Wei Shanling 魏善玲, Guomin zhengfu dui haiwai liuxuesheng de jiuzhu 國民政府對海外留學生的救助（1937—1946） [The Guomindang Government’s Aid to Overseas Chinese Students (1937–1946)], Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe 南京大學出版社, 2022. ISBN 9787305250149, 385 pages, 88 RMB.
Reviewed by Christina Philips
Wei Shanling’s book on the Guomindang Government’s Aid to Chinese Overseas Students is an in-depth analysis of the discourse between various government institutions on the disbursement of financial aid for living expenses and return tickets to struggling overseas Chinese students during the Second Sino-Japanese War and its aftermath until 1946. The study is a result of Wei’s doctoral research at Nanjing University and was published in the “Universities and Contemporary China” (Daxue yu xiandai Zhongguo 大學與現代中國) series, edited by her supervisor Zhu Qingbao 朱慶葆, who also contributed a preface on the role of universities in the making of modern China.
Chang Jianhua 常建华, Qing qianqi guojia zhili yu minsheng zhengce 清前期国家治理与民生政策 (Policies on Governance and People’s Livelihood in the Early Qing Period), Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中华书局, 2021. ISBN 9787101153910, 535 pages, 88 RMB.
Reviewed by Royston Lin (Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg)
Chang Jianhua’s Policies on Governance and People’s Livelihood in the Early Qing Period represents a growing interest and trend among Chinese scholars in revisiting Qing (1644–1911) history in recent years. It includes eighteen essays, all of which were previously published in various Chinese academic journals between 2008 and 2020, by the author on topics ranging from the political consolidation of the Qing to the dynasty’s economic policies. The compilation is one of eleven volumes from the fourth edition of the ‘Collected Papers of Nankai Historians’ (南开史学家论丛).
Hu Xingliang 胡星亮: Zhongguo xiandai xiju sichao – Xiju xiandaihua yu shehui xiandaihua 中国现代戏剧思潮 —— 戏剧现代化与社会现代化 (Trends of Thought in Modern Chinese Theater – The Modernization of Theater and the Modernization of Society), Beijing shifan daxue chubanshe 北京师范大学出版社, 2022. ISBN 978-7-303-27803-9; 344 pages; 79 RMB.
Reviewed by Stefan Christ (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg)
I am interested in the relationship between theater and society, and so I was excited to read the new book by Hu Xingliang, Trends of Thought in Modern Chinese Theater – The Modernization of Theater and the Modernization of Society (hereafter Trends of Thought). However, I soon realized that it is not a new book at all, but a slightly revised version of Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiju sichao 二十世纪中国戏剧思潮 (Trends of Thought in Chinese Theater in the Twentieth Century), published in 1995 by Jiangsu wenyi chubanshe. Nevertheless, Hu Xingliang is such an important figure in modern Chinese theater studies that his book still deserves a critical review. As a matter of fact, Trends of Thought has been republished along with three other books by Hu to celebrate his scholarly accomplishments and the results of various large research projects conducted over the last several decades.
Chen Songchang 陳松長, Mawangdui boshu yanjiu 馬王堆帛書研究 (Studies on the Mawangdui Silk Manuscripts), Beijing 北京: Shangwu yinshuguan 商務印書館 2021. ISBN 9787100196345; 6, 440 pages; 198 RMB.
Reviewed by Michael Friedrich (Universität Hamburg)
Almost fifty years ago, tomb 3 of the early Han Mawangdui 馬王堆 site (hereafter MWD) in Changsha was excavated in December 1973 and could be dated to 168 BCE. The archaeologists unearthed a wealth of artefacts similar to those found in tomb MWD 1 which had already been excavated in 1972. However, a lacquered chest containing two bamboo manuscripts and more than two dozen silk manuscripts had a much longer-lasting impact on the study of ancient China than the mummy of the tomb owner found in MWD 1.
Due to the political struggles of the time, so it is said, the excavation campaign and the treatment of the artefacts immediately following it were a far cry from international standards and caused, in addition to a lack of documentation, further damage. All silk artefacts from the site, including the two paintings hanging on the eastern and western walls of the coffin chamber and the T-shaped banners from MWD 1 and MWD 3 were transferred to the Palace Museum in Beijing, because the Hunan Provincial Museum 湖南省博物館 (officially now Hunan Museum) did not have any previous experience with this type of artefacts. The Palace Museum treated the most spectacular ones first, among them the two scrolls containing the Laozi 老子 text. After conservation and mounting on paper, the fragments of the artefacts were taken back by conservators of the Hunan Provincial Museum.
The history of research on the MWD written artefacts has yet to be written, a first and apparently incomplete overview is provided in the latest edition of the manuscripts’ contents from 2014. According to this summary, three main stages may be discerned:
Liu Jigang 刘继刚, Jiaguwen suo jian Yin Shang zaihai yanjiu 甲骨文所见殷商灾害研究 (A Study of Disasters during the Yin Shang Dynasty as seen in Oracle Bone Inscriptions), Beijing: Kexue Chubanshe 科学出版社, 2022. ISBN 9787030722331; X, 207 pages, 108 RMB.
Reviewed by Thomas Crone (FAU Erlangen-Nürnburg)
This book examines the representation of disasters in oracle bone inscriptions from the late Shang dynasty (ca. 13th century–11th century BCE). Disasters are a ubiquitous topic in oracle bone inscriptions, as almost every inscription is connected in one way or another with an attempt to prevent or investigate ominous and harmful events of various magnitudes. However, to date, no comparable monograph has attempted to explore the matter to its fullest extent or for its own sake. Moreover, to broaden the horizon of the textual and material evidence under discussion, Liu Jigang supplements his analysis of the oracle bone inscriptions with excursions into traditional literature and published reports on archaeological excavations. This makes the monograph a welcome and much-needed piece of research, and the author has worked extensively on the subject of catastrophes in early Chinese literature.
