Do you suffer from insomnia?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:50 am

If so this may be for you. I did a talk about my book for our library and they have taped it and put it on-line.


Learning about Tibet III

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:27 am

Zhang daren

Having learned any number of things about Tibet recently I thought I would learn some more, and thankfully the new Modern China (34.2) arrived with an interesting article by Daphon David Ho “The Men Who Would Not Be Amban and the One who Would: Four Frontline Officials and Qing Tibet Policy, 1905-1911” The article looks at the New Policies period attempts of the Qing court to establish control over Tibet, at the same time that the British were trying to do the same thing. In 1905 most Tibetans did not see themselves as citizens of a modern Chinese nation, or of a modern Tibetan nation, or as subjects of the British Empire and various people wanted to resolve this problem

Ho agrees with much of existing scholarship that one of the main events that split off Tibetan identity from Chinese identity was the brutality of the Chinese occupation of Lhasa in 1910, where Chinese behavior was, according to one Tibetan “worse than dogs and wild beasts.” Ho is mostly interested in showing how this mess was created by rivalries among Qing officials, but he also shows that there was at least the possibility that Tibet might have become China. The best hope for this came in the person of Zhang Yingtang, who served briefly as the Qing high commissioner for Tibet 1906-1907. Zhang promoted a peaceful version of Chinese-Tibetan reconciliation, and if you go to Lhasa today1 you will be shown Zhang Daren flowers, a symbol of the Tibetan people’s love for China.

As Ho points out, Zhang is a lot more interesting than modern Chinese propaganda makes him. He had been minister to the U.S., Mexico and Peru, and was very much a part of attempts to construct a new Chinese nation, and while in Tibet he tried to create a Tibet that was part of this new China.

In April 1907, [Zhang] published a treatise, “Improving Tibetan
Customs” (Banfa Zang su gailiang), in both Tibetan and Chinese. Zhang’s
plan can best be described as a peculiar blend of Confucian moral virtues,
modern hygiene, and military spirit. He began by admonishing Tibetans
about polyandry and sexual promiscuity, fretting about everything from
extramarital affairs to siblings, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, and even in-
laws sleeping in the same bed (QDZY: 1355-56). Zhang continued with a list
of recommendations that included bathing regularly, trimming down the
length of clothes (so as not to impede work), and studying Chinese, and a list
of injunctions that criticized Tibetan customs such as sky burial.

All of this is fairly typical Confucian nagging that could have just as well been directed at the Miao in 1740. Zhang goes on to urge a new level of militarism in Tibetan society.

1. When a boy turns eighteen, he should learn martial arts and the use of the
Mauser gun (Maose qiang) so that he can defend his hometown.

2. The Mauser is an essential piece of equipment for protecting yourselves
and your homes. Without it, you will surely be bullied. A Mauser costs
37 rupees, and 1,000 bullets costs 7 rupees. They are sold everywhere in
India and Sichuan. Everyone, man or woman, should spend 44 rupees to
buy a gun and bullets. When you are free, go hunting. Proceeds from the
sale of several white foxes, lynxes, or tigers will repay the cost of the gun
and bullets. After that, gains from hunting will be extra income. When
foreign enemies or robbers come, you can fight them with your guns, for
the sake of the Buddha.

later he said that

Today, the world is one of guns and cannons. There is no right
or wrong, only weak and strong. If we cannot achieve self-strengthening, we
will become prey. If people have the courage and uprightness to fight to the
death for the country, then foreign enemies will not dare to insult us. …
Military preparedness is something we cannot go a single day without deliberating.
Train troops every day; everyone discuss military affairs (riri lianbing, renrenjiangwu).
This is a vital eight-word formula.

This emphasis on arming the people would have seemed a bit radical in China proper, although the militarism itself was pretty standard New Policies stuff. Unfortunately for Zhang, if he had managed to militarize Tibetan society to the extent he wanted my guess is this would have led to more conflict with the Han rather than a single Han-Tibetan culture.

  1. I’ve never been []


Readings on Tibet

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 1:30 pm

I’ve posted links to interesting recent articles on Tibet on a blog for my teachers’ workshop, ASIA: LEARNING FROM, TEACHING ABOUT.


