井底之蛙

8/30/2014

Do you like it for the articles or the pictures?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:27 am

If you are looking for something fun to read, you might try Nick Stember’s blog. He is a grad student who is interested in manhua, and he can tell you about the Chinese graphic novel-ization of Star Wars

The many editions of Jin Ping Mei (some closer to the original story than others)

how all Japanese Anime was inspired by the Chinese film Princess Iron Fan (which you can watch here) and lots of other stuff.

 

 

8/27/2014

Chiang Yee and understanding China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:00 pm

I have been reading a bit about Chiang Yee lately. If any of our readers know him it is probably as the author of Chinese Calligraphy: An Introduction to Its Aesthetic and Technique  which he wrote as a professor at Columbia, which was his third or fourth life. He’s one of those people where its hard to count how many careers he actually had. He was born in China in 1903 and worked as a soldier, journalist, teacher and government official.  At one point he was probably best known for his Silent Traveler series of books which he wrote/painted after moving to England in 1933. The combination of Chinese-style paintings of English sights

fig4_umbrellas

along with wry observations of the foibles of the foreigners proved to be very popular and he became one of the best-known interpreters of China in the West.  Yee is credited with the translation 可口可乐    for Coca-Cola1 The Silent Traveller books are  written in a style that sometimes seems like interwar faux-oriental stuff and sometimes like a real Chinese literati writing about his travels.  The latter is not surprising, given that his first published work was an account of a trip to Hainan that he published in 东方杂志.

Not surprisingly, what I found most interesting was Chiang’s problematic relationship with modern Chinese nationalism. On the one hand he had a fairly rosy view of the Old China, and spent much of his life in self-imposed exile from Chinese corruption, working as a guide to China’s timeless tradition to foreigners. On the other hand, he was a chemist, regretted his arranged marriage, served in the Northern Expedition, strongly supported China in the War of Resistance and returned to spend the last days of his life in China.

He appears quite May-4th-y in Men of the Burma Road, (羅鐵民) a book he published in 1943 to tell the stirring story of the building of the Road by the Chinese masses. He of course did the illustrations, and while they are good.

Burma1 Burma2 Burma3

I can’t help but think that something more along the line of a woodcut might show the toil and suffering better.img2645vhd

The story is quite interesting, since with only a very few changes it could be a Mao-period story about building communes or something. The main figure is Old Lo, a Chinese peasant who is attached to his land. That is in fact the only thing he cares about, like a stereotypical Chinese peasant. He sees no point in education for the likes of himself, and he objected to his son joining the army and to his neighbour’s children getting educated. Like a good Pearl Buck peasant he respects learning but thinks it is not for him.

All this changes with the Japanese invasion. At first, he is unwilling to give up his land to allow the Burma Road to be built to help the war effort. His neighbours and family members, who are up to date and members of a rural co-0p urge him to change, but he is immovable as….well, an old Chinese peasant.  Even his best friend’s daughter is is giving speeches in public to support the war effort as the society around him is transformed.

The Japanese kill most of his family, however. His daughter “did not fall into the tiger’s mouth and bring the black spot on our family” because she drowned herself rather than being raped by Japanese soldiers.2 All this causes him to give up his land and work heroically to build the Road, which is, of course, made (and illustrated) with traditional Chinese methods. Chinese workers

Using only their hands, they erected 289 bridges, including two big suspension bridges with a load bearing capacity of 10 to 15 tons, and 1,959 culverts. The road-bed is sixteen feet wide, has a maximum grade of eight in a hundred and a minimum curve radius of fifty feet.3

As if that’s not enough, we also get pictures of Natives in Native dress and a scathing portrait of Mr. Wood and Mr. Coward, an English and American journalist who make up stories about Old Lo that will better fit the ideas westerners already have about China. The pictures of natives seem to be the author buying into stereotypes about minority nationalities, and the journalist parts seem like a sophisticated critique of just those sorts of stereotypes. I doubt there will ever be a critical edition of this book, but if it ever goes up on Google books, you could cover almost everything you need to cover in a Modern China class through this.

 

 

  1. Zheng Da p.78 []
  2. p.40 []
  3. p.85 []

8/22/2014

Understanding China Through Comics

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:46 am

The third volume of Understanding China Through Comics is out, and it is good. In my previous reviews I talked about how well the books explained Chinese history and how well they worked visually. As before, the answer to both is pretty well, and they are getting better.

This volume goes from 907-1368, so we get the Song and the Yuan. This is a tricky period to deal with visually. There are a lot of foreigners around, and it is hard to distinguish them. Different hats will help.

Hats

Unlike western writers, Liu is committed to explaining all the political ins and outs of this period, and he does a pretty good job of sorting out the constant political shifts, although reading this also helps explain why so may other authors don’t bother with all this.

