A Birthday Letter to the PRC

Source: China File (9/28/19)
A Birthday Letter to the People’s Republic of China
By Yangyang Cheng

(China Photos/Getty Images) A student draws the Chinese national flag on a chalkboard during an activity to mark National Day, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, September 30, 2007.

Dear People’s Republic,

Or should I call you, China?

I am writing to you on the eve of your 70th birthday. 70, what an age. “For a man to live to 70 has been rare since ancient times,” the poet Du Fu wrote in the eighth century. You have outlived many kings and countless men, and you have lasted longer than every other state that has espoused the hammer and sickle. Congratulations must be in order.

I was born a few weeks after you turned 40. We are both October babies, a fact I was so proud of as a child, your child. During a class in elementary school, the teacher showed us a recording of the day of your birth The audio, raspy with time, still echoes in me as I write, its black-and-white imagery etched in my memory.

“The People’s Central Government of the People’s Republic of China is founded today!” Chairman Mao declared atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace, overlooking a sea of red flags and exuberant faces. His portrait hung at the center of the gate, where it remains, next to these words: “Long Live the People’s Republic of China.” Continue reading

China’s New Red Guards review

Source: SCMP (9/25/19)
China’s New Red Guards: rise of the neo-Maoists examined in briskly written book
Author Jude D. Blanchette explores the stresses within China’s Communist Party. ‘It may present itself as a united and monolithic organisation but is in fact a sackful of sects struggling for control of the narrative’
By Peter Neville-Hadley

In China’s New Red Guards, author Jude D. Blanchette explores how the country continues to be shaped by Mao Zedong’s legacy.

In China’s New Red Guards, author Jude D. Blanchette explores how the country continues to be shaped by Mao Zedong’s legacy.

“The mortuary of global politics is piled high with the corpses of socialist countries,” said PLA Air Force Senior Colonel Dai Xu in a 2014 pep talk to a military audience in northeast China.

A hero to the neo-Maoists, whose rise is described in Jude D. Blanchette’s China’s New Red Guards – The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong, Dai saw shadowy forces everywhere conspiring to add Chinese socialism to the list of casualties, whether by encouraging “peaceful evolution” or taking to the streets in the then ongoing Occupy Central protests.

A China specialist at United States risk-advisory firm Crumpton Group, Blanchette has had face-to-face meetings with many of his subjects – neo-Maoists and opposing economic reformers, grass-roots activists and high-profile figures alike. Continue reading

Who wrote Jin Ping Mei

Source: LARB, China Channel (9/13/19)
Who Wrote China’s Most Notorious Erotic Novel?
By Tristan Shaw
Tristan Shaw unpicks the controversial authorship of Jin Ping Mei

A pornographic Ming Dynasty painting (public domain image from Wikicommons).

For over 400 years, the Ming-era novel Jin Ping Mei  known in English as The Golden Lotus – has been celebrated by some readers as a literary masterpiece, while others condemn it as a salacious influence. Chronicling the life of a decadent merchant named Ximen Qing in the Song dynasty, the book’s notoriety comes from its graphic descriptions of sex, covering everything from adultery to sado-masochism. As Ximen rises up the social hierarchy, his lust for power and sex becomes increasingly depraved. Over the course of the story, he takes six wives and numerous concubines and servants, before eventually dying during the passionate raptures of sex from an overdose of aphrodisiacs. Continue reading

Artists reflect on what has gone in HK

Source: SCMP (9/5/19)
Out of time: artists return to darkroom, make coin collages to remind Hong Kong of what has gone
Anita Mui, Queen’s Pier, and former Legco building among icons of Hong Kong artist Giraffe Leung depicts using specially treated 20-cent coins. Multiple exposures of city streets in China, Singapore, Japan and South Korea, printed in a darkroom without digital manipulation, make up Simon Wan’s show
By Snow Xia

Giraffe Leung rubs a panel made of 20-cent coins with chemical solutions to create an image of Hong Kong at La Galerie Paris 1839 in Central. Photo: Snow Xia

Giraffe Leung rubs a panel made of 20-cent coins with chemical solutions to create an image of Hong Kong at La Galerie Paris 1839 in Central. Photo: Snow Xia

Coins and darkroom photography may be falling out of use, but they have been given new life in an exhibition that explores and evokes Hongkongers’ collective memory.

