A Conference in Honor of Wang Zheng

Gender in Chinese Studies: A Conference in Honor of Wang Zheng

Join us as we celebrate the career and contributions of Wang Zheng, pioneering feminist and scholar, beloved teacher, and esteemed colleague!

This conference features papers by her former students as well as current graduate students, and a keynote address by Gail Hershatter (Distinguished Professor of History, UC Santa Cruz). We will reflect on the development of Chinese gender studies, past and present, and explore future directions for research. This conference is sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies Department and the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan.

Schedule overview (times in EDT):

9:30 am–Welcome
10:00 am–Panel #1 (“Archives and History”)
12 noon–Keynote address, Gail Hershatter
2:00 pm–Panel #2 (“Scholarship and Activism”)

10:00 am–UM graduate student panel (“Future Directions”)
11:10 am–Lunch and mingle
1:00 pm–Panel #3 (“Interspecies, Affects, and Boundary Pushing”)
2:45–Closing remarks by Wang Zheng

NOTE: Advance registration is required for this free Zoom event. Visit this link to register.

For the most up-to-date details on participants, papers, and abstracts, please see our Google Doc schedule.

Intellectual Groups in Post-Mao China

Talk title: Intellectual Groups in Post-Mao China, 1976—2000
Time and Location: Wednesday, March 31, 7pm EST, virtual talk
Organizer: Chinese program and political science department, University of Richmond


In contemporary China, people often speak of “left” or “right” as an indicator of one’s political orientation, but what does such a label mean? Commentators often say that ideological designators in China are different, or even to the contrary of, those in the West, but how did that happen? In this talk, I propose that we go back to history to find the answer. I will trace the evolution of China’s intellectual field, paying particular attention to the key debates and the formation of intellectual groups. If we view liberalism and the New Left as “communities of discourse” rather than coherent political philosophies, we will be able to appreciate the complexity of contemporary Chinese political thought.

Speaker: Junpeng Li, his profile is available at:  http://english.ccnu.edu.cn/info/1028/3014.htm

To attend this event, please register at: https://forms.gle/X7QmUgWvHcN24eyn7. A link to the virtual talk will be sent to you the day before the event.

Posted by: Gengsong Gao

The Suicide of Miss Xi

The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic
By Bryna Goodman
Harvard University Press. 352 pages. HARDCOVER $39.95 • £31.95 • €36.00; ISBN 9780674248823
Publication Date: 07/13/2021

About this book

A suicide scandal in Shanghai reveals the social fault lines of democratic visions in China’s troubled Republic in the early 1920s.

On September 8, 1922, the body of Xi Shangzhen was found hanging in the Shanghai newspaper office where she worked. Although her death occurred outside of Chinese jurisdiction, her U.S.-educated employer, Tang Jiezhi, was kidnapped by Chinese authorities and put on trial. In the unfolding scandal, novelists, filmmakers, suffragists, reformers, and even a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party seized upon the case as emblematic of deep social problems. Xi’s family claimed that Tang had pressured her to be his concubine; his conviction instead for financial fraud only stirred further controversy. Continue reading

In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Guangchen Chen’s tribute to Fou Ts’ong (1934-2020), “The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist: In Memory of Fou Ts’ong.” To read the whole essay, which includes images and video clips, click here. A teaser appears below. My thanks to Guangchen Chen for sharing with us his memories of Fou Ts’ong.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Sufferings and Greatness of a Vulnerable Artist:
In Memory of Fou Ts’ong

By Guangchen Chen

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March 2021)

Fu Ts’ong program note from a performance in New York in the 1965-66 season.

As if 2020 were not bad enough: about a week before Christmas, I received an email from the pianist Patsy Toh; I assumed it was her usual kind holiday greetings. Instead, it was to inform me that both she and her husband and musical partner Fou Ts’ong 傅聰 tested positive of COVID-19. Patsy seemed to be doing OK and was out of hospital already. Ts’ong would stay on for a few more days, and was expected back home for Christmas. I was shocked, knowing how reclusive they were. And I was worried: Ts’ong was 86 and a lifelong lover of pipe smoking. But I was also hopeful, because he had, until recently, always been bursting with vitality and had weathered one challenge after another through his dramatic life. But 2020 proved, right up to the end, deadly: he passed away on December 28.

