井底之蛙

1/24/2014

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 []

6/8/2013

A clash of symbols

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:42 pm

In the introduction of Julia Lovell’s The Opium War she discusses an incident from November, 2010. David Cameron had gone to China, and it being November he and his team were all wearing poppies. For the British the poppy is a symbol of the war dead of the Great War. It is not really a symbol in China, although of course a British PM with a poppy on did bring up memories of the Opium Wars. Cameron was asked to take his poppy of, and of course refused. Despite the possible hurt feelings of the Chinese people the Chinese government allowed him to keep his poppy.

Poppies

As the link above shows, even Daily Mail readers were sometimes understanding of the Chinese position, and the Chinese were willing to let Cameron run around with a poppy, so everyone behaved very well. I’m actually glad to see that when there is a deal to be made the ancient hatreds of the past can be set aside.

For those of our readers who are Chinese, the association of poppies with wartime sacrifice is more important in Britain, but is also known elsewhere.

 

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5/18/2013

History and hats

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:42 am

One book that I use in my classes is Bickers’ Empire Made Me: An Englishman Adrift in Shanghai. The book is the story of William Tinkler, an Englishman who served in the Shanghai Municipal Police. Students sometimes find it hard to warm up to the book because Tinkler is not easy to identify with.1 Bickers is interested in him because he is a good example of the lower parts of Empire and how they were experienced and also, I would guess, because Tinkler manages to go down the tubes at about the same pace as the Empire.  I like the book because it is a ripping yarn and Bickers talks a good deal about historical method and how historians go about figuring things out. One thing that struck them last time was the discussion of Tinkler’s headgear. In a chapter called “What We Can’t Know”, where Bickers discusses the ways historians deal with a lack of evidence he  mentions that when Tinkler died2 he was the owner of five berets. Bickers suggests that he had a taste for wearing them. This seems really hard to believe. Could you see  Tinkler the dashing SMP detective

Tinkler1

Or Tinkler the Empire hobo

Tinkler2

in a beret? There is a really good story here, but Ranke only knows what it is.  He was sort of out at elbow after leaving the SMC, maybe he got hold of a shipment of berets and these were the final ones he had not sold? Maybe he was an anti-Obelix, going around beating up Frenchmen and taking their hats to keep score? Maybe my understanding of the history of treaty port fashion its too limited for me to make sense of Tinkler’s hats?   Anyone who has ever done historical research remembers finding facts that were amazing and obviously could be used to make some important point. Bickers describes the process of finding a lot of things like this and slowly finding a context for them. Most authors don’t clue you in to the the bits that they could never find anything to do with, but Bickers does. It’s a nice book for China, but also for historical method.

 

 

 

 

  1. And, of course, the book is soooo boooring []
  2. Stabbed by a Japanese Marine in 1939 []

12/20/2010

Boxers and history

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:07 pm

Via Jeremiah Jenne, a link to an Economist article on the legacy of the Boxers. It is without a doubt the best article on Chinese history I have ever seen in a mainstream magazine.

It made me think of one of my favorite scenes from Wang Shuo’s Please Don’t Call me Human Old man Tang, the last living Boxer, has been brought it for an interview because the powers that be are thinking of using his son to represent China in physical combat against a Western circus strongman. I think it’s a nice piece that sums up (and makes fun of) a lot of popular ideas about the Boxers, the past, and Chinese History. …

“Do you know why we brought you here?”
“Yes, you want to learn about my participation in the Boxer movement.”
In an otherwise empty, soundproof room, the bald, fat man sat behind a desk in the shadow of a desk lampshade. Light from the lamp shone directly into old man Tang’s face, whose hands rested in his lap as he sat respectfully on a stool fastened to the floor.