As in the earlier volumes there is a lot of stuff explaining the past in terms of the present, so Song commercialization/technical advances is done through by having Malcom Gladwell drop by to discuss rice paddies. Gladwell

The Song is actually a pretty interesting test case for Liu’s central thesis, that Chinese history is a 5,000 year quest to create a middle-class society, given that this is the time of the birth of an early modern commercial society and a time of great technological advance. SongTreadSongTechMost importantly, this was the time of Wang Anshi. Wang’s reforms have garnered a lot of attention in the 20th century, since he is the Chinese official who’s policies can be most easily linked to the present. If you want to find signs of modern administration, the welfare state, democracy, or incipient Communists totalitarianism in traditional China, Wang’s reforms are where you look. Liu is clearly a member of Team Wang, presenting him as an upright technocrat who should have been listened to. WangAnshi The Song is also portrayed as the age when the “scholar-officials” came fully into power, and the idea that these upright technocrats were admirable and sacrosanct came from here. No more executing those who speak truth to power!ScholarsWhile all the above is both pretty good history and also clearly has modern resonances, Liu does point out that you can’t read Chinese nationalism back into the past. Here we have peasants telling each other that it does not much matter who they are paying taxes to. This makes the books quite different from a lot of the Chinese history you see in China, where all of China’s 56 ethnic groups have always been modern nationalists.  PeasantsDontcareUnfortunately, Liu does gloss over some of the more bothersome aspects of China’s past. Footbinding is a good example. In this book it is presented as a way of protecting Chinese women from being carried off by barbarians.

FootbindingNobody has a really good explanation for why footbinding spread, but needless to say this is not one of the possible explanations. More importantly, this page reconciles me to the fact that Liu is not planning to go past 1911 in his history. If you won’t look at the uglier part of your history, what can you do with those who rebel against it? If you leave out what footbinding really was you can’t do Joe Hill or MLK, or Lu Xun or Liang Qichao. I guess they are just nagging troublemakers, rather than the best of what you are.

ALSO

At the same time the new, re-drawn and expanded revised edition of Volume One is out.
(( Jing Liu claimed he “fixed some of the problems you pointed out.”, and while I doubt I had much influence on what he did, it is nice to think that this is a blog that Gets Results. )) Liu seems to be warming to his task, and in this new world of publish on demand he can re-work his stuff as much as he wants. Here is China surrounded by foes in the introduction to the old Volume 1

Divided V1

And here it is on p.13 of the new version

RivalStates2

Not only are the drawings more detailed, they are better in that they convey more. You can loose yourself in the second one in a way you can’t in the first version.

Here is the old version of Confucianism as a means of social mobility Mobility V 1

Here is the new.

Exams

He has also expanded some parts. In the last version I mentioned that this was about as well as you could explain Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism in one page,

photo5

but also pointed out that it might be o.k to use more than one page. Here is (part of) the new version.

Daosim

We also get a bit more history of technology, and also a tendency to have characters leap out of the page to explain things to us.

It is still pretty much the same book, only better.

 

6/1/2014

I would totally buy this, and so would you.

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 1:46 pm

Chinese Posters sells copies of some of its stuff, but not of this.

“To love the country one must first know its history”1

This would look perfect in the hallway of every History Department in the world. We may think  that historical study is more than just training in patriotism, but we know that a -lot- of the funding for historical stuff comes from just that. For a reminder of how important history is, and some of its implications you can’t beat this. Would you buy a copy?

  1. Ok.a better translation of would be “To love the country one must first know the country” History as such is only mentioned in the book title. []

5/22/2014

China’s first statue?

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:49 am

I found this in 圖書日報, I think from 1910. It is a statue of Lin Zexu that may be China’s first public statue. It is of course not the first statue to exist in China, but it may be the first time China had a proper Western-style Public Statue made of bronze. There was never much of a Chinese tradition of statuary and certainly none of public commemorative statues.

Lin Zexu圖書日報 (more…)

4/22/2014

The internet is awesome-Chinese history in film version

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:39 am

British Pathé  has put some 80,000 of their old newsreels on YouTube. This is a massive treasure trove of cool stuff, and the many hours I will spend looking at them are fully justified as “work”. A lot the commentary is bland, foreigner-centered and uninformed, but the pictures are great.

Civil War in China. (1922) Not much analysis, but a a nice funeral.

Some of these are listed as unknown material with no date. such as. World Faces Crisis As Japan And China Clash In Far East (1938) I suppose I should comment and tell them what this is.

Some of it might be quite useful for research. Would you like to see a film of the official parade at the inauguration of the Japanese puppet government of Canton? With street drama and everything?

Maybe Village Children Of South China (1951) is more your style?

Or Nationalist troops in Nankin in 1927?

China Fish People (1930)?

An opium burning which I think is the one in 1919?

Not only is all this great content searchable, it is also free! This is the type of thing that convinces me that inventing the internet may not have been a mistake after all.

What are your favorites? You can go to the Pathe channel here https://www.youtube.com/user/britishpathe and click on the magnifying glass to search.

3/18/2014

Chairman Xi serves the people

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:12 am

Offbeat China has some official cartoons showing Xi Jinping as an ordinary guy who can sit cross-legged just like folks.