Fou Ts’ong was a pianist of rare musical sensitivity and formidable cultural sophistication. Born in Shanghai in 1934, he was raised in an atmosphere steeped in learning, both East and West. He was tutored at home by his father, the eminent translator of French literature and art critic Fu Lei 傅雷,[1] who spent his formative years in Europe. Fou Ts’ong grew up in the company of old recordings made by Wilhelm Furtwängler, Edwin Fischer, and the Capet Quartet, among others. With relatively scant formal training, he debuted with the Shanghai Symphony at the age of 17. In 1953, he won the third prize at the George Enescu Competition in Romania, and then the third prize and best mazurka performance at the 1955 Chopin Competition in Poland. Subsequently, he had an international performing career that spanned almost six decades. But what distinguished him as a unique artist was his ability to combine the aesthetics of two distinctively different traditions—the Chinese and the European. Furthermore, he and his family were victims of Mao Zedong’s communism, and the pain he suffered his whole adult life can be heard in a palpable way in his music. [continue reading]

The Landscape of Historical Memory

If I might indulge in a little shameless self-promotion…

The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post–Martial Law Taiwan (歷史記憶的景觀:戒嚴後的台灣博物館和紀念文化的政治意義)
Kirk A. Denton
Hong Kong University Press (March 2021)
Hardback 978-988-8528-57-8

The Landscape of Historical Memory explores the place of museums and memorial culture in the contestation over historical memory in post–martial law Taiwan. The book is particularly oriented toward the role of politics—especially political parties—in the establishment, administration, architectural design, and historical narratives of museums. It is framed around the wrangling between the “blue camp” (the Nationalist Party, or KMT, and its supporters) and the “green camp” (Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, and its supporters) over what facets of the past should be remembered and how they should be displayed in museums. Organized into chapters focused on particular types of museums and memorial spaces (such as archaeology museums, history museums, martyrs’ shrines, war museums, memorial halls, literature museums, ethnology museums, and ecomuseums), the book presents a broad overview of the state of museums in Taiwan in the past three decades. The case of Taiwan museums tells us much about Cold War politics and its legacy in East Asia; the role of culture, history, and memory in shaping identities in the “postcolonial” landscape of Taiwan; the politics of historical memory in an emergent democracy, especially in counterpoint to the politics of museums in the People’s Republic of China, which continues to be an authoritarian single party state; and the place of museums in a neoliberal economic climate.

Kirk A. Denton is a professor of Chinese language and literature at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China (2014) and The Problematic of Self in Modern Chinese Literature: Hu Feng and Lu Ling (1998). He is also editor of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

HK rewrites history

Editors at the New York Times are incrementally making more accurate the headline to this story. The first online edition on Tues read, astonishingly, “Curates History”; yesterday’s print edition read, inadequately, “Edits History.” This one at least says “Rewrites History.” For its next appearance, perhaps they will use the more direct “Distorts History.”–Eva S. Chou

Source: NYT (2/24/21)
To Build Loyalty to China, Hong Kong Rewrites History
Through new lesson plans and expensive publishing projects, the government hopes to teach future generations a curated lesson about Hong Kong’s past.
By Vivian Wang

Golden Bauhinia Square, a symbol of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The orders seemed innocuous, even obvious: Primary school students in Hong Kong should read picture books about Chinese traditions and learn about famous sites such as the Forbidden City in Beijing or the Great Wall.

But the goal was only partially to nurture an interest in the past. The central aim of the new curriculum guidelines, unveiled by the Hong Kong government this month, was much more ambitious: to use those historical stories to instill in the city’s youngest residents a deep-rooted affinity for mainland China — and, with it, an unwavering loyalty to its leaders and their strong-arm tactics.

Students, the guidelines said, should develop “a sense of belonging to the country, an affection for the Chinese people, a sense of national identity, as well as an awareness of and a sense of responsibility for safeguarding national security.”