“Your name?”
“Tang Guotao.”
“Age?”
“One hundred and eleven.”
“Where did you live before you were taken into custody?”
“Number thirty-five, Tanzi Lane.”
“When did you join the troops?”
“In March 1899.”
“What were your ranks?”
“Team leader, guard leader, Second Elder -Apprentice, First Elder Apprentice, and First-rank Master.”
“Decorations or punishments?”
“I was sentenced to death in 1900″

“On that night eighty-eight years ago, that is, the night the Allied forces entered the city, where were you?”
“I was home,” old man Tang replied, looking perfectly calm in the lamplight.
“Why weren’t you out fighting? Big Sword Wang Five was, as was the father of the novelist Lao She.”
“I had a far more important duty.”
“What was that?”
“I ran home and strangled my parents, my wife, and my son. It was as dark then as it is tonight, and as cold, and I had no sooner eliminated my family than I heard a knock at the door. ‘Master’s wife, open the door, hurry.’ I opened the door, and the person rushed inside, carrying an infant in her left hand and a red lantern in the right. . .”
“Who was it?”
“My wife, the woman you saw at my house. At the time she was one of the Red Lanterns.”
“And the child in her arms?”
“Huo Yuanjia, the future martial-arts master.”
“My God, how come this is the first I’ve heard of that?”
“As soon as my wife saw me, she fell to her knees and mumbled, ‘Master, Master, the master’s wife, my sister-in-law, they’re all dead.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I killed them.’ And she said, still crying, ‘From today on, l am yours, and this child. . .’ I
interrupted her, ‘You take this child back where you found it ”
“Then what?” the fat man said as he wiped his tears.
“Then gunfire erupted and a Japanese soldier rushed, in shouting bakayaro [son of a bitch]! He asked me, ‘What you do?’ Everything happened faster than it takes to tell, but when he barged in, I’d already crawled into bed, and my new wife was still on her knees, facing the other way. She kowtowed to the Japanese. ‘Your honor,’ she said, ‘he’s a bean-curd maker, a common, law-abiding citizen.’ The Japanese smirked—heh heh heh—and nudged her with his bayonet. ‘Pretty lady’ he shouted. That’s when I threw back the covers and roared, ‘Let her go! I’m one of those Boxer leaders you’re looking for! This has nothing to do with the common folk!’ ”

“Elder Tang, you’re spreading it a bit thick, I’m afraid,” said the fat man with a frown. “To the best of my knowledge, the Boxers had no grassroots party organization.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, young man. A hundred years ago, we were already laying down our lives for the Cause.”

“That’s not what the book says. Let’s turn to page forty-four, fourth line from the bottom.”
In the interrogation room, the bald, fat man read aloud, “On that night, the city was ablaze, the sound of gunfire like thunder. The foreign soldiers advanced like a tiger attacking a herd of sheep, torching and killing. The soldiers and the Boxers scattered like birds and beasts, and all the first-rank masters fell into the hands of the French soldiers at Hadamen, who trussed them up, despite their ferocious resistance. Shortly after dawn, I was beheaded by the French in the marketplace, along with over a hundred Boxer bandits, including leaders like Big Sword Wang Five and Little Sword Zhao Six …”

The bald, fat man looked up and said to old man Tang, who was wearing a pair of reading glasses as he followed along, his finger stopping at each word, “Naturally, if you believed everything in books, we’d be better off without them. This Memoirs of the Green Tower is nothing but a collection of ghost stories and fantastic tales, but there’s no harm in keeping it around, since it represents one way of looking at things. We all understand that rumor is the twin sister of fact.”
“Are you saying I’m wrong?” old man Tang asked blankly, looking up from the page. “I clearly recall being taken into a blockhouse by the Japanese and shot.”
“You’ve read The Little Soldier Zhang Sha, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” old man Tang said with a nod.
“I’m not surprised. A few days ago, we interrogated the fat interpreter, and he couldn’t remember if he stood with the Japanese or against them.”
“Why couldn’t I have been executed once by the Japanese and again by the French? It’s already been settled that I came back from the dead.”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t. The question is whether or not you had time to be executed by the Japanese and then rush over to be executed again by the French.”
“Why not? There’s nothing illogical about it. When the bullet hit me, I fell to the ground and closed my eyes, pretending to be dead. Then, after the Japanese left, I crawled out of the execution pit, stood up and cleaned the blood off, filled with hate and a taste for vengeance against the imperialists. I ran off and rejoined the battle.”

