井底之蛙

6/28/2008

Taiwan Bookstores EALA Page Updated

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:18 am Print

I have updated the Taiwan Bookstores page on the EALA wiki, adding two books and updating the link for SMC Publishing. If you are in Taipei and are looking for a larger selection of academic related works, especially in Chinese, you might want to look at some of the stores listed here:

Taiwan Bookstores

If you know of other stores that are worth adding, considering editing wiki page and adding your own recommendations.

6/24/2008

Changeless China (post 3,743 in a series)

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:26 am Print

Strange Maps (quite possibly the coolest blog in the universe) has this map of more-or-less Han China.

China as an island

The map comes from here, and is part of a summary of a “rise of China” article from Stratfor which is apparently some shop selling (very expensive) geopolitical analysis. Unless the Stratfor article is way better than the summary the people paying money for it are getting ripped off.

The main point of the article is that to understand China you need to know that only part of China is inhabited by “Han” the ethnic group “the world regards as the Chinese”. So far so good, but what insights can we get from this? Well we can get a lot of factual errors, like the suggestion that the dominant language in South China is Cantonese (which is true if the only province in South China is Guangdong), that China’s ports were not sites of international trade before the Opium Wars (which would be news to the entire Chinese diaspora) and that the only successful invaders of China were the Mongols (which is quite an insult to the Manchus, among others). Mostly though, we get timeless China, isolation division. Apparently China has always been an isolated country both because of geography and proclivity, and that is why it has always been so poor. (?) Chinese governments have always been worried about the dangerous prosperity that trade can bring (those backwards mandarins!) but in the  20th century they have been forced to allow it, and this creates all sorts of problems, most notably that some parts of China get rich quicker than others,  leading to civil war. That’s what happened in the early 20th century, when Chinese coastal elites allied with foreigners against Beijing and the interior. One of the common features of this sort of analysis is that its so bad its not even wrong. Nobody who knew anything about Chinese nationalism or history could try to use this model to explain the first half of the 20th century.1 Even people who knew almost nothing about China’s history would not keep using the term “Beijing” to refer to the central government since for much of the period they are talking about the capitol was in Nanjing.   We then learn that “China” has always had three geopolitical imperatives, which apparently apply to every China from the Qin dynasty to today, and which which would fit almost any country in the world about as well as they do as timeless truths about China.

  1. Maintain internal unity in the Han Chinese regions. (True of every country and unless defined much more clearly not much help )
  2. Maintain control of the buffer regions. (Also not very China-specific.)
  3. Protect the coast from foreign encroachment. (True of most countries other than Switzerland and Chad.)

This sort of glib analysis seems to be easier to get published about China, which as we all know is changeless, and thus once you have found the secret key you can unlock the whole puzzle of the China market. Yes, history matters, and possibly more in China than elsewhere, but China actually does change, and trying to draw conclusions based on the timeless nature of “China” is a fools game. I assume Stratfor does not publish articles that claim that American politics today is best understood in terms of the Slave Power and its opponents, or warning that the last 300 years of peace between Catholic and Protestant Europe can’t last, since religious hostility is one of the touchstones of European history.

The map itself is also pretty weird. Is this supposed to be a map of areas where today there are few Han? In that case all of Manchuria should be dried out. Is it a map of places that historically have not been Han? Then why are Liaodong and Gansu underwater?  Xian is not part of the Han core?

  1. It does work a bit better today. I suspect they are reading backwards []

You lost to a girl?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:56 am Print

yeoh

Reading through 中华民国文化史 (Cultural History of the Chinese Republic)1 I found something interesting in the section on 国术. 国术 is a term for what today would be called 武术, i.e. martial arts. Although there was a lot of interest in physical education in China in the 20s and 30s traditional martial arts were not part of this, as they were often seen as backwards peasant stuff. The Guomindang did make some efforts to encourage the modernization of the martial arts, however, setting up the 中央国术馆 (Central Martial Arts Academy) in Nanjing in 1927. Eventually there would be provincial-level organizations as well. At first the Academy seems to have been organized like a traditional martial arts school with masters and disciples but in 1929 it was reorganized as a more modern type of school. The top rated teachers were 王子平,吴图南,姜容燕,胡容华 (), 陈志和 () the younger teachers included 张文广, 李锡恩,傅淑云 () As the () indicates two of the top five teachers and three of eight were women.

This actually surprised me a lot. In movies and fiction there may be a lot of female martial arts experts, and there were certainly some in reality as well. Still, this ratio strikes me as a little high. In 1933 there was a national martial arts exam and of the 427 competitors only 9 were women. Was this part of an attempt to modernize the martial arts? Was it a regional thing, since the academy drew heavily from the Northwest and followers of 张之江? Has anybody written anything on this?

