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Frontiers of History in China

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, Volume 12 Issue 2 Previous Issue   
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Orginal Article
Conflict, Order, Harmony: The Modern Meaning of the Confucian Tradition
Lee H. Yearley
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 155-180.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0011-8
Abstract   PDF (289KB)

An examination of how a focus on the reading of traditional Confucian texts as a spiritual exercise can enable us to deal productively with modern understandings of the divergences among different ideals of human excellence. An investigation of such ideals has often focused on virtue discourse, but that discourse generates understandable suspicions in many people. A productive approach to these suspicions is to examine both the idea that new virtues (such as spiritual regret) are needed, and the notion that three distinctive modern emphases must play a central role in any contemporary consideration of the relationships among diverse ideals. After considering two kinds of principled opposition to this approach, we turn to Walter Benjamin’s exemplary account of the huge gulf between modern and traditional understandings, and the possible aid some texts may offer in bridging it. Focusing on the distinctive operation of specific forms of presentation in the Confucian tradition, we conclude by investigating the idea that reading Confucian texts can be seen even today as an illuminating kind of spiritual exercise.

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Rethinking the History and Theory of Jus Publicum Universal: The Formation of China as a “Semi-Civilized” Legal Subject
Robert Stern
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 181-261.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0012-5
Abstract   PDF (510KB)

Much of the existing scholarship on the universalization of nineteenth-century international law has framed it in terms of the imperial West’s domination of non-Western societies. This article complicates and qualifies this conventional state-centric narrative by investigating the juridical, capitalist production of China as a “semi-civilized” international legal subject. It examines the foundational modern Sino-British/Western commercial and extraterritorial treaties, as well as the treatises of a new professional class of British international lawyers—James Lorimer (1818–90), John Westlake (1828–1913), William Edward Hall (1835–94), T. E. Holland (1835–1926), Thomas Lawrence (1849–1920), and Lassa Oppenheim (1849–1920). The juridical production of China as a “semi-civilized” legal subject throws into relief the dual capitalist nature and significance of the universalization of nineteenth-century international law. On the one hand, this “civilized” legal discourse underwrote a novel liberal conception of a universal international law (jus publicum universal ) within which China was formally included as a quasi-legal subject. On the other hand, it also underwrote a particularistic, Euro-centric international law, which excluded China from its global domain and denied it basic sovereign rights. In this way also, “civilized” international law justified both formal equality in European– non-European treaty relations, as well as the real substantive inequality of these international exchanges of rights and obligations. Building on the critical theoretical work of Evgeny Pashukanis (1891–1937), this article argues that a non-orthodox Marxist social theory of legal forms is best suited to explain the abstract, liberal universalism of nineteenth-century “civilized” international law and the contradictory forms of legal and jurisprudential discourse it made available and rendered normatively meaningful to international law practitioners. Through this Marxist theory, moreover, I shall relate said contradictory discourse to modern commodity exchange practices.

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Sumozhe Suppressed, Huntuo Halted: An Investigation into the Nature and Stakes of the Cold-Splashing Sogdian Festal Dramas Performed in Early Eighth Century Tang China
Norman Harry Rothschild
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 262-300.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0013-2
Abstract   PDF (485KB)

This article investigates two specific dramatic elements—the huntuo 渾脫and the sumozhe 蘇摩遮—at the core of the controversial “cold-splashing Sogdian plays” (pohan huxi 潑寒胡戲). The huntuo could be a felt hat, an oilcloth, a pelt headdress, or a theatrical striptease. With deep multicultural roots, the sumozhe (samāja ) combined masquerade, ambulatory drama, dance, and music into a boisterous spectacle. In addition to examining the high cultural stakes underlying the public performance and imperial support (or prohibition) of these plays in early eighth century Tang China, this essay proposes a link between these hibernal festal dramas and Turkish K?se plays.

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Were the Miao Kings “Prophets of Renewal”? The Case of the 1795–1797 Hunan Miao Revolt
Daniel McMahon
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 301-327.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0014-9
Abstract   PDF (306KB)

This essay considers the concept of “prophets of renewal” introduced by James Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2009), as seen in the context of the 1795–97 Miao revolt along China’s Hunan-Guizhou border. The appearance of a “Miao King” and four “Wu kings” centering anti-Qing resistance in an intractable highland—utilizing native legends, spirit possession, investment of officials, and multi-ethnic recruitment—suggests a case of “Zomia” (the vast Southeast Asian Massif) prophets in action, as Scott himself suggests. Closer examination, however, reveals a more complex and uncertain picture, characterized by division between rival lords and an overall dearth of institutional, ideological, or cosmological elaboration, all further obscured by a paucity of historical sources. The Miao kings might be seen as prophets of renewal in a general sense, but the fit is inexact. There is still value, however, in considering Scott’s model in the study of this event. It enables a sharper conceptualization of the agency of the Miao people, while offering a case for comparison with analogous instances of religiously-based native resistance on other Qing frontiers.

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History of Psychology in China: Contributions, Challenges, and Future
Wendeng Yang, Haosheng Ye
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 328-349.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0015-6
Abstract   PDF (250KB)

The history of psychology makes three major contributions: (1) promoting the development of psychology in China; (2) establishing the history of Chinese psychology as an academic discipline; (3) playing an important role in training the next generation of Chinese psychologists. This effort faces numerous challenges, including the reduction in undergraduate teaching hours, declining enrolments at the postgraduate level, limited innovation in research, and a lack of financial support. These challenges stem largely from changes in the Chinese academic assessing system, the greater weight placed on experimental psychology, and a fewer opportunities for researchers. To address these concerns the history of psychology in China should make the history of Chinese psychology its research priority, while also presenting its findings to the public, and developing innovative teaching and research approaches.

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Luo, Zhitian, Inheritance within Rupture-Culture and Scholarship in Early Twentieth Century China
Nagatomi Hirayama
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 350-353.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0016-3
Abstract   PDF (123KB)

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Matten, Marc Andre, Imagining a Postnational World: Hegemony and Space in Modern China
Tze-ki Hon
Front. Hist. China. 2017, 12 (2): 353-355.   DOI: 10.3868/s020-006-017-0017-0
Abstract   PDF (123KB)

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7 articles