Cocking his head, the bald, fat man pondered what old man Tang had told him. “I see nothing wrong so far.”
“I went down East Fourth Avenue, killing the enemy along the way as I headed to wherever the sounds of battle were the loudest. When my guts began spilling out, I stuffed them back in. When one of my eyes fell out, I picked it up and swallowed it. I was possessed by a single thought: Don’t fall, keep going. If you fall, China is done for!”

“Then what?”
“Eventually I did fall. I lay on the ground, seeing spots before my eyes. Then the world began to spin, and I blacked out. …”
“What do you recall about the beheadings at the marketplace?”
“That’s where I was when I came to. People were lined up to be beheaded. Before I could say a word, it was my turn. As to methods, it wasn’t much different than cutting up a rack of ribs—holding it down with one hand and chopping with the other.”

“You must have said something, a farewell to your comrades or last words before the executioner’s sword fell. That’s common sense.”
“I’m not sure, but I might have said, ‘Long Live World Revolution.’ ”

“Hardly.”

“Oh, now I remember. I shook hands with Wang Five, and we exchanged knowing looks. Then I turned and growled at the executioner, ‘China will be destroyed by the likes of you!’
“Now that sounds more like it. The executioner was Chinese?”
“No, he was French.”

5/12/2010

The Will of a Traitor

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:39 pm

Running Dog Wang JingweiThere is a lot of treason to be found in the vicinity of LOC number DS777.5195.W34 in the Harvard-Yenching library. It’s Wang Jingwei (汪精衛) territory, infamous puppet lord of wartime occupied China, and reviled former patriot turned running dog of Japanese imperialism. He is also known as Wang Zhaoming (汪兆銘 Wang Chao-ming), Wang Jingwei being his pen name. On the shelves nearby we find books by and on his underlings Chen Gongbo and Zhou Fohai, equally reviled figures who lived long enough to go on trial for being Chinese traitors, or hanjian (漢奸).

In the Harvard-Yenching library’s English language collections, this section houses an unusual volume only a few pages in length:

Will of Wang Chao-Ming
Translated by Bonggi Kim
The Korean Republic
Seoul, Korea

It opens, “This translation of Wang Chao-ming’s will into English is intended to look into his cause in collaborating with imperialist Japan.”1 Following a short introduction is the dozen page translation of what claims to be Wang Jingwei’s final written testament. It is signed October, 1944 — he would die in November, before Japan’s defeat and the text is now known as “My Final State of Mind” (我最後之心情), a document whose authenticity has been contested ever since the original was first published in the Hong Kong Chunqiu (春秋) in early 1964.2 Its publication was also widely reported in Japan, including the English language Japan Times.3

Justifying Collaboration

This text attributed to Wang, if real, is of historical interest because its author offers detailed justifications for collaboration with Japan, and writes about his plans for the postwar period.4 “We planned to hand over to the Nationalist government the areas recovered from the enemy occupation,” he writes, though at the time, the “enemy” Japan is his military ally. Using the famous “Shield” argument used to justify Vichy collaboration with Nazi Germany, Wang goes on to say, “the Nanjing government entered into an alliance with Japan as a means to fight for lost sovereignty and get as many materials as possible under Japanese occupation.”5 He writes of his successes so far in supporting Japan’s war effort including the overturning of unequal treaties, recovering foreign concessions, and claims that he has “not tolerated any foreign intervention in domestic affairs…”6 He worries about the fate of Manchuria, which Japan refuses to return to China, but claims that he must press on in his efforts. “I am well aware of the forthcoming surrender of Japan,” and is optimistic since the Japanese show renewed sincerity in their negotiations with him.7

In his closing, Wang even expresses hope for the future of Sino-Japanese relations after Japan’s defeat, which will ultimately hinge upon a thorough enlightenment of the Japanese people and the magnanimity of the Chinese government.8

Kim Bonggi – The Korean Translator

The translation of this text is, perhaps ironically, interesting for a similar reason. Following the copy of the translation, we find attached a letter from the translator, addressed to the chief librarian of the “University of Colombia” in New York.9 In it, Kim writes with what can only be interpreted as a significant degree of sympathy for Wang. In the letter, dated August 10, 1964, we find the following passage.