This special issue is the second result of a workshop organised at the European Research Centre for Chinese Studies (Beijing) in December 2020 by the EFEO Beijing Centre and the Centre franco-chinois en sciences sociales. The editorial of Guillaume Dutournier and Florence Padovani (guest editors) is available at China Perspectives.
Yang Haiying 杨海英, Cong “Tang jiang shu tie” kan Ming-Qing shidai de nanbing beijiang 从《唐将书帖》看明清时代的南兵北将 (Southern Soldiers and Northern Generals during the Transitional Period of Ming & Qing: From the Perspective of Letters from Chinese Servicemen during Campaign in Korea), Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe 中国社会科学出版社, 2022. ISBN 978-7-5203-8941-9, 512 pages, 189 RMB.
Reviewed by Barend Noordam (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
In 1592 the Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598), who had only recently politically unified a Japan ravaged by more than a century of civil war, decided to invade Korea, which at that time was ruled by the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1897). The Koreans were not prepared to resist the Japanese onslaught, the largest amphibious landing in world history up to that point. Around 150,000 Japanese soldiers participated in the operation, with another 140,000 joining in a second landing in 1597.
Weng Youwei 翁有为, Jindai Zhongguo zhi bianzhou: Junfa huayu jiangou, shengzhi biange yu guojia 近代中国之变轴：军阀话语建构、省制变革与国家 (The Axis of Change in Modern China: The Construction of the Discourse on Warlordism, the Reform of the Provincial System, and the State). Beijing: Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社, 2021. ISBN 978-7-01-022952-2; 2, 19, 338 pages, 86.00 RMB.
Reviewed by Clemens Büttner (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt)
Weng Youwei’s The Axis of Change in Modern China is a perplexing book with an elusive message, although the book is not without merit. Its self-declared goal is to uncover the “inherent logic of historical development” (历史发展的自身逻辑, 〈代前言〉, p. 1) that supposedly informed China’s modern history from the second half of the 19th century to the (from the author’s perspective) inevitable victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949. Weng pursues this goal by analyzing “three central issues” (三大轴心问题) that he feels decisively shaped the course of China’s social transformation in the late Qing and early Republican eras: The “construction of the modern warlord discourse” (近代军阀话语之建构), the “reform of the provincial institutional [system] and the evolution of society” (省区制度之变革与社会之演进), and the “transformation of the contemporary state” (现代国家之转型). However, the reason why these three issues are especially suitable for uncovering said logic is not sufficiently made clear, and Weng’s overall argument only works if the reader shares the author’s – virtually axiomatic and never explicitly expressed – assumption that the rise and victory of the CCP were scientifically inevitable.
Lü Miaojun 吕庙军, Qinghua jian yu Wen Wu Zhou gong shishi yanjiu 清华简与文武周公史事研究 (Research on Tsinghua Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts and Historical Events of King Wen, King Wu, and the Duke of Zhou), Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe 上海古籍出版社, 2021.
ISBN 978–7–5732–0021–1, 329 pages, 88 RMB.
Reviewed by Felix Bohlen (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)
The discovery of the oracle bones in the early 20th century marked a new era for modern historical research on early China. Ever since, excavated texts on bone, bronze, bamboo, silk, and wood regularly grab headlines and receive strong scholarly attention. The so-called Tsinghua manuscripts, a corpus of numerous manuscripts on bamboo slips, are the latest significant find of this sort. The collection was acquired in 2008 by Tsinghua University in Beijing, although the texts were probably illegally looted from an ancient tomb, and their exact provenance remains unknown. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, academia widely considers them authentic sources from the Warring States Period (ca. 480–221 BCE), primarily based on philological arguments. Since the discovery and subsequent successive publication, these manuscripts have been subject to intense debate and extensive research. Lü Miaojun’s book, under review here, is another study in this field, written for specialists in Western Zhou history (1045–771 BCE) and the Tsinghua manuscript collection. As such, the book requires readers to have at least some basic knowledge of the history of the Western Zhou and the source texts.
Li Xiaowei 李小尉, Xin Zhongguo chuqi de Zhongguo renmin jiuji zonghui yanjiu 新中国初期的中国人民救济总会研究 (Research on the People’s Relief Association of China in the Early Period of the PRC), Beijing: Renmin chubanshe 人民出版社, 2020. ISBN 9787010221021, 441 pages, 90 RMB.
Reviewed by Henrike Rudolph (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
In the 1930s and 1940s, refugees flocked to the larger cities of war-ridden China in search of safety, a steady income, or at least something to eat. Many returned to their villages or found work in the expanding industrialization programs after 1949. Others, such as disabled veterans, orphans, and impoverished peasants, still roamed the streets when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power. In the existing scholarship, we find diverging assessments of the extent of the problem and the need for state relief programs. While some scholars claim that urban poverty was a problem quickly solved by expanding industrial employment, others argue that it severely affected the consolidation of the new regime. Officially, social relief (shehui jiuji) targeted only those who fell through the cracks of the proposed production unit and commune system because they could not work and had no family to support them. However, especially in the early 1950s, large parts of the population were still affected by devastations of war or natural disasters and looked to the government for assistance.
by Laurent Chircop-Reyes (CEFC, associated CECMC and IrAsia)
Cases of attacks on merchants by brigands abound in the official reports of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Successive emperors ordered local governors to solve the brigandage problem. Apart from imperial measures intensifying military patrols in certain areas where brigandage was endemic at varying degrees, merchants (especially those from Shanxi Province) hired private escort companies (biaoju 鏢局) to ensure caravan protection during journeys over land and water.
Full text of the research note see: doi.org/10.25360/01-2023-00004