井底之蛙

2/20/2008

中华文化永恒精神价值

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:30 pm

早报有好奇怪的文件关于中国得婚姻制度。 作者 叶鹏飞谈到中国的离婚率上升。在一部分时一个建立在史学研究基础上的观点。 他说道国外婚姻制度的改变,特别斯泰芬尼·库茨(Stephanie Coontz) 的书。对我来说这是很有意思,因为在美国的报纸如果有一事可以说有”永恒精神“就是我们的婚姻制度。

但是,他也说道中国文化的最基本的特色。一个 是余英时的“一生为故国招魂”,和“回家过年”的文化精神。

“回家过年”的冲动显示着中国文化在基层的旺盛生命力,但愿中国人在现代化的过程中不会因此陷入“无家可归”的困境中去。

有一部分”日本人論 “的味道。在国外他可以分析历史变成,但在国内(或者文化内)他要识别中华的永恒精神。最有意思是他的文化特点是回家过年。美国的文化是一样。以前我们没有火鸡节,但是在二十世纪我们越来越多“在冰天雪地中艰难跋涉,坚持回家 ”. 是非常现代的文化传统

5/8/2007

Married couples

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:54 am

2 married couples

2 married couples, from China Digital Times

As both Mother’s Day and her birthday are coming up, I thought I would post something romantic for my wife. GTF.

11/7/2006

Cinderella, dressed in yellow, went to Scotland and kissed a fellow

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:55 am

Via Cliopatria, a website with Scottish broadsides from 1810-1830. One is obviously satirical, announcing the arrival of a Chinese doctor Dr. Puff Stuff Sham Quirko Ye – Trick. The good doctor’s skill was admired by all the crowned heads of Asia, and he brings to Scotland his miraculous cures. He can grow new teeth, no doubt a popular claim given the state of English dentistry (back then). He can restore lost eyes and limbs. His skills kept the Chinese empress bearing children into her 80th year. He can cure cancer using something that sounds like moxabustion. Most interestingly, to me

He has also brought over the method of bandaging, by which the Chinese ladies confine their feet to that beautiful-smallness, has to be soarcely equal to the size of the great toe-nail of an English woman.

I know that the cult of small feet also existed in Europe, but is interesting to see footbinding presented in a fairly positive sort of way as late as 1830. Dorothy Ko sees the later critique of footbinding as inspired in part by a Western criticism and a new transnational context. I’m reluctant to draw a line where the joke ends and the serious begins in this text, but it seems that footbinding is still admirable here.

10/30/2006

Ancient Chinese sex advice

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:12 pm

One scholar who has had a lot of influence on my teaching on Early China is Mark Edward Lewis. I sometimes assign Sanctioned Violence in Early China, and if I had the courage I would assign Writing and Authority. The thing I like about his work is that not only does he know literally everything about everything, his work centers around figuring out what the categories of early Chinese thought were. It is a commonplace that the Han dynasty distinctions between the 100 schools of philosophy are to some extent false divisions forced on a much more complex history. Lewis takes this further and tries to uncover what the categories of thought were in Han and pre-Han China. Part of this, particularly in Writing and Authority, is the importance of patterns. There are patterns that govern the changes in the universe, human affairs and the body, and understanding and adjusting and adjusting to these patterns is what knowledge is all about. (Lewis explains all this a lot better than I do.)

(more…)

9/19/2006

Arrrrgh, Jun lad,

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:07 pm

Today is international talk like a pirate day, which was created to prove that the internet does not always have to be a place of serious scholarship and high-minded debate.

pirate

There is actual scholarship on Chinese pirates, but most Americans know Chinese piracy if at all from the old comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and its villainess, Dragon Lady

Dragon Lady

Dragon Lady was apparently based on an actual female pirate named Lai Choi San, who was interviewed by an American journalist who was apparently quite taken by her

What a woman she was! Rather slender and short, her hair jet black, with jade pins gleaming in the knot at the neck, her ear-rings and bracelets of the same precious apple-green stone. She was exquisitely dressed in a white satin robe fastened with green jade buttons, and green silk slippers. She wore a few plain gold rings on her left hand; her right hand was unadorned. Her face and dark eyes were intelligent – not too Chinese, although purely Mongolian, of course – and rather hard. She was probably not yet forty.

Every move she made and every word she spoke told plainly that she expected to be obeyed, and as I had occasion to learn later, she was obeyed.

What a character she must be! What a wealth of material for a novelist or journalist! Merely to write her biography would be to produce a tale of adventure such as few people dream of.