Wang, A leading political figure in modern China, played a vital role in the formation of the country. His collaboration with the [sic] however, tarnished his image as the great patriot with lifelong devotion to his country.

Many Chinese people, in fact, did not hesitate to call him a traitor, but others think that he was forced to bow to the inevitable and that what he did was a risk that had to be assumed in the interests of the Chinese people.

Whether servile collaboration with the Japanese militarists is precisely the term for the acts of Wang is still open to debate, but it is not difficult to suppose that his actions proceeded from the difficulty of finding solutions to the problem of a war that had been dragging on with no end in sight. He strove to regain the lost sovereignty of the Chinese people, but he fell short of the affecting it despite his determination. Even his death was at one time rumored to be an unnatural one.

Whatever his real motive was, it cannot be denied that the last words of Wang himself will be helpful in determining why he made the decision to establish the Nanking government with the support of the invading Japanese. As far as his will is concerned, it is apparent that he did not act for personal gain, but rather with the hope that he could restore the lost land of China through negotiations—not through force of arms against the overwhelming odds with which China was forced at the time.

In order to avoid attaching undue significance to his real motives which resulted in the establishment of the Nanking regime in collaboration with the invading Japanese militarists, I had better refrain from commenting on the issue; nevertheless, I sincerely hope thet [sic] the material which I send you will be of some interest in helping your studies on matters that concern the modern history of China.

Kim Bonggi, born in 1921 or 1920, was one of the founders, in 1953, of the English language newspaper, The Korean Republic, and at the time of writing this letter, its “President-Publisher.” That newspaper later became The Korea Herald but during the anti-government protests and martial law atmosphere of 1964 it was, like most of South Korea’s media, barely more than a propaganda pamphlet and devoid of criticism for the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee.

According to this biographical entry, 김봉기(金鳳基) was born in Seoul, graduated from Seoul University10 and held positions in two conservative newspapers, the Chungang ilbo and Chosŏn ilbo, as well as serving on the council of the Asian People’s Anti-Communist League.11

What led Kim to translate this Chinese text into English, or even if he merely posed as its real translator, go through the trouble to have it sent to an American university?

Kim was under 25 at the time of Japan’s defeat in 1945 so this did not leave him much time to progress along the careers paths under Japanese colonialism that could have given him the brand of collaborator.12 However, at the peak of Japan’s power in 1942, he was surely old enough to have been caught up in the excitement of Japan’s seemingly unstoppable military advances against the colonial powers of the West or to at least have begun thinking about what his place would be as a Korean in a Japanese empire.

On the highly symbolic March 1st and August 15th anniversaries in 1964, Kim’s Korean Republic was filled with stories of a valiant Korean resistance to Japan and reported on celebrations commemorating Korea’s final liberation from its colonial master, but reading Kim’s August letter I think we can see clearly the sympathy many Koreans who had lived through the Japanese colonial period felt for the collaborator’s dilemma, and believed, though they might be careful where and how they expressed their views, that even despised figures like Wang Jingwei might ultimately be remembered one day as national heroes.13

UPDATE: For one more location which has a more rich, if very dated, discussion about the mysterious document and the controversy surrounding it, see John Hunter Boyle’s bibliographical note in his China and Japan at War, 1937-45: The Politics of Collaboration (1972) on pages 395-397.

