Opium warlord dies

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:47 am

If you study the history of drugs in Asia1 the period right after 1945 marks an important divide. Down to maybe 1840 (or in some contexts much later) drugs (mostly opium) were a fairly ordinary trade good. After WWII, dangerous drugs (now also including things like morphine and heroin) were treated like illicit substances in the modern sense. This really began right after the war. Japan’s drug empire was closed down. The colonial powers like France and the Netherlands did not re-establish their opium monopolies after the war. The Chinese drug trade was far less politically significant in 1946 than it had been before the war and the trade was completely eliminated after 1949. The U.N. Single Convention on Dangerous Drugs of 1961 codified the modern understanding of illicit substances as something that only criminals dealt in.

Between 1840 and 1945 is a more nebulous period, when the trade in drugs was often handled by states, or state-connected actors. These could range from Du Yuesheng, the politically connected opium king of prewar Shanghai, to the Japanese pharmaceutical companies who flooded Asia with morphine, to various colonial opium monopolies to movements of national liberation -from China to Indonesia- that were involved in the drug trade.

I mention this because Lo Hsing Han has died. Born around 1935 in the Shan state in Burma he was pretty much the last of the old state-connected drug lords. As the obituary points out he died not in a hail of bullets, but in the capital of Burma, not as a criminal, but as a respected corporate kingpin.

I don’t really have much to add to the obituary, it just struck me as an interesting survival. Sort of the same reaction I had when Molotov died, and I was amazed he was still alive.


  1. and you really should. There is a crying need for it []


Portrait of the blogger as an old bore

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:20 pm

As I have been asked by a junior faculty member if it is a good idea to join a group blog I thought I would write a bit about why I do this.

I should note that I am a very authoritative source on the topic, as I have been doing this since 2005 and have made over 400 posts, some of them worthwhile. Lots of people blog for a bit and then quit. One thing that has helped is that Frog is (or was) a group blog, so I was not required to attract and keep an audience on my own. Technically you don’t need an audience, as you will see below, but it does help to know someone is listening.

So why do this? I can think of three reasons.

To become famous.

Yes, you, a mild-mannered shoeshine scholar could become an Internet celebrity like Fafblog or the Invisible Adjunct. Or your site could become the a go-to site like China Beat. This was never my goal, which was good, since all glory is fleeting in any case those things are hard to do. It takes a lot of work to build an on-line community, and it involves things like managing a comments section and having a consistent theme and posting regularly and writing well. Sounds like a lot of work to me, and given how quickly sites like that burn out it seems that some people agree.

I have been consciously posting less on contemporary China (the thing that really attracts attention and comment and links) specifically because those topics tend to attract more trollish commenters and, frankly, I usually don’t have much new to say about these things. Plus the more Hot Topic you get the more your blogging pace is dictated by events rather than your own interests. Still, somebody needs to do that and it is an option.

Research and contacts

A blog is a good place to make contacts and think about your research stuff before you publish it. I do some of that here. At least one post from here has been cited in print I have had posts turn into articles and posted about conference papers, which sometimes contain ideas suggested by people coming to the blog. People have contacted me because of the blog, and they have sent me books because of the blog. I do a lot less of this than some people, but you can really expand your public footprint through blogging. Heck, I won a major award! I don’t think having a blog (particularly this one) has hurt my scholarly reputation.1 Of course a lot of people are reluctant to post their ideas since they are not “ready for publication.” Frog in a Well is not the Journal of Asian Studies however. I see it more like hobnobbing at a conference. The things you say don’t need to be exhaustively researched or fully edited here.2


For me the blog is mainly part of my teaching. By that I don’t mean that I refer my students to this blog (as far as I know none of them are aware of it) nor do I see it as some sort of proto-MOOC. Rather it is a place for me to think a bit about things that I come across that I might (or might not) teach or write about in the future. Obviously I could file away a picture or quote or idea I come across and think about it later, but it is better to think about it now and put it in my google-able commonplace book. Other people may get some use out of it, they may suggest something interesting and if nothing else it encourages me to think a bit about whatever it is now, rather than in the long run. If I have not posted for a while I start asking myself what I have been doing with my mind lately. Obviously there are lots of fine answers besides ‘blogging’ but it does encourage you to think and write about what you are thinking. Writing and thinking about the past is what historians do, and if you want a venue that is somewhere in between publishing a monograph and talking to your bathroom mirror a blog is a good one. Obviously you are opening yourself up to criticism, but that is also true when you publish things, teach a class, or open your mouth at a faculty meeting.

