AAS Blogging: outsourced

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:19 am

I didn’t get to any China-specific panels at the AAS, but the good folks at China Beat have a few panel summaries worth taking a look at. You can find some more at Twitter, but not much. Aside from the primitive facilities — it was $600 to get internet service for a panel presentation, we were told; it was $13/day for hotel room internet, and there wasn’t any wireless in the hotel or convention center — we just don’t have a critical mass of tweeting Asianists yet. Just a couple that I’ve found. I did have a good time meeting Javier Cha, though, the first time I’ve met with someone I met on Twitter!


Revolution in pictures

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:21 am

Here, from Stapleton’s Civilizing Chengdu is Yang Wei, Chinese Revolutionary, in prison, November 25, 1911. Below is a picture of Yang as superintendent of police in March 1912. I use both of these in class when talking about 1911, but I am posting the top one here because it is such a striking picture. It’s obviously posed, as most pictures had to be back then, and Yang clearly has a sense of himself as the dramatic revolutionary that is lacking from every other picture of the 1911 crowd I can think of.  Is anyone aware of anything else like this from the period? Any guesses as to what the others in the shot are there for?


In hot water

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:58 am

Some of you may know that Old China Hand James Fallows has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about frogs. Specifically he has been waging war against the common trope that if you put a frog in a pot of water and turn up the heat it will just sit there and die without realizing what is happening. (You can see how this metaphor would come in handy.) It’s not true, however. Frogs will jump out when the water gets hot.

As the leading Anurathological and Sinological blog on the internet (a very small pond) I thought it might be worthwhile to point out that Chinese people used to use a version of this one as well. In Joan Judge’s Print and Politics, which deals with the early 20th century journalists associated with the Shibao she finds one of them denouncing the Chinese people for their general lack of readiness for constitutional government, concluding

“Alas! The Dung beetle eats shit and rejoices. A fish swimming in a kettle forgets the water is boiling”

A fish in a kettle has fewer options than a frog in a pot, since the fish may not be able to jump out, and even if they did that might not improve their position too much. Still, it seems about the same. Are either of these standard Chengyu? I have not been able to find either, although I have not tried very hard


Source: Chinese Canadian Newspapers

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:07 pm

Historical sources of various kinds are making it online all the time. I recently came across a digital collection of Chinese newspapers from Canada available at the Multicultural Canada website.

Chinese Canadian Community News 加華僑報 (1970s-80s)
Chinese Express 快報 (1970s-80s)
Chinese Times 大漢公報 (1910s-1990s)
Hung Chung She Po 洪鐘時報 (1950s)
Ottawa Chinese Community Newsletter 加京華報 (1970s-80s)

There is also some issues of a Korean newspaper:

Minchung Sinmun

We can read, for example, the report of opening of hostilities in July 1937 on the day after the firing began in the July 8th issue, where the news (中日戰爭爆發) reached page 2. Also of concern that day, was the treatment of Chinese within Japan, which also gets reported on.

Though some years and months are listed, I had trouble finding issues in many of them. It would be nice if they had a list of available issues at the home page for each newspaper. The pages, when opened, are embedded into the site, but are simple JPG files which can be made to open in a new window using contextual menus.

Also, via their collection of links, I noticed there are some interesting materials related to the Chinese in Canada on this site:

Historical Chinese Language Materials in British Columbia: An Electronic Inventory

The site includes access to historical photographs, lists of organizations, and links to other Canadian sites containing historical materials.


Education in pictures

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:13 am

As we are at mid-semester I thought it would be a nice time to think about Education, with a little help from Feng Zikai, Republican China’s best-known cartoonist.

Feng obviously did not think much of education in general

Education is the process of changing raw materials into something else



Why can’t an economist be more like a(n) historian?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:36 am

Yuyu Chen, Ginger Zhe Jin and Yang Yue are all economists and they are doing interesting work on rural-urban migration in China. Given that China has better registration of its rural population than places like Mexico it is a good place to look at migration patterns. They find that people from the same village tend to go to the same places, and even congregate in the same jobs. They attribute this to social networks, which make it easier and easier for people to go someplace once more and more of their compatriots are there.

This is of course not surprising to anyone familiar with Chinese migration in the past. Honig and Goodman, among many others, have written about how native-place ties structured migration and sojourning.  Chen et. al., don’t compare this migration to earlier ones, which for a historian would seem to point to lots of interesting questions. I was also very surprised that they keep calling their area of study “China.” Their stats come from 8 counties. Are they all in the same region (or macro-region)? From different regions and they are assuming you can draw conclusions about “China” from them? Its an interesting paper, but in addition to proving some important stuff it also shows that economists are not like you and me.1

Via Brad DeLong


Goodman, Bryna. Native Place, City, and Nation: Regional Networks and Identities in Shanghai, 1853-1937. University of California Press, 1995.

