wide and 5 cun deep each. Each of them was more than 20 bu [.4 meters]) long. He fetched water to irrigate them and sowed elm seedpods into them. Summer rain soon fell and all of the seedpods grew well. By fall, they had grown more than 1 chi (foot) tall and numbered in the tens of thousands. The next year, the elm saplings were more than 5 chi tall. Yi then used an axe to chop off the shoots that were growing too closely to each other so that the saplings would be about 3 cun from one another. He left all those saplings that were thick and straight untouched, but cut off those that were not, and tied them up in more than a hundred bundles, each of them about 2 chi around. That fall happened to be gloomy and rainy, so he sold those bundles [as firewood] at more than a dozen cash each. The following year, he fetched water [to irrigate] the old elm furrows again. By fall, some of the elm trees were as thick as chicken eggs. He again chose those that were thick and straight, [but instead of saving them] chopped them off with an ax and tied them into more than two hundred bundles. This time, he increased his profit several times. Five years later, he selected more than a thousand large trees for rafters and sold them for 50,000—40,000 cash. There were no fewer than a thousand supersized timbers, large enough for making carriages, lying inside the temple yard. By then he already was running more than a hundred businesses. He accumulated silks and cloth-lined fur coats by the hundred, yet he still ate sparingly. He then bought some black flaxen cloths from Shu (present-day Sichuan), at 100 cash per pi (bolt). He cut them into pieces 4 chi long. He then hired people to make pouches out of them, He purchased several hundred pairs of new flaxen shoes made in Neixiang.10 Withiout leaving the temple, each day he would give out three pies and 15 cash, together with a pouch, to each one of the children from various residential wards and the Jinwu households. In winter, they picked up locust seeds to fill in the pouches and turned them in. In a month's time, he amassed two cartloads of locust seeds. He also asked children to pick up worn-out flaxen shoes, and for every three pairs of them he gave a new pair in exchange. When the news began to spread far and wide, numerous people came to turn in worn-out shoes. In a few days, he acquired more than a thousand pairs. He then sold his elm timbers large enough for carriages, raking in more than 100,000 cash. He hired day laborers to wash the worn-out shoes at the brook near the west gate of Chong-xian Ward. He then had them dried in the sun and stored away in the temple yard. He bought piles of broken tiles from outside the ward gate. He then had workers wash them clean of mud at the running-water brook and transport them by cart into the temple. He set up five sets of grinding tools and three sets of filing instruments. He bought several bushels of oil-based indigo in the West Market and hired a chef to set up a kitchen stove. He recruited a large number of hired day laborers to file the worn-out shoes and grind the broken tiles. Having sieved it with a large-meshed screener, he added locust seeds and indigo into the mixture. He had his workers labor day and night to grind and beat it until it became stiff like curdled milk. The workers were asked to gather the mixture fresh from the mortar and were ordered to knead it with both hands into a dough of 3 cun across, shape it into sections of less than 5 chi each. He ended up having more than ten thousand sticks, which he named "dharma candles" (fazhu). In the sixth month of an early Jianzhong year it rained heavily in the capital city. Firewood was worth more than cassia bark. Carriages were no longer seen in alleyways. Yi then sold his dharma candles at 100 cash apiece. When used for cooking, they were twice as good as firewood. Yi reaped an endless amount of profit. Previously, south of the steelyard bazaar of the Western Market there was more than 10 mu of low-lying swampland, known as the Little Sea Pond (Xiaohai chi). Located near wineshops, it became the dumping ground of the area. He asked to buy it. But the owner was unpredictable. Yi compensated him with 50,000 cash, and got the land. He set up a signpost with a pennant hanging at the top at the center of the pond. Around the pond he set up six or seven stalls for making pancakes and rice balls. He invited children to throw broken tiles at the pennant. Those who hit the target were rewarded with pancakes and rice balls. In less than a month, children of east and west Chang'an came by tens of thousands, and the broken tiles which they threw [soon] filled up the pond. After measuring the area, he built a tavern of twenty bays in a key location, which earned him a daily profit of several thousand cash and was exceptionally profitable. Known as the Dous' Tavern, it is still there today Once seeing a Sogdian by the name of Mi Liang suffering from hunger and cold, Yi at once gave him some money and silk. Seven years went by, yet Yi did not ask a single question about it. When Yi met him again, out of commiseration for Mi's hunger and cold, Yi gave him another 5,000 cash. A grateful Liang told others that he would repay Dalang (Great Man, i.e., Dou Yi) eventually. One