Author Archives: MJF

[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?

农业与近代科学的起源(11001700年)

本系列讲座由欧洲汉学研究中心、中国科学院自然科学史研究所与马克斯·普朗克科学史研究所合作举办。

迄今,科学史学者在检视欧洲以外的前近代农业时,往往从现代“农学”的既定框架中回顾,其视野也仅限于单一语言文化的史料。本系列研讨会邀请的发言人致力于倒转这种视角,探索在不同文化和文字传统中,农业实践如何影响、导致了近代以前诸多“学问”的诞生。发言者们专注于将特定知识传统置于其本身的文化和知识语境中,考察其如何构成一种权威的话语,同时也留心各种不同的知识领域与传统之间跨文化和长时段的互相影响。通过考察日常农业实践如何形塑各种学问及其背后的知识文化,本研讨会关心以下核心问题:

  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?

[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:
https://www.maxweberstiftung.de/en/foerderung/travel-grants-for-china.html

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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Travel subventions to students and young scholars from European Institutions for the conference “New Perspectives in Chinese History: The Use of Archives from the Middle and Lower course of the Yangzi River and Related Regions (16th century – 1949)”

The conference “New Perspectives in Chinese history: The Use of Archives from the Middle and Lower course of the Yangzi River and Related Regions (16th century – 1949)” will take place in Paris, October 16th to 18th, 2019. It is sponsored by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and co-organized by L’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and EFEO Beijing Center, the Max Weber Stiftung (MWS) and its Branch Office in Beijing, as well as the Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine (CECMC) at L’Ecole des hautes études en Sciences sociales (EHESS).

The conference brings together eminent Chinese scholars who will introduce various newly discovered archival material. Each talk is conceived in three parts: first, a “state of the art” according to the archives places; second, speaker’s presentation of his personal research; third, reading of a sample source from the particular archive. See the preliminary program for more details.

Five travel subventions for students (from Master level 2 to PhD candidates, eventually to post-doctoral scholars), enrolled in an European Institution, with a sufficient level of oral Modern Chinese and Classical Chinese, will be offered to attend this conference. The amount of the subvention will be based on the cost of transportation and accommodation in Paris for a maximum of 800 €. After the conference, the recipients will be refunded on the basis of invoices by transfer to their bank account. Lunch meals will be provided during the conference, but not dinner.

Expected candidates should be engaged in research on the history of late imperial and/or modern China (Ming, Qing, Republican periods). They should provide a CV, a presentation of their master/PhD or Post-doc research program in no more than one page, a cover letter and an itemized budget, all included in one single PDF-file. Please note that the organization committee won’t provide hotel and transport booking service. Application deadline is: August 26th at noon, 2019 (reply by August 31st). A selection committee composed of Alain Arrault (EFEO), Michela Bussotti (EFEO), Hans van Ess (Munich University), and Xavier Paulès (EHESS) will choose the recipients.

Contact and application email address: chinaarchives2019 [at] gmail.com

 

Call for Applications: Travel Grants for Research in China in 2020

Apply now for travel grants to conduct research in China in 2020. 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 18 October 2019.

Further information:
https://www.maxweberstiftung.de/en/foerderung/travel-grants-for-china.html

Some Remarks on the 1923 “Controversy Over Science and Metaphysics”

by Joseph Ciaudo (University of Heidelberg)

Controversies are often seen as important events that contribute to the march of intellectual history. Some can even be considered historical landmarks. The controversy over science and metaphysics that took place in China in 1923 is no exception. It had a lasting impact on the Chinese intellectual scene of the twentieth century. But what happens if, instead of thinking of ideas confronting each other in a mental realm, we regard this debate as one of concrete people speaking in conference halls, taking notes, writing, reading, and exchanging opinions? And could our understanding of this debate be altered by the discovery of a document located at the very core of the debate, but which had remained unknown up to now because another version of the same text had been in circulation? Would we regard the controversy over science and metaphysics differently if the inaugural text of the conference was not the one we had been reading so far?

Full text of the research note on perspectivia.net