Category Archives: Publications

[Review] 曹新宇:《祖師的族譜—明清白蓮教社會歷史調查》 (Cao Xinyu: A genealogy of the patriarchs. A social historical investigation of the White Lotus Teachings in the Ming and Qing dynasties)

Cao Xinyu 曹新宇, Zushi de zupu—Ming Qing Bailianjiao shehui lishi diaocha 祖師的族譜—明清白蓮教社會歷史調查 (A genealogy of the patriarchs: A social historical investigation of the White Lotus Teachings in the Ming and Qing dynasties), Beijing: Shangwu Yinshuguan, 2023. ISBN: 978-7-1001-8416-8, 316 pages, 128 RMB.

Reviewed by Barend J. ter Haar (University of Hamburg)

Everybody working in the field of new religious groups in late imperial China will be familiar with Cao Xinyu’s 曹新宇 essential contributions, especially the 2012 donation of a cache of northern Chinese religious images and texts he received from an elderly lady in Wanquan 萬全 County (in the far north of Hebei Province) who wanted to ensure that her cultural inheritance ended up in the right hands. The complete find was published in Taiwan the following year and thus became generously available to international scholars (p. 1–7).[1] The present book is the mainland China reedition of the 2016 book, first published on Taiwan to accompany the seven-volume printed compendium containing the entire trove, but in simplified characters and with several sections added at the end.[2] In this review, I will take the reader briefly through the book, accompanied by some analytical or empirical comments (references given are to the book under discussion).

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[Review] 王锐:《革命儒生:章太炎传》 (Wang Rui: The Revolutionary Confucian Scholar. A Biography of Zhang Taiyan)

Wang Rui 王锐, Geming rusheng: Zhang Taiyan zhuan 革命儒生:章太炎传 (The Revolutionary Confucian Scholar. A Biography of Zhang Taiyan), Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2022. ISBN 9787559855367; 344 pages; 88 RMB.

Reviewed by Fabian Hiller (PhD candidate @ University of Tübingen)

Wang Rui’s new biography of Zhang Taiyan, entitled The Revolutionary Confucian Scholar, is part of a wave of new research on Zhang Taiyan in China sparked by the publication of the revised version of the Zhang Taiyan nianpu changbian  章太炎年谱长编 (Nianpu biography of Zhang Taiyan) and the new edition of Zhang Taiyan quanji 章太炎全集 (The complete works of Zhang Taiyan).[1] While the book is structured chronologically and written in the easy-to-follow style of a history textbook, the author supplements the biographical narrative with abundant information from different primary and secondary sources. Wang takes the approach of a historian when looking at Zhang Taiyan, differentiating this work from many recent more philosophical approaches, a trend that has been especially prominent among Western scholars.[2]

Zhang Taiyan has always been a highly controversial and complex figure within the tapestry of early modern Chinese history, his identity adorned with various attributions. In crafting this book, Wang strategically focuses on two seemingly contradictory yet interwoven dimensions of Zhang’s persona – that of a revolutionary and a Confucian scholar (hence the book’s title). This dual focus not only broadens the understanding of Zhang Taiyan but also underscores the intricate interplay between these seemingly divergent facets of his life. Wang’s narrative doesn’t limit itself to a detached exploration of Zhang’s individuality; instead, it serves as a captivating lens through which the author recounts the broader context of the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China.

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[Review] 賈麗英:《出土簡牘與秦漢社會身份秩序研究》(Jia Liying: Unearthed Manuscripts and the Study of the Order of Social Identities during the Qin and Han Dynasties)

Jia Liying 賈麗英. Chutu jiandu yu Qin Han shehui shenfen zhixu yanjiu 出土簡牘與秦漢社會身份秩序研究 (Unearthed Manuscripts and the Study of the Order of Social Identities during the Qin and Han Dynasties). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2023. ISBN: 978-7-5227-1694-7, xiii+447 pages, 218 RMB.

Chun Fung Tong 唐俊峰 (Heidelberg University)

Since the seminal work by Nishijima Sadao 西嶋定生 in the early 1960s, the nature, institutional design, and social implications of rank (jue 爵) during the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE–220 CE) continue to attract scholarly attention. Using unearthed legal and administrative materials, recent research has substantially expanded, revisited, or even refuted Nishijima’s model. In light of the newest works of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scholars, Jia Liying’s book offers a timely synthesis of this long-standing academic debate.

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[Review] 王永平:《信仰與習俗—社會文化史視野下的唐代道教》(Wang Yongping: Beliefs and Customs. Tang Dynasty Daoism from the Perspective of Socio-Cultural History)

Wang Yongping 王永平, Xinyang yu xisu: shehui wenhua shi shiye xia de Tang dai daojiao 信仰與習俗—社會文化史視野下的唐代道教 (Beliefs and Customs: Tang Dynasty Daoism from the Perspective of Socio-Cultural History), Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2023. ISBN 9787522811406, 725 pages, 128.80 RMB.

Reviewed by Franciscus Verellen (EFEO)

Wang Yongping is a Professor of History at the Capital Normal University in Beijing and a leading scholar of Daoism under the Tang Dynasty (618–907). Following in the wake of his earlier books on Tang entertainments (1995), the cultural history of the Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties period (2000), and Daoism in Tang society (2002), the present volume addresses four related subjects: (1) Daoism and the Tang social order, with special reference to the place of women; (2) the trajectories of selected Daoist priests and their networks of social relationships; (3) Daoism in daily life under the Tang, notably the Daoist imprint on seasonal festivals, folk customs, and popular practices; and (4) the interaction and different degrees of integration between the Three Teachings (Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism). In ten chapters, framed by an introduction and an afterword, Wang thus explores the broad impact of Daoism on the everyday life of Tang society.

