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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #155: July 28, 2004

Modern Asian Studies

Journal Name: Modern Asian Studies: Volume 37 - Issue 04 - October 2003
Print ISSN: 0026-749X Online ISSN: 1469-8099

The Lessons of Defeat: Transforming the Qing State after the Boxer War (pp769-773)
Roger R. Thompson (Stanford University)
These four essays were first presented to an audience in Washington, D.C. in April 2002 at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Asian Studies. Richard Horowitz, the panel organizer, argued that:
the roots of China's modern state can be found in the Xinzheng or 'new policy' reforms during the last decade of the Qing dynasty. These reforms marked a radical departure for the Chinese state, involving a sustained effort to import foreign models and adapt them to Chinese realities. Although scholarship on reforms to provincial and local state institutions in this period is substantial, the transformation of the central government in Beijing has received little attention.

Breaking the Bonds of Precedent: The 1905–6 Government Reform Commission and the Remaking of the Qing Central State (pp775-797)
Richard S. Horowitz (California State University, Northridge)
On January 29, 1901, in the grim aftermath of the Boxer Uprising and the humiliating foreign invasion of north China that followed, the Empress Dowager Cixi issued a famous edict that initiated the New Policy (xinzheng) reforms.
The weakness of China is caused by the strength of convention and the rigid network of regulations. We have many mediocre officials but few men of talent and courage. The regulations are used by mediocre men as the means of their self-protection, and taken advantage of by government clerks as sources of profit. The government officials exchange numerous documents but they never touch reality. The appointment of capable men is restricted by regulations so rigid that even men of exceptional talent are missed. What misleads the country can be expressed in one word, selfishness, and what suffocates all under heaven is precedent.

'The Redemption of the Rascals': The Xinzheng Reforms and the Transformation of the Status of Lower-Level Central Administration Personnel (pp799-829)
Luca Gabbiani (Collège de France, Paris)
Two of the main practical problems which confronted the Xinzheng reforms (1901–1911) were, on the one hand, financial issues, and on the other, personnel issues. In this paper, I will concentrate on the latter. When one thinks of the reforms in relation to administrative personnel, the main aspects generally brought up are centered upon innovations introduced at that time. Among other things, we could mention the new schools or, to be more general, the new educational system that was built up around the empire—mostly after 1900—to prepare a new generation of officials trained in specific fields of 'modern' knowledge. They, in turn, were expected to fill in the positions in the newly set up administrative institutions at the central and local levels. Their new training was to allow them to be in charge of the new responsibilities the reformed Qing bureaucratic apparatus had set out to perform in such fields as justice, fiscality and finances, the military and police, education or public health, to name but a few. To summarize, the search for talented men, a Chinese age-old principle for sound government, was trusted to that for new talents. The 1905 disbanding of the traditional examination system did much to reinforce this trend. During the first decade of the 20th century, the steady increase in the number of Chinese young men going abroad to study—especially to Japan—can serve as a testimony to this `new knowledge and new talent fever' of the late Qing. The fights against one another to which some of the central and provincial administrative offices resorted in order to secure for themselves the services of those deemed of talent are but another exemplary illustration of this aspect.

Creating 'Virtuous and Talented' Officials for the Twentieth Century: Discourse and Practice in Xinzheng China (pp831-850)
Julia C. Strauss (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
'It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.' Machiavelli, The Prince

Central Xinzheng Reform and the Twentieth-Century Chinese State

The effort of the Qing dynasty to transform itself and forge a new set of relationships with society in its last decade has been one of the less explored areas in the scholarship on modern China. Although this set of radical initiatives, collectively known as the xinzheng ('New Policy') reforms attracted a good deal of commentary from its contemporaries, until recently it has been relatively understudied. There are two reasons for this neglect. First, conventional periodization has divided historical turf between Qing historians (for the Qing dynasty 1644–1911), Republican historians (for the period between 1911 and 1949 ) and political scientists (who cover 1949 to the present). Second, since the dramatic narrative for the first three-quarters of the twentieth century has been largely understood as a process of ever more radical forms of revolutionary change, scholars have understandably been more taken with exploring the antecedents of revolution and/or locally based studies of elite transformation than they have been with exploring a case of seemingly bona fide failure.The central government-initiated xinzheng reform period (1902–1911) has thus borne the full brunt of a Whiggish interpretation of history; too late to command the attention of most Qing historians, too early for the majority of Republican historians, at best a prologue for the real revolution to come, and at worst an abortive failure.

Abolishing 'Cruel Punishments': A Reappraisal of the Chinese Roots and Long-term Efficiency of the Xinzheng Legal Reforms (pp851-862)
Jérôme Bourgon (Institut d'Asie Orientale, CNRS)
The 24th of April 1905 is a date of no particular significance in the current historiography of China. However, the memorial submitted this day by the Imperial Commissioners in charge of legal reforms, Wu Tingfang and Shen Jiaben, entailed the immediate suppression of so-called 'cruel punishments' (kuxing), such as dismemberment (lingchi), exposure of the head (xiaoshou) and desecration of the corpse (lushi). Judicial torture and bamboo flogging were suppressed straight after. From then on, cruelties of the past were illegal, and prohibited in practice, even though a penal code conforming to modern standards was not completed before 1928. China thus entered into the age of uneven and uncertain eradication of illegal but recurrent practices of torture. Though spectacular outbursts of violence occurred in contemporary China, with the complicity or under instigation of the highest authorities, those were not openly authorized by law, and they were eventually denounced, and some of their authors prosecuted. The shift from cruelty openly legitimized and practiced by the state to its official prohibition and ashamed toleration is an epochal change, which stems from the April 24th 1905 memorials.