Unity across the Taiwan strait

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:26 pm

Via China Digital Times a You Tube presentation for foreigners who know f****1 all about Chinese history explaining why Tibet was, is and always will be part of China. The only really interesting thing about it in a historical sense is that when they flash a series of maps to prove the “legitimancy” of China’s claims to Tibet they give the start and end dates for the Yuan and Qing dynasties2 For the Republic they only have a start date, not an end date, whereas most mainland stuff ends the Republic in 1949. Nice to see an attempt to reach out to the other side.

UPDATE More from Danwei

  1. a word that is used about 20 times in this bit of scholarship []
  2. They have a map showing that the Ming controlled Tibet too. Did you know that? Neither did I. Learn something everyday []


poor peasants

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:52 pm

In Modern China class we will be talking about Communists and their analysis of China’s social classes. What is a poor peasant? I will give them the standard Maoist spiel, but I will also give them this. Other readings that might work for this are solicited.

After my mother took me to live in Jiang Village with her parents, our life was very difficult. My grandfather had lost his sight because he was old and had overworked. He had the white eye disease [cataracts]. My mother was deaf. She had been ill when she was young and couldn’t hear after that. We had about six mu of poor land, enough to feed us for only about half a year. We had no meat and rarely ate vegetables. Every year we ate sorghum porridge twice a day until it ran out, then we ate tree leaves, grasses, roots, and wild vegetables. I did not eat a mantou (steamed wheat bun) until I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I was always hungry. I never went to school. Having nothing to eat, how could I study? To this day I cannot read or write. Later, when I was Communist Party secretary of Houhua Village for thirty years, I did everything by memory. I kept everything in my head.

In Jiang Village my mother helped support us by weaving cotton cloth. Someone would take it to market and buy more raw cotton for her to weave. Our clothes were made from the cloth she wove, as were our cotton shoes, which were dyed with red soil. We never had much to wear. We couldn’t even afford a long overcoat for winter, so I wore a short cotton-filled jacket with a belt around the waist. Even when I was twenty years old my mother and I had to share a single quilt when we slept.

I collected firewood to sell. I remember being beaten when collecting wood near the property of a rich family. They thought I was stealing. Some­times I did steal. Once I stole about 100 jin [1 jin = 1.1 Ibs.] of leaves from pear trees. We boiled them and ate them for quite a long time. When I was sixteen or seventeen I collected manure for fertilizer. One day when two of us were collecting manure, we were accused of stealing and told to eat it. The other person did, but I didn’t because my grandfather came in time.

I sometimes worked as a short-term laborer for the more prosperous households in the village. I was used only for a few days at harvest time to cut corn and sorghum. I received no pay but was given my food for the day. I remember well that when I was about eighteen I was working for a rich peasant and was given five steamed wheat buns at noon and four more in the evening. They were the best thing I had ever eaten, and that was the first time I had ever had enough to eat. The next day there was no work, and I was hungry again.

from  Seybolt, Peter J. Throwing the Emperor from His Horse: Portrait of a Village Leader in China, 1923-1995. Westview Press, 1996.



Help me pick some books

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:38 am

Book order forms for the Fall are on my desk again, and again I am going to ask for any advice people might feel like sending my way. The two Asia courses I am teaching are Modern Japan and Introduction to Asian Studies.

Introduction to Asian Studies is the tricky one. It is supposed to introduce our Asian Studies majors and minors to the study of Asia. I learned from my evaluations last time that some of them expect the class to cover all the societies of Asia from all possible disciplinary perspectives. I am a bit more modest in my goals and usually build the class around four or five books and a couple of movies that deal with several different parts of Asia from various disciplines.

The theme for this time will be “Protest and Dissent in Asia”  and I was thinking of using

-Multatuli Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company Indonesia, colonialism, and it’s a novel!

-Apter and Sawa Against the State:Politics and Social Protest in Japan Japan and Political Science. Has anyone used this?

