Tag Archives: Republican China

[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] 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] 翁有为《近代中国之变轴:军阀话语建构、省制变革与国家》(Weng Youwei: The Axis of Change in Modern China: The Construction of the Discourse on Warlordism, the Reform of the Provincial System, and the State)

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.

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