Gao Wangling obituary

Source: The Chinese University Press (9/6/18)
悼念高王凌教授 Obituary for Professor Gao Wangling
by Professor Felix Wemheuer (文浩)

The death of Professor Gao Wangling on August 24, 2018 at the age of 68 is very sad news for the field of Chinese history, but also for me personally. When I was a foreign student at Renmin University in Beijing from 2000 to 2002, I took several of his courses on the history of collectivization and peasants. Professor Gao was a well-known expert from the Research Institute for Qing History, but he also felt compelled to do research to understand the fate of Chinese peasants under Mao. His own experience as a “sent-down youth” in Shanxi during the Cultural Revolution deeply affected him so that he could not turn his back on rural China. I learnt from him that peasants in the Mao era were not naïve objects of party policies. Below the surface, they carried out “counter-actions” (反行為) such as underreporting of production, theft, organizing black markets or hiding “black land.” During the great famine (1959–1961), they lost the battle against a state that forcibly took too much grain from their villages. Professor Gao argued that peasants in the era of the People’s Commune were forced to react with “counter-actions” against state policies simply to survive. His research helped deconstruct the official myth of unity between the party and peasants. Continue reading

Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, no. 99

The latest issue of Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Vol. 99 is now available online at:


Was Jesus a Filial Son? Changes in the Discourse on Filial Piety in Chinese Christianity from Late Ming to Early Republican China
By Lu Miaw-fen

The Transformation of Mobilization: The Rectification of Leftist Tendencies in the Taihang Base Area
By Wang Longfei

[Research and Discussion]

Intellectual History and Modern History: Recent Trends in English-language Scholarship
By Fu Yang

[Book Reviews]

Fan Guangxin, Confucian Canonical Scholarship as Arts of Governance—Jingshi Ideal among Late Qing Neo-Confucian Moral Philosophers of Hunan, Reviewed by Chiu Wenhao

Posted by: Jhih-Hong Jheng

Cross-Currents, June 2018

New China-related content in Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (June 2018 online issue):

Review essay:

Situating the History of Medicine Within Chinese History
Marta Hanson, Johns Hopkins University
Andrew Schonebaum. Novel Medicine: Healing, Literature, and Popular Knowledge in Early Modern China (University of Washington Press, 2016).
Hilary A. Smith. Forgotten Disease: Illnesses Transformed in Chinese Medicine (Stanford University Press, 2017).

Photo essay:

The Cultural Revolution in Images: Caricature Posters from Guangzhou, 1966–1977
Curated by Laura Pozzi, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Continue reading

Memorializing Sent-Down Youth

List members might be interested in the following recent publication.–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Bury Me With My Comrades: Memorializing Mao’s Sent-Down Youth
By Magnus Fiskesjö
Asia-Pacific Journal, Volume 16, Issue 14, Number 4 (July 15, 2018)


Over the last decade or so, China has seen an unprecedented building boom of museums and memorials. One curious new genre is the museums for Mao-era “Cultural Revolution” youth “sent down” to the countryside by Mao during the 1960s and 1970s. After Mao’s death, they struggled to return to the cities. Surviving returnees have recently established several museums commemorating their suffering and sacrifice, even though the topic is politically fraught and the period’s history is strictly censored in official museums and histories. One museum, the Shanghai Educated Youth Museum, doubles as a memorial site and a collective cemetery for former sent-down youth who wish to be buried together. This paper locates these memorials and burial grounds in their historical and political context. It also reflects the Shanghai institutions’ copying of the design and architecture of the Korea and Vietnam war memorials in Washington D.C.

Keywords: China, sent-down youth, museums, memorials, cemeteries

Oldest evidence of human life outside Africa

Source: The Guardian (7/11/18)
Stone tools found in China could be oldest evidence of human life outside Africa
Discovery of simple stone tools suggests human ancestors were in Asia as early as 2.1m years ago
By Agence France-Presse

Scientists unearthed the tools at a site in the Loess Plateau in China.

Scientists unearthed the tools at a site in the Loess Plateau in China. Photograph: Zhaoyu Zhu/AP

The remains of crudely fashioned stone tools unearthed in China suggest human ancestors were in Asia 2.1m years ago, more than 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, scientists said on Wednesday.

