China’s Hidden Century exhibit

China’s Hidden Century
Exhibition May 18 – October 8, 2023
The British Museum

In a global first, the resilience and innovation of 19th-century China is revealed in a major new exhibition.

Between 1796 and 1912 Qing China endured numerous civil uprisings and foreign wars, with revolution ultimately bringing an end to some 2,000 years of dynastic rule and giving way to a modern Chinese republic. This period of violence and turmoil was also one of extraordinary creativity, driven by political, cultural and technological change. In the shadow of these events lie stories of remarkable individuals – at court, in armies, in booming cosmopolitan cities and on the global stage.

The exhibition is underpinned by a four-year research project supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and led by the British Museum and London University, in collaboration with over 100 scholars from 14 countries. Continue reading

Lu Xun on mothers

Source: The China Project (5/14/23)
A tribute to mothers
How do we pay homage to mothers who have lost a child? Lu Xun did so by publicizing their sacrifices.
By Eileen J. Cheng

Illustration for The China Project by Alex Santafé

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅, pen name of Zhōu Shùrén 周树人 (1881-1936), arguably the most famous writer of 20th-century China, was particularly taken with the work of the German artist Käethe Kollwitz (1867-1945). Her woodblock print “Das Opfer” (The Sacrifice/The Victim) spoke to and for Lu Xun when he was grief-stricken after the death of a close friend. In “Remembrance for the Sake of Forgetting” (为了忘却的纪念 wèile wàngquè de jìniàn, 1933), he wrote about the Nationalist government’s execution of the leftist writer Róu Shí 柔石 (1902-1931). On hearing the news, Lu Xun wanted but found himself unable to write an essay commemorating his death. Knowing Rou Shi was devoted to his blind mother, Lu Xun published Kollwitz’s woodblock print “Das Opfer” in a journal, meant as a private tribute to Rou and his mother. But it was also a tribute to Kollwitz herself.

That Lu Xun would be moved by Kollwitz’s art is not surprising. In the late 1920s, Lu Xun became an avid collector and promoter of woodcut art. Inspired by European woodcuts, he sponsored workshops to train young artists in the craft, revitalizing a native art form in the process. His affinity with Kollwitz went beyond an appreciation of her work. Both had leftist sympathies, devoted their art to exposing injustice, and depicted the suffering of the poor and marginalized — grieving mothers among them. Kollwitz’s own story no doubt moved Lu Xun. In 1914, her youngest son died in the battlefield in World War I. “Das Opfer” was Kollwitz’s tribute to those dead from the war and the mothers they left behind. Continue reading

Workshop on mental and manual labor

The Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies, Department of Cultural Studies, Center of Cultural Research and Development, Lingnan University and East Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins University are organizing the International Workshop on Socialist Industrialization, Deskilling, and Efforts to Diminish the Gap between Mental and Manual Labor in China on 27-28 May, 2023.

Registration link:

The workshop is inspired by this fundamental question: Does the scale, organization, and technology of modern industry and industrialized agriculture inherently entail exacerbating the separation of mental and manual labor? Scholars from different disciplines are brought together to discuss the efforts to reduce the differences between mental and manual labor in China. It will also examine changes in the ways in which mental and manual labor have been divided and combined in China since the Mao era and in subsequent decades in order to understand deskilling as a global phenomenon and the particular ways in which it has manifested itself in capitalist and socialist factories and farms, as well as the limits of twentieth-century Marxist programs to combine mental and manual labor, and the failure of Marxist promises to eliminate class differences.

The workshop panels will look at a wide range of issues and how they relate to the division of mental and manual labor:

  • Industrial division of labor
  • Gender and the transformation of productive and reproductive labor
  • Education, science, medicine, and literature

Posted by: Heidi Huang

May 4th call for resistance deleted by censors

Source: China Digital Times (5/4/23)
May Fourth Anniversary Call for ‘Resistance against the Powers That Be’ deleted by censors
Posted by 

