[Book Review] Chen Zhenghong’s book series about the “Records of the Chroniclers”

Chen Zhenghong 陈正宏, Shikong: Shiji’ de benji, biao yu shu 时空:《史记》的本纪,表与书 (Time and Space: The Basic Annals, Tables and Treatises of the Records of the Chroniclers), Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju 中华书局 2020. ISBN 978-7-1011-3965-5, 297 pages, 45 RMB.

Chen Zhenghong 陈正宏, Xueyuan: Shiji‘ de shijia 血缘:《史记》的世家 (Blood Lines: The Hereditary Houses of the Records of the Chroniclers), Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju 2021. ISBN 978-7-1011-5143-5, 278 pages, 42 RMB.

reviewed by Hans van Ess (Universität München)

There is no scarcity of scholarly books on the Records of the Chroniclers, the famous Shiji by Sima Qian 司馬遷 (145? BCE–87? BCE), the first comprehensive history of ancient China. Chen Zhenghong (b. 1962), who modestly says of himself that he is not a specialist of the Shiji but just a professor of wenxianxue 文獻學 (at Fudan University), meaning philology or – maybe better – textual research, has published the two books under review as the first in a series of four planned volumes in which he intends to describe the relevant information contained in all chapters of the Shiji for a non-specialist general readership. Chen’s book is the companion to a podcast series for the commercial Chinese “Himalaya” (喜马拉雅FM) company. This has to be considered when reading these books. Chen reassures his reader that a lack of knowledge of Classical Chinese will not be an impediment to understanding.

Chen’s book is also written in a very colloquial and easy-going style. The first volume is devoted to the annals’, tables, and treatises, the second to the hereditary houses. We have to wait for his treatment of the biographical section, which with seventy chapters makes up a little bit more than half of the Shiji, and will be the subject of the final two volumes in Chen’s proposed series.

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[Book Review] 赵冬梅《法度与人心:帝制时期人与制度的互动》 (Zhao Dongmei: Norms and Agency. Interactions between Institutions and Actors in Imperial China)

Zhao Dongmei 赵冬梅, Fadu yu renxin: dizhi shiqi ren yu zhidu de hudong 法度与人心:帝制时期人与制度的互动 (Norms and Agency: Interactions between Institutions and Actors in Imperial China), Zhongxin Chuban Jituan 中信出版集团, 2021. ISBN 978-7-5217-2398-4, 460 pages, 128 RMB.

reviewed by Rong Hengying 戎恒颖 (Fudan University)

Author Zhao Dongmei, born in 1971, is currently a professor of history at Peking University. A specialist in Song institutional history, she has largely focused her research on the military selection system under the Song dynasty (Wudao panghuang: Zhongguo gudai de wuju yu wuxue 武道彷徨:中国古代的武举与武学, The Irresolute Military Way: Competitive Examinations and Military Teachings in Ancient China, 2000; Wenwu zhijian: Bei Song wuxuanguan yanjiu 文武之间:北宋武选官研究, The Civilian and the Military: A Study of the Military under the Northern Song, 2010). She has also worked in depth on Sima Guang and analysed Wang Anshi’s New Policies in her latest work (Da Song zhi bian 大宋之变1063–1086, The Great Political Change under the Song 10631086, 2020).

This latest book – a rare general history publication penned by a prominent Chinese scholar – puts forward a course of imperial trajectory, spanning two thousand years from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty (221 B.C.–1912 A.D.). This work serves as a companion to another recently published volume, Renjian yanhuo: yanmaizai lishi li de richang yu rensheng 人间烟火:掩埋在历史里的日常与人生 (Ordinary Life: The Everyday Buried in History), which is devoted to the social and material history of ancient China. The two books can be said to form a diptych, delving respectively into history written by and for the elite, and into “everyday” history kept on the margins of classical historiography. Continue reading

Chinese-European Lecture Series 2021/2022

Agriculture and the Making of Sciences (1100–1700)

This year’s lecture series is a collaboration between the European Research Centre for Chinese Studies, the Institute for the History of Natural Sciences (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.

Hitherto historians of science tend to examine pre-modern agriculture in extra-European traditions from the perspective of modern agronomy retrospectively, often within a single ethno-linguistic context. In this set of seminars, speakers aim at reversing this approach by exploring how agricultural practices informed the emergent discrete scholarly categories and epistemic genres in disparate cultural and literary traditions. Presenters focus on particular traditions of knowledge in their own terms, both in their cultural context and as emerging languages of authority, while being mindful of the cross-cultural and longue durée interplay between different fields and traditions of knowledge. They examine how everyday agricultural practices and material actions shaped these categories in particular, and knowledge cultures in general, to address some key questions.

  1. How were diverse forms of knowledge that did not conveniently fit into the discrete scholarly categories and epistemic agendas of their respective times negotiated, (re-)articulated and denounced?
  2. What are the practices and strategies of claiming authority?
  3. What are the resources, networks, and institutions behind the emergence of new categories?




  1. 在其各自时代无法轻易归入各种知识门类的知识形式是如何被协商、重新阐释或舍弃的?
  2. 知识的权威性是如何构建的?
  3. 新的学问门类的出现,其背后是怎样的制度、资源和关系网络?

