井底之蛙

3/4/2014

When China was a Great Power

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:05 am

Recently I was Google-ing to find a picture of the statue of Liang Qichao that is, I think, in his hometown.

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No better way to show that someone made it big than to show a shot of their statue. I found the picture as part of an essay entitled “Superpower Empire” which looks at the fall of the Qing Dynasty and its replacement by the Qian Dynasty, tracing the history of China down to the outbreak of war with Japan in 1933. It’s a well-sourced essay that draws on such important works as

-“A Revisionist Assessment of China’s Modern Political Myths” by Geraldine Brandt, Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 55:3, 1995
-The Accidental Revolution: The Collapse of the Qing Dynasty and its Aftermath by Jonathan Spence, 1979 -Lucian Bianco’s 1967 book Revolution and Reform in China 1895-1947

As you might have guessed, it is an alternative history, where Kang Youwei became the emperor Jianguo in 1912, Liang Qichao was his wily Prime Minister, Xu Jinqin, instead of being known only as the first Chinese woman to give a political speech was also the head of the Society of the Daughters of the Yellow Emperor, the intelligence agents/prostitutes who held the empire together (see Gail Hershatter’s work for details) and T.V. Soong had to content himself with being the Shanghai businessman who created China’s first airship line.

It is a lot of fun to read because it is quite good. It is written by David Hendryk, a civil servant from France who has read a lot of Chinese history. Given how plausible much of it is, I am somewhat surprised that nothing from this has turned up in my student’s work.

One Response to “When China was a Great Power”

  1. Bebe says:

    Hendryk’s write-up is quite cool. I have saved it for a more leisurely read. One of his internal titles, The Years of Tears and Salt, echoed in my memory as “The Years That Were Fat” by George N. Kates about his delightful years in China during the 1930′s. Mr. Kates was a most cultured man with a great story-telling ability.

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