  1. 编 史全生,吉林文史 []

6/20/2008

Summer is here

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:13 am Print

Today is the first day of summer here in Pennsylvania, which must mean it is time for a reading from 呂氏春秋 Lüshi Chunqiu LSCQ is best described as a philosophical encyclopedia of the Qin period, probably composed around 239 B.C.E. In part the book is a guide to rulers, and of course Chinese rulers were very interested in the seasons and the changes in the universe since activities in the human world correlated with the patterns of nature and a big part of being ruler was understanding this and taking advantage of this. 1 Apparently our Summer is a bit later than theirs, as the sow-thistle has already blossomed here and the Chinese did not get to the longest day of the year until the second month of summer. Still a good reading if you want to understand Chinese cosmology and rulership.

CHAPTER 1 ALMANAC FOR THE FIRST MONTH OF SUMMER2
4/1.1
A. During the first month of summer the sun is located in Net, At dusk the constellation Wings culminates, and at dawn the constellation Serving Maid culminates.
B. The correlates of this month are the days bing and ding, the Sovereign Yan, his assisting spirit Zhurong, creatures that are feathered, the musical notczhi, the pitch-standard Regulator of the Mean, the number seven (the element of human nature ritual propriety, the faculty vision), acrid tastes, burning smells, and the offering at the furnace. At sacrifice, the lungs are given the preeminent position.
C. The small green frogs croak, the earthworms come out, the royal vine develops, and the sow-thistle flowers.
D. The Son of Heaven resides in the left apartment of the Hall of Light. He rides in a chariot of cinnabar-red, pulled by vermilion horses with black tails and bearing vermilion streamers. He is clothed in vermilion robes and wears vermilion jade ornaments. He eats beans accompanied by fowl. His vessels are tall and large.
  1. see Sellmann, James D. 2002. Timing and Rulership in Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals (Lüshi chunqiu). Albany: State University of New York Press. []
  2. from Knoblock, John and Jeffrey Riegel. 2000. The Annals of Lü Buwei: A Complete Translation and Study. Stanford: Stanford University Press. []

6/19/2008

China under construction

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:17 am Print

Apparently China produces a lot of cement

Cement

From the Oil Drum, via Andrew Sullivan, Another in our series of cool teaching graphics.

6/18/2008

Celebrity endorsements

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:10 am Print

For those of you who missed it, Al Gore endorsed Barack Obama. I’m not sure how much this matters. Very few Gore supporters were going to vote for McCain. Still, Americans tend to take these celebrity endorsements pretty seriously, or at least campaigns like to talk about them. Chinese emperors were also fond of celebrity endorsements, specifically from recluses. These were not quite celebrities in the modern sense as they would have avoided being on TV like the plague, but they were highly regarded. The most famous category of recluses were those who moved into the mountains or swamps to avoid polluting themselves with corrupt politics. Needless to say these were exactly the types emperors wanted to win the endorsement of. Fan Ye (398-446) wrote about this.1

The [Book of] Changes proclaims “Great indeed is the significance of the timeliness of (the hexagram) Dun (Withdrawal).” It also says (in the hexagram Gu [Bane]), “He does not serve a king or lord; he elevates in priority his [own] affairs.” For this reason, although Yao was praised as “modeling Heaven,” he could not humble the lofty integrity of [Xu You from] north of the Ying (who lived unencumbered in the mountains). And while King Wu was “utterly praiseworthy,” still the purity of the [Lords of] Guzhu forever remains intact (referring to Bo Yi and Shu Qi, who starved to death in the mountains rather than compromise their principles).

(more…)

  1. from Mair, Victor H., Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, and Paul Rakita Goldin. Hawaii Reader In Traditional Chinese Culture. University of Hawaii Press, 2004. []

6/17/2008

Chinese history sucks

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:07 am Print

As a profession anyway. Historians are notorious for thinking that the past matters a lot, and most of us even think the past matters even if it has nothing to do with the present. (We’re weird that way) If you are a China historian, however there are always peoplewho are only interested in the contemporary rise of China. Whenever I ask my Modern China students why they are taking my class I usually get a lot of them who are interested in “how China got where it is now” by which they usually mean (even if they don’t yet know it) events since 1983. 1 To some extent I don’t mind this. At most small schools China historians will be the only China person there, and talking about contemporary China is part of the job. Part I like too. I find China today fascinating, and giving half-baked opinions on it is a lot of fun. Plus I’m told by colleagues in less trendy fields that this public interest is why people are always shoveling money at me. (Using very small shovels, I might point out)

All that said, I’m glad I’m not Jonathan Spence. He is currently giving the Reith Lectures in England, and apparently the format is 20 minutes of Spence talking about Chinese history followed by 40 minutes of questions about contemporary China. Given that “the value of history is in its relevance to the present” this is not that surprising, and Spence’s choice of topics probably did not help. It would be refreshing to me, however, if Chinese history in the West could draw at least some audience of people who thought that Confucius, like Socrates, was worth knowing about even if it had nothing to do with your stock portfolio, and who thought that the White Lotus was just as interesting/important/cool as the Wars of the Roses even if neither of them has much to do with Darfur.