Honig, Emily. Creating Chinese Ethnicity: Subei People in Shanghai, 1850-1980. Yale University Press, 1992.

  1. Yes, I know, they have more money. []


Dogs again

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:19 pm

As a follow-up to Konrad’s post below I came across something on dogs in Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul, where he is lamenting the passing of the old city, but at least the dogs are holding out as modernization sweeps things away. I’m not sure wartime dog-killing quite fits with this, but some of the other aspects of Communist and Nationalist animal control certainly do.

What grievance I feel when I read western travelers on Istanbul is above all that of hindsight: Many of the local features these observers, some of them brilliant writers, noted and exaggerated were to vanish from the city soon after having been remarked. It was a brutal symbiosis: Western observers love to identify the things that make Istanbul exotic, nonwestern, whereas the westernizers among us register all the same things as obstacles to be erased from me face of the city as fast as possible.

Here’s a short list:

The Janissaries, those elite troops of great interest to western travelers until the nineteenth century, were the first to be dissolved. The slave market, another focus of western curiosity, vanished soon after they began writing about it. The Rufai dervishes with their waving skewers and the Mevlevi dervish lodges closed with the founding of the Republic. The Ottoman clothing that so many western artists painted was abolished soon after Andre Gide complained about it. The harem, another favorite, also gone. Seventy-five years after Flaubert told his beloved friend that he was going to the market to have his name written, in calligraphy, all of Turkey moved from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet, and this exotic joy ended too. Of all these losses, I think the hardest for Istanbullus has been the removal of graves and cemeteries from the gardens and squares of our everyday lives to terrifying high-walled lots, bereft of cypress or view. The hamals and their burdens, noted by so many travelers of the republican period—like the old American cars that Brodsky noted—were no sooner described by foreigners than they vanished.

Only one of the city’s idiosyncrasies has refused to melt away under the western gaze: the packs of dogs that still roam the streets. After he abolished the janissaries for not complying with western military discipline, Mahmut II turned his attention to the city’s dogs. In this ambition, however, he failed. After the Constitutional Monarchy, there was another “reform” drive, this one aided by the Gypsies, but the dogs they removed one by one to Sivriada managed to find their way triumphantly back home. The French, who thought the dog packs exotic, found the cramming of all the dogs into Sivriada even more so; Sartre would joke about this years later
in his novel The Age of Reason.

Max Fruchtermann, the postcard artist, seems to have recognized the exoticism of the dogs’ survival: In a series of Istanbul views he produced around the turn of the twentieth century, he was careful to include as many street dogs as he did dervishes, cemeteries, and mosques. p.242


Guest Blogger- Ou-yang Hsiu

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:39 am

Lots of bits of Chinese prose would make great blog entries. (A blog is basically a biji, more or less) Plus, they make great things to teach from. So, if any of you are teaching about the Song dynasty elite and their attitudes towards the mundane world you might find this from our guest-blogger Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 to be helpful or informative.  (tips on working with it here)

A Record of the Pavilion of an Intoxicated Old Man

Ou-yang Hsiu

All around Ch’u there are mountains, but the forests and valleys of that assemblage of peaks to the southwest are the finest. There is one that appears from afar most luxuriant and deepest in verdure—that is Lang-ya. After you have walked six or seven tricents into the mountains, there you will gradually notice the sound of water gurgling. Where it drains out between the two peaks, this is Brewer’s Spring. Rounding the peak the road winds; there a pavilion hangs, like a wing, out over the spring. This is the Intoxicated Old Man’s pavilion. Who was it that built this pavilion? A monk of these moun­tains, Chih-hsien. And who named it? The prefect, who called it after himself. When prefect and guests come to drink here, because he becomes intoxicated after only drinking a little and because he is the oldest in years, that is why he nicknamed himself the Intoxicated Old Man. But what he means by Intoxi­cated Old Man has nothing to do with the wine; it has to do instead with being in the mountains by the water. This joy from the mountains and the water he feels within his mind; he merely ascribes it to the wine.

Now the sun rises and the forest mists dissipate, the clouds return and the caves in ravines grow gloomy—these alternations of dusk and light mark mornings and evenings amid the mountains. Wild flowers bloom with their hidden scents, beautiful trees leaf out with deepening shade, then winds rise and pure frost appears, the water level drops and the rocks protrude—such are the four seasons amid the mountains. In the morning he goes there, in the evening he returns; the scenery of the four seasons is never the same, hence his joy knows no bounds.