Full story here

9/8/2006

Elvis is everywhere

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:45 am

Elvis in China

A nice little picture from Shenbao, one of Shanghai’s most important early 20th century newspapers. The caption complains about Chinese women. Specifically it points out that Chinese women have taken up the habit of smoking on the street, and that when Westerners see them doing it they point out that in the West women don’t even smoke at home, much less in the street. Yet another example of how different commodities fit differently in different societies. Smoking is a particularly tricky one (not the most relevant link, but the best film of struggling with use of cigarettes I could find.) The cigarette is the best way to walk around while smoking, and to make smoking a part of all your everyday activities, rather than a separate social space, like gathering around an opium pipe or a complex tobacco pipe. For a western woman to smoke in the street at this point would have been a defiance of gender roles. For a Chinese woman it marks you as modern. The caption-writer seems to be trying to create a less brazen definition of modern Chinese femininity. It seems to have worked, too, since Chinese women today are a lot less likely to smoke in public than men.

Of course the picture is also cool because it seems to be an early Elvis sighting.

6/15/2006

Happy Father’s Day

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:10 pm

There are lots of Western holidays that don’t translate well to China. Christmas shows up a bit, especially since all the ornaments are made in Asia, but Easter, Halloween, Canada Day etc. don’t mean much. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day do translate however, and Mother’s Day has at least some popularity in Taiwan and Hong Kong and I think in China too. Father’s day is a harder sell, because the relationship between Chinese fathers and children is supposed to be fairly distant. Confucius’s relationship with his son Po-yu is the locus classicus

Analects 16.13

Ch’an K’ang asked Po-yu, saying, “Have you heard any lessons from your father different from what we have all heard?”

Po-yu replied, “No. He was standing alone once, when I passed below the hall with hasty steps, and said to me, ‘Have you learned the Odes?’ On my replying ‘Not yet,’ he added, If you do not learn the Odes, you will not be fit to converse with.’ I retired and studied the Odes.
“Another day, he was in the same way standing alone, when I passed by below the hall with hasty steps, and said to me, ‘Have you learned the rules of Propriety?’ On my replying ‘Not yet,’ he added, ‘If you do not learn the rules of Propriety, your character cannot be established.’ I then retired, and learned the rules of Propriety. “I have heard only these two things from him.”
Ch’ang K’ang retired, and, quite delighted, said, “I asked one thing, and I have got three things. I have heard about the Odes. I have heard about the rules of Propriety. I have also heard that the superior man maintains a distant reserve towards his son.” translation here

That a father should have a distant relationship with his son became a standard belief.
Mencius 4a18 expands on this a bit

Kung-sun Ch’âu said, ‘Why is it that the superior man does not himself teach his son?’
Mencius replied, ‘The circumstances of the case forbid its being done. The teacher must inculcate what is correct. When he inculcates what is correct, and his lessons are not practiced, he follows them up with being angry. When he follows them up with being angry, then, contrary to what should be, he is offended with his son. At the same time, the pupil says, ‘My master inculcates on me what is correct, and he himself does not proceed in a correct path.” The result of this is, that father and son are offended with each other. When father and son come to be offended with each other, the case is evil. ‘The ancients exchanged sons, and one taught the son of another. ‘Between father and son, there should be no reproving admonitions to what is good. Such reproofs lead to alienation, and than alienation there is nothing more inauspicious.’translation here

In other words, the teacher/student relationship and the father/son relationship are sufficiently different that they can’t be reconciled. A student can hate being criticized by a teacher (in fact they probably should), a student can see and even point out the hypocricies of a teacher’s behavior. None of these are appropriate with a father. There is supposed to be affection between fathers and sons, but fathers are never supposed to display it.

In the Family Instructions of the Yen clan the dangers are spelled out (all these from the Teng translation pp. 4-5)

Relations between parents and children should be dignified without familiarity; in the love between blood-relations there should be no rudeness. If there is rudeness, affection and fidelity cannot unite; if there is familiarity, carelessness and disrespect will grow. After sons receive official appointment, they and their father should occupy different apartments.

If this is not the case bad things will happen. A father may fail to discipline his son.

In the time of Liang Yuan-ti (r.552-54) there was a gifted and talented youth; his father loved him so much that his training was neglected. A single well-chosen word the father would praise for a whole year wherever he went; each evil act he would conceal and gloss over, hoping for self-reform. When old enough to marry and serve the state he became daily more rude and arrogant. It is said that Chou T’i disemboweled him for his ill-considered speech and consecrated a drum with his blood.