This post is an example of what I use the blog for. I told the Junior Faculty Member most of this in person, but this slightly more worked out version may help the JFM, me or someone else. It’s not what I would write if I was publishing an article on academic blogging, but I can always update it if I want. 3

  1. Fill in the blank here as you wish []
  2. I am providing lots of straight lines today, am I not? []
  3. Also, %$#@*& Dropbox ate the post just as I saved it, forcing me to re-write it. I thought I was past those problems, but apparently not. []


Seek truth from facts

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:13 pm

The Atlantic has a post by Matt Schiavenza entitled “What’s with the Chinese Communist Party and Slogans” It’s a nice little piece on the vapid sounding slogans that post-Deng Chinese leaders announce to set the tenor of their reigns. Like papal names these are often pretty opaque to outsiders. What Schiavenza does not discuss is that slogans go back way further than 1978. The Maoist period had lots of them, and you still see both the faded Maoist ones and new ones on walls all over China. Slogans (口號) actually go back at least to the Republic. When you look at the reports of Nationalist period conferences they will often have a list of the official slogans that the conference had decided on. Why was this such a big deal? The best place to look for information on this is David Strand’s An Unfinished Republic

Strand it interested  in the development of modern forms of political performance, like oratory, after about 1900. Although he does not discuss slogans as such, he does talk about how creating new forms of communication was at a premium in the early 20th century.

In a jumbled, creative, and competitive political culture, spreading the word about women’s rights, setting up shop as a political activist, or trying out the role of orator put a premium on making an immediate visual and vocal impact on potential recruits like the young Mao. The multiplying of vocational, educational, and ideological paths ensured competition. Competition rewarded clarity or urgency of message. A critical resource for all political actors of the period was the capacity to imitate and reproduce images and ideas that sold or persuaded as the means to gain a quick payoff or a first step toward seeding deeper values. Greenblatt, in a literary and historical variation on the theme of social and cultural mimicry, terms this critical ingredient “mimetic capital” As either fashion statement or deep-dyed commitment, ” China” sold once the term was recognizable, and so, perhaps more surprisingly, did “republic,” “rights,” “public speaking,” “male-female equality,”” “chamber of commerce,” “people’s livelihood,” “meeting,” [and] “study society,”…Serious political entrepreneurs like Sun Yat-sen mined world, national, and local culture for a phrase or world picture that might excite or reassure such an impressionable and interested audience(p.166)

So this explains why things like oratory (not part of the Chinese tradition) newspapers, reading rooms, etc became important in China. But why slogans? Part of it may have been that you can’t do a nice bit of calligraphy without a nice pithy phrase to work from.  Slogans (sometimes) lend themselves to chanting.  Maybe it ties into the tradition of chengyu (4-character classical phrases), or even reign titles. If nobody has written anything about this someone should. Strand’s book is a good place to start, however.


Are Japanese people evil?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:24 am

There has been some commentary, both on well-known blogs and obscure ones on Robert Farley’s Diplomat article on Japan’s WWII Counter-Insurgency planning and implementation Farley discusses an article by retired Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Lieutenant General Noboru Yamaguchi and Farley suggests that

Long story short, the history of Japanese operations in China was more complicated in process, if not in effect, than the “Kill All, Loot All, Destroy All” that has come to characterize the war*.

*Standard caveat: I trust that readers are bright enough to understand that this does not constitute an apology for the Japanese Imperial Army.

As my co-blogger Jonathan Dresner points out, this caveat seems not to have worked, as the comments at the Diplomat are mostly from (presumably) Chinese who want to make it clear that the Japanese are eternally evil.

