Wu Feng’s downfall

Source: Taipei Times (9/10/17)
Taiwan in Time: The drastic downfall of Wu Feng
Revered for almost a century, the man who sacrificed himself to stop the Aboriginal practice of headhunting was removed from history textbooks in 1989, and slowly fading into obscurity
By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

A painting of Wu Feng arriving on a white horse wearing red, per the legend, hangs on the walls of the Wu Feng Temple in Chiayi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For almost a century, Wu Feng (吳鳳) was known as a selfless, compassionate hero. Under both Japanese and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule, every child read in school about how Wu sacrificed himself to stop Aborigines from their “savage and backward headhunting practices.”

Here’s the gist of the story: Wu spent much time with the Tsou Aborigines in what is today Chiayi County, teaching them how to farm and make crafts. After trying to delay their headhunting ritual to no avail, Wu told them to decapitate a man in red clothes who would pass by the next day. They did so, only to find that the man was Wu himself. Shocked and deeply saddened, the Aborigines vowed to give up the practice forever. Continue reading

Network of Concerned Historians 2017 report

Below find the China section of the 2017 annual report from the Network of Concerned Historians.–Kirk

Source: Network of Concerned Historians
Annual Report 2017

In 2013, historian Hong Zhenkuai, a former executive editor of the history journal Yanhuang Chunqiu (China Through the Ages), challenged in two articles the official narrative about the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain, whose reportedly heroic defense of the area against invading Japanese troops and ensuing suicide in 1941 became part of the revolutionary mythology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In August 2015, the sons of two of the five men sued him. On 27 June 2016, the Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court ruled that Hong had defamed the heroes and that he should apologize publicly on websites and news outlets to the complainants. In its verdict, it wrote that Hong’s articles failed to portray the five men positively and, “based on insufficient evidence,” cast doubt on the CCP’s narrative of events. According to the verdict, “The national sentiments, historical memories and the national spirit reflected in the five heroes of Langya Mountain and their story are important sources and components of modern China’s socialist core values … Thus, it also damages the Chinese nation’s spiritual values.” On 15 August 2016, the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court upheld the ruling. In a reaction, Hong declared that he would not apologize, saying that the plaintiffs had not provided any evidence that disproved his findings: “This is basic academic freedom, and I need to maintain my dignity as an intellectual.” The court would probably publish the verdict in the news media and order Hong to pay the publication costs. In July 2016, one of the plaintiffs, Ge Changsheng, had said in an interview that Hong’s articles negated CCP history and heroes and constituted “historical nihilism”. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity (1)

I would like to share a news article about the film Twenty-Two that was translated from Chinese and posted on the city hall official website of Jinhua, Zhejiang.

Marco Lovisetto <mlovisetto@gmail.com>

Source: Jinhua.gov.cn (8/30/17)
Documentary on Comfort Women

August 14, 2017 marks the fifth International Comfort Women Day, which is also the day of the release of Twenty-Two, the first documentary about comfort women allowed to be officially released in China.

On August 12, two days before the film’s debut, 90-year-old Huang Youliang, the only survivor in mainland China who once sued the Japanese government for levying comfort women, passed away at her home in Lingshui Li Autonomous County of Hainan Province.

Su Zhiliang, a professor of Shanghai Normal University and director of the Research Center of Chinese Comfort Women, delivered the news to Jinhua Daily immediately when he saw Huang’s obituary. He urged Jinhua Daily to take good care of the one former comfort woman in Jinhua and keep him informed about her well-being. Continue reading

Twenty-Two’s popularity

Source: Sup China (2/28/17)
Documentary on World War II ‘comfort women’ might become most profitable Chinese movie of all time
Pang-Chieh Ho gives you the latest news from one of China’s most dynamic industries.
By Pang-Chieh Ho

A promotional photo for Twenty-Two

When Twenty-Two (二十二 èr shí èr), a documentary that interviews 22 surviving World War II sex slaves, debuted in mainland Chinese theaters on August 14, nobody had expected that it would be such a big hit with Chinese moviegoers. Made from a paltry budget of 3 million yuan ($450,000), Twenty-Two managed to buck expectations. Not only is it the first documentary to make more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) at China’s box office, according to Mtime (in Chinese), but if it ends up grossing 300 million yuan ($45 million), a goal that analysts are confident the documentary will attain, it will also become the most profitable Chinese movie of all time (in Chinese). Continue reading

China’s manipulation of history is infecting the West

Source: Washington Post (8/23/17)
China’s odious manipulation of history is infecting the West
By John Pomfret

A man takes a selfie last year near a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping on display at an exhibition at the military museum in Beijing. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The announcement last week by Cambridge University Press that it had removed some 300 articles from a Chinese website hosting the China Quarterly, one of the premier academic journals on Chinese affairs, is yet another example of an assault on history by the People’s Republic of China. Censorship is a key element in the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy to stay in power. In so doing, it aims, one scholar has written, “to control China’s future by shaping consciousness of its past.”

