Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities

Congrats to Rachel Harris, Simon Adams, Marc-André Renold and Alessandro Chechi, plus Hugh Eakin, whose chapters in this open access book all discuss the Chinese government’s systematic destruction of Uyghur heritage:

Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities (Getty, 2022)

Full-book download is available here, chapters can be downloaded separately. The book’s online search function seems dysfunctional, but the PDFs can be searched.

See esp. Ch. 7, “Uyghur Heritage under China’s ‘Antireligious Extremism’ Campaigns,” by Rachel Harris; and Ch. 16, “Cultural Cleansing and Mass Atrocities,” by Simon Adams — on how “cultural cleansing” has been used as strategy to destroy #Yazidi #Rohingya #Uyghurs & #Hazara … ; and Ch. 23, “International Human Rights Law and Cultural Heritage,” by Marc-André Renold and Alessandro Chechi, plus several more chapters, in passing. –The parallel suffering of the Kazakhs is not mentioned, it seems.

As far as I can see, the book also does not seem to discuss how nearly all Islamic countries, on cue from mighty China, have turned their back on the Uyghurs to let their mosques be bulldozed, Korans burned, and the imams sent to concentration camps. Continue reading

The not-so-scary truth behind horror sensation ‘Incantation’

Source: SupChina (7/29/22)
The not-so-scary truth behind horror sensation ‘Incantation’
Audiences are raving about Taiwan’s newest horror film “Incantation,” which just hit international Netflix this month. Exactly how real are the religious elements at the center of the movie?
By Emma Burleigh


This month, the Taiwanese film Incantation (咒 zhòu) hit international Netflix: a found-footage horror movie following the experiences of a cursed woman — and the consequences of the curse. Viewers were quick to hype up the film, daring others online to try and sit through the whole thing.

Since its premiere in March, the movie has become the highest grossing Taiwanese horror film of all time, and Taiwan’s highest grossing film of 2022. Incantation also finds itself at the center of a debate on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. The hashtag “Is Incantation scary?” (咒吓人吗 zhòu xiàrén ma) has garnered millions of views. The ultimate consensus: not that scary, but still worth watching.

Something feels different with Incantation. Directed by Kevin Ko, the movie interacts with its viewers. The protagonist, Ronan (Tsai Hsuan-yen [蔡亘晏 Cài Gènyàn]), leads the audience through mind exercises, directing chants to be spoken. By the end of the movie, you feel like you’ve been tricked. Maybe cursed.

The movie is set around Ronan’s curse after she breaks a religious taboo while ghost-hunting in Yunnan province. Ronan and her two friends visit a remote village practicing an extreme form of Buddhism. They become wrapped up in a local ritual, unknowingly binding themselves to Dahei Mother Buddha.

Continue reading

Philosophies of Co-Becoming and the Sino-Island

Philosophies of Co-Becoming and the Sino-Island is an international conference that will take place on July 8-9, 2022. It will bring scholars together from half a dozen countries to discuss the notion of a philosophy of co-becoming (共生哲學) in our contemporary world. Many of the conference organizers work and teach on the island of Taiwan, which we call the Sino-island, to denote the island’s long history as a center of immigration for Sinitic speaking peoples, as well as its rich Sinological institutions and scholarly traditions. In a contemporary world riven by nationalist warfare, economic inequality, the ravages of climate change, gender discrimination, and a global pandemic whose effects are disproportionally borne across diverse populations up to the present day, the question of how to co-exist — with the natural world, with our own bodies, and with each other — has never been a more urgent one for contemporary thought.

Each panel of the conference will be live-streamed through Webex online software. To register to view the conference online, please fill out this form. The conference website can be found here. The conference program can be found here.

This conference is co-sponsored by The Global Sinology Forum at National Sun Yat-Sen University, the National Library (ROC)’s Center for Chinese Studies, and the East Asian Academy for New Liberal Arts at The University of Tokyo.

Any inquiries regarding the conference can be directed to: The conference will be conducted in Chinese and English. Continue reading

Pushing the Boundaries lecture

The University of Sydney China Studies Centre
Pushing the Boundaries: Assessing the Potential of Intersections between China’s Current National Self-image, Tianxia (‘all under heaven’) and the Traces of Confucian Morality and Aesthetics
Date: Wednesday, 8 September 2021
Time: 1:00PM-2:00PM AEST
Location: Online
This seminar is free and open to the public!