The Chinese government, in its efforts to quash dissent, has imposed a strict set of restrictions on Hong Kong, including new rules this week to bar any candidates deemed disloyal to the Community Party from elected office. Continue reading

Serve the people, discipline the Party

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/19/21
Serve the People, Discipline the Party
By Jonathan Chatwin
Jonathan Chatwin visits a new museum dedicated to Party Discipline in Wuhan

A statue display of Chinese Communist Party founders at the Chinese Communist Party Discipline Building Exhibition Hall in Wuhan. All photos courtesy of the author.

“Do you know where Mao’s old house is?” the hotel receptionist asked his colleague. The screen of my phone was zoomed in on a small grey square, labelled ‘Comrade Mao Zedong’s Former Residence’. Neither of them had heard of it, so they called their manager over, and the four of us stood in the echoey, white-tiled reception of my cheap Wuhan hotel, reorienting my phone to try and figure out where I was going. Eventually, one of them spotted a nearby subway station they knew and told me the quickest way across town. “He came here in 1966,” the manager told me. “Did you know he swam in the Yangtze?”

A few hundred yards down the embankment from my hotel, I had already seen the enormous metal numerals which commemorate the date of the swim the hotel manager was referring to: 66.7.16. The hot morning of July 16 1966 was one of eighteen occasions when the Great Helmsman swam in China’s great river at Wuhan, and indisputably the most well-known. A showy demonstration of physical vigour, it prefigured his return to Beijing, where the next month he threw himself into promoting the Cultural Revolution. Continue reading

Pyramids were poured in concrete to spite China (1)

[The author of this response to Magnus Fiskesjö’s post of yesterday would prefer to remain anonyomous.–Kirk]

This is a very common phenomenon, I would say. A guy named Du Jiangang even argued that ancient Greece and England were created by different waves of Chinese immigrants. And Du Jiangang also was a Chief Professor of Shantou University and a faculty of the Hunan University law school.

Chinese cultural chauvinism is also present in some serious archaeology and history studies, for example, Su Bingqi, an archaeologist at Peking University and a senior researcher of the Academy of Social Sciences, once declared that Chinese civilization has cultural roots that go beyond one million years. In his《中华文明起源新探》, he wrote that”世界上没有哪一个像中国如此之大的国家有始自百万年前至今不衰不断的文化发展大系……从超百万年的文化根系,到万年前的文明起步,从五千年前氏族到国家的“古文化、古城、古国”的发展,再由早期古国发展为各霸一方的方国,最终发展为多源一统的帝国,这样一条中国国家形成的典型发展道路,以及与之同步发展的中华民族祖先的无数次组合与重组,再到秦汉时代以后几次北方民族入主中原所形成的中华民族多元一体的结构,这一有准确时间、空间框架和丰富内涵的中国历史的主体结构,在世界上是举世无双的。它所提供的对在如此广阔的国土上丰富多彩而又相互联系的文化,作出纵、横发展的“庖丁解牛”式的辩证统一的研究的条件,在全世界也没有哪个国家具备。所以,中国史在世界历史发展进程中是大头。’’ And this book has become one of the most basic and required reading for all students of Chinese archaeology in the past two decades. Continue reading

Pyramids were poured in concrete to spite China

Years ago people laughed at fringe theories about space alien gods building the pyramids and all that — the argument was that the Egyptians, Maya etc. could not possibly have built them… so it must have been space aliens.

Now, in a sign of the times, there’s a Chinese scholar telling us that it was really Westerners who built those pyramids in the 19th century, pouring them in concrete, to spite China: faking them to look like there was something earlier than Chinese Civilization. Professor Huang Heqing 黃河清 of Zhejiang University says he’s proven this by looking at photos in old books, where he can see no Sphinx and no pyramids (!). And so now he’s out to restore the glory, of Chinese civilization:

浙江大學教授稱有圖有真相金字塔是現代偽造 19世紀用混凝土所建. HK01, 2021-02-04 16:55.

After you stop laughing, consider that this sort of megalomania is not uncommon in China nowadays, and often gets government approval. For the regime in power, archaeology and history are but tools of their power politics, especially when it comes to “proving” that China owns everything it set its foot on, as in the South China Seas, or in Xinjiang — or, proving that China was earlier than everybody, and more glorious than everybody.