Cambridge made the decision to block access to these articles after China’s General Administration of Press and Publication threatened to cut access in China to all of the journals published by Cambridge University Press. The offending articles in question appeared in the China Quarterly as far back as 1960 and concerned a range of topics considered sensitive in today’s China. There were pieces on the disastrous famine sparked by the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, the suppression of the Falun Gong religious sect and the troubled legacy of Mao Zedong. Continue reading

Cultural Revolution Selfies

Source: NYT (8/19/17)
When Self-Criticism Was an Order, These Portraits Were Revolutionary
查看简体中文版  /查看繁體中文版

Wang Qiuhang in Beijing in 1966. A new book of Mr. Wang’s photography is called “Cultural Revolution Selfies.” CreditWang Qiuhang/New Century Press

BEIJING — China’s Cultural Revolution, the decade-long campaign remembered for its fanaticism and upheaval, began in 1966 and was enforced by radicalized students who pledged to put the Communist Party ahead of self.

Mao Zedong’s army of young cadres was encouraged to suppress individuality in favor of a greater communal cause — no matter how dangerous the mob became.

At a time marked by forced confessions known as self-criticism, one young photographer, Wang Qiuhang, turned his camera on himself, subversively celebrating the self rather than suppressing it. Continue reading

Documentary about comfort women

List members might be interested to know that a documentary on Chinese comfort women opened in cinemas in China this week. This film is the project of a young director named Guo Ke 郭柯 who filmed his interviews with the survivors of comfort women for Japanese soldiers during WWII. Financial assistance was provided by a TV drama star who sought the support of TV and film celebrities in China, including director Feng Xiaogang 冯小刚, her husband Yuan Hong 袁弘, also a hot TV drama personality and other friends to help promote the film. The documentary shows the now elderly women plainly and let them speak for themselves. When Guo began the project, thirty of them were still alive. By the time the film was completed, only twenty two were left. That is why the film is titled Twenty Two. By now, when the film is ready to be shown, only eight were still living.

Lily Lee <l.lee@sydney.edu.au>

China’s quest to end its century of shame

Source: NYT (7/13/17)
China’s Quest to End Its Century of Shame

CreditMatt Chase

SHANGHAI — At an ocean research center on Hainan Island off China’s southern coast, officials routinely usher visitors into a darkened screening room to watch a lavishly produced People’s Liberation Army video about China’s ambitions to reassert itself as a great maritime power.

As enormous, new naval vessels plow through high seas, a deep male voice intones: “China’s oceanic and overseas interests are developing rapidly. Our land is vast, but we will not yield a single inch to foreigners.” Continue reading

Foreign aggression didn’t trigger China’s decline (1)

Drawing on the same paper by economists from Oxford, Peking & Tsinghua universities as Frank Ching, The Economist published an article entitled “A not-so-golden age: China has been poorer than Europe longer than the party thinks” — How will this affect Xi’s ”Chinese dream”? (June 15, 2017)

The paper can be downloaded here: “China, Europe and the Great Divergence: A Study in Historical National Accounting, 980-1850.” If the findings hold up, then Ken Pomeranz’ The Great Divergence will be called into question.

Robert Y. Eng 伍若賢 <robert_eng@redlands.edu>

Foreign aggression didn’t trigger China’s decline

Source: ejinsight (7/17/17)
Foreign aggression didn’t trigger China’s decline, says study
By Frank Ching

During the Northern Song dynasty, China was a prosperous country but by the Opium War in the 19th century, it had become the sick man of Asia. Photo: ThingLink.com

China’s leader Xi Jinping, in a July 1 speech to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, brought up the Opium War, under which a victorious Britain wrested Hong Kong Island from “a weak China under corrupt and incompetent feudal rule.”

To underline China’s humiliation, he pointed out that the British sent a mere 10,000 troops and were able to defeat the Qing dynasty, which boasted an 800,000-strong army. The British triumph, he said, was followed by China’s defeat by other countries “which were far smaller in size and population.” Continue reading

Interview with Wang Hui

The Role of Intellectuals in China’s History, an Interview with Wang Hui

Harvard’s Peter Bol and Yu Wen interview visiting professor Wang Hui to discuss the changing role of intellectuals in China’s history. By tracing discourse on Chinese intellectuals back to Neo-Confucian debates in the Song Dynasty, Wang Hui examines intellectual history over the longue durée, as discussed in his four-volume work,The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought《現代中國思想的興起》(2004–2009).

Watch the full interview on the Fairbank Center’s YouTube page:

Peter Bol is Vice Provost for Advances in Learning and the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Wang Hui is a Visiting Professor in East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the Harvard-Yenching Institue, and Professor of literature and history at Tsinghua University.

Yu Wen is a Ph.D. student in history at Harvard University.

This interview was produced by ChinaX and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.


Singapore dispute

Source: NYT (7/4/17)
Dispute Over Singapore Founder’s House Becomes a National Crisis

SINGAPORE — Two years after his death, no memorials, statues or streets in Singapore are named after Lee Kuan Yew, who established this city-state as a modern nation and built it into a prosperous showcase for his view that limited political freedoms best suit Asian values.

Now a bitter and public family dispute over the fate of his modest house has shattered Singapore’s image as an orderly authoritarian ideal and hinted at deeper divisions about its political future. Continue reading

Footage of comfort women in Yunnan (1)

At a panel of the annual New York Conference on Asian Studies just a few years ago, it was strongly suggested by an historian of the Pacific War that more accurate vocabulary be used when referring to this phenomenon, namely: we should refer to “rape stations” rather than “comfort stations”,  and “sex slaves” rather than “comfort women.” He further suggested that “stations” was a euphemism, since the women were forcibly kept there, as prisoners.

Nick Kaldis <nkaldis@gmail.com>