Having violated Internet protocol and actually read the article I can report that it is interesting in an odd way. Noboru calls what went on the China Incident, and points out, correctly enough, that this was not the a war Japan wanted or planned for. He is not defending Japanese aggression, however. He is mostly interested in laying out how the Japanese Army in North China tried to deal with Chinese insurgency in addition to all their other tasks it had. North China was considered to be a sideshow to the coming war with Russia and then a sideshow to the current war with the U.S., and so they were expected to defeat the Chinese Communists while also preparing troops for battle at Guadalcanal or maybe Siberia. The North China army was also expected to send resources (iron, coal, salt, and cotton) home, making it quite different from the situation of, say, the American army in Iraq, which is the main comparison of the volume.1

That Japanese war aims were confused at best is not news, but Noboru is drawing from high-level Japanese documents and the Japanese scholarship that flows from them, things that have not been much used by Western or Chinese scholars. A lot of what he says will not be wildly shocking to anyone who has read Lincoln Li2 or Tim Brook3 The article gives a nice Japanese Army-centric view of dealing with Chinese insurgents.

Farley is looking at the Japanese experience in China as an example of counter-insurgency, and I guess you can take lessons from it for that purpose. Heck, the Americans in Vietnam took lessons from the suppression of the Jiangxi Soviet in the 1930’s. It may seem odd to be taking lessons from Chiang Kai-shek on fighting Communists, but the suppression of the Jiangxi Soviet was actually a success. It helps to split things up in order to make sense of them. The Japanese Empire was a failure, but that does not mean that parts of it are not things people interested in counter-insurgency can learn from.

More to the point for this blog, the Japanese experience in China was not all of a piece. When I was in grad school4 the whole war period was pretty much a black hole. Communists and Nationalists were fighting in 1936. Then stuff happens and they are fighting in 1946. The last couple of decades have seen a lot of scholarship on what happened in China during the war. Our view of the Japanese is still pretty primitive, however. Unless you are Konrad Lawson or some type of hyper-smart person like that you still see the Japanese invaders as evil people who came to China for the chance to twirl their moustaches and cackle as they killed Chinese. There were plenty of those, but allowing the overall evil of the Japanese presence to dominate everything that happened obscures history. Lots of Japanese sincerely wanted to help China even while serving the Japanese war effort. The modern attempt to make a radical distinction between Japan and China just does not work. Are Lu Xun, Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek all collaborators?  Were Japanese who thought they could get Chinese to contribute to their empire all idiots? They did it in Taiwan and to some extent in Manchuria. Wang Jing-wei may have been a traitor, but it is hard to say he was not also a figure in the history of Chinese nationalism. Bose’s Indian National Army contributed a lot of men to the Japanese war effort. 5 The radical anti-Japanese view ignores even Chinese wartime propaganda which could be quite solicitous of the sufferings of ordinary Japanese. While we can’t ignore the evil the Japanese people did in China, we also don’t want to oversimplify things, and the article helps with this.



  1. The whole point of the volume, based on an 2010 conference at Ohio State, is to provide American policymakers with ideas about how to deal with Hybrid Warfare, situations where you are dealing with both a formal army and an insurgency, Thus, one would be dealing with a threat that would ‘blend the lethality of state conflict with the fanatical and protracted fervor of irregular warfare. []
  2. who he cites []
  3. who he does not []
  4. We spent a lot of time on the ‘Opposable Thumb — Fad or the Future’ question. (I was also the first history student to decide I needed an ‘electronic mail’ account despite not being a comp-sci student)  ‘ []
  5. One place where I disagree with Farley is when he cites Bayly and Harper to suggest that the Japanese occupation of S.E. Asia was completely infective. The Japanese made many errors, but  Bayly and Harper seem, to me. to suggest that they got more buy-in than the standard popular interpretation would suggest []


When the internet gives you bad historical analogies…..

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:45 pm

From Washington Monthly using the Chinese exam system as an analogy for the S.A.T., referring to an essay from n+1.

The anecdote that began the n + 1 piece discussed the exam system in ancient China. That system, which looks disturbingly similar to our own standardized test-based admissions process for entrance into institutions of higher learning, was designed to ensure merit and talent in the Chinese bureaucracy. It resulted, in the long run, in exorbitant debt and vast corruption. It ended, ultimately, with the Chinese Revolution.