Those who carry loads on their backs sing along the path; sojourners rest beneath the trees. The ones in front call out and those behind respond. Some are bent over with age and others so young that they must be led by the hand. They come and go without cease—such are the travelers around Ch’u. One may lean over this stream and fish; the stream being deep, the fish are fat. Or one may brew wine with the spring water; the spring being fragrant, the wine is crystal clear. Sliced meats from the mountains and wild vegetables arrayed in profusion before the guests—such are the prefect’s banquets. The joys of the feast are not from strings or winds; they are from winning at pitch-pot, from victory in chess. Passing goblets and mugs back and forth, shouting with abandon, now sitting,, now on their feet—such is the happy abandon of the guests. And the one who, ruddy-faced and white of hair, lies sprawled in their midst—that is the prefect intoxicated.

When the merriment is over and the evening sun sets among the mountains, the prefect goes home with his guests in tow, their shadows jumbled together. The forest gloom deepens; birds call high and low. The revelers all gone, the birds are joyful. Yet, though birds may know the joy of mountain forests, they know not the joy of mankind; men may know the joy of revels with the prefect and yet never know the prefect’s enjoyment of their joy.

Intoxicated yet able to share their joy, able when sober to describe it in writing—such is the prefect. And what is this prefect’s name? Ou-yang Hsiu of Lu-ling.               Translated by Robert E. Hegel


环滁皆山也。其西南诸峰,林壑尤美。望之蔚然而深秀者,琅琊也。山行六七里, 渐闻水声潺潺,而泄出于两峰之间者,酿泉也。峰回路转,有亭翼然临于泉上者, 醉翁亭也。作亭者谁?山之僧智仙也。名之者谁?太守自谓也。太守与客来饮于 此,饮少辄醉,而年又最高,故自号曰“醉翁”也。醉翁之意不在酒,在乎山水之间 也。山水之乐,得之心而寓之酒也。若夫日出而林霏开,云归而岩穴暝,晦明变化 者,山间之朝暮也。野芳发而幽香,佳木秀而繁阴,风霜高洁,水落而石出者,山 间之四时也。朝而往,暮而归,四时之景不同,而乐亦无穷也。至于负者歌于塗, 行者休于树,前者呼,后者应,伛偻提携,往来而不绝者,滁人游也。临溪而渔, 溪深而鱼肥;酿泉为酒,泉香而酒冽;山肴野蔌,杂然而前陈者,太守宴也。宴酣 之乐,非丝非竹,射者中,弈者胜,觥筹交错,坐起而喧哗者,众宾欢也。苍然白 发,颓乎其中者,太守醉也。已而夕阳在山,人影散乱,太守归而宾客从也。树林 阴翳,鸣声上下,游人去而禽鸟乐也。然而禽鸟知山林之乐,而不知人之乐;人知 从太守游而乐,而不知太守之乐其乐也。醉能同其乐,醒能述其文者,太守也。太 守谓谁?庐陵欧阳修也

For more discussion see


Wartime Dog Killing Squads

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:55 pm

The Chinese Communist campaign against animals that is most talked about is the Four Pests campaign of the late 1950s launched against various pests and sparrows. However, the extermination of dogs in wartime seems to be another interesting example.

In a report by the Japanese military giving an overview of Chinese Communist wartime economic measures taken in northern China, we find the following little detail:


The raising of dogs was banned [by the Communist party] and Dog Killing Squads were sent out on patrol in an attempt to exterminate them. This was done not only because the dogs consume provisions, their barking could also potentially expose the nighttime maneuvers of Communist forces.1 

Of course, the abandonment, killing, or eating of pets in wartime to prevent the waste of valuable provisions (or if they are consumed, to make up for a lack of nourishment) is nothing new, but I found the formal establishment of dog extermination patrols both for that reason and to end the problem of their barking interesting. It reminds me of the scene in Waltz with Bashir in which Israeli soldiers in the Lebanese war kill barking dogs in the night in a village raid.

Are there other historical examples of these kinds of formal dog extermination units?

Update: Thanks to a comment from RPC and Google Books, I found another reference in David Kidd’s Peking Story. It speaks of a surprise raid a section of the city by Communist troops, “after it had first been reconnoitred by the Night People (who, no doubt, had themselves been preceded by the dog exterminators)…” (p136)

  1. 防衛庁防衛研修所戦史室 『北支の治安戦』1968, Volume 1, p207. They use 殺犬隊 here in Japanese, but I’m guessing the Chinese called it 殺狗隊. []

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