  1. Wang Jingwei, Kim Bonggi trans. Will of Wang Chao-Ming Unpublished manuscript in Harvard-Yenching library. Hollis number 009048141. []
  2. See 沈立行 《汪精卫的《日记》和“遗嘱”之谜》纵横 2000.2, 56-57 for an inconclusive discussion of its authenticity. []
  3. I haven’t checked the microfilm of their early May, 1964 issues to see if their reporting on the will included any translation of the document but if they did, it might be interesting to compare it to Kim’s. []
  4. The Chinese text can be found online at 人民网 here as of 2010.4.12. Wang Jingwei justified his collaboration in a number of other texts as well, including in a March 30, 1939 open letter “A Reply to an Overseas Chinese” (复华侨某君书). See 劉傑 「汪兆銘と「南京国民政府」―協力と抵抗の間 in 劉傑, 楊大慶, 三谷博 eds. 『国境を越える歴史認識―日中対話の試み』 (Tokyo, 東京大学出版会 2006) for the full text in Japanese. []
  5. ibid., 6. []
  6. ibid., 10. []
  7. ibid., 11. []
  8. It is remarkable that he sees only the need for the magnanimity of Chinese government policy, and not by the Chinese people who suffered under Japanese occupation. The original Chinese is, “將來戰後兩國能否有自動提攜,互利互賴,仍有賴于日本民族之徹底覺悟,及我政府對日之寬大政策。” []
  9. I assume Columbia University Starr East Asia library has the original letter and document. A CLIO library search reveals an entry for the translation and attached letter located at DS778.W3 []
  10. Unless he actually graduated from the Japanese run Keijō Imperial University and someone changed the name to its postwar equivalent, this would seem to suggest he completed his university education after the summer of 1946. []
  11. 亞細亞反共聯盟 in Korea, these organizations, founded throughout Asia in the 1950s still exist but have changed their names. They are national chapters of the World League for Freedom and Democracy, formerly the World Anti-Communist League. Kim was also involved in the 大韓公論社, which appears to have published a number of things, but I don’t know much about the organization. []
  12. Someone by the name 김봉기(金鳳基) is listed on a recently published list of suspected Japanese collaborators, in the category of “pro-Japanese” organizations, but I am not sure this is the same person. Another 김봉기(金鳳基) was executed in 1907 for his anti-Japanese resistance efforts. []
  13. The political cartoon shown here is by 麦非, and can be found in 沈建中 ed. 抗战漫画 (Shanghai, 上海科学院出版社, 2005), 206. []

7/29/2009

Imperial Visits and Attitudes

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:02 am

I just learned of the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ visit to Hawai’i [via]. It’s not the first time that a member of the Japanese Imperial family has visited the islands, though you would hardly know it from the gushing “historic” reports of the media. Though this is the first visit by Akihito as Emperor, Akihito has visited the islands before, as have other members of Japan’s now-symbolic dynasty. In addition to the Advertiser’s photo gallery, there are some excellent shots on Flickr by “731photo” and “onecardshort”, as well as one picture from the US Pacific Command.1

The continuing connection between the Hawai’i Japanese immigrant community and Japan was a matter of strategic concern from the beginning: The Kingdom of Hawai’i wanted to use Japan as a counterweight against US power; the Republic of Hawai’i used the threat of Japan — which was actively concerned about the treatment of Japanese in Hawai’i — to support the annexation of the islands by the US; in the Territorial era, disputes about immigration and about labor organization often involved the Japanese consulate.2 Chinese Old Man Statue 2 And it’s also true that the Japanese government considered Japanese emigrants to be an extension of the nation3 , and tried, in a fairly blunt fashion, to influence foreign opinion through the overseas communities. By the 1910s and 20s, discussion in the media and halls of power of the Hawaiian Japanese community as a potential “fifth column” was pretty common, and that view was also common on the mainland. It took an immigration ban, a war, Japan’s crushing defeat and entry into the US security system, and the “blood sacrifice” of Nikkei serving with distinction in the US military to overcome those fears, and transform the Japanese immigrant community and their descendants into simply “ethnic” Americans. So, a little over twenty years past the end of WWII, fifteen past the end of the US occupation, the centennial of Japanese immigration into Hawai’i could be celebrated with public monuments, publications and events.

