Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s Chinese typewriter

Source: Fast Company (5/17/21)
Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s 5,400-character Chinese typewriter
Lois Lew operated the improbable, ill-fated machine with aplomb in presentations from Manhattan to Shanghai. 70-plus years later, she’s telling her story.
By Thomas S. Mullaney

Meet the mystery woman who mastered IBM’s 5,400-character Chinese typewriter

[Photos: courtesy of IBM]

I had seen this woman before. Many times now. I was certain of it. But who was she? In a film from 1947, she’s operating an electric Chinese typewriter, the first of its kind, manufactured by IBM. Semi-circled by journalists, and a nervous-looking middle-aged Chinese man—Kao Chung-chin, the engineer who invented the machine—she radiates a smile as she pulls a sheet of paper from the device. Kao is biting his lip, his eyes darting back and forth intently between the crowd and the typist.

As soon as I saw that film, I began to riffle through my files. I’m a professor of Chinese history at Stanford University, and I was years into a book project on the history of modern Chinese information technology—and the Chinese typewriter specifically. By that point, I had amassed a large and still-growing body of source materials, including archival documents, historic photographs, and even antique machines. My office was becoming something of a private museum.

As I thought, I’d encountered the typist previously in my research, in glossy IBM brochures and on the cover of Chinese magazines. Who was she? Why did she appear so frequently, so prominently, in the history of IBM’s effort to electrify the Chinese language? Continue reading

Risk of nuclear war over Taiwan in 1958

Source: NYT (5/22/21)
Risk of Nuclear War Over Taiwan in 1958 Said to Be Greater Than Publicly Known
The famed source of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has made another unauthorized disclosure — and wants to be prosecuted for it.
By Charlie Savage

Soldiers in 1958 on Kinmen Island, also called Quemoy. According to an apparently still-classified document, American officials doubted they could defend Taiwan with only conventional weapons. Credit…John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — When Communist Chinese forces began shelling islands controlled by Taiwan in 1958, the United States rushed to back up its ally with military force — including drawing up plans to carry out nuclear strikes on mainland China, according to an apparently still-classified document that sheds new light on how dangerous that crisis was.

American military leaders pushed for a first-use nuclear strike on China, accepting the risk that the Soviet Union would retaliate in kind on behalf of its ally and millions of people would die, dozens of pages from a classified 1966 study of the confrontation show. The government censored those pages when it declassified the study for public release.

The document was disclosed by Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked a classified history of the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers, 50 years ago. Mr. Ellsberg said he had copied the top secret study about the Taiwan Strait crisis at the same time but did not disclose it then. He is now highlighting it amid new tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan.

[CRISIS OVER TAIWAN STRAIT: Read the full version of an apparently still-classified document or just its previously censored pages.] Continue reading

Ancient relief sculpture brought alive

Source: China Daily (4/29/21)
Relief sculpture brought alive after millennium

Actors hold live performance presenting the image of a relief sculpture dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province, on April 28, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Carved in Binyangzhong Cave, an imperial cave excavated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), the relief sculpture Emperor and Empress Pay Respect for Buddha is a national treasure of great historical and cultural values.In the 1930s, the sculpture was stolen and taken abroad in pieces. “We hope to resurrect this work through many forms, and this live-action performance is one of them. It took nearly three months to prepare,” Dan Gao, researcher of Longmen Grottoes Research Institute, said.

In order to restore the images on the relief, the research team collected literature and pictures, and studied the character’s makeup and hair, costumes, props and movements one by one.

Apart from the actors for the emperor and empress, most of the 40-plus cast members are young people born after 2000. Continue reading

The Museum Victoria City brings colonial history to life

Source: SCMP (5/3/21)
Hong Kong’s colonial history brought to life at The Museum Victoria City with avid collector’s authentic and reimagined artefacts
Collector and founder of The Museum Victoria City, Bryan Ong has been interested in colonial memorabilia since he was 15 years old. His collection includes medals, military jackets, banknotes and hand-painted reproductions

Bryan Ong, founder of The Museum in Central, Hong Kong. Ong has amassed a collection of British colonial and military items. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Bryan Ong, founder of The Museum in Central, Hong Kong. Ong has amassed a collection of British colonial and military items. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The recently opened The Museum Victoria City in Central takes visitors down memory lane, with a mixture of authentic and re-interpreted nostalgic items from colonial Hong Kong.

There are red British military ceremonial jackets, embroidered badges with a lion and a dragon, a full body armour plate, the old “Murray Building” sign before it was turned into a hotel, and the old Urban Council logo.

There’s also a portrait of young Queen Elizabeth wearing a crown and yellow evening gown that looks like it could have hung in a government building up until June 30, 1997, except that it isn’t a British government-issued portrait – instead it’s one the Museum’s founder Bryan Ong Ye-hou had painted.

“The original portrait is in The Royal Gallery. The royal portraits that were in the [Hong Kong] government buildings were all copies,” he says. There are surviving old government copies but these have faded. So he and his team repainted the portrait, which required research into the garter and details of the jewellery she was wearing. Continue reading

Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas

Dear colleagues,

Hope this email finds you well. I am pleased to inform you that the next Contemporary China Centre event/seminar coorganised with HOMELandS will be presented by Cangbai Wang. He will talk about his new book, Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas, with guest discussant Yow Cheun Hoe (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). You may register here and the Zoom link will be provided in due course.

How Wee Ng

About this Event

Book event: “Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas: Migration Histories and the Cultural Heritage of the Homeland” (May 20, 2021)
Organised by Contemporary China Centre and HOMELandS (Hub on Migration, Exile, Language and Spaces) University of Westminster
*Zoom link will be sent out before the event

Museum Representations of Chinese Diasporas is the first book to analyse the recent upsurge in museums on Chinese diasporas in China. Examining heritage-making beyond the nation state, the book provides a much-needed, critical examination of China’s engagement with its diasporic communities. In this event, author Dr Cangbai Wang (University of Westminster, United Kingdom) will talk about his research findings with guest discussant Associate Professor Yow Cheun Hoe (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore). Continue reading

China allows people to pay respects to Jiang Qing

Source: Radio Free Asia (4/7/21)
China Allows People to Pay Respects at Grave of Cultural Revolution Leader Jiang Qing
By Qiao Long

China Allows People to Pay Respects at Grave of Cultural Revolution Leader Jiang Qing

Picture dated 25 January 1981 in Beijing of Jiang Qing (1914-91), third wife of Mao Zedong during the trial of the “Gang of Four”, four Shanghai-based hard-core radical leaders of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). AFP

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has allowed public access to the grave of Jiang Qing, former member of the Gang of Four and widow of late supreme leader Mao Zedong, ahead of its centenary on July 1.

“This was sent to me by a friend in mainland China, and I am forwarding it here,” former CCP Party School professor Cai Xia, who now lives in the United States, said via her Twitter account on April 5, the traditional grave-tending festival where people make long journeys to honor the dead.

She said the move was in contrast with the state security police detail that guarded the grave of late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, who fell from power after opposing the use of military force against unarmed civilians in 1989.

“People aren’t allowed to pay their respects at Zhao Ziyang’s grave, and yet Jiang Qing’s grave is open to the public,” Cai wrote. “The CCP is afraid of whom the public might admire most.” Continue reading

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:

To attend this event, please register at: 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 <>