As a historian I am supposed to like people using historical analogies. As a historian of Asia I am supposed to like them using Asian ones even more. And I am willing to cut people quite a bit of slack in these things. This, however, is pretty bad. Like most undergrads this writer seems to think “Ancient China” refers to everything up till the Communist take-over in 1972. I’m not aware of anyone who suggests that high interest rates on government bonds (“exorbitant debt”) were major problems for the Ming and Qing dynasties, but if history is just a place to look to find confirmation of your ideas about the present I suppose you could do it in China as well as anywhere. Suggesting that the exam system ended, “ultimately, with the Chinese Revolution” suggests either that  the author thinks that the fall of the Qing and establishment of a Republic in 1911 were a mistake, or is unaware that anything happened in China between the last metropolitan exams in 1904  and 1949. Or, more likely, he just does not care. Still, the author is apparently not taking the analogy too seriously, so I don’t see why I should, and there is not much reason to post just about this.

The N+1 piece is also pretty bad, but in a much more interesting sort of way.

In 605 CE, a year after murdering his father and seizing the throne, the Chinese emperor Yang Guang established the world’s first meritocracy. Weary of making bureaucratic appointments solely on the basis of letters of recommendation, Yang set aside a number of posts for applicants who performed well on a new system of imperial examinations. In theory, any peasant who took the trouble to memorize 400,000 characters — which is to say, anyone who conducted six years of study with an expensive tutor — could join the country’s political elite.

Over the centuries, as China’s scholar–bureaucrats grew more powerful, their metrics of assessment became increasingly intricate. Those who passed were stratified into nine grades, and each grade was further divided into two degrees. Exam performance corresponded exactly to salary, denominated in piculs of rice; the top brass received more than seventeen times as much rice as the lowest tier. But the true rewards of exam success were considerably higher: besides the steady salary, bribe collection made it very good to be a bureaucrat.

As time went on, more and more people took — and passed — the exam’s first round. Test prep academies proliferated. Imperial officials started to worry: there were now more degree-holders than there were positions, which threatened to create an underclass of young men with thwarted ambitions. When the Ming dynasty fell in 1644, their successors, the Qing, resolved to make the test more difficult. By the middle of the 19th century, 2 million people sat the exam, but just over 1 percent passed its first round; only 300 candidates — .016 percent — passed all three.

This is a lot better. The system is started at a particular time, by a person with a name. The wrong person, since if you were going to assign responsibility for the early exam system to one person it would probably be Empress Wu, but, baby steps. The system changes over time. And the disaster it causes is not problems with the bond market but the Taiping Rebellion. Admittedly the size and destructiveness of the Taiping does not have much to do with whatever drove Hong Xiuchuan nuts, and the exams were never a matter of memorizing 400,000 characters, and they did not grant you an automatic position in the bureaucracy and salaries were in cash rather than rice, and the exams were never intended nor expected to provide social mobility to the poor. Still, there is some connection to history here.

Specifically, the references to letters of recommendation, test prep academies and metrics of assessment. They had an educational elite, we have an educational elite. Maybe a comparison would be helpful.  The n+1 piece is arguing that Real Americans are just as right to resent our educational elite as they are to resent our financial elite.

Over the last thirty years, the university has replaced the labor union as the most important institution, after the corporation, in American political and economic life. As union jobs have disappeared, participation in the labor force, the political system, and cultural affairs is increasingly regulated by professional guilds that require their members to spend the best years of life paying exorbitant tolls and kissing patrician rings…..Our elaborate, expensive system of higher education is first and foremost a system of stratification, and only secondly — and very dimly — a system for imparting knowledge….as long as access to the workforce is controlled by the bachelor’s degree, students will pay more and more.

I don’t buy a lot of this, but the idea that the university has replaced the labor union as a crucial institution is an interesting one. And, with a bit of help, you can get a nice analogy to the Late Qing exam system out of this. The n+1 piece does not do that, as they are analogizing the entire American post-secondary educational system to both the Chinese civil service exams and the type of 1% cultural elite school that you need a test prep tutor to get into. Like a -lot- of people who write about higher ed in America the n+1 writers are aware that there are some people who can’t get into a good school and are thus forced to die in a ditch, drive a truck or go to the University of Minnesota or something, but they are not really talking about those people. Can lack of a four year degree keep you out of parts of the labor force? Yes. Can lack of an Ivy League degree keep you out of “cultural affairs”? Yes. Does it make any sense to lump these two things together? No.