  1. Blogposts also tend to get more attention if they are focused on the present. []

6/16/2008

It’s the shoes

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:14 pm Print

For people who have read Sherman Cochran it is not news that Chinese merchants developed brand names and consumers developed brand loyalty. Cochran mostly focuses on an earlier period (and the medicine business) but Lang Jing looks at the athletic shoe industry.1 Lang is looking at the development of modern athletics in Shanghai. One issue he looks at is how widespread interest in modern athletics was outside of schools and national competitions and such. This is always a hard thing to find out about, but he does show that there must have been some market for Western-style sports in China, as Shanghai had a number of manufacturers of ping-pong equipment, basketballs (basketball assimilated quickly in China) and of course athletic shoes. It was in the shoe industry of course that you see advertising wars. 金刚 (jin gang)2 brand shoes ran ads in the 1940s urging consumers ”勿相信牌子,相信你自己的眼睛“ (don’t trust brand names trust your own eyes) Presumably meaning they should not be taken in by advertising hype. The target of these adds was of course 回力 (Hui Li, Returning Strength), the kingpin of the Chinese shoe industry. The campaign seems to have worked, as 金刚 became a major player in athletic shoes. Perhaps it did not work well enough, however, since 回力 is still around and they are not. 回力has an interesting logo, as you can see below. I don’t think Nike can sue them however, since 回力 has been fighting sneaker wars far longer than Nike has even existed.

Hui Li

  1. 郎淨 “近代體育在上海(1840-1937)” 上海社會 2006 p.361 []
  2. Golden Exactly? its hard to translate. It’s also the word used for King Kong []

6/11/2008

Foreign influence on China’s revolution

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:25 am Print

I found this picture on Southeast Asia Visions1

Troops in Peking

It is from Siam and China by Besso, Salvatore (1914) I was a bit confused about what it was showing. Surely March 5 is too late for a response to the declaration of the Republic? This turned out to be an interesting bit of political theater. By February of 1912 Yuan Shikai had accepted the idea of becoming the President of the new Republic, but he was still bickering with the revolutionaries in Nanjing over where the new capital would be. The revolutionaries of course wanted Yuan to come to Nanjing where their Provisional Senate was meeting. Yuan naturally wanted to stay in Beijing and the issue was a symbolic one over which of these two groups was going to be dominant in the new government. A group of southern representatives came to Beijing to negotiate with Yuan, but on Feb 29 a mutiny broke out among Cao Kun’s troops in Beijing and the Southerners were forced to flee their hotel. Mutinies broke out in Tianjin, Baoding and Shijiazhuang the next day, all among troops loyal to Yuan. According to Jerome Chen Cao Kun’s troops were yelling slogans against Yuan moving to the South as they rioted2

(more…)

  1. following a link from BibliOdyssey []
  2. Ch’en, Jerome. Yuan Shih-K’ai. Stanford University Press, 1972. p.107 []

6/8/2008

If you prick Taiwanese savages, do they not bleed?

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:27 am Print

I want to share just one more short passage from Small Sea Travel Diaries, the English translation of Yu Yonghe’s journal and essays from his trip to Taiwan in the 17th century by Macabe Keliher. I find the following reflections by Yu on natives he met in Taiwan to be an interesting display of humanity and an overly confident universalism on the part of the author, though it’s tone is entirely inconsistent with the far more insulting, unsympathetic, and otherwise derogatory tone used elsewhere in Yu’s journals.

The worst off people in the world are not as bad off as the Taiwan savages. Because they are different they are discriminated against. When people see them without clothes, they say, “they don’t get cold.” When they see them walk in the rain and sleep in the two, they say, “they don’t get sick.” When they see them carry burdens over great distances, they say, “they can work without rest.”

Aye! They are also people! They have limbs and bodies and flesh and bone; in what way are they not human? How can one say such things of them? If horses run without rest, or oxen loaded with more than they can carry, will they not get sick? If oxen and horses are like this, then what of humans? If they had cloth, and they would wear layers of clothes when the weather turned cold – what would be the point of getting cold. If they had no responsibilities, they would settle peacefully and not run around naked – what is the point of being naked? If they did not have to work, they would rest and relax and not labor for these interpreters. Who does not enjoy eating well and staying warm, avoiding pain and hunger and cold? Who does not hate hard labor and enjoy leisure and comfort? This is human nature. There are different people, but the nature is all the same. The benevolent know this and do not need to repeat it. 1

As the mention they get in this quote suggests, Yu really did not like interpreters, and they appear as the most evil figures in his narrative. Perhaps his own dependence on them when he went hunting for sulphur in remote areas of Taiwan added to his dislike for their deceptive practices.

  1. Yu, Yonghe, trans. Macabe Keliher Small Sea Travel Diaries (2004) SMC publishing, Taipei, 2004, 119. []

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