One example of the latter that comes to mind, is when the then-Chinese president traveled to Australia a few years ago and exclaimed that “we were here first” (before the Europeans) – something he had learned from the fake “history” book “1421” by Gavin Menzies, one of the greatest and most elaborate money-making scholarly frauds around, which stroked the ego of the Communist regime in China (since nowadays communism is lip service only, facts also don’t matter, and naked nationalism is all that counts).

Magnus Fiskesjö <nf42@cornell.edu>

A selection of poems by Qiu Jin

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/12/21)
Feminist, Revolutionary, Poet
A selection of poems by Qiu Jin, in new translation by Yilin Wang

Translator’s note: Qiu Jin (秋瑾) was a Chinese revolutionary, feminist, poet, and essayist who lived from 1875 to 1907. Defying the gender expectations of her time, she acquired a traditional scholarly education as well as learning martial arts, sword-fighting, and horseback riding. As she struggled within an unhappy marriage, she connected with other Chinese feminist activists, pawned her jewels to study abroad in Japan, then returned home to join a revolution against the corrupt Qing Dynasty government and fight for women’s rights. When the uprising failed, she chose to die as a martyr rather than escape. Although Qiu Jin has been widely celebrated as a pioneer in China’s early feminist movement and as a revolutionary, there are still limited translations of her vast body of work in English and some of these date back to the early 20th century. Below are three poems and fragments in new translation (read the original Chinese here).

The first two short poems, written during Qiu’s youth, references The Tale of Zhi Kan, a Chinese opera about the lives of two heroic women warriors, Qin Liangyu and Shen Yunying, who lived in the late Ming dynasty. The next poem, ‘A River of Crimson’, is written according to a popular cipai poetic form. The final poem, ‘Spontaneous Thoughts’, is a response to the Tang dynasty female poet Yu Xuanji’s response to another poem, demonstrating that Qiu’s work can be read as the modern continuation of a long lineage of Chinese women poets tracing back thousands of years. Together, they display themes that Qiu Jin continued to explore throughout her body of work, such as the importance of strong female role models, the subversion of gender expectations, and the difficulty of finding a soulmate. – Yilin Wang

Selections from Eight Poems inspired by The Tale of Zhi Kan
for the legend written by Dong Yibo’s grandfather

The Chieftess knew how to guide the nation’s affairs,
with a general’s talents and elegance beyond this world.
Saber in hand, hair wrapped in cloth, she rode a peach-blossom steed,
truly worthy of being called a luminary of women. Continue reading

Translating the Occupation

Translating the Occupation: The Japanese Invasion of China, 1931–45
Edited by Jonathan HenshawCraig A. Smith, and Norman Smith
UBC Press

From 1931 to 1945, as Japanese imperialism developed and spread throughout China, three regions experienced life under occupation: the puppet state of Manchukuo, East China, and North China. Each did so in a distinct manner, but making sense of experiences and decisions made during this crucial period has been an elusive goal for historians.

Despite the enduring importance of the occupation to world history and historical memory in East Asia, Translating the Occupation is the first English-language volume to provide such a diverse selection of important primary sources from this period for both scholars and students. Contributors from six different countries have translated sources from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean on a wide range of subjects, focusing on writers who have long been considered problematic or outright traitorous. Each text is accompanied by a short essay to contextualize the translation and explain its significance.

This volume offers a practical, accessible sourcebook from which to challenge standard narratives. The texts have been carefully selected to deepen our understanding of the myriad tensions, transformations, and continuities in Chinese wartime society. Translating the Occupation reasserts the centrality of the occupation to twentieth-century Chinese history and opens the door further to much-needed analysis.

This book will appeal to scholars, students, and general readers of East Asian history and the history of the Second World War, and will find use in undergraduate and graduate courses.