A WeChat essay on the “sore need” for a continuation of the May Fourth Movement’s legacy of “resistance against the powers that be,” published on the eve of the movement’s 104th anniversary, was taken down by censors. The essay, by the public account @新新默存, was a reflection on the broader movement that included not just the student protests of May 4, 1919 but also the intellectual awakening that spanned the New Culture Movement, labor movements, and an intellectual-led attempt to transform China’s political and social cultures. It offered a sharp criticism of modern Chinese patriotism, which the author claims emphasizes “collectivism and despotism” and thus is out of line with the original May Fourth spirit of patriotic “individualism and liberalism.” The exact reason any given essay is censored is never revealed by the censors. However, in this case, the culprit (in the censors’ eyes) seems clear: the direct criticism of modern Chinese patriotism and a stirring final two paragraphs that call for the construction of true homes for “Mr. Science” and “Mr. Democracy,” the iconic personifications of the movement’s core ideals. These form a blunt challenge to the Party’s aggressively asserted monopoly on the May Fourth Movement’s legacy.

Today, reviews of the broader May Fourth Movement have reached the common consensus that democracy and science are the most important inheritances it bestowed us with. Au contraire. Just as Yu Ying-shih once said, although Messrs Democracy and Science have long since become naturalized citizens, they’ve yet to find themselves a secure home in China. “Science” is primarily manifested through “Technology,” which is form and not essence. The scientific spirit of truth for its own sake has yet to be fully established. Democracy’s position is such that “it is shown honor but not affection.” Therefore, May Fourth isn’t quite finished yet.

As I see it, the most important inheritances of the May Fourth Movement were the active participation of the masses in politics, resistance against the powers that be, yearning for new discoveries, and the pursuit of equality and freedom for individuals. This is the May Fourth Spirit that is truly worth cherishing. It is a spirit we sorely need right now. [Chinese] Continue reading

Victims of the Cultural Revolution review

Source: The China Project (5/4/23)
The battle against amnesia
By Ian Johnson

Illustration for The China Project

For most of her life, Wang Youqin has strived to document victims of the Cultural Revolution, telling their stories without sentimentality or — in many cases, when the victims were also perpetrators of violence — remorse. For the first time, her work is now available in English.

London: Oneworld Academic. £50 / $65. 592 pp.

In 1966, 13-year-old Wáng Yǒuqín 王友琴 watched as some of her classmates at an elite girls’ school in Beijing tortured their teachers. Egged on by the violent directives of the country’s top leaders, the girls forced the teachers to eat dirt, poured boiling water over them, and beat them with spiked clubs. Later, in the school cafeteria, they boasted about it. That night, one of the teachers died of her injuries. Others committed suicide. Some were left crippled.

Horrified, Wang wasn’t sure what to do and kept the experience bottled up. Like many of her peers, she was later forced to labor in the countryside, where she saw the failure of Mao’s revolution to provide farmers with enough to eat. After Mao’s death, she and most other sent-down youth were allowed to return to Beijing. Unable to speak out about the failings of the era, she confronted anguish and guilt in the only way she knew how: by recording the names and details of those who died. Continue reading

HK’s memory is being erased

Source: NYT (4/25/23)
Opinion: Hong Kong’s Memory Is Being Erased
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Louisa Lim (Ms. Lim, who was a journalist in China and Hong Kong for 13 years, is a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne.)

A man, his back to the camera, looking at a foggy Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. A small Hong Kong flag flies on a short pole nearby.

Credit…Jerome Favre/EPA, via Shutterstock

The group of about 80 protesters wore numbered lanyards around their necks and cordoned themselves off with tape as they marched, like a crime scene in motion.

This odd spectacle last month was Hong Kong’s first authorized protest in three years — highly choreographed, surveilled and regulated, even though it was not an explicitly antigovernment demonstration, and a world away from the crowds that thronged streets in 2019 to protest China’s tightening grip on the city. One participant said the protesters, who were opposed to a land reclamation project, were “herded like sheep.”

It was just one example of how Hong Kong, a global, tech-savvy city whose protests were once livestreamed around the world, is being transformed. But authorities aren’t merely choking off future protest; they are attempting to rewrite Hong Kong’s history.