day Yi was resting at home, and before long Mi Liang appeared, telling him, "In Chongxian Ward, a small house is for sale for 200,000 cash. Dalang (Dou Yi), buy it now." Yi withdrew some extra money deposited at a treasure house (guifang) in the Western Market and purchased the house at the market price. On the day Yi signed the tide deed, Liang told Yi, "I am an expert in estimating jade. Once I saw an unusual stone in the house. Few people know about it. Used as a laundering block, it is a true piece of Yutian jade. Dalang can strike it rich instantly." Yi did not believe his story. Liang said, "Please ask a jade craftsman from Yanshou Ward to examine it." The craftsman was greatly amazed, and said, "This is a rare commodity indeed. I can work it into twenty sets of belt ornaments, at the price of more than a hundred strings of cash per set, which will come to a total of about three thousand strings." [Dou Yi] then asked to have the work done, which eventually brought in several hundred thousand strings of cash. In addition, Yi acquired other jade pieces of various descriptions, such as containers, belt buckles, and knickknacks. The sale of these items again brought in approximately several hundred thousand strings of cash. To show his appreciation, Yi gave the house to Liang to live in, yielding to him the original title deed as well. In front of Defender-in-Chief Li Sheng's mansion, there was a small house, which was believed to be badly haunted. [Dou Yi] bought the house for its value of 210,000 cash. He enclosed the area with walls, [then] tore down the tiles and timbers and had them piled up in two separate places. Inside his property, he did farming. The Defender-in-Chief's mansion bordered on Yi's property, whose small loft-building was oftentimes an intolerable sight. Li Sheng wanted to annex it to make way for a polo ground. One day, he sent his men to Yi, offering to buy it.Yi firmly declined the offer, saying, "I have other use for it." During one of Li Sheng's periodic holidays, [Dou Yi] asked to see Sheng, carrying the title deed for his property with him. He said to Sheng, "Originally I bought this house for my relatives to live in. But I am afraid that my property is looking menacingly over the Defender-in-Chief's first-rate mansion. As a poor man of lowly birth, I certainly feel uneasy. Seeing that my property, spacious and idle, can be used for polo games, I now present you the original tide deed, in the hope that you will graciously take care of me. Sheng was greaty pleased, saying to Yi in private, "Don't you want my humble assistance?" Yi answered, "I dare not expect that. Only, in the event of a future emergency, I might come to bother you, sir." Sheng paid increasing attention to him. Yi then cleared away the tiles and timbers and leveled the land before giving it away to Sheng for his polo games. Armed with the favors he received, Yi gathered five or six superrich merchants from the Eastern and Western Markets, and asked them, "Don't you have sons and younger brothers who aspire to secure key posts in various circuits and the capital?" The merchants were overjoyed, saying to Yi, "If Dalang(Yi) soon provides shelter for our sons and younger brothers, we will pay 20,000 strings of cash for it." Yi then took the list of names of these merchants' sons and younger brothers to see Sheng, claiming that all were his relatives or friends. Sheng examined the list graciously and placed all of them in key, cushy positions in various circuits. Yi gained from it an additional tens of thousands of cash. In Chongxian Ward, Commandant Cao Suixing found that a large tree rose [in his yard] overnight. Suixing was often concerned that its branches and leaves had grown over the years, obstructing his house and yard. He was afraid that felling the tree might result in structural damage. Then Yi paid him a visit. Pointing to the tree, he said, "Commandant, why don't you get rid of it?" Suixing answered, "It is indeed in the way. But since it is deeply rooted, to cut it may damage the roof of my house." Yi then asked to buy the tree: "I can still get rid of it for the Commandant without causing any damage. I should be able to let the tree destroy itself." The Commandant was very pleased. [Dou Yi] then paid him 5,000 cash. He discussed with the axmen how to cut down the tree. Paying them a large sum of money, he asked them to cut from top to bottom at 2 chi intervals. Out of the timbers he created several hundred backgammon game boards and sold them at the bazaar, realizing a profit of more than a hundredfold. His astute business deals were all similar to this. In his old age, Yi was sonless. He divided his assets among his well-acquainted relatives and friends. As to his remaining numerous businesses in various large markets in west Chang'anwith [daily revenues of] more than a thousand strings of cash each, he entrusted their management to the Fa'an Shangren Courtyard as its permanent property.31 Yi constantly provided for it without even considering gain or loss. Yi died when he was more than eighty years old. His residence remains in Jiahui Ward in the capital, where his younger brothers, nieces, and other blood relatives lived. His grandsons still live there now. -Translation by Victor Cunrui Xiong


