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Frontiers of History in China

ISSN 1673-3401 (Print)
ISSN 1673-3525 (Online)
CN 11-5740/K
Postal Subscription Code 80-980


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, Volume 13 Issue 4 Previous Issue   
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The Formation of the Qing State in Global Perspective: A Geopolitical and Fiscal Analysis
Huaiyin Li
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 437-472.
Abstract   PDF (559KB)

This article re-examines the formation of the Qing state and its nature from a global perspective. It underscores the key roles of geopolitical setting and fiscal constitution in shaping the course of frontier expeditions and territorial expansions, unlike past studies that have centered on the dynasty’s administrative institutions and the ruling elites’ ideologies or lifestyles to defend or question the thesis of “Sinicization” in Qing historiography. This study demonstrates the different motivations and varying strategies behind the Qing dynasty’s two waves of military conquests, which lasted until the 1750s, and explains how the Qing state’s peculiar geopolitical interests and the low-level equilibrium in its fiscal constitution shaped the “cycles” in its military operations and frontier building. The article ends by comparing the Qing with early modern European states and the Ottoman empire to discuss its vulnerability as well as resilience in the transition to modern sovereign statehood in the nineteenth century.

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The Middle Ground, “Middle Ground Moments,” and Accommodation in the Study of Later Qing Borderland History
Daniel McMahon
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 473-507.
Abstract   PDF (453KB)

This article examines Richard White’s concept of the “middle ground” and its prospective application to the study of China’s Qing (1644–1911) borderlands from the late eighteenth century. It argues that although White’s model, in its specific formulation, is problematic to apply due to the dissimilarity of Qing conditions, it yet has value and can be adapted. One possibility is advanced in the notion of “middle ground moments,” briefly explored in the cases of Shaanxi’s Dabashan highlands in a “population boom,” Hunan’s Miao Frontier in the “fog of war,” and Xinjiang’s Kashgar crossroads during the “fall of empires.” Focusing on group exchange, adaptation, and hybridization offers insight into regional cultural creation, as well as a means to question received narratives of breakdown, pacification, resistance, or Great Game struggle. Such modeling, and shared attention to accommodation perspectives generally, also presents a space for dialogue across the New Qing History and Chinese nationalist divide in Qing frontier studies.

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How Long Did It Take to Plan a Funeral? Liu Kai’s (947-1000) Experience Burying His Parents
Cong Ellen Zhang
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 508-530.
Abstract   PDF (334KB)

Since ancient times, the Confucian Classics gave detailed guidelines regarding a son’s filial obligations toward his parents. The son, for example, was instructed to devote himself to his parents’ physical and emotional wellbeing. At the time of their death, he was expected to wear mourning clothes made from coarse linen, to live in isolation, and to deprive himself of material comfort. Among a mourning son’s most sacred duties was giving his parents a proper burial, which would effectively transform them into ancestors. Such classical prescriptions aside, actual filial practice varied greatly over the course of Chinese history. Using Liu Kai’s experience, this case study aims to illustrate the tremendous challenges that sons and other family members faced in funeral planning during the Northern Song. It especially highlights the extent to which office-holding and government policies affected elite family life and the tension between fulfilling familial obligations and official responsibilities.

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Re-Defining the Late Qing Revolution: Its Continuity with the Taiping Rebellion, Radical Student Politics and Larger Global Context
Lin Shaoyang
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 531-557.
Abstract   PDF (523KB)

Studies in recent decades conducted from the angle of provincial-level local self-government have done much to help relativize narratives of the 1911 Revolution in China that emphasize the importance of armed uprisings. However, these endeavors still have room to locate the revolution within a global context and to understand its implications as a revolution conducted through the conduits of culture and thought. More importantly, these existing studies are also insufficient in terms of viewing the Late Qing Revolution through a longer time span to see the Revolution as the new development and continuity of a much longer revolution that began with the Taiping Rebellion (1851–64). The Taiping Rebellion substantially weakened the rule of the Qing court. In other words, this author regards the Late Qing Revolution as a part of the long revolution starting from the outbreak of the Taiping Rebellion. Through this analysis, the author demonstrates how the Late Qing Revolution was comprised of three key components: armed uprisings, self-government movements, and finally, a revolution through words and culture including the student movements at home and in Tokyo. It argues that, to a certain degree, it is the Taiping Rebellion that made the Revolution successful in a relatively pacifistic way, and that, in particular, made possible the non-violent revolutions of self-government and the revolution through words and culture.

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Currency Issues and Financial Crises: The Excessive Issuance of Banknotes and Price Fluctuations during the “New Policies” Period in the Late Qing
Bo Chen
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 558-576.
Abstract   PDF (291KB)

In the New Policies period of the late Qing, the central government’s power had declined due to an expansion of power at the local-government level. After gaining the right to independently fundraise during the Self-Strengthening Movement, local governments also obtained the privilege of issuing currency. Following a downward trend in China’s fiscal power, the issuance of banknotes by local government had become a noticeable problem. The influence of foreign banks in China, meanwhile, was continuing to expand, the increasing number of countries involved as well as the growing number of banks being just two examples. Because the central government lacked strong supervision, the rate of issuance of banknotes by foreign banks thus gradually increased, leading to growing prices. In addition, this dispersion of financial power further boosted inflation. Since the Qing government focused on reforming its approaches to finance and strengthening its central role during the New Policies, reorganizing its banknote policy was its primary agenda. However, to a large extent, the policy was guided by the idea that monetary policy should be subordinate to financial needs. Thus, the very limited effect of the Qing government’s banknote-reorganization policy also marked the regime’s failure to bring about the modernization of China.

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Shifting Narratives: Modern Chinese History since the Economic Reform and a Critique of Popular Opinion
Fu Zheng
Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 577-604.
Abstract   PDF (391KB)

When discussing the trans-formative shifts having occurred in the field of Chinese modern history following the economic reforms, one cannot avoid mention of the “revolutionary history paradigm,” the “paradigm of modernization” as well as the “postmodern paradigm.” According to popular belief, the course of development taken by the academic world during the past forty years was marked by a series of transformations: First was the progressive replacement of the “revolutionary history paradigm” by that of the “paradigm of modernization”; following that was the rise of the “postmodern paradigm” and the challenging of its predecessor. This set of divisions, though logically clear and succinct, cannot possibly conform to the realities of history in all of its complexness. While academic circles in the 1980’s were largely concerned with the issues of “what exactly is the historical driving force of Marxism” and “who are the revolutionary class,” the notion of the “paradigm of modernization” was rather a product of the conservative historical viewpoint and its rise during the late 1990’s. In this sense, then, the latter cannot possibly embody the former. On the surface of things, though the “postmodern paradigm” appears to refuse the narrative of revolutionary history, it in fact shares deeper connections with Chinese revolutionary thought at its roots. In short, then, these trans-formative shifts in modern Chinese history are not a simple “exchange” whereby one paradigm transfers into the next, but are rather a process of incessant and interconnected change.

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Front. Hist. China. 2018, 13 (4): 605-612.
Abstract   PDF (172KB)

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7 articles