New Publication: “Cultural Values in the Making – Governing through Intangible Heritage” (China Perspectives)

This special issue is the 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 on China Perspectives website: https://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/12179

[Book Review] 施展《破茧:隔离,信任与未来》(Shi Zhan: Breaking out of the Cocoon. Isolation, Trust, and the Future)

Shi Zhan 施展, Pojian: Geli, Xinren yu Weilai 破茧:隔离,信任与未来 (Breaking out of the Cocoon: Isolation, Trust, and the Future). Changsha: Hunan Wenyi Chubanshe 湖南文艺出版社, 2021. ISBN 978-7-5404-7973-2, 275 pages, 58RMB.

by David Ownby (Université de Montréal)

Shi Zhan (b. 1977) is a professor of political science at the China Foreign Affairs University 外交学院 in Beijing, and director of the Research Center on World Politics at the same university. In 2009, one year after completing his Ph.D. in history at Peking University, Shi joined a group of liberal scholars that called themselves Daguan 大观, which might be translated as “The Big Picture,” or “The Grand Vision;” they ultimately launched a journal that bears the same name (and which is quite difficult to find, at least in North America).

In Shi’s telling, the Daguan group was inspired by Alexandre Kojève’s New Latin Empire, the rudiments of which Kojève composed at the end of World War II as part of a memo addressed to Charles de Gaulle, and which was published in Chinese translation in 2008. To oversimplify, Kojève proposed that the “Latin” countries of Europe bind together in a pact that would ward off American pressure from the West and Soviet pressure from the East. Although a philosopher by training—he did his Ph.D. under Karl Jaspers and influenced much of the French postwar intellectual elite through his lectures on Hegel—Kojève ultimately worked in the French Ministry of Foreign Relations throughout much of the post-war period, and helped to create the European Union and the European Common Market.

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Call for Applications: Travel Grants for Research in China in 2021

Apply now for travel grants to conduct research in China in 2021. The Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad (MWS) – awards travel grants once a year, with the generous support of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The grants will be awarded to scholars from sinology or related subjects of any nationality, whose professional qualification phase (PhD and postdoc) is concerned with Chinese history, language or culture in the broadest sense and for whose research a stay in China is indispensable. Every year, two travel grants will be awarded for a period of research of up to three months, for the purposes of fieldwork, archive and/or library research in China. An affiliation to a university or (research) institution in the German-speaking area (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) should be given.

The deadline for applications is 16 October 2020.

Further information:

Call for Papers: Special Issue of “China Perspectives” on ICH in China

Paper-cut in a yaodong house, Xiaocheng village, Yanchuan district, Shaanxi province (Bodolec 2009).
URL: http://books.openedition.org/gup/docannexe/image/392/img-3.jpg

Title: Authenticating China. Governance and Valuation through Intangible Cultural Heritage

Special Issue “China Perspectives / Perspectives chinoises

Coordinators: Guillaume Dutournier (Centre EFEO de Pékin), Florence Padovani (CFC-Beijing)

Conceptual Note (French version below)

Since the Chinese authorities adopted the UNESCO Convention on “Intangible Cultural Heritage” (ICH) in 2004, the People’s Republic of China has seen the rise of a passion for heritage. In addition to the conservation measures implemented since 1950 in historical sites, an ever increasing number of projects and initiatives have been relying on the concept of “feiyi” (acronym for ICH in Chinese) in an attempt to obtain recognition for practices perceived as traditional and to safeguard their lines of transmission (Bodolec 2012, 2014; Gao 2014; Maags 2018). Now added to the government’s agenda through a plurality of agencies, this feiyi valuation is essentially formulated in terms of “culture” and “space of the people” (minjian), but is not homogeneous throughout the country, and presents itself as a competitive phenomenon, bringing together different types of actors over varied accreditation procedures (Smith 2006; Madsen 2014; Shepherd & Yu 2013). Beyond its impact at the national level, this new discourse reinforces the image of the country by imposing post-Maoist China on the world heritage scene. Nowadays, with 40 ICH items listed by UNESCO, the Chinese State confirms its involvement in the “typological extension” of the concept of heritage, as well as its ability to expand the common repertoire (Choay 2007; Bodolec 2014; Maags 2019; Bortolotto & Demgenski 2020).

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New Publication “Between Appropriation and Refutation – On the Significance and Reception of Max Weber in China” (Thematic Focus)

Max Jakob Fölster (guest editor): Thematic Focus: “Between Appropriation and Refutation – On the Significance and Reception of Max Weber in China”, Oriens Extremus 56 (2017), 1-116. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2020, ISBN: 978-3-447-11382-3)

This thematic focus brings together selected papers presented at the conference “Between Appropriation and Refutation – On the Significance and Reception of Max Weber in China” held in March 2018 at Peking University.

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Workshop: “Les caractères mobiles chinois : de l’Est à l’Ouest, hier et aujourd’hui”

The workshop “Les caractères mobiles chinois : de l’Est à l’Ouest, hier et aujourd’hui”, organized by Fudan University (Chinese Classics Research Institute), the Tianyige Museum and the EFEO will be held at the Tianyige Museum, in Ningbo (Zhejiang) on September 17th, 2019.
This workshop will bring together specialists from China, Korea, France and Japan in order to address the state of knowledge on typographical technics and the history of Chinese typography. For more information, contact Michela Bussotti.