Showing at La Galerie Paris 1839, Hollywood Road, Central, “Coins – Memories of Hong Kong” by Giraffe Leung Lok-hei and “City Glow” by Simon Wan Chi-chung look at how rapid urbanisation has changed the city.

“As e-payments and virtual money have replaced traditional money globally, I want to use money to remind us of the role … people and things play in our lives [and their value],” explains Leung, whose show re-examines unremarkable objects that became or are becoming obsolete. Continue reading

Su Shaozhi dies at 96

Source: The Guardian (9/3/19)
Su Shaozhi obituary
Chinese political scientist who was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre
By John Gittings

Su Shaozhi was a prominent campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party

Su Shaozhi was a prominent campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party

The political scientist Su Shaozhi, who has died aged 96, was a campaigner for reform of the Chinese Communist party in the post-Mao years, until he was forced into exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Su was eventually allowed to return to China, but the news of his death has been ignored except on unofficial websites.

In his earlier career, Su would admit, he had “put obedience to the [Communist] party in first place”, churning out what was required to “elaborate the thoughts of Chairman Mao”. He made up for this in the 1980s by denouncing the party’s “feudalism and Stalinism” and proposing democratic reforms that are still unachieved. Privately he was even more outspoken, telling me in 1985 that “we need to make a clean sweep of the leadership”, which still insisted on rigid control. Continue reading

HK’s changing attitude toward China

Source: NYT (9/3/19)
Hong Kong Was Once Passionate About China. Now, It’s Indifferent or Contemptuous.
By Andrew Higgins

Hong Kong’s harbor. The attachment many Hong Kongers once felt with the mainland is fading. Credit: Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — As a young student learning classical Chinese, I stopped off in Hong Kong nearly 40 years ago to catch a slow train up to Beijing, then still known as Peking. At the station, I bought a Chinese-language magazine of politics, culture and ideas that I was advised to hide when I crossed the border out of what was then still a British colony into China.

With only a rudimentary grasp of modern Chinese, I spent much of my three-day journey north trying to decipher the Hong Kong magazine’s articles that were wrestling with China’s past political convulsions under Mao, its present challenges and future possibilities. It was my first taste of what was then the city’s raucous and passionate debate about China. Continue reading

“Teaching the PRC” PRC History Review 4.2

The PRC History Review
Volume 4, Number 2 (August 2019)
Special Issue: Teaching the PRC

The PRC History Group is very excited to announce the newest issue of The PRC History Review, which features a series of essays on teaching the PRC. An extra special thanks to our guest editors, Brian DeMare and Covell Meyskens, for all of their work on this issue, which also includes contributions from (in the order they appear) Rebecca Karl, Marc Matten, Emily Wilcox, Gail Hershatter, Ralph Thaxton, Kirk Denton, Denise Ho, Guobin Yang, Jeremy Brown, Stefan Landsberger, Elizabeth Perry, Eddy U, Sun Peidong, and Kaiser Kuo!

The issue is available online here: Special Issue: Teaching the PRC. Table of Contents appears below.