Journals: European Journal Of East Asian Studies Vol 6 No 2

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:39 am
Below is the table of contents of the new issue of this journal: European Journal Of East Asian Studies 2007 ; VOL 6 ; PART 2   (2007/12/01)  EALA Wiki Entry for this journal Article Title: N . F . S . Grundtvig , Niels Bukh and Other 'Japanese' Heroes . The Educators Obara Kuniyoshi and Matsumae Shigeyoshi and Their Lessons from the Past of a Foreign Country Author(s): Margaret Meh Page: 155 - 184 Article Title: When the Medium Is the Message : The Ideological Role of Yoshino Sakuzô ; Yoshino's Minponshugi in Mobilising the Japanese Public Author(s): Brett McCormic Page: 185 - 215 Article Title: Regional Integration and Business Interests : A Comparative Study of Europe and Southeast Asia Author(s): Hidetaka Yoshimatsu Page: 217 - 243 Article Title: Constructing Relations with Hong Kong under 'One Country , Two Systems' . Prospects for the European Union Author(s): Kenneth Ka - Lok Cha Page: 245 - 273 Article Title: China Through Western Eyes . A Case Study of the BBC Television Documentary Roads to Xanadu Author(s): Qing Ca Page: 275 - 297

Fortune Cookie History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:48 am
A grad student from Kanagawa University may have cracked the great riddle of Asian cuisine: the origin of the Fortune Cookie! As the NY Times reports, the original fortune cookies may have been produced by Kyoto-area confectioners in the late 1800s. (( I'm immediately reminded of the rickshaw, which everyone associates with China but which was actually invented as the jinrikisha in Japan at the opening of the Meiji era. There is evidence in the Times article going back to the early 1800s, though. )) The practice -- and the distinctive iron grills used to make the sembei crackers, which are part of the historical puzzle -- spread to Japanese-owned Chop Suey houses in San Francisco. (( Japanese in North America were much more likely to be from Kansai than Japanese in Hawai'i )) From there, Chinese-owned restaurants began to offer them, and Chinese-owned bakeries supplied them. Then came WWII, which changed everything.
Ms. Nakamachi is still unsure how exactly fortune cookies made the jump to Chinese restaurants. But during the 1920s and 1930s, many Japanese immigrants in California owned chop suey restaurants, which served Americanized Chinese cuisine. The Umeya bakery distributed fortune cookies to well over 100 such restaurants in southern and central California. ... Early on, Chinese-owned restaurants discovered the cookies, too. Ms. Nakamachi speculates that Chinese-owned manufacturers began to take over fortune cookie production during World War II, when Japanese bakeries all over the West Coast closed as Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps. Mr. Wong pointed out: “The Japanese may have invented the fortune cookie. But the Chinese people really explored the potential of the fortune cookie. It’s Chinese-American culture. It only happens here, not in China.”
The war also served to popularize the fortune cookie
they were encountered by military personnel on the way back from the Pacific Theater. When these veterans returned home, they would ask their local Chinese restaurants why they didn’t serve fortune cookies as the San Francisco restaurants did. The cookies rapidly spread across the country. By the late 1950s, an estimated 250 million fortune cookies were being produced each year by dozens of small Chinese bakeries and fortune cookie companies. One of the larger outfits was Lotus Fortune in San Francisco, whose founder, Edward Louie, invented an automatic fortune cookie machine. By 1960, fortune cookies had become such a mainstay of American culture that they were used in two presidential campaigns: Adlai Stevenson’s and Stuart Symington’s.
It's such an American tale. It's all there: entrepreneurship, food, racism, migration, war, marketing, invention, industrialization and orientalism. (( Also the obsession with national origins, Japanese-Chinese competition, the value of open archives, the historiography of food culture and the power of media to shape a historical finding. )) I can't wait to tell my students. (Crossposted, of course)


It’s not history, but it’s not bad

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:31 am
Here at Frog in a Well we have always prided ourselves on being the best salientian group blog on Chinese history. While we are still the undisputed masters of our own small piece of sky, the new blog China Beat looks like it is also worth a few page views. Although the official focus of the blog seems to be more on contemporary China they have some heavy-hitting historians on the list like Jeremiah Jenne and others and one of the first posts is on Wang Mang


