A Stormy Petrel review

Source: The International (4/28/20)
‘A Stormy Petrel’: Hong Kong Governor John Pope Hennessy
P. Kevin MacKeown’s biography ‘A Stormy Petrel’ (City University of Hong Kong, 2020) argues for John Pope Hennessy as a character full of contradictions, bridling against his historical circumstances but never quite transcending them.
Reviewed by Nicholas Haggerty

The only physical vestiges of British colonial governor John Pope Hennessy in Hong Kong, other than a street or public space named after him, is the foliage. He pioneered a reforestation campaign, planting over a million trees along the avenues and hillsides.

This longevity contrasts with Pope Hennessy’s short-lived political vision. He was neither an especially effective political operator nor an anti-colonial visionary. His plans were typically flustered by his ease at making enemies or, more often, just the structures of colonial rule.

The biographer P. Kevin MacKeown’s purpose in A Stormy Petrel is not so much restoring Pope Hennessy’s reputation as an important historical figure but an appreciation of him as a fascinating character. He makes for an intriguing comparison with Carrie Lam, as she likewise makes decisions with an eye toward their reception in a distant capital. Continue reading

Leibniz, 300 year-old China hand

Source: China Channel (4/18/20)
Gottfried Leibniz, the 300 Year-Old China Hand
By Matthew Ehret-Kump

Title page of Novissima Sinica (public domain).

A scientist, sinophile and bridge between east and west – Matthew Ehret

Many people would be surprised to discover that Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), a German polymath and logician best known for his discovery of Calculus, was one of the most important sinophiles of the 17th century, whose writings were instrumental in bringing the idea of Chinese culture and civilization to Europe.

Leibniz recognized the value of Chinese culture after an extensive study of Confucian texts provided to him by Jesuit scientists in Beijing. Inspired by the moral and practical philosophy that kept this ancient civilization alive (while European societies suffered nearly constant warfare), he created a journal called Novissima Sinica (News from China) in 1697. The journal was followed by an organizing effort across Eurasia to bring about a vast dialogue of civilizations, driven by the pursuit of scientific discovery and economic development. Continue reading

Creating the Intellectual review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Sebastian Veg’s review of Creating the Intellectual: Chinese Communism and the Rise of a Classification, by Eddy U. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/veg/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Creating the Intellectual:
Chinese Communism and the Rise of a Classification

By Eddy U


Reviewed by Sebastian Veg
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright April, 2020)


Eddy U, Creating the Intellectual: Chinese Communism and the Rise of a Classification Oakland: University of California Press, 2019. xix + 226 pgs. ISBN: 9780520303690 (paper).

Eddy U has been studying intellectuals in the communist and PRC context for a number of years, and it is very pleasing to see many of the strands he has previously explored collected and reorganized into a new monograph. Creating the Intellectual is devoted not so much to the people usually called “intellectuals” in various contexts as to the category of zhishifenzi (知识分子), which U argues is mutually constitutive with Chinese communism. Rather than examining a pre-existing group, the book investigates how Chinese communism instituted a top-down reordering of people into class subjects based on Marxist ideology, and how this reordering defined the party’s governing practice. U adopts a theoretical approach that he terms “institutional-constructivist” (4), in which he examines how the category of zhishifenzi was constructed both through institutions of classification and registration that “objectified” intellectuals, and through the representations that made the category visible and meaningful in social interactions. In his argument, classification is a tool of domination, but also the result of ongoing negotiations within society. From an early date, the party felt a need to harness expertise and at the same time to contain the political threat posed by the holders of that expertise. For this reason, it became expedient for the party to define communism against the ideas and lifestyles of intellectuals. This in turn stimulated an oppositional identity among intellectuals, and the imaginary enemy became real, in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Continue reading

Maoism–A Global History talk

Maoism – A Global History: Prof Julia Lovell and Prof Harriet Evans in Conversation
University of Westminster, Contemporary China Centre Talks
Date: 1 April 2020
Time: 1800-2000
Venue: Cayley 152-153, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, LondonW1B 2HW

All are welcome but registration required for non-Westminster staff and students:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/maoism-a-global-history-julia-lovell-and-harriet-evans-in-conversation-tickets-98216774015

In this book event, Prof Julia Lovell will be talking about her new book on Maoism as a global phenomenon with Prof Harriet Evans as discussant.