Revisionism — with its ancillary altering or obliteration of memory — is an act of repression. It’s the same playbook China used after violently crushing the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing. Then, state-induced amnesia was imposed gradually. At first the government churned out propaganda that labeled those protests as a counterrevolutionary rebellion that had to be suppressed. But over the years, the state slowly excised all public memory of its killings. Continue reading

East Turkistan’s Right to Sovereignty

New Publication: East Turkistan’s Right to Sovereignty: Decolonization and Beyond
by Rukiye Turdush
Rowan and Littlefield / Lexington Books

In this new book, Rukiye Turdush shows how East Turkestan, in Chinese often known as Xinjiang (“New Frontier” of the Chinese empire), was conquered and turned into a settler colony. Post-WWII decolonization, as happened in Africa and elsewhere, never touched it. These are striking arguments given the current vogue of discussions of decolonization in other contexts. This Chinese situation is especially interesting today not least because the Chinese Communist Party, before they took power in China in 1949, solemnly promised that if they came into power, they would grant freedom of secession and independence to all peoples conquered by the previous Chinese Empires.   –yrs. Magnus Fiskesjö,


This study examines the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the people of East Turkistan; specifically, between China’s settler colonialism and East Turkistan’s independence movement. What distinguishes this study is its dispassionate analysis of the East Turkistan’s national dilemma in terms of international law and legal precedent as well as the prudence with which it distinguishes substantial evidence from claims of China’s crimes against humanity and genocide in East Turkistan that have not been fully verified yet. Continue reading


Source: China Media Project (3/30/23)
CCP or CPC: A China Watchers’ Rorschach
The choice to use either CCP or CPC for China’s ruling Communist Party has become politically charged, but how did this distinction arise — and does it even matter?
By Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

On a cold January evening in 1931, He Yeduo (贺页朵) pledged his life to the Chinese Communist Party. The 45-year-old Jiangxi peasant was barely literate, but at the oath-swearing ceremony on a Red Army base in the Jinggang Mountains, the “cradle of the Chinese revolution,” he took out a piece of red cloth and began writing.

A quarter of the Chinese characters he wrote, professing his faith to the then-embattled and apparently doomed guerrilla forces in his native province, were misspelled. But at the top of the cloth, now regarded as a divine relic of the revolution, are three perfectly formed letters, the name of the organization he would die for: “C.C.P.”

Nine decades later, these three letters have become an unacceptable slur to many supporters of He’s beloved Chinese Communist Party. Continue reading

Workshop Youth in Chinese History

Call for Abstracts
Workshop Youth in Chinese History: Education and Representations of Young People in Chinese Sources between Tradition and Modernity
September 14-15, 2023
Oxford University, Centre for Chinese Studies, Lucina Ho room

Giulia Falato (Oxford University)
Renata Vinci (University of Palermo)

Workshop topic short description

In China, childhood and education have historically been intertwined with ritual practices and social relations, with their ultimate scope being the construction of an ideal society and the formation of a virtuous elite. While canonical texts and conduct books have constantly played a crucial role in shaping children’s original character, the development of educational theories and practices throughout Chinese history has also been deeply influenced by endogenous and exogenous doctrines such as Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Western thought. This workshop proposes to generate discussions around the evolution of educational practices and representations of children across the centuries and literary genres, particularly from a cross-cultural perspective. It seeks to highlight the diachronic correlation between family units and broader society, and how the moral and intellectual cultivation of children aimed at creating pillars upon which the ideal of stability rested. Continue reading

On national humiliation, don’t mention the Russians

Source: China Media Project (3/24/23)
On National Humiliation, Don’t Mention the Russians
In an era of revanchist territorial claims and chest-thumping nationalist rhetoric, one topic remains revealingly taboo: taking back what Russia took from China.
By Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

The enduring zeitgeist of Chinese “wolf warrior diplomacy” has created an atmosphere wherein nationalistic outbursts and calls for retribution are not only welcome but rewarded. But as Shanghai TV personality Zhou Libo recently discovered, not all calls to relive national glory are welcome.