If correctly dated, the find means that hominins – the group of humans and our extinct forefather species – left Africa earlier than archaeologists have been able to demonstrate thus far, a team reported in the scientific journal Nature. Continue reading

Network of Concerned Historians 2018 report

Source: Network of Concerned Historians 2018

Below find the “China” section of the report. For the full report, see:


In [2017], civil law was amended to punish “those who infringe upon the name, likeness, reputation, or honor of a hero or martyr, harming the societal public interest.” The legislation introduced the term “historical nihilism.” Chinese President Xi Jinping perceived independent historians with critical ideas about the official history of the Communist Party and its heroes as producers of “historical nihilism.” In a 2013 speech, he had said that in recent years “hostile forces” at home and abroad had “attacked, vilified and defamed” China’s modern history with the aim of overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party. He believed that sloppiness on the historical front had contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.33

In March 2017, a historical novel, Ruanmai (Soft Burial) (People’s Literature Publishing House, 2016), written by Fang Fang, came under attack from Maoists because in describing the excesses during the land reform in the 1950s, it appeared to sympathize with the landlords. Critics believed that the novel discredited land reform, a major feat of the Communist Party of China, and saw it as a form of historical nihilism. The novel told the story of a dying woman, by following her buried memories and her son’s investigation of his family’s past. The wife of a rich landlord’s son in eastern Sichuan Province in the late 1940s, she witnessed her husband’s entire family committing suicide. Many of the landlords and their families were killed or tortured during the campaigns, even after their land was confiscated. The book was not banned. Continue reading

Comparative crackdowns

Matthew Robertson has an essay on China Change exploring the similarities between the crackdown on Falun Gong that commenced in 1999 and the vast coercive re-education program now being implemented in Xinjiang.

Mr. Robertson does not pretend to be an impartial observer; but in this short article he offers a remarkably perceptive analysis.

A. E. Clark <>

Academia Sinica position

Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica position

Submission Deadline: September 15, 2018

  1. Position: Researcher (open rank Research Fellow, Associate Research Fellow, or Assistant Research Fellow).
  2. Field: Modern history.
  3. Qualifications:
    • Ph.D.(Taiwan or foreign). Applicants who have passed their final oral defense of doctoral dissertation are encouraged to apply.
    • Good comprehension of Chinese is required.
    • Under the applying Act, this position is not open to the P.R.O.C. citizens. Continue reading

How a Chu silk manuscript ended up in Washington

Source: NYT (6/8/18)
How a Chinese Manuscript Written 2,300 Years Ago Ended Up in Washington
By Ian Johnson

The Chu Silk Manuscript is from the Warring States period, around 475 to 221 B.C., a crucial era when lasting Chinese traditions like Confucianism and Taoism took shape.CreditCollection of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York, photograph courtesy of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

BEIJING — Sitting in an underground storeroom near the Washington Mall is a tiny silk parchment. Written 2,300 years ago, it is a Chinese version of the Dead Sea Scrolls, with text that swirls like the stars through the firmament and describes the relationship between humans and heaven.

For decades, the ancient document, known as the Chu Silk Manuscript, has fascinated people seeking an understanding of the origins of Chinese civilization. But it has been hidden from public view because of its fragility — and the uncertain circumstances by which it ended up in the United States. Continue reading

Wang Yang criticizes CR

Source: SCMP (6/7/18)
Top Chinese Communist Party cadre criticises Cultural Revolution for damage to tradition
Wang Yang applauds Taiwan for preserving aspects of the past in rare reference to party’s dark past
By Jun Mai

In Xiamen on Wednesday, Wang Yang (centre), chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, meets Taiwanese living in Fujian province. Photo: CNA 

The Communist Party’s top political adviser has openly derided the Cultural Revolution for damaging traditional Chinese culture, in a rare reference by a senior Chinese official to the dark chapter in the party’s history.

“The Cultural Revolution eliminated a large part of both the essence and the dregs of traditional culture on the mainland,” said Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body. “But Taiwan preserved it well.” Continue reading

Tiananmen vigil in HK

Source: SCMP (6/4/18)
Tiananmen anniversary vigil in Hong Kong: event organiser Albert Ho gives eulogy declaring ‘ruthless regime will not last forever’
‘The wounds have not healed, the blood has not dried … and justice has not been upheld,’ says chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
By Tony Cheung Kimmy Chung

All six soccer pitches at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay have been filled by attendees at the June 4 candlelight vigil. Photo: Winson Wong

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Victoria Park in Hong Kong to mark the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown with organisers of an annual candlelight vigil vowing not to stop calling for an end to one-party rule in mainland China.