Germans and China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:55 am
I have been reading Isabel Hull's Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of Total War in Imperial Germany Cornell, 2005 ((One of the great things about the modern, internet, age is that when you find an interesting book you look it up on Amazon to see if they have a table of contents. They often have a used copy, in this case for 8 bucks.)) I was mainly interested in the book for its treatment of the Boxer Expedition, but the book in general is about the evolution of ideas about war in German military culture. She sees the colonial wars in China, Southwest Africa and East Africa as being very important in the development of German concepts of war and above all treatment of civilians. I found this interesting not only because there is stuff about the Boxers. Everyone knows that German military advisers were very important in China and that Chinese military culture was heavily influenced by Germany. Everyone also knows that Chinese troops, especially warlord troops, were notoriously brutal towards non-combatants and generally inept at dealing with the civilian population. I would have attributed the bad behavior of warlord troops to their poor training, inadequate supplies and lack of modern military professionalism. After reading Hull I think that much of the military professionalism that China would have been importing would not have done much to remedy these problems The Boxer War is one of Hull's key bits of pre WWI evidence. German troops in China behaved pretty badly. Although there does not seem to have been a specific order given to exterminate all Chinese ((given later developments in Germany she is very interested in the evolution of exterminationism, and it is interesting to see that while William Rowe has found lots of sources for exterminationist ideas in China, it may have been imported as well)), lots of Chinese, especially men, were summarily executed. The Germans did little of the actual fighting before the relief of the legations, but were the most enthusiastic about punitive expeditions, which were little more than troops roaming the countryside killing Chinese. Looting was discouraged, which made the Germans better on this score than most of the Allies. Rape was common, and the German forces in China managed a venereal disease rate of 140%. ((p.151)) The Boxer expedition was fairly ad-hoc, but by combining it with the colonial wars in Africa, especially Herero War, she finds a number of characteristics of German military culture, almost all of which seem to be exactly the same as in China. -Lack of concern for the well-being of civilians and P.O.W.s. This is to some extent universal to all armies. If you want promotion you a better off with the war record of General Patton than that of Colonel Klink. Still, the Germans seem to have been worse than most other European armies at this. -To some extent this lack of concern with P.O.W.'s was part of a larger lack of concern with planning. Like most European armies of the late 19th century the Germans were convinced that future wars would be extremely short. The German Army was perhaps worse than others at preparing the logistical and command needs of protracted war. Planning for anything other than actually fighting was very sketchy as all of that was seen as a sign of "British Commercialism." If a war did not end quickly German troops would start requisitioning supplies from the population. -If long term planning and organization would not win wars what would? "restless energy, boundless initiative, inordinate capacity for suffering, and blind self-sacrifice, matched only by the willingness to sacrifice others." She points out that the great model of the war in SW Africa was not "Franke's relief of Omaruru. Accomplished with few resources, much bravery, and only seven deaths, this battle saved the strategically important railroad for German use. But Frank was an old Schutztruppler, not a regular officer; and, besides, he survived." Instead the Germans valorized Captain Klein, who's pursuit of an already-dead enemy chieftain across the Omaheke Dessert was a monument to the ability of brave men to overcome suffering. The fact that it failed and was known to be pointless even before it started did not make Klein's march less admirable. Like the Long March it took its meaning from the suffering of the men involved, not from any military importance. -Her description of the convoluted command structure of the Imperial German Army (p.12) makes it sound almost like Chiang Kai-shek was in command. -The Germans also displayed quite racist attitudes towards all non-whites. Not really a match to China here. It's not really a China book, but for those interested in the development of military culture in China (and maybe also in Japan) it is a good read.


Zhou Enlai and The Chinese Omelette

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 3:45 pm

The lively and informed blog, Jottings from the Granite Studio, January 8 has a well turned piece “This date in history: The Death of Zhou Enlai.” The piece shows that Zhou was a consummate statesman who perhaps snookered Nixon and Kissinger, with a reputation for countering Mao’s excesses and acting the suave statesman.

I remember the reporter Harrison Salisbury telling a story about the cosmopolitan Zhou. At the Geneva Conference of 1954 Zhou went around a reception greeting each delegate in his own language, showing up the less worldly Khrushchev, who knew only Russian. Khrushchev, according to another story, later struck back by observing to Zhou how strange it was that he, Khrushchev, came from a peasant background while Zhou was quite the aristocrat. Zhou is said to have thought for a moment and then replied, “true, but we each betrayed the class from which we came.”

For a long time, the story was that John Foster Dulles was so anti-communist that at this Geneva Conference he refused to shake Zhou's hand. Problem is that when a spoil sport researcher went to check, there was no time at which the two were together. Still, when Nixon went to Beijing in 1972, he clearly had heard this story. He bounded down from Airforce One and the  first thing he did was to shake Zhou's hand!