This history is why I was so disturbed to read about PRC policy which sees overseas Chinese as intelligence and lobbying agents. There’s a reasonable argument to be made — as Ichioka does — that Japanese government policy towards emigrants gave support to anti-immigrant attitudes in the US and elsewhere. It’s true that other governments treat emigres as resources to some extent, and urge their citizens overseas to represent the nation well, but the level of coordination, and open encouragement distinguishes pre-war Japanese policy and current PRC policy from the rest of the pack. I don’t think we’re on the verge of a “Yellow Peril” panic in the US at this point, but there’s no question that this has lead to serious negative consequences for individuals, and could lead to wider problems in the future.

x-posted

  1. That it’s a better shot of the Admiral than of the Emperor is, I suppose, not surprising. []
  2. See Gary Okihiro, John Stephan, also Morris-Suzuki []
  3. see also []

3/26/2009

Following Younghusband to Lhasa

Filed under: — Scott Relyea @ 5:50 pm

Just a quick post of a wonderful website I stumbled upon doing a bit of background research for a point I needed to make in the chapter I’m currently working on (yes, Googling a dissertation!)

Field Force to Lhasa 1903-04

These are the letters of Captain Cecil Mainprise, who ventured to Lhasa in 1903-4 as part of the Younghusband Expedition. In another example of ‘history-as-it-happens’ (similar sites have been highlighted in past Frog posts) a relative of the captain is posting the letters throughout this year, 105 years later, on the day that they were written.

Now that I’ve found him at the Phari Fort today, it’s a journey I plan to follow until they reach Lhasa in August, and beyond.

(more…)

9/8/2008

“Never the Twain Shall (Track) Meet”: Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Olympic Lies

Filed under: — C. W. Hayford @ 12:57 pm

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management has a well informed insider’s view of the Olympics, “Olympics Reveal East-West Divide.” (Forbes.com August 20, 2008) which starts with Rudyard Kipling’s classic 1889 “Ballad of East and West“:

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet

‘Till Earth and Sky stand present at God’s great Judgment Seat.

Sonnenfeld argues that the Beijing Olympics demonstrates that Rudyard had it right: “There is more than a duality between East and West inherent in these games; they embody a paradox between the collaborative spirit of global unity and the patriotic spirit of nationalistic competition.”

Beijing offered “flawlessness” and “manufactured perfection” where prior Olympics in Atlanta and Athens “proffered raw authenticity, pluralistic interests, democratic voices and transparent decision-making.” Such flawlessness, though, is exactly what betrays the “real divide between East and West.”

He concludes that perhaps “the sacrifice of individual pleasures for collective achievement is acceptable to the people of China and other Eastern cultures in a way it isn’t in the West.” Since the next Olympics will take us to Kipling’s London, “we are likely to see a return to chaos, confusion, conflict and spontaneous joy.”

Sonnenfeld surely has a point, but like most who quote the Kipling poem, he leaves out the next lines:

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

Sounds like the Olympics to me.

But what caught my eye is how Sonnenfeld illustrates the argument my piece on “Lies.” (August 28) which talks about the role of concepts such as authenticity, individualism, and well, lies.

My point was that we need to avoid the assumption that others act because of their age old cultural values. At just about the time that he wrote “East is East,” Kipling exhorted the US to “take up the White Man’s Burden” of colonial rule in the Philippines, tipping us off to the racism lurking here. Kipling’s Gunga Din praises the native subaltern: “you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.” This is fine, since Kipling uses the same standard as he uses to judge both the “other” and himself, but not so fine in that the standard is a British standard, that of “manliness.”

I agree, though, when Sonnenfeld explains things in terms of differences in situation, that is, that China is large, newly proud and united nation. This is a reasonable approach (though the particulars can still be debated) rather than insisting on “East” vs. “West,” two units of analysis which are undefinable and lead to self-confirming assertions.

