Category Archives: Publications

[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

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:

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

Paper-cut in a yaodong house, Xiaocheng village, Yanchuan district, Shaanxi province (Bodolec 2009).

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.

Table of content

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

A Brief Introduction to the Qingshui River Manuscripts

by QU Jian (PhD Candidate, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg / Visiting Researcher, Max -Planck Institute for European Legal History)

The Qingshui River Manuscripts (清水江文书) refer to a large number of Ming-Qing (1368–1911) written contracts as well as various other kinds of documents that were found in the Qingshui River Basin of southwest China. Over the last decade, these manuscripts have been enjoying increasing popularity among scholars. This short paper intends to offer some basic information for understanding the Qingshui River Manuscripts in their entirety.

Full text of the research note on

New Publication: “Ars, Cognitio et Scientia. L’évolution des savoirs et des techniques en Europe et en China aux époques moderne et contemporaine” (Sinologie française n° 18)

Luca GABBIANI 陆康, ZHANG Baichun 张柏春 (eds.): Jiuxue xinzhi: Zhong Ou zhishi yu jishu yanbian 旧学新知——中欧知识与技术演变 (Ars, Cognitio et Scientia. L’évolution des savoirs et des techniques en Europe et en China aux époques moderne et contemporaine). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju 中华书局, École française d’Extrême-Orient, 2018 (Sinologie Française n° 18 / 法国汉学第十八辑). ISBN 978-7-101-13632-6

New publication “The Temple and its Actors: Religious Institutions and Urban Communities in China from the Ming and Qing Dynasties to the Republican Era”

Lü Min (Marianne Bujard), Lu Kang (Luca Gabbiani) (eds.), Xianghuo xinyuan: Ming Qing zhi Minguo shiqi Zhongguo chengshi de simiao yu shimin 香火新緣:明清至民國時期中國城市的寺廟與市民 (The Temple and its Actors: Religious Institutions and Urban Communities in China from the Ming and Qing Dynasties to the Republican Era), Beijing, Zhongxin chuban jituan, 2018 ISBN: 9787508673257.

This book is the outcome of an international conference which took place in 2009 at Beijing Normal University (Beijing shifan daxue). 

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Interview with the Philosopher Chen Shaoming

Chen Shaoming 陈少明 is one of the most influential contemporary philosophers in China. He was born in Guangdong in 1958. After training in history (1978–1983) in Guangzhou, he then studied philosophy at Sun Yat-sen University 中山大学 (1983–1986) where he stayed on as a teacher. Since his appointment as professor in 1997, he has been a guest professor at several universities: Harvard University (1998–2000; 2008), The Chinese University of Hong Kong (2002), and Taiwan National University (2009). In 2015, he was honoured with the Yangtze Scholar award (长江学者), one of the highest accolades in Chinese academia. His research focuses on the Zhuangzi and the Analects as well as on Late Qing dynasty scholarship. In his works, he tries to extract conceptual tools from classical texts to answer contemporary philosophical questions. He is the author of several books including ‘Discussion on Making All Things Equal’ and Its Influence (2004) and Chinese Philosophy: Reflections on the Methodology of Chinese Philosophical Research (2015). For a more detailed bibliography of Chen Shaoming’s works, some of which have already been translated into English, see below.

This is a translation of an interview with Chen Shaoming, conducted by Chen Bisheng and published in the journal Academic Monthly 学术月刊 (no. 1, 2007, pp. 148–152), under the title “Searching for diversity in Chinese Philosophy” 《探求中国哲学的多样形态》.

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A Short Note on Working in the Beijing Municipal Archive

by Elisabeth Forster (Research Assistant, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

The Beijing Municipal Archive (Beijing shi dang’an guan 北京市档案馆) stores, as the name suggests, materials pertaining to Beijing as a city. It has materials on both the period before 1949 and after. Arunabh Ghosh has already written a very informative review of this archive  on Dissertation Review, based on his experiences in 2011: Therefore I will only give updated information on the aspects that I found changed, when I visited the archive in February and March 2018.

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A Short Guide to Visiting the Capital Library of China

by Z. Lu (Researcher, CSMC, Universität Hamburg)

The Capital Library of China (Shoudu tushuguan 首都图书馆), whose origins trace back to over a century ago, is one of the premier public libraries in China. While serving the general public, it is also home to a very rich collection of premodern books and materials from the Republican era, ranging from fiction and drama of the Ming and Qing to local materials related to Beijing – including a comprehensive collection of gazetteers. Below are a few tips on using two of the main reading rooms: the Historical Texts Reading Room (Lishi wenxian yuelan shi 历史文献阅览室), and the Beijing Local Collection (Beijing difang wenxian yuelan 北京地方文献阅览).

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Traditional Hui Mosques in Northern China

by Candice Del Medico (PhD student at the Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, recipient of a fieldwork grant from the EFEO)

The presence of Muslims in China is a phenomenon which seems unknown to the general public. However, today there are more than twenty million Muslims in Chinese territory. The early implantation of Islam was accompanied by the construction of a new type of architecture that had never been seen in China before: the mosques, or qingzhensi (清真寺) in Chinese.

There are currently more than forty thousand mosques in China and some were erected as early as the 14th century. These oldest mosques are the traditional Hui-style mosques.

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