For decades, the West has dismissed Maoism as an outdated historical and political phenomenon. Since the 1980s, China seems to have abandoned the utopian turmoil of Mao’s revolution in favour of authoritarian capitalism. But Mao and his ideas remain central to the People’s Republic and the legitimacy of its Communist government. With disagreements and conflicts between China and the West on the rise, the need to understand the political legacy of Mao is urgent and growing. Continue reading

A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China

A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China
Paul G. Pickowicz with a Preface by Xi Chen
220 pages, papaerback
HK$198/US$29 ISBN: 978-962-937-433-4
City University of Hong Kong Press
Publication Date: October 2019

Purchase/Website Link: https://bit.ly/2mtLXHY

A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China is a recollection of the historic visit of fourteen American students (and one Canadian) to China in 1971. The visit was one of the first approved for American scholars after the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 and occurred prior to President Nixon’s famous trip (as well as that of a second group of scholars) in 1972. One of these students, Paul Pickowicz, kept a journal and photographically documented the trip. This book is a personal account of the events leading up to their visa approvals as well as those that occurred during the journey itself. The five senses are used to connect the reader to his experience and are placed in the context of a theatrical production. The images included have been selected from an archive at the University of California, San Diego, which digitized the author’s images as well as those of others in the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS) taken during both the 1971 and 1972 delegations. Continue reading

What history teaches about the coronavirus

Posted by: Wah Guan Lim <wglim@unsw.edu.au>
Source: The Diplomat (2/12/20)
What History Teaches About the Coronavirus Emergency
Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from the 1910-11 Manchurian Plague are still relevant to China and the world today.
By Wayne Soon and Ja Ian Chong

Accounts about the disease started sporadically. Somewhere in China people were getting sick in unusual numbers. Then press reports started appearing. Large numbers of people were getting seriously ill along main transport axes. News of deaths soon followed. In a few months 60,000 people would die before the disease came under control. This was not Wuhan in December 2019 and January 2020; it was northeastern China from late 1910 to early 1911. The Manchurian Plague, as the incident came to be known, was the first instance of modern techniques being applied to a public health crisis in China. Lessons of transparency and transnational cooperation from that event more than a century ago are still relevant to China and the world today. Continue reading

Fantasy and the Forbidden City

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/4/20)
Fantasy and the Forbidden City
China’s most popular costume drama tells more about the present than it does about the Qing dynasty – Tobie Meyer-Fong
By Tobie Meyer-Fong

Story of Yanxi Palace

During the summer of 2018, The Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略), a soap opera set in the Forbidden City, mesmerized audiences with its sumptuous costumes and lavish sets. Media analysts celebrated the protagonist – a concubine rising within the ranks – as a bold female exemplar, and noted that it provided a promising vehicle for education about China’s cultural heritage both at home and abroad. The show was made and initially screened by iQiyi, a Chinese internet streaming company owned by Baidu, although it was later also broadcast on conventional and cable television channels. (A version with English subtitles can be found on YouTube.) It proved hugely popular, with episodes streamed over 15 billion times by Chinese viewers. The BBC online breathlessly announced that Yanxi Palace was the “most Googled TV show of 2018 globally,” even though Google is blocked in China. Continue reading

The Great Leap Backward

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years
by Lingchei Letty Chen
Cambria Press
Cambria Sinophone World Series (General Editor: Victor H. Mair)
Hardback  9781604979923  $114.99  304pp.
Order direct from Cambria Press by 02/29/2020 and save 25% (Use coupon code SAVE25).

It is now forty years after Mao Zedong’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution, and more than fifty years since the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine. During this time, the collective memory of these events has been sanitized, reduced to a much-diluted version of what truly took place. Historical and sociological approaches cannot fully address the moral failure that allowed the atrocities of the Mao era to take place. Humanist approaches, such as literary criticism, have a central role to play in uncovering and making explicit the testimonies of both victims and perpetrators in “memory writing” in order to recover the truth of China’s history.

