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

Rewriting the history of HK

Source: SCMP (5/1/18)
Government is rewriting the history of Hong Kong, one inconvenient phrase at a time
‘Handover of sovereignty’ no longer an acceptable way to refer to the events of 1997, according to government department
By Alvin Lum

The history surrounding the handover of Hong Kong to China is changing. Photo: AFP

After the proposed removal of the words “taking back” from school textbooks to describe the return of the city to China in 1997, the Post has learned that the official protocol office has changed its website to erase any mention of a “handover of sovereignty”.

The Protocol Division, which is responsible for receiving foreign dignitaries and consuls general, was found to have made the changes after the Post filed an inquiry about the guidelines on terms used by the government to describe the handover from Britain. Continue reading

Five ways China’s past has shaped its present

Source: BBC (4/20/18)
Five ways China’s past has shaped its present
By Prof Rana Mitter, University of Oxford

To understand today’s headlines about China’s approach to issues such as trade, foreign policy or internet censorship, turn to its past.

The country is perhaps more aware of its own history than any other major society on earth. That remembering is certainly partial – events like Mao’s Cultural Revolution are still very difficult to discuss within China itself. But it is striking how many echoes of the past can be found in its present.


China remembers a time when it was forced to trade against its will. Today it regards Western efforts to open its markets as a reminder of that unhappy period. Continue reading

Everyday politics in the Ming

Source: Aeon (4/11/18)
Everyday politics
Imperial Chinese conscription shows how ordinary people exercise influential political skills, even in a repressive state
By Michael Szonyi

It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that because people in the past didn’t live in democracies, they must have faced fewer political choices and had fewer political skills than we do. It is true that imperial subjects did not choose their emperors in democratic elections. But if we think about politics in a broader sense – as encompassing all of the diverse interactions between a state, its agents and its population – we soon realise that ordinary people in the past operated in complex political arenas, and often developed sophisticated political skills. Historians can sometimes reconstruct these skills even for ordinary people in the distant past. Continue reading

Chroniclers of Chinese architecture

Source: NYT (4/12/18)
Overlooked No More: Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng, Chroniclers of Chinese Architecture
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版
In the 1930s, the couple began surveying and recording the country’s overlooked ancient buildings, in an effort to begin preserving them.
By Daniel E. Slotnik

Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng on their honeymoon in Europe in 1928.CreditCPA/Picture Alliance

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. We launched Overlooked to tell the stories of women who left indelible marks on society, but whose deaths went unremarked by our newspaper. Now we’re expanding our lens to include other notable people — many of them marginalized — who were omitted.

Many of China’s ancient architectural treasures crumbled to dust before Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng began documenting them in the 1930s. In China, ancient structures were usually treated like any other buildings rather than being protected and studied, as they were in many Western countries. The husband and wife team were among the first preservationists to operate in China, and by far the best known. Their efforts have since inspired generations of people to speak out for architecture threatened by the rush toward development. Continue reading

Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History no. 98

Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, no. 98

The latest issue of Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Vol. 98 is now available online at:



The Pride of Public Spittoons? Anti-Spitting Movements in Hong Kong, New York, and Shanghai
By Sean Hsiang-lin Lei

The Transition of North China’s Rural Leadership in the Twentieth Century: An Oral History Investigation
By Chen Yao-huang

A Puppet Organization in Occupied East China during the Early Period of the Anti-Japanese War: A Study of the Zhenjiang Branch of the Daminhui
By Liu Jie Continue reading

Anna Chennault dies at 94

Source: SCMP (4/4/18)
Anna Chennault, China-born Washington power broker and hostess, dies at 94
Anna Chennault’s marriage to a storied American general, three decades her senior, put her at the centre of Asian and US diplomatic, military and commercial circles, and she became a leading figure in the ‘China lobby’
By Agencies

Anna Chennault in 1968, with a portrait of her late husband, Claire Chennault. File photo: AP

Anna Chennault, the Chinese journalist who married the legendary leader of the second world war Flying Tigers squadron and, after his death, became a Republican power broker in Washington, has died at the age of 94.