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister review

Source: LARB China Channel (1/29/21)
The Sisters Who Made Modern China
By James Carter
James Carter reviews Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by Jung Chang

One of the great challenges for authors writing biographies is their relationship to their subjects. They risk either putting them on a pedestal and explaining away their foibles, or demonizing them and finding evil intent behind every action. Jung Chang has swung to both horns of this dilemma in the past. In Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, she interpreted the historical evidence to claim that rather than the hidebound reactionary she is often portrayed to be, Cixi was a progressive visionary who, had she not been thwarted, would have presided over a golden age of Chinese democracy. On the other hand, in Mao: The Unknown StoryChang and co-author Jon Halliday so thoroughly and unskeptically demonized Mao that they achieved the unlikely effect of bringing sinologists to write a book about their book itself, Was Mao Really a Monster?

In Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, Jung Chang has opened a window onto the lives of the Soong sisters – Soong Ai-ling, Soong Ching-ling, and Soong May-ling – who like Cixi are on the short list of the most famous women in China’s modern history. Chang does not shy away from criticism in this latest book, though that criticism is not, for the most part, directed at her subjects. Sun Yat-sen comes off especially poorly, as a womanizing political opportunist. Chiang Kai-shek doesn’t shine either, and we already know Chang’s views on Mao. Sister’s 300 pages entertain and titillate through remarkable stories of unlikely experiences, but without the controversy or the intimacy of Chang’s earlier books. Continue reading

Journalist who documented CCP history is detained

Source: NYT (12/18/20)
Chinese Journalist Who Documented Communist History Is Detained in Beijing
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
Friends of Du Bin said that his detention might have been related to book projects critical of the history of Communism and China’s Communist Party.
By Amy Qin

The journalist Du Bin, right, with the activist Ye Haiyan in Hong Kong in 2013. Credit…Zeng Jinyan, via Associated Press

As China intensified its clampdown on independent reporting, the authorities detained a journalist who recently worked on books that were critical of Communism and the Chinese Communist Party, the journalist’s friends and family said on Friday.

The journalist, Du Bin, 48, was detained on Wednesday by police officers in Beijing, said his sister, Du Jirong. Police officers told Ms. Du on Thursday that her brother had been placed under administrative detention for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” The vaguely worded offense is one that the government often uses to quell activism and discussion of social and political issues.

Friends of Mr. Du, who has worked as a freelance photographer for The New York Times, say they believe his detention may have been connected to several of his recent book projects. Continue reading

Ming Qing Studies 2020

Ming Qing Studies 2020
edited by Paolo Santangelo, Sapienza University of Rome

We are glad to inform you that Ming Qing Studies 2020 will be issued in December 2020 by WriteUp Site (https://sites.google.com/site/mqsweb/home/ming-qing-studies-2020 and https://www.writeupbooks.com/ming_qing_studies/).

Ming Qing Studies is an annual publication focused on late imperial China and the broader geo-cultural area of East Asia during the premodern and modern period. Its scope is to provide a forum for scholars from a variety of fields seeking to bridge the gap between ‘oriental’ and western knowledge. Articles may concern any discipline, including sociology, literature, psychology, anthropology, history, geography, linguistics, semiotics, political science, and philosophy. Contributions by young and post-graduated scholars are particularly welcome. Continue reading

Utopian Ruins talk

Book Launch – Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era
Dec 10 2020 | 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM 

RSVP: https://ucihumanities.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_JR-oJF4OTxiX3ImtM6WUJA

Featuring Jie Li’s latest book, Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (Duke University Press, December 2020), this talk traces the creation, preservation, and elision of memories about China’s Mao era by envisioning a virtual museum that reckons with both its utopian yearnings and its cataclysmic reverberations. Li proposes a critical framework for understanding the documentation and transmission of the socialist past that mediates between nostalgia and trauma, anticipation and retrospection, propaganda and testimony. Assembling Utopian Ruins like a memorial exhibit, Li explores how corporeal traces, archival documents, camera images, and material relics serve as commemorative media. Prison writings and police files reveal the infrastructure of state surveillance and testify to revolutionary ideals and violence, victimhood and complicity. Photojournalism from the Great Leap Forward and documentaries from the Cultural Revolution promoted faith in communist miracles while excluding darker realities, whereas Mao memorabilia collections, factory ruins, and memorials at trauma sites remind audiences of the Chinese Revolution’s unrealized dreams and staggering losses. Continue reading