On the eve of President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Moscow since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the stand-up comedian and China’s Got Talent judge was banned from social media platforms Weibo and Toutiao for suggesting in a post that Xi’s “Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” should include recovering land ceded to Russia in the 19th century. While calls to “take back” other lost Qing possessions like Taiwan are staples of Chinese nationalism, Zhou’s case shows that such revanchist rhetoric gets a frosty reception on the country’s Siberian frontier. Continue reading

Representations of East Asian Migrants and Settlers–cfp

Call for Papers
Representations of East Asian Migrants and Settlers in the Western United States ca. 1850-1929
Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, MT
26-28 September 2024

A conference on the theme of Representations of East Asian Migrants and Settlers in the Western United States ca. 1850-1929 has been organized by Professor Todd Larkin and Professor Hua Li at the Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, under the aegis of the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Montana State University Foundation.

The event will provide scholars from universities, museums, libraries, and archives an opportunity to exchange research on the ways Asian American and Euro-American artists represented Asian migrants and settlers in art and culture in the period between the Gold Rush and the Great Depression.  Please consider submitting a proposal to present a paper to the relevant session chair by the 15 October 2023 deadline.

For more information about the initiative, sessions, and proposal deadline, please click on this link —

Posted by: Hua Li <>

Tombstone Histories

NEW PUBLICATION: “Tombstone Histories” by Dan Ben-Canaan

Tombstone Histories: Tales of Jewish Life in Harbin is a venture into the strange past of a great Chinese city named Harbin that was for a time home to some 38 different national communities among them a glorious Jewish community before war and revolution destroyed their lives. Tombstone Histories presents the Jewish experience in the city in a personal and unforgettable way. It paints a revealing picture, never shown before, of Jewish daily life in this faraway and alien land.

History so often ends up as just a series of tombstones, but this book provides the other side to the story—the personal details of lives which allow readers to draw their own conclusions about the human experience, especially survival.

Professor Dan Ben-Canaan <>

Writer on death row

Source: Taipei Times (1/15/23)
Taiwan in Time: Writer on death row
Condemned for masterminding a kidnapping, award-winning author Tang Chen-huan’s first piece — a heart-rending letter to his young son — was published on Jan. 18, 1972
By Han Cheung / Staff reporter

The cover of The Confessions of A Death Row Inmate, published in 1975. Photo courtesy of National Central Library

Titled “Confessions of a Father on Death Row,” (一個死刑犯父親的心聲), Tang Chen-huan’s (唐震寰) literary debut was one of sorrow and regret.

It ran in the literary supplement of the China Daily News (中華日報) on Jan. 18, 1972, and marked the beginning of Tang’s literary career, which included several awards and a movie adaptation. He was the nation’s first inmate to pay taxes on book royalties.

The well-liked former junior high school teacher was condemned for kidnapping the children of a businessman who had cheated him out of a large sum of money. Although he returned the kids unharmed, such crimes were punishable by death during the Martial Law era.

“I wrote for nearly 20 hours a day, because I didn’t know if I would be dragged out and executed when the morning came,” he writes in a Xiangguang Magazine (香光莊嚴) article in 1996. “As long as I could still breathe, I wanted to write down all the words I wanted to say … I hoped that those in precarious situations, or those who sought revenge, could see me as an example and refrain from doing something they would regret forever.” Continue reading

Warning for the world (3)

Read in ebook this memory of an old lady worried about Hong Kong’s future after having lived a longtime in People’s China, until 1971. Perry Link’s criticism against self-fiction, writing that this is more a novel than an history book, has its points: but even in fake memories you find a lot of truth. Probably she reconstructs a lot, attributing to Zhou Enlai or Zhou Yang sentences that they never pronounced, but she was a good listener, as the title mentions, and she had to destroy previous manuscripts to avoid being purged.

So what?

Silvia Calamandrei <>

A tragedy pushed to the shadows (1)

Very interesting book excerpt by Tani Branigan.

I think it is important to distinguish between the sent down youth, many of whom believed in Mao or tried to believe and often want credit for it, and, on the other hand, the victims persecuted, hurt and killed by Mao’s forces, including by the youth who followed Mao’s commands during the CR.

In my article on the museums and memorials created by former sent-down youth, I noted how in contrast, every attempt to create a museum for the victims has been blocked or quashed:

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

I was just in Cambodia. With the decisive break they have made with Pol Pot — in contrast to China’s holding on to Mao — they do have memorials to the victims of Pol Pot and his Mao-inspired Cambodian Communism. One can only hope that China too will be able to face its own modern history.

Magnus Fiskesjö <>