井底之蛙

7/26/2013

Wikipedia: Do Your Bit, Or, Mao Zedong Gets 100,000 Hits

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 1:50 pm

Catching up on my reading, I came across a Wilson Quarterly post about Wikipedia, “In Essence: The Wikipedia Way,” which reports on an article by Richard Jensen, “Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” The Journal of Military History (Oct. 2012).

Richard Jensen is a hardworking historian who does his bit to urge us all to do our bit. Wilson Quarterly uses his article to talk about the Wikipedia article, “War of 1812.” They note that “more than 2,400 self-appointed editors contributed to the 14,000-word article. Some 627 people spilled 200,000 words’ worth of digital ink arguing over its exact content. In April 2012, it garnered 172,000 page views.”

You could see the same pattern in China articles. “Mao Zedong,” for instance,  has been viewed 120,0082 times between June 26 and July 23. That’s right: 120,0082, though it will have changed by the time you click this link. The article has had nearly 10,000 edits, more than 400 editors.

Part of the fascination of Wikipedia is going backstage by clicking the “Talk Page” tab. Lots of juicy nonsense mixed in with the occasional words of wisdom1.

The articles on the major events of modern Chinese history are numerous. Most are too long and filled with quirky trivia. Some are useful summaries of what readers should know, some are … well, let’s just say they are not quite so good. You decide:

  • Xinhai Revolution (how many Wikipedia readers will know that this is the “1911 Revolution”?)

We could go on.

Moral: Those 100,000 readers need you.

On the internet “nobody knows that you’re a dog,” so don’t let the editing go to them.

 

 

 

 

  1. in this case, you have to click on the “Archived” links to see the back discussions). You can look at the individual edits by going to the “View History” tab []

7/18/2013

Manchu underwear

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:38 am

So, I was reading the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, specifically the entry on China. For those of you who don’t know it, the 1911 edition is considered to be a classic because it had a higher level of really well-known contributors than any before or since. Given the date it was published, it also give you a a great picture of the late-Victorian Anglo-American mindset. And it’s on-line.

The China entry is remarkably physical and geographic. There is a bit of history, but as late as this they were not prepared to say much about the history of China.1 They do have some stuff on more contemporary history, including this little bit on the Dowager Empress Cixi, who should have been handing power over to the Guangxu emperor as he attained his majority just before the 1898 reforms.

The dowager-empress, who, in spite of the emperor Kwang-su having nominally attained his majority, had retained practical control of the supreme power until the conflict with Japan, had been held, not unjustly, to blame for the disasters of the war, and even before its conclusion the young emperor was adjured by some of the most responsible among his own subjects to shake himself free from the baneful restraint of “petticoat government,” and himself take the helm.

I was struck by the phrase “petticoat government” (in quotes no less) Although the study of Manchu undergarments is still in swaddling clothes, I am pretty sure that Cixi did not wear petticoats. I have actually seen that phrase before, used in early 20th century anti woman’s suffrage  rhetoric, as here.

It seems to have been a pretty standard phrase in the West at the time, referring to the baleful influence of women in politics. From Wikipedia it seems that the phrase goes back to at least the 1750’s, and thus long before votes for women was any sort of issue. That actually ties it in better with the Chinese case, where there was also a long tradition of fearing the influence of women on government, but for the most part not because women were likely to get access to the formal mechanisms of power (the ballot in this case) but because they could attain power outside of the official “Confucian” stream. There is a lot of stuff about this in Keith McMahon’s new Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao

While the book has a short analysis of the issues involved with women and political power in the Chinese tradition, the heart of it are McMahon’s accounts of pretty much every story of women with court power in China down to the Liao. There were a number of ways for women to get power, from getting the emperor to fall in love with you, being the Empress Dowager, coming from a major aristocratic clan that the emperor had to respect, and just being smart and ruthless. Pretty much all of these women were condemned by those who wrote histories, in part out of unadulterated sexism, and in part because all of these methods of gaining power were not the formal one of getting an education and becoming a bureaucrat. Women were often lumped in with eunuchs, who were both not-male and represented a separate power stream.

Cixi would seem to not fit many of these models. The theme of emperors becoming infatuated with personal pleasure, in the form of concubines, rather than state duties is not really relevant, as she only became really powerful after her husband died. The old aristocratic politics was long dead by that point. She is one of the few really powerful court women of the Ming-Qing. She does have the ‘mother of the current emperor’ thing, but I would almost say she has more in common with Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, more of a successful freelance political entrepreneur that part of a standard system that often made it possible for women to get political power, as in the earlier dynasties. It will be interesting to see what MacMahon does with her in his second volume.

 

  1. I have seen at least one timeline from this period that marks all Chinese history down to the Tang as ‘legendary’ []

7/4/2013

Seek Truth from Farts

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 12:31 pm

My passing comment on Alan’s Seek Truth from Facts mentioned that I once saw “Seek Truth From Farts.” Maybe it was a misprint, maybe a comment.

Then I ran across a posting on the Harvard-Yenching Facebook which linked to a Waseda University collection of Japanese painting.

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/s720x720/148556_147913225361069_116530357_n.jpg

 

 

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