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[Review] 张翔:《大同立教——康有为政教思想研究》(Zhang Xiang: Establishment of Confucianism on Datong: A Study of Kang Youwei’s Political and Religious Philosophy)

Zhang Xiang 张翔, Datong lijiao: Kang Youwei zhengzhi sixiang yanjiu 大同立教——康有为政教思想研究 (Establishment of Confucianism on Datong: A Study of Kang Youwei’s Political and Religious Philosophy), Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2023. ISBN 9787520185844, 356 pages, 128 RMB.

Reviewed by Federico Brusadelli (University of Naples “L’Orientale”)

Since the beginning of the 21st century, studies on Kang Youwei (1858–1927) have experienced a steady and consistent surge, especially in the context of reassessing the late Qing period beyond the traditional interpretation of the “Western shock” as the predominant (if not the only) impulse to the radical transformation of China at the dawn of the 20th century. Over the last decades, more careful observation of the developments from the Jiaqing 嘉庆 period (1796–1820) onward has demonstrated the multiplicity of “intellectual paths” that Chinese élites were exploring well before the acceleration imposed by the forced penetration of Euro-Atlantic concepts (and their Japanese re-elaborations). These observations align with a more nuanced and detailed approach to the evolution of Chinese concepts, as seen in the light of Begriffsgeschichte[1]. In this framework, Kang Youwei appears as a towering figure, not just for his leadership in the failed attempt at reforming the Empire in 1898, but more broadly as one of the most influential and stimulating interpreters of the conceptual restructuring of his time. Hailed as a bold and progressive reformer by his supporters, only to be labeled as a nostalgic conservative after the Xinhai revolution (1911) and the farce of the Zhang Xun 张勋 Restoration he supported in 1917, Kang remained after his death an ambiguous and contradictory figure, embodying all the ambiguities and tensions of the tumultuous transition between Empire and Nation. Although Mao Zedong 毛泽东 himself appreciated Kang’s utopian thrust and a young Li Zehou 李泽厚 tried to combine the materialist and progressive philosophical foundation of the philosopher’s “bourgeois reformism” with Marxism in the mid-1950s,[2] Communist scholarship on Kang remained for more than three decades anchored in an orthodox interpretation of the late Qing period as the “last stage of feudal capitalism,” which deprived Kang of any concrete viability.

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[Review] 张西平:《中国和欧洲早期思想交流史》(Zhang Xiping: History of the Intellectual Exchange between China and Europe in the Early Modern Period)

Zhang Xiping 张西平, Zhongguo he Ouzhou zaoqi sixiang jiaoliushi 中国和欧洲早期思想交流史 (History of the Intellectual Exchange between China and Europe in the Early Modern Period), Beijing: Beijing Daxue Chubanshe 北京大学出版社, 2021. ISBN: 978-7-301-32228-4, 531 pages, 138 RMB.

Reviewed by Zhou Yuping 周宇平 (Albert-Ludwig University of Freiburg)

This monograph by Zhang Xiping, distinguished professor at Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言大学) and Beijing Foreign Studies University (北京外国语大学), focuses on the intellectual exchange in philosophical and religious fields between China and Europe. This includes classical and medieval philosophies and Christianity in Europe and Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism in China. First published in 2001 and republished in 2010 and 2021, the 2021 edition of the book belongs to the book series Ruxue yu Ouzhou wenming yanjiu 儒学与欧洲文明研究 (Studies on Confucianism and European Civilization). According to Zhang, the 2021 edition inherited the structure of the previous editions but with a few amendments to details, which readers can notice from his citation of more recent publications (p. 530).[1]

The book covers a period spanning 300 years from 1500 to 1800 and consists of a total of 16 chapters divided into two sections. The first section deals with the transfer of European ideas to China, and the second examines the dissemination of Chinese thought and culture in Europe. Zhang’s primary sources in his study are the writings of Catholic missionaries in China during the Ming- and Qing-period. Some of these writings are translations and annotations on the works of well-known European and Chinese thinkers. Among the missionaries, the Jesuits and their publications are the focus of this research.

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[Review] 魏善玲《國民政府對海外留學生的救助》(Wei Shanling: The Guomindang Government’s Aid to Overseas Chinese Students, 1937–1946)

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.

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[Review] 常建华《清前期国家治理与民生政策》(Chang Jianhua: Policies on Governance and People’s Livelihood in the Early Qing Period)

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).

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[Review] 胡星亮《中国现代戏剧思潮 —— 戏剧现代化与社会现代化》(Hu Xingliang: Trends of Thought in Modern Chinese Theater – The Modernization of Theater and the Modernization of Society)

Hu Xingliang 胡星亮: Zhongguo xiandai xiju sichaoXiju 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.[1]

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[Review] 陳松長《馬王堆帛書研究》 (Chen Songchang: Studies on the Mawangdui Silk Manuscripts)

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.[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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4] According to this summary, three main stages may be discerned:

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[Review] 刘继刚《甲骨文所见殷商灾害研究》(Liu Jigang: A Study of Disasters during the Yin Shang Dynasty as seen in Oracle Bone Inscriptions)

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.[1] 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.[2]

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New Publication: “Questioning Cultural Exemplarity: Two Decades of Intangible Heritage Practices” (China Perspectives)


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.

[Review] 杨海英《从〈唐将书帖〉看明清时代的南兵北将》 (Yang Haiying: Southern Soldiers and Northern Generals during the Transitional Period of Ming & Qing. From the Perspective of Letters from Chinese Servicemen during Campaign in Korea)

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.

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