-Nir Rosen In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq Iraq (obviously) and journalism. I like making them read something by a journalist, since they read a lot of journalism stuff anyway and should learn how to work with it. This title jumped out at me, but It has not arrived yet and I have not yet read it. Any other suggestions?

John W. Dardess Blood and History in China: The Donglin Faction and its Repression 1620-1627  China and history. I have my doubts about this. I liked it, but will it work for students? I like making them realize that the world existed before 1800, but this book may not work. There must be some biography or whatever of some pre-modern dissident that is out in paperback. Maybe do Keene’s Frog in a Well  and dump Apter and do something Poly-Sci ish on China, like Lee’s Against the Law: Labor Protests in China’s Rustbelt and Sunbelt?(really more Anthro than poly-sci, actually)

Basically, I am looking for good books that will stick with students. Any recommendations are most welcome.

For the Modern Japan class I am going to use a textbook and probably

-Walthall The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration
The one stop shop for all your Late Tokugawa society, Meiji politics Gender and Economics stuff.

-Kawabata The Scarlet Gang of Asukusa looks very good, although I have not used it before. Has anyone tried this?

-Then something postwar. But what? I did Embracing Defeat last time and it worked o.k., although I think it was a bit too long.


Smoking in China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:41 pm

A good book answers your questions. A really good book answers questions you had not thought of yet. Apparently Tim Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat is a really good book, as it is already answering questions I did not know I had. Among the many topics Brook discusses (the book is about globalization in the 17th century) is the history of smoking. He points out that this was a new habit in China (and everywhere else) and he also talks about pipes. I had always known that Chinese pipes were rather long, both the tobacco pipes like this Baccyor thiswater

and the opium pipes like this


1 Brook explains that the reason for the long pipes is that smoking was considered a particularly yang thing, and you wanted to let the heat of the smoke cool (or de-yang) itself as much as possible. This is why smoking was not advised for women or old men, why women’s pipes were so much longer than men’s and, I presume, why cigarette smoking among women was considered so risque in the the 20th century.

  1. Note that when selling things on Ebay you can call them all opium pipes []


‘China Network’ at Cambridge

Filed under: — katrina @ 7:34 am

If you will forgive the promotion, this may be of interest to other Frogs…

Cambridge University’s humanities centre (CRASSH) recently received funding for a two-year network on China, on the theme of modernity. Most of the scholars involved are approaching this from the field of comparative literature, but also there are historians and translation scholars. There will be conferences in Cambridge (this May), Yale (later this year) and Tsinghua (2009).

Some information is online here about the May conference http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/2007-8/chinaconference.html.


What if?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:15 pm

Geez, now everybody wants to play. On March 7 our own Charles Hayford started the ball rolling by posting on Five things that Didn’t Happen (But Might Have). This led to Michael Turton coming up with a list for Taiwan history. Now the New York Review of Books is getting in the act, with a piece by Perry Link entitled He Would have Changed China. It is a review of Zong Fengming’s book of conversations with Zhao Ziyang Link starts of with a few favorite Chinese history counterfactuals, like what would have happened to Lu Xun if he had lived past 1949, and then gets on to Zhao, who has also been a subject for these types of games. Link shows that during his years of house arrest Zhao did a lot of reading and came to the conclusion that China needed more democracy, more rule of law and less nationalism. He also concludes that Zhao would have probably had very little effect even if he had held on to power in 1989 and if his thinking had evolved in the same way. The real power was always with Deng Xiaoping and to a lesser extent Chen Yun. Still, lots of people in China like to imagine something that might have been better.

Conceptual art

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:56 am

Two pines


Several generations later, in Zhao Mengfu’s “Twin Pines, Level Distance,” something new appears. No more realism; no more romanticism; in a sense, no more painting. Now the landscape image is an extension of writing, a form of embodied thought, an essence of landscapeness, a text to be read. In the contemporary West we have a term for this: conceptual art.

With Asia Week in New York the NYT has a review of a show called “Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings” There is a slide-show too! It looks like a nice show and a good book. Given some of the interest in connecting Chinese art to western traditions in the last post and the comments I thought I would post this.

Via HNN 

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