Fabio Lanza <flanza@email.arizona.edu>

Editorial Introduction
Brian DeMare, Tulane University and Covell Meyskens, Naval Postgraduate School

Why Mao? Why Now? A Brief Essay on Pedagogy and Possibility
Rebecca E. Karl, New York University Continue reading

Rittenberg dies at 98

Source: NYT (8/24/19)
Sidney Rittenberg, Idealistic American Aide to Mao Who Evolved to Counsel Capitalists, Dies at 98
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Robert D. McFadden

Sidney Rittenberg with Mao Zedong during a gathering of Communist Party leaders. Mr. Rittenberg was a dedicated aide to Mao as a party propagandist, but ran afoul of Mao’s suspicions, offended Mao’s wife and spent 16 years in prison. Credit: Personal Collection of Sidney Rittenberg

Sidney Rittenberg, an American soldier-linguist who stayed in China for 35 years after World War II as an adviser and political prisoner of the Communist Revolution, and later made millions as a counselor of Western capitalists exploiting booming Chinese markets, died on Saturday in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 98.

The family confirmed the death in a statement.

In a saga of Kafkaesque twists, Mr. Rittenberg was a dedicated aide to Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai as a party propagandist known across China by his Mandarin name, Li Dunbai — the mysterious foreigner in Mao’s government. But he ran afoul of Mao’s suspicions, offended Mao’s wife and spent 16 years in prison, falsely accused of espionage and counterrevolutionary plotting. Continue reading

Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History no. 104

Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, no. 104

The latest issue of Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Vol. 104 is now available online at: http://www.mh.sinica.edu.tw/bulletins.aspx



When Direct Governance Encounters Frontier Customs: Institutions, Miao Customs and “Miao Bandits” in the Miao Frontier of Western Hunan from the Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries
By Xiaohui Xie

Medical Treatment, Law and Local Society: A Re-exmination of the “Liu Liang Medical Case” in the Republic of China
By Ji Ling-hui

The Guomindang’s Provincial Party Headquarters in Shanxi: A Study of Organization and Personnel, 1938-1944
By Liang Xinlei

[Book Reviews]

Chao Shu-kang, Sparks and Incense: The Chinese Communist State Structure in Mass Culture and Local History, Reviewed by Wu Zhe

Posted by: Jhih-hong Jheng bimhas60@gmail.com

Forbidden City opens wide

Source: NYT (8/3/19)
The Forbidden City Opens Wide as China Projects New Pride in Its Past
President Xi Jinping has pushed “cultural self-confidence” as a signature policy, and one of the beneficiaries has been the former home of emperors, neglected no longer.
By Ian Johnson

Visitors now throng the Forbidden City in Beijing. Credit: Yan Cong for The New York Times

BEIJING — For much of the past century, the Forbidden City has been an imposing void in the otherwise bustling heart of Beijing.

The 180-acre compound, where emperors and their advisers plotted China’s course for centuries, was stripped of its purpose when the last emperor abdicated in 1912. Since then, the palace grounds have at times lain empty or been treated as a perfunctory museum, with most of the halls closed to the public and the few that were open crammed with tourists on package tours.

But as the Forbidden City approaches its 600th birthday next year, a dramatic change has been taking place, with even dark and dusty corners of the palace restored to their former glories for all to see. Continue reading

Yao Li dies at 96

Source: NYT (7/25/19)
Yao Li, ‘Silver Voice’ of Shanghai, Dies at 96
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Richard Sandomir

Yao Li in an undated photo. She began singing in the 1930s and became one of the “seven great singing stars of Shanghai,” performing and recording in wartime. Credit: Pictures from History and Granger, New York

Yao Li, a celebrated singer in Shanghai in the midst of war in the 1930s and ’40s, whose music remained popular after she moved to Hong Kong when China turned communist, died on July 19. She was 96.

The death was reported by the newspapers Ming Pao in Hong Kong and The Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur. No other details were given.

Ms. Yao was called “the silver voice” in Shanghai, her music influenced by jazz and Chinese folk. She was not famous well beyond Asia, but at least two of her songs made an impact in the United States. An English-language version of one of her hits, “Rose, Rose, I Love You” (1940), was recorded by the American singer Frankie Laine in 1951 and rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Continue reading

Land Wars

Dear Colleagues,

I am happy to announce the publication of my new book Land Wars: The Story of China’s Agrarian Revolution. The book is now available for purchase from Stanford University Press at https://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=30630.