3/28/2008

Learning about Tibet III

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:27 am

Zhang daren

Having learned any number of things about Tibet recently I thought I would learn some more, and thankfully the new Modern China (34.2) arrived with an interesting article by Daphon David Ho “The Men Who Would Not Be Amban and the One who Would: Four Frontline Officials and Qing Tibet Policy, 1905-1911″ The article looks at the New Policies period attempts of the Qing court to establish control over Tibet, at the same time that the British were trying to do the same thing. In 1905 most Tibetans did not see themselves as citizens of a modern Chinese nation, or of a modern Tibetan nation, or as subjects of the British Empire and various people wanted to resolve this problem

Ho agrees with much of existing scholarship that one of the main events that split off Tibetan identity from Chinese identity was the brutality of the Chinese occupation of Lhasa in 1910, where Chinese behavior was, according to one Tibetan “worse than dogs and wild beasts.” Ho is mostly interested in showing how this mess was created by rivalries among Qing officials, but he also shows that there was at least the possibility that Tibet might have become China. The best hope for this came in the person of Zhang Yingtang, who served briefly as the Qing high commissioner for Tibet 1906-1907. Zhang promoted a peaceful version of Chinese-Tibetan reconciliation, and if you go to Lhasa today1 you will be shown Zhang Daren flowers, a symbol of the Tibetan people’s love for China.

As Ho points out, Zhang is a lot more interesting than modern Chinese propaganda makes him. He had been minister to the U.S., Mexico and Peru, and was very much a part of attempts to construct a new Chinese nation, and while in Tibet he tried to create a Tibet that was part of this new China.

In April 1907, [Zhang] published a treatise, “Improving Tibetan
Customs” (Banfa Zang su gailiang), in both Tibetan and Chinese. Zhang’s
plan can best be described as a peculiar blend of Confucian moral virtues,
modern hygiene, and military spirit. He began by admonishing Tibetans
about polyandry and sexual promiscuity, fretting about everything from
extramarital affairs to siblings, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, and even in-
laws sleeping in the same bed (QDZY: 1355-56). Zhang continued with a list
of recommendations that included bathing regularly, trimming down the
length of clothes (so as not to impede work), and studying Chinese, and a list
of injunctions that criticized Tibetan customs such as sky burial.

All of this is fairly typical Confucian nagging that could have just as well been directed at the Miao in 1740. Zhang goes on to urge a new level of militarism in Tibetan society.

1. When a boy turns eighteen, he should learn martial arts and the use of the
Mauser gun (Maose qiang) so that he can defend his hometown.

2. The Mauser is an essential piece of equipment for protecting yourselves
and your homes. Without it, you will surely be bullied. A Mauser costs
37 rupees, and 1,000 bullets costs 7 rupees. They are sold everywhere in
India and Sichuan. Everyone, man or woman, should spend 44 rupees to
buy a gun and bullets. When you are free, go hunting. Proceeds from the
sale of several white foxes, lynxes, or tigers will repay the cost of the gun
and bullets. After that, gains from hunting will be extra income. When
foreign enemies or robbers come, you can fight them with your guns, for
the sake of the Buddha.

later he said that

Today, the world is one of guns and cannons. There is no right
or wrong, only weak and strong. If we cannot achieve self-strengthening, we
will become prey. If people have the courage and uprightness to fight to the
death for the country, then foreign enemies will not dare to insult us. …
Military preparedness is something we cannot go a single day without deliberating.
Train troops every day; everyone discuss military affairs (riri lianbing, renrenjiangwu).
This is a vital eight-word formula.

This emphasis on arming the people would have seemed a bit radical in China proper, although the militarism itself was pretty standard New Policies stuff. Unfortunately for Zhang, if he had managed to militarize Tibetan society to the extent he wanted my guess is this would have led to more conflict with the Han rather than a single Han-Tibetan culture.

  1. I’ve never been []

2/16/2008

Racial harmony in China’s North-East

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:31 am

In honor of Black History Month I thought I would post something on W.E.B. Dubois and China. I knew that DuBois had dabbled in almost every radical movement imaginable during his long life but I had not known that he was also for a while much enamored of Japanese Pan-Asianism. I knew that the Japanese made considerable efforts to convince intellectuals from around the world that Manchoukuo was a heaven on earth, but I had not known that they got him.1 in 1936 Dubois toured Manchoukou as part of a Japanese-sponsored tour of East Asia. One result was the article below, which was published in the Pittsburgh Courier in February of 1937.

(more…)

  1. Although given that he managed to praise both Stalinist Russia and Mao’s China at various points in his life he was not the most discerning chooser of allies []

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