Another example of Zhou’s reputation is in a piece of urban folklore about Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972. At that time the small but famous Gansu Flying Horse was on display in one of the capital’s museums. Nixon, thinking we was alone, admired the horse so much that he stealthily put it in his pocket. A museum guard, according to the tale, secretly observed the deed, but hesitated to report the theft for fear of destroying the friendly atmosphere of the visit. What could he do but take the incident to Zhou? That night at the banquet, after the mao tai, Zhou introduced China’s leading magician. The magician performed several feats, then unveiled a reproduction of the Flying Horse which he then caused to disappear. Where was it? Well, he announced, reaching into Nixon’s pocket: “Voila!” So once again, the wily and humane Zhou saved the day.

But the Jottings piece also asks: "What sort of machinations and compromises were necessary to linger in power while those around him were being swept away?” What about allowing his long time comrade Liu Shaoqi to die of untreated pneumonia lying on the floor of an unheated jail cell?

Much of this enigma is spelled out in the recent book by Gao Wenqian, Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary (NY: Public Affairs, 2007; translated by Peter Rand and Lawrence R. Sullivan). Gao was a researcher at China’s secret party archives where he had access to files, interviews, gossip, memos, and internal compilations. He smuggled out notes and documents with which he wrote an explosive Chinese language biography of Zhou, published in Hong Kong in 1999, which the translators have slightly supplemented for English language readers. This is not the cynical view presented in, say, Li Zhisui’s The Private Life of Chairman Mao: The Memoirs of Mao's Personal Physician (New York: Random House, 1994), much less the unhinged portrait in Chang Jung and Jon Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story (New York: Knopf, 2005). Li chronicled Mao’s refusal to take baths or brush his teeth, his sexual use of young women, and his rapacity towards both enemies and old comrades. He doesn’t allow that Mao ever did anything which was not despicable, which may be a reasonable stance but not convincing if other arguments are not even considered. Likewise, Chang & Halliday’s argument is terribly weakened because it strays too far from evidence.

Gao, on the other hand, allows Zhou’s accomplishments, which are usefully sketched in the Jottings from the Granite Studio piece. Yet in spite of Zhou’s reputation as a balance to Mao’s extremism, Gao paints an ultimately damning portrait of a man who said yes to power. What would have happened if Zhou had stood up to Mao or at least advised him differently? Would he have lasted?

Would it make a difference if we accepted, as Zhou surely did, the legitimacy of the Revolution? After all, every nation or political cause accepts some form of the proposition that the ends justify the means. Was it legitimate to drop the Atomic Bomb? Stalin justified his slaughter of innocents by saying “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.” But, asked somebody (presumably in a very quiet voice) "how many eggs do you have to break to make one omelette?" Or, we might add, when so many eggs are broken, shouldn’t we demand to see an omelette?

Journals: East Asia – An International Quarterly Vol 24 No 4

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:08 am
Below is the table of contents of the new issue of this journal: East Asia - An International Quarterly 2008; Vol 24; PART 4 (2008-January) EALA Wiki Entry for this journal Article Title: Japan's Quest for "Soft Power" : Attraction and Limitation Author(s): Peng Lam Page: 349 - 363 Article Title: Policy Response to Declining Birth Rate in Japan : Formation of a "Gender - Equal" Society Author(s): Yuki Huen Page: 365 - 379 Article Title: Is Taipei an Innovative City ? An Institutionalist Analysis Author(s): Chia - Huang Wang Page: 381 - 398 Article Title: China's Oil Venture in Africa Author(s): Hong Zhao Page: 399 - 415 Article Title: Edmund Terence Gomez ( ed ) , Politics in Malaysia : The Malay Dimension Author(s): Clive Kessler Page: 417 - 419 Article Title: David Scott , China Stands Up : The PRC and the International System Author(s): Justin Orenstein Page: 421 - 424 Article Title: Steve Chan , China , the U . S . , and the Power - Transition Theory : A Critique Author(s): Robert Sutter Page: 425 - 427


Miss Taiwan?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:27 am

Going Hunting

A hunting parting in Xinzhu, 1935


A great new resource provided by Paul Barclay of Lafayette College. They have digitized a great collection of photos of colonial-era Taiwan. It is very well organized with clear and complete descriptions of each image. A wonderful resource for both research and teaching.




Taipei slaughterhouse

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