Also, there are things that a father should not discuss with his son.

Someone asked “Why was Ch’en K’ang fond of hearing that men of virtue kept their sons at a distance?” “That was” I replied. “due to the fact that men of virtue did not personally teach their sons.” The satirical couplets in the Book of Songs, the warnings against jealousy and suspicion in the Book of Decorum, the cases of rebellion and disorder in the Book of History, the ironic comments on depraved deeds in the Spring and Autumn Annals, the symbols of procreation in the Book of Changes, all these should not be mentioned between fathers and sons, and so were not personally taught.

Although the nature of the Chinese family changed a lot between the time of Yen Chih-t’ui (531-591 CE) and the present, but even in modern China a father is supposed to be pretty distant and disciplinarian. Mao had a famously rocky relationship with his father, in part I think because he was not willing to accept his father’s constant upbraiding. As Michael Sheng points out most of the stories of oppression that Mao told were fairly standard Chinese father stuff.

11/22/2005

Why didn’t Manchu women bind their feet?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:55 pm

It is well-known that even after the conquest of China Manchu women did not bind their feet. The Qing emperors took clothing and hair very seriously as ways of defining groups under the empire. Thus after 1644 all Han men were expected to wear the Manchu hairstyle of shaving their foreheads and growing a queue in back as a way of symbolizing their submission to the dynasty. At the same time the state was Manchuizing Han men via their hair it was ordering Manchu women to keep their feet natural (天足). This was one of many things that were done to preserve a specific Manchu identity.

In the seventh month of 1638 the Manchu emperor Hong Taiji (Abahai) decreed that the Chinese custom of footbinding was not to be adopted. “Those who imitate the clothes of another country or order their women to bind their feet, [they] have their bodies in our dynasty but their hearts in another country.”1 There were at least some who defied this order. In 1804 the Jiaqing emperor was furious to find that women of the Chinese Bordered Yellow Banner (ethnically Han, but politically “Manchu”) were binding their feet. (Elliot p.470) Still, in general Manchu women did not bind their feet. In 1911 when the banner population at Nanjing and Hankou were slaughtered women’s feet were the one marker of ethnic difference that could not be disguised.
manchu Feet
This illustration is from 1911 and is one of a series on Manchu women adopting Han dress. (Rhoades Manchus & Han)On the woman’s left foot she is wearing a typical Manchu “horse-hoof” shoe that makes it appear the wearer has tiny feet. The other foot is, maybe, being bound, even though she is far too old for it at this point. Although some Manchu women may have tried to sinify themselves in the last years of the dynasty, for 200 years before that they were quite willing to keep their natural feet

The question I have is: Why footbinding? Why was this custom chosen as alone of the “evil habits of the Han” (Elliot p.470) as the one that would be unambiguously rejected by the Qing state? More importantly, why did the Manchus accept this imperial order? They were more than willing to smoke tobacco and later opium, to quit learning Manchu and do all sorts of other things that the Emperors did not want them to do. Perhaps most interestingly, how can this be connected to the current scholarship on footbinding?

I think we can safely dismiss Hong Taiji’s apparent assumption that footbinding was something done to women on the orders of men. Dorothy Ko suggests looking at footbinding as “a device inscribing the Confucian ideal of a centripetal woman and as a central event in the development of a women’s culture in the boudoir [and] as a means women employed to cater to the erotic fantasies of men” (Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers p.263) Footbinding was, among other things, a way for Han women to demonstrate (mostly to other women) their self-cultivation and self-discipline. It was the feet of Chinese women that separated the Han from the non-Han.2

Pamela Crossley suggests that natural feet symbolized the active economic and political lives of Manchu women, and thus a rejection of women’s passive role in Chinese society. (The Manchus p. 27) There is probably a great deal of truth to this, but at the same time Manchu women seem to have embraced their own foot customs as coeval to and superior to those of the Chinese. Zhou Hong presents this Liaoning folksong as an example of Manchu women’s attitudes towards feet. (满族妇女生活与民俗文化研究p. 96, My apologies for the translation)

找个木匠锛鞋底
找个木匠做鞋帮
绒线用了一板半
细布用了八皮箱
一共做了三年整
一双绣鞋做妥当
叫来姑娘把鞋试
还是短来还是长
姑娘伸脚试绣鞋
鞋小脚大箍得慌
趔趔歪歪倒后墻
左脚踩死八只虎
右脚踩死九只狼