In recent years, the People’s Republic of China has become increasingly assertive in the upholding of its national territorial limits. The reasons for this assertiveness are not far to seek. Exponential domestic economic growth over the last four decades has greatly enhanced the PRC’s confidence on the world stage in addition to strengthening the country’s military reach, regionally and internationally. Alongside a desire to re-establish Greater China’s former geographical integrity following the divisions wrought by civil conflict as well as Euro-American and Japanese colonialism/imperialism there is also a necessity to secure vital trading routes and access to resources. Less materially to the fore, but also important, are intersections between the PRC’s current national territorial assertiveness and the recent revisiting by Chinese academics of an uncertainly bounded governmental authority signified by the term tianxia (‘all under heaven’)—and by association cognate Confucian conceptions of morality and aesthetics—during China’s dynastic-imperial past as the basis for a new harmonious, non-interfering “post-West” world order. It will be argued that while those intersections are open to interpretation as tracing a durable Chinese civilization-specific cultural habitus in support of the PRC’s contemporary national self-image they have by turns a potential to shape China as a renascent world power deconstructively/reciprocally—as a matter of parallaxic discursive positioning—somewhere (and nowhere) between the dual imaginaries of empire and the nation-state. Continue reading

Bulldozing Uyghur culture (1)

I’d like to thank Magnus Fiskesjö for continuing to write about the extermination of Uyghur culture. He mentioned that a Hilton hotel was built where a mosque had been razed.  I had missed that report.  It made me wish for an accessible and regularly updated website naming Western companies that are complicit.  This would facilitate small but meaningful acts such as sharing information with the manager of one’s local store, for example, and politely asking if he is aware of what his company is doing. Writing to the public-relations teams at such companies, or to major stockholders, is surely useless, but making lower-level employees aware of what they are being associated with— even if there is nothing they can do about it — may prepare the ground for future change.

The excellent work of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute provides much material, Another organization, Save Uighur, proposed action-items in the wake of that report, with a terse update here.

But the problem goes beyond retail products made with forced labor: incidents such as the Hilton in Hotan or Disney’s expression of thanks to the Public Security bureau after filming Mulan in Xinjiang should be included in any compilation.  Regular updates would be important, as well as acknowledging the companies that have terminated such relationships.

Maybe someone is already doing this?

A. E. Clark <>

What is South China Sea Buddhism

Lecture: What is South China Sea Buddhism?

Organised by the Department of Chinese Studies in collaboration with the China Studies Centre ‘Language, Literature, Culture and Education’ cluster and The Australian Society for Asian Humanities (formerly OSA).

Chinese Buddhists have never remained stationary. They have always been on the move. Why did Buddhist monks migrate from China to Southeast Asia? How did they participate in transregional Buddhist networks across the South China Sea? In this talk, I will tell the story of “South China Sea Buddhism,” referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Drawing on multilingual research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, I challenge the conventional categories of “Chinese Buddhism” and “Southeast Asian Buddhism” by focusing on the lesser-known—yet no less significant—Chinese Buddhist communities of maritime Southeast Asia. By crossing the artificial spatial frontier between China and Southeast Asia, this talk brings Southeast Asia into the study of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism into the study of Southeast Asian Buddhism. Continue reading

Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape

Source: BBC News (2/2/21)
‘Their goal is to destroy everyone’: Uighur camp detainees allege systematic rape
By Matthew Hill, David Campanale and Joel Gunter, BBC News

Women in China’s “re-education” camps for Uighurs have been systematically raped, sexually abused, and tortured, according to detailed new accounts obtained by the BBC. You may find some of the details in this story distressing.

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China's network of internment camps

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China’s network of internment campsBBC

The men always wore masks, Tursunay Ziawudun said, even though there was no pandemic then.

They wore suits, she said, not police uniforms.

Sometime after midnight, they came to the cells to select the women they wanted and took them down the corridor to a “black room”, where there were no surveillance cameras.

Several nights, Ziawudun said, they took her.

“Perhaps this is the most unforgettable scar on me forever,” she said.

“I don’t even want these words to spill from my mouth.”

Tursunay Ziawudun spent nine months inside China’s vast and secretive system of internment camps in the Xinjiang region. According to independent estimates, more than a million men and women have been detained in the sprawling network of camps, which China says exist for the “re-education” of the Uighurs and other minorities. Continue reading

Chinese intellectuals and Carl Schmitt

Two notes on Chinese establishment intellectuals’ ever tighter embrace of the theories of the key supporter of the Nazis, the law professor Carl Schmitt, infamous for enthusiastically making up legal arguments to defend Hitler’s extra-judicial killings of political opponents.

