井底之蛙

3/23/2009

Bad Daoism

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:35 pm

Calling Sam Crane. Apparently Laozi is the best way to understand modern American Conservatism.  Original here. Favorable notice here. It is nice to know that Laozi’s praise of water which does not strive is very much like those who praise capitalist competition, and that those who willinging take the lower position are much like those who want to “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran.” I suppose I could do a long snarky post on what a silly comparison this is but I guess I will in part leave it to Master Crane.1 I will say however that this seems to be an example of how while a good application of Ancient Knowledge to the present can be enlightening, a really bad one can go beyond being wrong to being utterly pointless.

  1. Who I hope also has better things to do. []

Fields and Periodization (yes, again)

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:40 pm

Jeff Vanke, now blogging at The Historical Society’s THS Blog, was looking for some guidance on how to properly divide up the history of the world into fields of study. He laid out a very ambitious world-wide agenda, including Japan and China fields, and asked for feedback. His original China fields were:

  • to 907 (through Tang)
  • 907-1644 (Song, Yuan, Ming)
  • 1644-1911 (Qing)
  • 1911-

My comment (on the China stuff; you can read the whole thing or just the Japan stuff at Frog:J) was

On China, I’m not as familiar with the historiography, but my impression is that there is a lot more scholarship crossing the Ming-Qing boundary than there used to be, and that the Tang isn’t really separable from the Warring States/Five Dynasties/Northern Wei period. I’d probably break between Tang and Song, or possibly after Song. That latter might work, because then you can take the Yuan-Ming-Qing as a unit, which actually works pretty well. (If you’re thinking that the Qing is the Early Modern in China, because it’s chronologically contiguous with the Early Modern in Europe, you have to give that up. this discussion is as good a starting place as any….)

Jeff noticed that I’d collapsed his system into three fields, among other issues:

For China, if I include Song in the ancient / classical field, do I stop in 1129 when the Jin push the Song across the Yangtze, or do I take the classical China field to 1215, when the Mongols take Yanjing?

That leaves me with only three Chinese fields, which seems paltry. If I put Song in a field before Yuan, is there enough from China’s prehistory to the Song to break that into two fields, and if so, where should I draw the temporal line?

I regrouped — apparently I can’t count — and tried again

For a four-part China sequence, I think I’d do a really Early field (up to the fall of the Han), an “Open Empire” field (Three Kingdoms to Mongol; see Valerie Hansen’s excellent textbook), an Early Modern (Ming-Qing) and a 20th century field.

Alternately, since I’m pushing the third field back to the Ming, you could start the fourth field with the Opium Wars — I have more or less the same historiographical qualms about that that I do about the 1853 break in Japan, but there are a lot of courses and texts which do just that, still. (I can’t recommend highly enough Paul Cohen’s Discovering History in China for a good argument against the Opium War break point, among other historiographical insights; many of the theories he engages were very active in the Japanese historiography as well.)

Jeff wisely ignored my last bit of thinking out loud but seems to think that my four-field sequence makes some sense. If you think I’m barking up the wrong tree or if you want to see how the rest of the world gets subdivided, join the discussion.

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