The vigil is the only large-scale public gathering in China to remember the crackdown on June 4, 1989, that brought an abrupt end to a pro-democracy movement in the heart of Beijing. Many activists, including students and civilians, died. Though the death toll may never be known, hundreds, maybe more than 1,000, were killed.

While large crowds are still drawn to the event, attendance has dwindled in recent years. Organisers are estimating a turnout of 100,000 to 150,000 this time, despite a boycott by university student unions for the fourth year in a row. Follow the latest below: Continue reading

Archaeologist Zhao Kangmin dies at 82

Source: NPR (5/20/18)
Archaeologist Who Uncovered China’s 8,000-Man Terra Cotta Army Dies At 82

Lifelike clay soldiers at the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses in Xi’an, northwestern China. The first figures were reconstructed by archaeologist Zhao Kangmin, who died Wednesday. Ludovic Marin /AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese archaeologist who identified a long-lost clay army consisting of 8,000 soldiers died Wednesday, according to China’s state media.

Zhao Kangmin first laid eyes on fragments of terra cotta warriors in 1974. Farmers some 20 miles from China’s central city of Xi’an were digging a well and struck into the pieces.

They had no idea what they had found — an army that had been interred for more than 2,000 years to guard China’s first emperor. Continue reading

China Bound, 1964

Source: LARB, China Channel (5/10/18)
China Bound, 1964
By Bill Callahan

Beijing before the start of the Cultural Revolution – a video by Bill Callahan

In the early 1960s, after being embarrassed at diplomatic events by the mistakes of his interpreters, Zhou Enlai decided that the Foreign Ministry needed to recruit English native speakers to train a new cadre of translators. Australians Colin and Alyce Mackerras answered Zhou’s call, and in August 1964 went to teach English at the Beijing Foreign Languages Institute for two years. Bill Callahan’s short video ‘China Bound 1964’ explores Colin’s experiences as he encountered a radically different way of life. Leaving China in September 1966, he witnessed the transformation of Chinese society provoked by the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

The film shows how the fine-grained experience of everyday life – teaching class, riding a bike, having a baby – can convey unexpected meanings about grand geopolitical events. With thanks to Bill, ‘China Bound 1964’ is embedded below and also streamable on Vimeo:

Photos from Republican China (1)

Before I could begin reading the MCLC item on this interesting topic, I was brought up short by a phrase in the heading, in the run-up to the country’s 1949 reunification. Is reunification now the word to passively accept as we read? Incidentally, what is the Chinese for this?

A long time ago, this word was Liberation, was it not? used without cavil by nearly all in the English language. More recently, it has been 新中國, not yet, as far as I know, adopted into English usage. Reunification is new to me. Perhaps listserve readers have information.

Earlier this week, MCLC posted an item from South China Morning Post that pointed out a change in textbook usage regarding a historic and historical date in Hong Kong history – from handover of sovereignty via taking back to the plain erasure of using the date alone, since July 1, 1997. It is easy to feel pessimistic about the usefulness of writing alone, but perhaps there can be at least such a piece of writing about changing nomenclature since 1949.

Best regards,

Eva Chou <>

Photos from Republican China

Source: Sixth Tone (5/3/18)
A Fragile Peace: Photographs From Republican China
Snapshots of daily life in the run-up to the country’s 1949 reunification show that China’s early 20th century was not a time of constant conflict.
By Feng Keli

A kindergarten teacher leads a group of children in games on the campus of Ginling College, Nanjing, Jiangsu province, 1935. Courtesy of ‘Old Photos’

This is the fifth article in a series on “Old Photos,” a Chinese-language publication that collects images of the country’s modern history. Parts one, two, three, and four can be found here.

A friend once asked which image most moved me during my 22-year editorship of “Old Photos,” a series of Chinese photography books. Although I have published thousands of pictures, one of them — a shot of a kindergarten teacher playing with a group of children on a lawn — particularly stands out, I replied. Continue reading