Land Wars draws on new archival sources, but also on vivid narrative accounts of rural revolution from Ding Ling, Eileen Chang, and William Hinton. It will be of interest to anyone concerned with the connections between narrative and history.

From the back cover:

Mao Zedong’s land reform campaigns comprise a critical moment in modern Chinese history, and were crucial to the rise of the CCP. In Land Wars, Brian DeMare draws on new archival research to offer an updated and comprehensive history of this attempt to fundamentally transform the countryside. Across this vast terrain loyal Maoists dispersed, intending to categorize poor farmers into prescribed social classes, and instigate a revolution that would redistribute the land. To achieve socialist utopia, the Communists imposed and performed a harsh script of peasant liberation through fierce class struggle. While many accounts of the campaigns give false credence to this narrative, DeMare argues that the reality was much more complex and brutal than is commonly understood—while many villagers prospered, there were families torn apart and countless deaths. Uniquely weaving narrative and historical accounts, DeMare powerfully highlights the often devastating role of fiction in determining history. This corrective retelling ultimately sheds new light on the contemporary legacy of land reform, a legacy fraught with inequality and resentment, but also hope.

Brian DeMare <bdemare@tulane.edu>

Li Peng dies at 90

Source: NYT (7/23/19)
Li Peng, Chinese Leader Derided for Role in Tiananmen Crackdown, Dies at 90
By Erik Eckholm and Chris Buckley

Li Peng, then chairman of the National People’s Congress, right, in 2002. At left is Jiang Zemin, then the general secretary of the Communist Party. Credit: Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Li Peng, the former Chinese premier derided as the stone-faced “butcher of Beijing” for his role in the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, died on Monday in the Chinese capital. He was 90.

Mr. Li’s death was announced on Tuesday by Xinhua, the state-run news agency. Xinhua’s report gave no specific cause of death, saying only that medical treatment had failed.

Born to Communist revolutionaries in the early years of the Chinese civil war and educated as a hydroelectric engineer in the Soviet Union, Mr. Li rose to the top ranks of the Communist Party, serving as a bridge between the old guard of revolutionaries and the more technocratic leaders who succeeded them. Continue reading

Footbinding as Fashion review

Source: Taipei Times (6/27/19)
BOOK REVIEW: Bound for better things?
With Taiwan as the centerpiece, John Robert Shepherd builds an exhaustive argument about the endurance of foot-binding in China and Taiwan despite official attempts to curb the practice
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Footbinding as Fashion: Ethnicity, Labor, and Status in Traditional China, By John Robert Shepherd (University of Washington Press, 2018)

While Footbinding As Fashion looks at the practice in “traditional China,” much of this book is about Taiwan. The nation’s Hoklo majority brought the custom with them when they emigrated en masse across the Taiwan Strait, keeping the majority of their women’s feet tiny and their gait hobbled for centuries until the Japanese colonizers arrived and stamped out the practice.

But most importantly, it was the Japanese who produced the “only systematic accounting of the practice of footbinding that was ever produced” through the 1905 and 1915 censuses of Taiwan, where the author could cross-reference rich data sets that included languages spoken, Chinese province of origin (or Aboriginal), livelihood and whether they were “ever-bound” (currently bound or once bound and released) or “never-bound.”

As a result, researchers can obtain details as specific as the percentage of Hoklo-speaking Taiwanese with ancestry from Fujian Province between the ages of 21 and 30 who at some point stopped binding their feet. The dates are also crucial because the Japanese intensified their efforts in eradicating footbinding in the 1910s until they outright banned it in 1915.

The Japanese made such detailed records not only to keep tabs on the population and prove themselves as “model” colonizers to the international world, but also because they sought to eradicate the “three degenerate practices” among local people: footbinding, queue wearing and opium smoking. The data reveals that footbinding was almost exclusively a Hoklo practice, accounting for 99.6 percent of “ever-bound” women in Taiwan. Continue reading