  1. Jackson T. Reinhardt writes about “Totalitarian Friendship: Carl Schmitt in Contemporary China,” Inquiries, 2020, Vol. 12 No. 07.

Reinhardt highlights the literary scholar Zhang Xudong as one of the leading Chinese proponents of Schmitt, the authoritarian theorist of state power — and of the people as unanimously submitting to its self-appointed “Leadership,” the Communist Party:

” … literary theorist Zhang Xudong […] believes that it is impossible for China to construct an organic and particular cultural politics for China in “a [political] space delimited by Western universal values such as science, democracy, and liberty,” because Chinese cultural identity “often appears as an inferior mode [in Western discourse].” Zhang’s Chinese cultural politics is the reaffirmation of “Chinese subjectivity” which is “self-sufficient and not delimited by Western modernity.” The main content of this cultural politic is Schmittian homogeneity. To Zhang, Western values of market and political liberalism make “the genuine ideal of social equality in China… [impossible to] be realized.” This social equality occurs by aligning establishing and aligning a homogeneous character of the citizens in relation towards the state. Zhang concludes that only with the governing leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is China able to foster this egalitarian vision.” (Zhang is a Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies at NYU. His involvement in a censorship incident in a journal he edited, Frontiers of Literary Studies in China, was discussed on MCLC in late April 2019, in a thread on “Censorship in Chinese Studies.” The censorship, and Zhang’s defense of it, later led to Brill’s termination of publishing the journal). Continue reading

Lhasa in the Cultural Revolution

Source: China Channel, LARB (11/13/20)
Lhasa in the Cultural Revolution: A Photo Essay
By  and 

Header: Crowd accusing Samding Dorje Phagmo in the courtyard of her house in Lhasa, 1966 (Tsering Dorje, courtesy of Tsering Woeser)

Tsering Woeser presents her father’s photographs of Tibetan struggle sessions

In her new book Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, the Tibetan essayist and poet Tsering Woeser dissects the impact of China’s Cultural Revolution on Lhasa, her birthplace, five decades ago. This photo essay features 18 of the more than 300 photos in the book, accompanied by Woeser’s comments (translated by Susan Chen); these are based on her interviews with Tibetans and Chinese in Lhasa who lived through the events shown in the photos. All of the photos were taken by Woeser’s father, Tsering Dorje (1937-91), who was a PLA officer and photographer serving in Lhasa in the early 1960s. His photos, which came to light only after his death, are the only known visual records of the struggle sessions, humiliation parades, and mass rallies staged during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. For our previously published interview with Tsering Woeser about her book and her father’s photographs, please read here. – Robbie Barnett

[see also Red Guards in Tibet] Continue reading

China ravages Xinjiang cultural heritage

Rian Thum, well-known scholar of Uyghur history, just published dreadful satellite imagery showing that a major sacred site in the famous Xinjiang city of Khotan has been bulldozed — and turned into a parking lot. See this Twitter thread starting April 28.

The Australia-based forensic analyst Nathan Ruser (who has previously analyzed satellite imagery from Xinjiang, including the notorious leaked video of a concentration camp detainee mass transport), adds new photos and discussion.

Meanwhile, another sacred site, the gravesite of the modern Uyghur national literary hero Lutpulla Mutellip, had already been turned into an ugly kitschy park. Continue reading

Tang Junyi novella

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/14/20)
Love Tips from a Himalayan Forest
Excerpts from a forgotten Chinese love tract, translated by Jonathan Keir
By Jonathan Keir

In his 1940 novella Aiqing zhi Fuyin, Tang Junyi’s lapsed Zoroastrian protagonist, the deracinated “world philosopher” Delas, embodies the author’s disgust for both communism and capitalism, and his search instead for wartime refuge in a “spiritual philosophy.” Instead of explaining love away in Freudian, Darwinian or other ideological terms, Tang sought to persuade readers that “what we need to do is the opposite, namely to explain the lower spheres of human movement in terms of the higher ones.” Love, for Delas, is best understood as a transcendental source of mystery and wonder – not a predictable, Tinderesque outcome, but a triumph of human free will over such bleak determinism. – Jonathan Keir