The Death of Tiaoxi (the 'Leaping Play'): Ritual Theatre in the Northwest of China (pp863-884)
David Holm (The University of Melbourne)
This article is about one of the most depressing fieldwork situations I have ever encountered in China. Tiaoxi, basically, is dead. Some of the old artists are still alive, but the plays themselves were performed for the last time in 1987. There is video footage, taken by a professional team from the Ministry of Culture in Beijing, but the quality can only be described as execrable. There are abundant surviving libretti in manuscript, collected by field workers during the 1950s and again during the surveys of the 1980s, but they are almost all held in the Provincial Arts Research Institute in Xi'an, and no one is allowed to see them, not even the 'old artists' who donated them in the first place; not even photocopies are held by the county Cultural Bureau or by the artists themselves.

A Case of Contagious Legitimacy: Kinship, Ritual and Manipulation in Chinese Martial Arts Societies (pp885-917)
Jeff Takacs (Ming Chuan University, Taipei)
When he wrote his oft-cited work, Lineage Organization in Southeastern China (Freedman 1958), Maurice Freedman could say little about the nature of Chinese martial arts societies. 'The boxing and music clubs were, as their names imply, groupings of recreation. The structural significance of these associations is not altogether clear' (Freedman 1958:93). This paper aspires to make that situation somewhat less opaque. Chinese martial arts students under the same teacher are brothers. I don't mean this in a metaphorical sense, that they are 'like' brothers. They, at least in some Chinese martial arts groups, consider themselves to be kin.

Training Scholars not Politicians (pp919-954)
Yu Li (University of British Columbia)
Conventional wisdom dictates that Chinese literati in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), like their forerunners in previous dynasties, were politically active. Chinese Marxist historians tend to portray the Qing literati as politicians rather than scholars. Tang Zhiju, a China-based historian and the author of a book with an explicitly political title, Jindai Jingxue yu Zhengzhi (Modern Classical Learning and Politics), argues that the forefather of the Qing Evidential Research School, Gu Yanwu (1613–1682), used classical learning to maintain the Han people's national consciousness, and that the founders of the Gongyang New Text School, Zhuang Cunyu (1719–1788) and Liu Fenglu (1776–1829), applied the 'sublime words with deep meaning' in the Gongyang Chunqiu (Gongyang Commentary on Spring and Autumn Annals) to justify the Manchu's tianming (mandate of heaven). In late Qing, Tang contends, the New Text scholars Kang Youwei (1858–1927) and Liang Qichao (1873–1929) studied the classics with the intention of political reform, while the Old Text scholar Zhang Taiyan (1869–1936) developed the tradition in Confucianism of jingshi (managing the world) for anti-Manchu revolution.

Chongqing's Most Wanted: Worker Mobility and Resistance in China's Nationalist Arsenals, 1937–1945 (pp955-997)
Joshua H. Howard (University of Mississippi)
Historians of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) have concentrated on rural China to explain how the Communists mobilized the peasantry as a revolutionary force. Although clarifying the CCP's ascension to power in 1949, this focus has impeded our understanding of social change and conflict in the Nationalist controlled territories, especially the wartime capital of Chongqing. Thus, it is difficult to understand how the Nationalists exacerbated the alienation of urban social groups during the 1940s or how the CCP began to find consensus in the cities after 1946. Even standard explanations for the Nationalist collapse—government factionalism, hyperinflation, military blunders, and malfeasance—with their focus on government elites and institutions have rendered invisible the role of social classes as agents of historical change. The few studies of wartime labor have instead emphasized the patriotic contributions of workers and their relative passivity under the four-class bloc envisioned by the united front.

From Orientals to Imagined Britons: Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai (pp999-1023)
Chiara Betta (Institute of International Economic Relations, Athens)
Studies and reminiscences, which dissect the communities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora, have so far tended to over-emphasize the smooth Anglicization process experienced by Baghdadi Jews in British India, Singapore and China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The myth of the Sassoons as the 'Rothschilds of the East' has, in particular, distorted and enhanced the representation of Baghdadi Jews as wealthy, Anglicized and thoroughly integrated in British social circles. In reality, if we want to unravel the multi-layered history of Baghdadi Jews from India to Japan we must not only analyse in depth the complexities of the westernization process of the Baghdadi upper classes but also reconstruct carefully class divisions within Baghdadi communities. With this aim in mind, this essay will investigate the various strands of identity developed by Baghdadis during their stay in Shanghai and will especially focus on the local allegiances forged between Baghdadi and British settlers, the so-called Shanghailanders. The following pages will, at the same time, delineate the social structure of the Baghdadi community in Shanghai and will indicate that westernized affluent Baghdadis were forced to confront painfully their own 'other': destitute vagrant co-religionists who hailed from the Middle East and India and roamed between the various nodes of the Baghdadi diaspora. The period considered in this essay stretches from 1845, the year the first Baghdadi trader set foot in the city, to the middle of the 1930s when large numbers of Jewish refugees from Europe started to flock to Shanghai in search of a safe haven.

Modern Asian Studies (2004)
Copyright ©2004 Cambridge University Press

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