To make a historical analogy you need not only to have some knowledge about history but also know what comparison you are making. The modern American college system is like the Chinese civil service exams in that it has grown far beyond its original purpose. While the civil service exams were originally intended to create bureaucrats by the Qing only a tiny fraction got any sort of government job and even fewer had a government career. Passing or at least studying for the exams marked you out as a member of the cultural elite. American higher ed. has, despite what n+1 thinks, a much larger base in actual education, but it has grown far beyond its job of certifying a small elite and a bunch of teachers into certifying a big chunk of the population, although it is not clear what they are being certified for or why it should matter.

By about 1900 the exams had lost a lot of their old cachet, and there were several attempts to reform them. As Elman points out, however,  almost as soon as the exams were abolished the state began creating new examinations for government officials.1 That part stuck around, but the larger task of defining China’s elite fell to a mass of new institutions including Western-style schools and universities and military academies. Is the American academic enterprise due for a rapid decline down to those few places where there is definite technical knowledge to be gained or a real desire for certification? There are lots of majors where students seem to learn nothing. Why not get rid of them and let people take those jobs without four years of college? Maybe the most interesting bit of data is the campaign against law school and especially the third year of law school. Law school has for many years been the place for bright kids who were not sure what they wanted to do with their lives. Now that it is a lot more expensive it seems silly to go there if your goal is to do anything but work at a big money law firm. Will law school (and pre-law) enrolments shrink down to just those who really want to be lawyers? More importantly, will someone be able to offer a 2-year law degree? That would save students a bundle of money and supposedly have little effect on their ability to pass the bar or practice law. Guild rules, however, forbid it.

The law school example is what I think of when people suggest that MOOCs might replace college. I don’t think they are anywhere near being able to replace what you can actually learn in college, but to the extent that you are just going through the motions to get a certificate they could work fine. If you were going to sleepwalk thorough Astronomy 170 anyway why not do an on-line class and not have to get out of bed? Is a University of Phoenix degree as good as a real one? If you are just getting it for the piece of paper of course it is. If all you want is to have your future employees make it through the 18-20 years without achieving much other than learning to drink a collection of MOOCs might work as well as a degree in Business Administration. I think the real issue is not what can we learn outside school (lots)2 but to what extent are the formal and informal rules about the bits of paper you need to do things going to change? I would guess a lot less than in China. The Qing court could surprise everyone and just abolish the exams in 1905, but how, in a formal, legal, sense,  could a President Paul Ryan abolish all the gatekeeper roles that college education plays in the U.S.? I suspect that the Chinese 1900-1911 example (the death of the exam system) might be a useful analogy for the changes in American post-secondary education, but it is going to take a lot more work than has been done so far.



  1. Elman, Benjamin A. A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China. 1st ed. University of California Press, 2000. p.617 Your best bet for a light beach read about the exam system []
  2. As Holbo points out, the original killer ap for taking learning outside school is not the internet but the book []


This is your historical analogy on drugs

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:08 pm

Apparently Google is just like the British East India Company. Or so at least the toadies of the CCP would have you believe.  According to People’s Daily,  Google is attempting to corrupt China with information, just as the British tried to corrupt it with opium.

In the colonial era, the British East India Company used the monopolization of trade in the colonies to traffic opium and assist Britain in building its hegemony. In the Internet era, Google uses its monopoly of Internet information search to traffic American values and assist American in building its hegemony.

Besides the obvious historical errors (it was not John Company who attacked China with warships in the Opium Wars, but the British Navy) the historical analogy does not work the way the author would like to claim. It is indeed true that both Google and the British East India Company were foreign firms, but in fact both of them had success in China not because they marched in and forced people to buy their goods at gunpoint, but because Chinese people wanted to buy what they were selling.  (Leaving out the fact that Google gives it away for free.) The piece points out that Baidu has held on to the bulk of the Chinese search market, so I guess this would make Baidu domestic Chinese opium, maybe a nice Yunnan. 1 Where is the Carnival of Bad History when you need it?