In this unprecedented study The Great Leap Backward, inspired by Holocaust studies, memory work such as fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, and documentary films that have surfaced since Mao’s death are examined to uncover the many aspects of the forces underlying remembering and forgetting. These are significant for they also embody the politics of writing and publishing traumatic historical memories in contemporary China and beyond. Beginning with a scar literature classic and ending with popular Cultural Revolution memoirs that appeared early in the twenty-first century, this study provides us with another important way through which memory studies can help us grapple with traumatic histories. Continue reading

Negative Exposures

Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China
Margaret Hillenbrand
Duke University Press, 2020
312 pages, 66 illustrations
$27.95, discount $19.57 (30% off)
https://www.dukeupress.edu/negative-exposures

When nations decide to disown their troubled pasts, how does this strategic disavowal harden into social fact? In Negative Exposures, Margaret Hillenbrand investigates the erasure of key aspects of such momentous events as the Nanjing Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square protests from the Chinese historical consciousness, not due to amnesia or censorship but through the operations of public secrecy. Knowing what not to know, she argues, has many stakeholders, willing and otherwise, who keep quiet to protect themselves or their families out of shame, pragmatism, or the palliative effects of silence. Hillenbrand shows how secrecy works as a powerful structuring force in Chinese society, one hiding in plain sight, and identifies aesthetic artifacts that serve as modes of reckoning against this phenomenon. She analyses the proliferation of photo-forms—remediations of well-known photographs of troubling historical events rendered in such media as paint, celluloid, fabric, digital imagery, and tattoos—as imaginative spaces in which the shadows of secrecy are provocatively outlined. Continue reading

Dream of the Red Chamber exhibit

Source: Global Times (12/22/19)
Exhibition on ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ kicks off in Beijing

A visitor explores the Cultural Exhibition of Dream of the Red Chamber at the National Museum of China in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Some have described it as the Chinese Gone with the Wind, while others have called it China’s answer to War and Peace. No matter how it is described, Dream of the Red Chamber is unanimously regarded as one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature.

Nearly 600 related items are currently on display at the National Museum of China (NMC) to showcase the charm of this beloved classic. Continue reading

China’s Revolutions in the Modern World

9781788735599China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History
by Rebecca E. Karl
Verso
Hardback/Ebook / Hardback with free ebook
$26.95, discount $21.56 (20% off)
240 pages / January 2020 / 9781788735599

A concise account of how revolutions made modern China and helped shape the modern world

China’s emergence as a twenty-first-century global economic, cultural, and political power is often presented as a story of what Chinese leader Xi Jinping calls the nation’s “great rejuvenation,” a story narrated as the return of China to its “rightful” place at the center of the world. In China’s Revolutions in the Modern World, historian Rebecca E. Karl argues that China’s contemporary emergence is best seen not as a “return,” but rather as the product of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activity and imaginings. From the Taipings in the mid-nineteenth century through nationalist, anti-imperialist, cultural, and socialist revolutions to today’s capitalist-inflected Communist State, modern China has been made in intellectual dissonance and class struggle, in mass democratic movements and global war, in socialism and anti-socialism, in repression and conflict by multiple generations of Chinese people mobilized to seize history and make the future in their own name. Through China’s successive revolutions, the contours of our contemporary world have taken shape. This brief interpretive history shows how. Continue reading

Mapping Hong Kong-A History Workshop–cfp

[CALL FOR PAPERS]
Mapping Hong Kong—A History Workshop
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver
29–31 May 2020

The UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative, in partnership with the Hong Kong History Project at the University of Bristol, is pleased to announce a history workshop to be held at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, on May 29–31, 2020.

The theme “Mapping Hong Kong” invites reflections on how Hong Kong’s past could be mapped onto a wide range of historical scales or contexts. Whether it has to do with the lived experiences of particular individuals at certain (critical) moments or the transnational movements of goods, ideas, and people over time and space, a common challenge for historians (of Hong Kong or not) is to place their subject in a proper frame of analysis. But what makes a frame “proper”? And how do we as historians attend to the politics of framing? Continue reading

Gao Chengxian’s Reminiscence of the Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Negotiating Colonial Visuality: Gao Chengxian’s Reminiscence of the Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions,” introduced and translated by Yanlong Guo, in our online series. The full essay/translation can be read at the follwing url: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/yanlong-guo/. Find the opening paragraph below.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Figure 1. “Portrait of Gao Chengxian,” photograph, photographer and date unknown. Source: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, n.p.

