Asian History Carnival #1

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:51 am
Map of Asia, 1784

Welcome to the first Asian History Carnival! The deadline for submissions was 10/10, which just happened, this year, to fall on the holiday of Columbus Day (observed in Hawai’i as “Discover’s Day“). Columbus, as we all know, never made it to Asia, in no small part because he was relying on the geographically unsound writings of Marco Polo. In honor of this conjunction, I’ve composed a haiku, and because this is a blog carnival, there are links:

Marco Polo wrote
a bad book about China;
Columbus read it.

In honor of the tradition of Marco Polo, we will take our virtual journey from West to East. And we won’t be terribly picky about geography. Since this is the first AHC, I’m also going to take considerable liberties to introduce certain particularly good Asian history bloggers (who might host future editions?).

Middle East
Our first stop is a 3rd century Syrian …. what? (it’s a quiz, I don’t want to ruin the surprise)

Central Asia
The honor of the first submission to the first AHC went to J. Otto Pohl, proprietor of the Carnival of Diasporas, with his History of Cotton in Uzbekistan.

Sepoy is one of my favorite bloggers, so it’s hard for me to pick from his œuvre. There’s the posts on drugs and games, Madrasas and Pehlwani, rebel warriors and, my personal favorites, on language. His facility for erudite procrastination makes him one of my favorite writers.

http://www.2bangkok.com/ is running a series of historic photos of Bangkok, like this collection of 1920s images from a Japanese documentary.

Alan Baumler has a great facility with images and with complicated historical and cultural issues.

Natalie Bennett did a very nice review of the Chinese women’s language Nushu, much easier reading than most of the academic treatments I’ve fallen asleep over.

Andrew Meyer, who has one of the coolest blog names I know, attempted meta-history, which got a little conversation going. He didn’t go quite as deep as to deny the existence of China, but it was still interesting.

The Angry Chinese Blogger seems to focus on controversies, like the lawsuit regarding the hundred-head race, textbooks and the degradation of the Great Wall in the face of development.

Owen Miller writes quite a bit on Korean history: for his “best foot forward” he offered to share his old book collection, in this case mid-20c Korean materials with fascinating histories. Miller also recommended Antti Leppanen’s Finnish language (but with lots of English links) Korean History course blog.

Konrad Lawson did some very nice work in Korean history a while back (and more to come, I’m sure): among my favorites were his discussions of the language and reality of slavery and an old geography text.

Todd Crowell, whose blogging is really just an offshoot of his fine reportage, notes the end of almost four decades of Narita protests.

Imperialism is a running theme in blogging about Japanese history, for obvious reasons. Jane Pickard used Kenkoku Kinen no Hi to talk about imperialism and anti-emperor sentiment in her family. Joi Ito used his impressively deep family history to talk about Japan’s new National ID system. Mutant Frog (no, they’re not a heretical offshoot of our group, really!) noticed that the Kodansha publishing house had an imperialistic background. And in the cultural imperalism category, KokuRyu noted both some successes and some problems in Japanese archaeology.

Without question the most controversial post on Frog in a Well so far has been Tak’s Jared Diamond piece. Konrad Lawson’s been plumbing the depths of historical memory, in the form of nostalgia and movies.

Finally, some of my own meanderings. A question about 1590s warfare led to Stephen Turnbull’s history of the Japanese invasions of Korea, which led me to read Turnbull’s Ninja.

Special thanks to Konrad Lawson, Natalie Bennett, J. Otto Pohl, Manan Ahmed and Owen Miller. All errors of fact, spelling, interpretation or tone are entirely my fault. Probably.

Wanna waste some time? Simon World’s Asian Blogroll is your one-stop shop.

The position of host is open! If you’re an Asian history blogger, you can volunteer to host the 12/12 edition! Or, just write some good history between now and then, and share it with all of us. Contact me.

Some Differing Approaches

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:55 am

I have been reading through a collection of books about the road to Japan’s annexation of Korea, mostly somewhat dry political history for my tastes. It is orals year for me so there will be a lot of postings related to readings in preparation for my modern Japan and modern Korea field (when also relevant to Japanese history) exams next Spring.

Today, after re-reading Peter Duus The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910 and taking some better notes, I wanted to do quick re-reads on this period in two other big narrative sweeps of Korean history: Carter J. Eckert, Ki-baik Lee, Young Ick Lew, Michael Robinson, and Edward W. Wagner eds. Korea Old and New: A History and Bruce Cumings Korea’s Place in the Sun. I then compared some notes with other books I read last year.

The complicated political history of the decades leading up to Japan’s annexation of Korea can tax the memory (I’ll post some notes on this at some point with people/timeline reference) and patience but at least the English language scholarship on this is quite limited, as far as I can tell. In contrast, disagreements and writing about Japanese imperialism in Korea has provoked some of the most bitter fights between Japanese and Korean scholars, even those who are eager to cooperate and don’t represent extreme wings in scholarship on either side.

I was interested, though not really surprised, to see that the differences on some of these touchy issues surrounding the 1905 Protectorate treaty etc. across the Pacific, seep into English language scholarship on the topic. Since many of these texts can find their way onto university history course materials, it is not without relevance for those teaching modern East Asian or Japan/Korea courses. These differences have a lot to do with which sources get used by the scholars in question, of course, and these usually trace back to previous Korean or Japanese secondary works on the issue. To show what I mean, below I’ll explore a few differences by comparing various accounts on a few specific events. I’ll use Young Ick Lew’s chapters in Korea Old and New as the starting point, since his claims come out the most concise and strongly worded.

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