Via Jeremiah Jeene

  1. Goes well with fava beans []


Sinai -etic analogies

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:12 pm

Jeremiah Jenne has a post up at Fallows1 where he looks at the possibility of a Jasmine Revolution in China. He concludes that it is not that likely, as the CCP is a bit more hip to the dangers of that sort of thing, given the history of protest in China, especially May 4th and the date nothing happened in 1989. I think he’s right about that, but I think the reasons why become clearer if you think about analogies for what is happening in the Middle East. Some people are tossing around 1848 in Europe, which works in some respects, but for an Asian analogy I think 1911 and the overthrow of the Qing works somewhat better.2 The Qing dynasty was not overthrown by Sun Yat-sen and his band of revolutionaries, but ultimately by the various provincial assemblies the declared for the revolution after the Wuchang uprising. A series of provincial elites decided, sometimes for different reasons, to abandon the Qing.  It is not that surprising that Yuan Shikai became the first effective leader of the new state, since what was happening was not a mass uprising or a tidal wave of democracy but rather one part of the elite dumping the dynasty and quickly establishing a new government. This is pretty clearly what has been happening in Egypt, with the military choosing to at least get rid of Mubarak, even if they are not sure what will come next. In Libya at least part of the army seems to be standing with the government, and in Morocco all of it. There is even a Twitter/Facebook parallel with the role of the telegraph in spreading news of the revolution in 1911.

Obviously there are lots of differences as well. The Arab World may be a reasonably coherent cultural area, but its countries are not Chinese provinces. Imperialism is still around, but in a very different form. So why does this comparison matter? I think it matters some because the main thing that encouraged elite factions in 1911 to settle their differences quickly was the fear of foreign invasion.  For whatever reasons (and we really can’t know yet) the Egyptian elite decided fairly quickly that whatever the future would be it would not involve Mubarak or his sons. I can’t think of anything really forcing a rapid resolution in, say Bahrain, other than the fact that chaos is bad. In 1911 the “masses in the street” were the new armies and modern educated people, who conservative modernizers had good reason not to kill. Unfortunately I don’t see much reason for the rulers of oil states to care how many students or poor people they kill. If a Jasmine Revolution did break out in China it is hard to see how it would lead to a split in the elite, and likely they would be willing to kill as many of the dispossessed as they could afford ammo for. Still, hope springs eternal, and Jasmine Revolution is a good name, even if it does not seem likely to be coming soon.

  1. Yes, a post at Fallows site at the Atlantic. Mark Twain published in the Atlantic. It’s only a matter of time before Jeremiah’s friends get a call from VH-1’s Behind the Music about the young, idealistic, talented, scholar-blogger who may still exist somewhere inside the bloated mass of excess and degradation he will have become by about 2014 []
  2. Obviously I say this with very little real knowledge of what is happening right now in Egypt or Libya, but this is the internet. []


Announcements and Encouragements

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:13 am

While the discussions on the Asia lists have been a bit wooden for a while, other H-Net communities are lively and thriving, and the book reviews are a fantastic resource. Moreover, I know some of the current leadership of H-Net, and I have great confidence that they’ll take it in interesting directions with new technology and new paradigms. That said, though the leadership, editors, reviewers and participants are all volunteers, they still need money for technical support, infrastructure and other expenses, and we can’t rely on state institutions of higher learning for this sort of thing. Donate!

The 2010 Cliopatria Awards for History Blogging nominations are open through November, so there’s still two weeks to riffle through your archives and pick your best work, and your friends’ best work, and the best stuff off your RSS reader. The categories are, as in the past, Best Individual Blog, Best New Blog, Best Group Blog (which we won back in ’05), Best Series of Posts, Best Single Post, and Best Writer (which Alan Baumler won in ’06). I’m judging Best New and Group Blog, so we can’t win that again this year; otherwise, the field for Asianists is wide open! Nominate!

The 2011 ASPAC Conference will be a joint event with the WCAAS Conference, to be held at Pomona College, June 17-19, 2011. In a remarkable feat of organization, the Conference website is already live and accepting paper proposals, though the deadline isn’t until mid-March. The theme is “Asia Rising and the Rise of Asian America” but proposals on all topics in Asian studies are welcome. Submit! (and let me know if you’ll be there; we’ve never had a blogger meet-up at ASPAC before!)


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!


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

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