The Morality in Love

At this point one of the youths stood up and asked: “Master, allow me to ask a random question. Love should have a single focus; I have seen examples of it in others and experienced it for myself: a concentrated love is the most precious. But I do sometimes wonder why this must be so. I mean, every young person, before she settles on a partner for marriage, considers an enormous field of options; she might at different moments turn her amorous needs and energies on any number of targets. We might even say that she loves all these possibilities. But from the moment she has chosen a long-term partner, her love is suddenly concentrated on one person. Isn’t it a major loss to move from a plethora of potential targets of love down to just one? Why can’t we just live pan-amorously and enrich our love lives accordingly? I don’t need a moral lesson; I need a real reason.” Continue reading

Pastor sentenced to 9 years

Source: NYT (12/30/19)
China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison
The founder of one of China’s largest unregistered churches was given a lengthy sentence for what the government called subversion of state power.
By Paul Mozur and Ian Johnson

HONG KONG — A secretive Chinese court sentenced one of the country’s best-known Christian voices and founder of one of its largest underground churches to nine years in prison for subversion of state power and illegal business operations, according to a government statement released on Monday.

Wang Yi, the pastor who founded Early Rain Covenant Church, was detained last December with more than 100 members of his congregation as part of a crackdown on churches, mosques and temples not registered with the state.

While most of Mr. Wang’s parishioners, including his wife, Jiang Rong, were eventually released, Mr. Wang never re-emerged from detention. Continue reading

Children not spared (1)

This is a great article which contributes a lot to the description of the ongoing assault on the indigenous peoples of Xinjiang.

But the NYT framing also continues a weird trend with headlines telling us this is about “Muslims” and “religion” even though this is only one part of it, and the primary goal clearly is the destruction of the cultures and peoples of the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and the other minority peoples, as such.

Why this framing? One possible explanation could be that the editors think that Uyghur, Kazakh, and the other targeted peoples have “too difficult names” for their readers to handle. Or, that the NYT willy-nilly is aligning itself with the current administration officials who have often spoken up, admirably so, for the people of Xinjiang, but often in terms of the freedom of religion (Note: I do think it is indeed very admirable that conservative evangelical Republicans do speak up for oppressed Muslims, and it is of course true, to say that this is an assault on the freedom of religion). Continue reading

Children not spared

Source: NYT (12/28/19)
In China’s Crackdown on Muslims, Children Have Not Been Spared
In Xinjiang the authorities have separated nearly half a million children from their families, aiming to instill loyalty to China and the Communist Party.
By Amy Qin

HOTAN, China — The first grader was a good student and beloved by her classmates, but she was inconsolable, and it was no mystery to her teacher why.

“The most heartbreaking thing is that the girl is often slumped over on the table alone and crying,” he wrote on his blog. “When I asked around, I learned that it was because she missed her mother.”

The mother, he noted, had been sent to a detention camp for Muslim ethnic minorities. The girl’s father had passed away, he added. But instead of letting other relatives raise her, the authorities put her in a state-run boarding school — one of hundreds of such facilities that have opened in China’s far western Xinjiang region.

As many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others have been sent to internment camps and prisons in Xinjiang over the past three years, an indiscriminate clampdown aimed at weakening the population’s devotion to Islam. Even as these mass detentions have provoked global outrage, though, the Chinese government is pressing ahead with a parallel effort targeting the region’s children. Continue reading

China’s new civil religion

Source: NYT (12/21/19)
China’s New Civil Religion
The Communist Party is reviving traditional beliefs for political gain — while cracking down on some faiths.
By Ian Johnson [Mr. Johnson’s most recent book is “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao.”]

A woman offers joss sticks and prayers at the Lama Temple in central Beijing, a place of worship very popular with locals praying for wealth and good health.Credit…Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

BEIJING — In the northern suburbs of this city is a small temple to a Chinese folk deity, Lord Guan, a famous warrior deified more than a millennium ago. Renovated five years ago at the government’s expense, the temple is used by a group of retirees who run pilgrimages to a holy mountain, schoolchildren who come to learn traditional culture and a Taoist priest who preaches to wealthy urbanites about the traditional values of ancient China.

Perched atop a hillock overlooking the sprawling capital, the temple is a microcosm of a new civil religion taking shape in China — an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to satisfy Chinese people’s search for moral guidelines by supplementing the largely irrelevant ideology of communism with a curated version of the past.

This new state-guided religiosity is the flip side of the government’s harsh policies toward Islam and Christianity. Officials believe these two global faiths are hard to control because of their foreign ties, and they have used negotiation or force — diplomacy with the Vatican, arrests of prominent Protestants, internment camps for Muslims — to try to bring these religions to heel. Continue reading