Commemorating the Manchukuo[1] Emperor Puyi’s 溥儀 (r. 1932-1945) Admonitory Rescript to the People on the Occasion of the Emperor’s Return (回鑾訓民詔書), issued in 1935, the newly established State of Manchuria under Japanese colonial rule launched the First Art Exhibition in Commemoration of [Emperor Kangde’s] Visit to Japan and Announcement of the Rescript (第一回訪日宣詔記念美術展覧会) on May 2, 1937 in its New Capital (新京; current day Changchun).[2] The Manchukuo government organized eight such annual “national exhibitions” (國展) until 1945, when the Japan imperial army was defeated.[3] Each year, a review committee was appointed by a responsible institute to select artworks for the exhibition.[4] Accolades and cash stipends were bestowed on artists whose works were deemed the most excellent. The participating artists consisted of Japanese expatriate artists, such as Shouhou Kusakari 首藤春草 (1907-1994) and Yokoyama Shigeyuki 横山繁行 (1894-1946); prominent Chinese artists, such as Yu Lianke 于蓮客 (1899-1980), Wang Guanglie 王光烈 (1880-1953), and Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866-1940); and underrecognized Manchuria-born Chinese artists. One of the local and emerging artists was Gao Chengxian 高澄鮮 (1913-1990) (fig. 1), whose art activities during the Manchukuo period are known to us thanks to two interviews of him by Lu Ye 盧燁.[5] One of the interviews, published in 1990 and entitled “My Recollections of Participating in the Illegitimate Manchukuo Exhibitions of Calligraphy and Painting” (我參加偽滿書畫展的回憶), is translated below. [READ MORE]

The Power of Print in Modern China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yue Du’s review of The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism (Columbia UP, 2019), by Robert Culp. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yue-du/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Power of Print in Modern China:
Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism

By Robert Culp


Reviewed by Yue Du
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2020)


Robert Culp, The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism Robert Culp. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. xviii + 371 pgs. ISBN: 9780231545358.

For Robert Culp, prominent leaders in twentieth-century cultural and political revolutions, such as Hu Shi and Mao Zedong, were not the only major players to implement the cultural transformation of modern China. A group of people Culp calls “petty intellectuals” (小知識分子), who engaged in the production of textbooks, reference books, reprinted classics, and book series at China’s leading commercial publishers, also fundamentally shaped the cultural landscape of China during the late Qing and Republican periods and into the early years of the People’s Republic. Focusing on the Commercial Press (商務印書館), Zhonghua Book Company (中華書局), and other institutions in China’s industrialized publishing sector, The Power of Print in Modern China successfully reconstructs the work lives and cultural activities of editors who were tremendously influential but who have heretofore received inadequate scholarly attention. This reconstruction in turn enables the author to engage with core academic debates on print and media, negotiated power, and modernity in China.

While observing the importance of the introduction of mechanized print technology, Culp distinguishes his work from earlier scholarship (by Christopher Reed and others) by laying out how print industrialism affected the ways in which books were produced and the relationship editors had with their products. To generate a wide range of texts in great numbers and in short periods of time, the most influential publishers in twentieth century China maintained large standing editorial departments, something that made China’s publishing sector globally distinctive. These departments adopted an organizational structure that over time came to resemble the factory assembly line. Staff editors with hybrid classical Chinese and Western educations collaboratively generated new content that they then incorporated into different titles to quickly meet market demand. Culp notes that, on the one hand, this process led to the vast majority of these editors losing control over the dynamics of their labor in this factory-style book production; on the other hand, print industrialism gave these petty intellectuals a direct say in the materials that went into standard products such as textbooks and reference books. Because of these books’ authoritative status, staff editors were able to play a key role in introducing new terms, shaping the modern Chinese lexicon, modeling vernacular writing, and “reorganizing the national heritage” (整理國故). Continue reading