A doyenne of Washington society in the 1960s, she charmed politicians and diplomats while running her late husband’s cargo airline, becoming embroiled in the Richard Nixon election scandal known as the Anna Chennault Affair, and funnelling large sums of Nationalist Chinese money to Republicans. Continue reading

Historian Shen Zhihua

Source: NYT (3/23/18)
Shining a Cleansing Light on China’s Dark Secrets
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版

The Chinese historian Shen Zhihua, who has an impeccable Communist Party pedigree, argues that the party need not fear being challenged about its past. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

BEIJING — Shen Zhihua, bon vivant, former businessman, now China’s foremost Cold War historian, has set himself a near-impossible task. He wants China to peel back its secrets, throw open its archives and tell its citizens what went on between China and the United States, between China and North Korea, and much more.

Even before the hard-line era of President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has acted like a supersensitive corporation, blocking highly regarded historians like Mr. Shen from peering too deeply. Precious documents have been destroyed, stolen or kept under seal by librarians skilled at deflecting the inquiries of even the most tenacious researchers. Continue reading

Archaeologist confident they have found Cao Cao

Source: SCMP (3/26/18)
Archaeologists confident they have found body of fabled Chinese warlord Cao Cao
Experts convinced tomb complex marks last resting place of celebrated historic figure
By Laura Zhou

A statue of Cao Cao at Weiwudi Square in Xuchang, Henan. Photo: Handout

Archaeologists are convinced they have found the remains of Cao Cao, the most prominent warlord in China 1,800 years ago.

Experts at the Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Heritage and Archaeology recently concluded that the remains of an adult male in his sixties found at a burial site in central China was Cao Cao, the news portal Red Star News reported on Sunday.

Cao Cao was a central figure in China’s Three Kingdoms period (220-280) and later featured as a central character in the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Continue reading

Sino-British botanical exchanges in the 18th-19th centuries

I would like to introduce this incoming talk about the botanical interactions between Britain and China in the 18th century which I will co-present on March 24th in Oxford.

Botanical Art, Botanical Commerce: Britain meets China at the Dawn of Modernity
Oxford (United Kingdom) March 24th (12:45)


Former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew Sir Peter Crane, author and expert in the history of science, medicine and culture Jordan Goodman and expert in Sino-British exchanges and China Trade paintings Josepha Richard discuss the John Bradby Blake collection.


The Oak Spring Garden Foundation, Virginia, USA, contains the archive of 18th-century East India Company supercargo John Bradby Blake. Blake first visited Canton in 1767/68 as a trader and, before his death in 1773, his collaboration with the Chinese artist Mauk-Sow-U produced over 150 striking and botanically accurate paintings of Chinese plants. These paintings and the associated archives provide details of an interesting life and previously little-known dimensions of late 18th-century social and scientific interactions between the British and Chinese, including British attempts to secure living plants that could prove useful at home and in its colonies. Continue reading

Who killed more: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao

Source: NY Review of Books (2/5/18)
Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?
By Ian Johnson

Chairman Mao attending a military review in Beijing, China, 1967 (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

In these pages nearly seven years ago, Timothy Snyder asked the provocative question: Who killed more, Hitler or Stalin? As useful as that exercise in moral rigor was, some think the question itself might have been slightly off. Instead, it should have included a third tyrant of the twentieth century, Chairman Mao. And not just that, but that Mao should have been the hands-down winner, with his ledger easily trumping the European dictators’.

While these questions can devolve into morbid pedantry, they raise moral questions that deserve a fresh look, especially as these months mark the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Mao’s most infamous experiment in social engineering, the Great Leap Forward. It was this campaign that caused the deaths of tens of millions and catapulted Mao Zedong into the big league of twentieth-century murders. Continue reading

New Wang Hui translations

Two new pieces by Wang Hui of possible interest to list members were recently published in English online. These translations, which I did with fellow Ph.D. student Benjamin Kindler, cover a wide range of topics in Chinese revolutionary and cultural history.

The first is actually an interview between Wang and the curators of the Guggenheim exhibition “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World”. It can be downloaded here:

The second piece is a lengthy article printed in the special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly (vol. 116 issue 4), dedicated to the Soviet Centenary. The issue was published last October, but just became available online. Please find the article abstract below: Continue reading