7I guess now that Gary Locke has officially left the building there is an opening for someone to take on the role of high official who is one with the common people. The style of the drawings is pretty obviously intended to make him look like an ordinary person. They remind me in part of some of the old shots of Chiang Ching-kuo, who never tried to pull off his Dad’s spartan military style

Kai-shek.

Nor did he try to pull off Wei-guo’s full-on Nazi look.Chiang_Wei-kuo_wehrmacht_LQ

Rather, while democratizing Taiwan, he chose to look like a man of the people.

Picture2

What the Xi Jinping cartoons remind me most of though is Hua Guofeng. As Mao’s chosen successor Hua had some big shoes to fill.

HuaGuofeng6

And he did this in part through a massive propaganda campaign, which you can learn about at Chinese Posters.

Here we have Hua cleaning a counter and Xi getting his own food. Hua is serving the people, and Xi is being served by them, but times do change, and waiting in line will get you credit as being a man of the people as a Chinese official today.

e13-62712

There are plenty of shots of Hua holding a shovel and such like, but China’s leadership has changed so much that that would just look ridiculous with Xi. Instead, he meets with college students (the future elite) and encourages them to be concerned with the common people. Hua probably would have done that by leading the students out for some vigorous physical labor alongside workers and peasants, but this is 2014.

e13-6239

Both of them mingle with the common folk, and you can see some of the differences in revolutionary charisma. Part of it is the cellphones, but also it is hard to imagine Hua greeting a member of the masses who happened to be female with “Hello Beautiful.”

10  e13-947

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hua had the disadvantage that he was following Mao, and so he had to either put himself in Mao’s place in the picture, or sort of abandon Maoism, neither of them a good strategy. Hua was followed by a guy named Deng Xiaoping, who shied away from the leader-cult thing, and when he did turn up in posters they would focus on him as an individual, someone passing through revolutionary history, not dominating it.

e13-449e16-78

The way everyone gushes over Xi in these pictures (and laugh at his jokes) is the most leader-cult thing in the set, and given that Xi is the leader of the great and successful Communist party of China that is to be expected. Hua could be pretty informal and push the leader-worship off on Mao or the Party. Xi has to be both a symbol of Chinese greatness and an ordinary Jiu. It’s a hard act to pull off, and it will be interesting to see how well he does at it. God forbid he ever ends up in a picture like this.

obamafeet

 

 

2/7/2014

Boxers and Saints

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:56 am

I did a class that focused on the Boxers last semester, and one of the things I talked about was Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers and Saints.

gly_bs1This is a two volume graphic novel that looks at the Boxer event. How good is it? Well he has done his research. Cohen’s History in Three Keys was our main text and it is in Yang’s bibliography, as is Esherick’s Origins of the Boxer Uprising. It shows in the text. If you want to show your students pictures of Chinese peasants being flooded out of their homes

Flood

Or foreign missionaries being obnoxious (more…)

11/13/2013

Picturing the 1911 Revolution

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:37 am

Via the comments1 to this post I see that Oberlin has posted an on-line version of History of China for 1912 in 52 cartoons

These seem to be weekly cartoons published in something called the National Review (not the same as the current American magazine of the same name) Needless to say if you are responsible for coming up with a cartoon on Chinese politics every week there will be some weeks when inspiration does not strike or not much seems to be happening, even the the revolutionary year of 1911. Still, many of them are quite good for teaching with or thinking about.

Jan_13Here, for instance, is a nice one showing the Manchus and Han fighting it out while various foreigners take advantage of the opportunity to grab stuff. One of the standard themes of 1911 is that Chinese elites on all sides wanted to settle the thing quickly to avoid encouraging foreign intervention and this picture, drawn by a foreigner no less, illustrates this pretty well.

(more…)

  1. from peacay of BibliOdyssey! []

11/10/2013

City of big shoulders

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 10:40 am

So I spent some time at the library going through 圖畫日報 Although it is not a paper that lasted long (1909-1910) there is lots of cool stuff here connected to the it’s mission of exposing China to the world.

World

 

One thing that leaped out at me was the picture of Chicago. It’s part of an occasional series on famous places overseas.

chicago

Chicago is a city of skyscrapers, the ideal city ” built of  clouds.” (白雲砌成) including the 21 story 商務總會, (commercial association building, maybe the Chicago Stock exchange?) a 13 story 婦奴節用會 (Women’s holiday meeting place? Could this be Marshall Fields?) and an 11-story 大妓院 (da ji yuan) with 600 rooms. 大妓院 would, I think, mean a brothel. I’m guessing that this is a reference to Palmer House or one of the other big downtown hotels which were, as we all know, the haunts of  “adventuresses” in accounts of the city of sin.

adventureess

Since I heard about Chicago as the first city of skyscrapers while growing up in Chicagoland I found this interesting. The illustration is clearly not taken from pictures of the city, but it is also different from the generic pictures of foreign cities you get at this point. It is sort of a occidentalist picture. Chinoiserie seems to involve pulling apart elements of Chinese design and gluing them back together in ways that would look really odd to a Chinese person (compare your standard “westerner trying to do fake calligraphy” to Book From the Sky) and the same thing seems to be going on in this picture.

 

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