Get a carpenter’s adze to make the shoe-bottoms
Get a carpenter to make the outside of the shoes
Use a card of yarn
Eight lengths of fine cloth
Altogether it will take three years
To make a pair of embroidered shoes
Call a girl to try the shoes
Whether short or long
The girl stretches her foot
to fit the embroidered shoes
The shoe small the foot large
Constrained and uncomfortable
Awkwardly and crookedly to the back wall
The left foot crushing eight tigers
The right foot crushing nine wolves

This poem shows, I think, how Manchu women tried to appropriate the meaning of footbinding despite their big feet. Right from the beginning the comparison to Chinese customs is implicit but never stated. Manchu shoes involve violent re-shaping, but it is of wood rather than the body. The girl stretches her foot to meet the shoe, rather than shrinking the foot to meet it. The process of making the shoes is said to take three years, which seems a little long no matter how elaborate the embroidery is, but it matches the time and dedication that go into binding feet. The girl, once mounted on the shoes, moves just as awkwardly as a Chinese women, and like them her feet become the center of her potency. Being a Manchu she crushes tigers and wolves rather than attracting poets, but the idea seems the same.

I suppose, then, that part of the reason Manchu women did not bind their feet was in part because it they were ordered not to by the Emperor and other men, who saw their feet as a marker (the marker) of ethnic difference. They were also able to gain all the benefits of footbinding, a visible symbol of their refinement and culture, without having to bind their feet.

1 “若有仿效他国衣帽及令妇女束发裹足者,等于身在本朝,心在他国.” I’m not sure how valid this quote is. 周虹 “满族妇女生活与民俗文化研究” 北京:中国社会科学出版社, 2005,p. 95, takes the quote from the 光绪朝东華錄. On the other hand, Elliot The Manchu Way p.470n61 says that he has been unable to locate the original edict, which makes me think their may be something wrong.

2 Dorothy Ko’s new book on footbinding is probably the best of the new scholarship, although I have not seen it yet. Wang Ping synthesizes some of the new scholarship in Aching for Beauty.

11/11/2005

Ling Long: Digital Women’s Magazine Project Relaunched

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:16 pm

001002.24
I just found out that Columbia University has relaunched its project putting the Chinese women’s magazine Ling long (玲瓏, “elegant and fine”)online.

You can visit the newly updated site here:
The Ling Long Women’s Magazine

I have linked and blogged about the project before, even using the project as an example of a relatively easy way libraries can contribute to resources online in a way immediately useful to other historians, but there have been some great improvements in presentation this time. As before, you can view images from most pages of the magazine from 1931 to 1937. However, the site is now much more pleasant and sports a new interface for finding pages and viewing multiple pages while scanning through articles.

Also new is an article by my friend Elizabeth LaCouture, a PhD student at Columbia University about the magazine which is also available in PDF format, along with a bit more about the project and the collection.

The project is well worth visiting, and I can only hope that many more of these great sources make their way online.

9/19/2005

What is a family?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:43 am

Via Reason’s Hit and Run I find this story about a Taiwanese women who wanted to harvest the sperm of her recently deceased fiancée so that she could get pregnant by him. Reason of course played up the sex angle, but I found it interesting from a cultural angle. The article referenced (from Taipei Times) is pretty useless from a legal point of view, but it did say that the state had ruled in favor of her petition. I sort of wondered what the man’s parents thought of this, although they were not mentioned in the piece, since they would be the obvious ones to control his “body” under American law. (The state had a special interest in this man because he was in the army at the time of his fatal accident.)

I was struck by the woman’s desire to have a baby with someone who was dead. Taipei Times stated that there had already been some 80 cases like this in the U.S. I would assume that all of these were wives who wanted to have more children with their husbands. According to one write-up I found, the fiancée claimed to already be married in the eyes of the family, and that she wanted to ensure that there would be descendents.

孫吉祥的女友表示,孫吉祥在九月初請假返家時,已經跟她完成家族婚禮,因此,要求取精生子,留個後代

This seems a rather old-fashioned way of looking at family law, and apparently one that the state was frowning on at first, but then the gave in under public pressure. For any American, of course, going out of your way to become a single mom would seem a bad idea. For this woman one can speculate that she is hoping to get whatever benefits come with being a military widow. True Love is also a possibility. I would guess that cementing her position in the man’s family, in the old-fashioned way we all teach about in Chinese history classes is the most likely

Another write-up here

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