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Yubin Shen

Inspired by recent environmental historical studies on animal extinctions and human-animal relations, this paper shifts scholarly attention from the plague-centered narrative of the great Pneumonic Plague Epidemics (1910–11) to the fate of the plague host animals, Tarbagan marmots (Marmota sibirica), and examines their near-extinction in Northwest Manchuria (Hulunbuir) from the 1900s to 1930s. Focusing on changing images of Tarbagan marmots from “inexpensive,” “sacred,” and “beneficial” in the pre-modern period to “valuable,” “dangerous,” and “noxious” in the early twentieth century, it argues that three interrelated factors: the international fur trade, pneumonic plagues, and environment changes together resulted in the “retreat of the marmots.” It also uses this case study to help us better understand larger historical changes that occurred by contextualizing them in terms of human-marmot relations in Manchuria, China and beyond.

Editors Frontiers of History in China

Yuan Chang

This paper examines the predicament of modern Chinese conservatism. I use the eminent historian Qian Mu (1895–1990) as an example to show that under the influence of modernity and in an effort to preserve tradition, a prominent conservative like Qian needed to “modernize” Chinese tradition so that it could be saved. I will examine Qian’s reconstruction of Chinese history, which was not just a reiteration of China’s past, but a new type of understanding of Chinese tradition influenced by modern Western concepts. By focusing on Qian’s most prominent work, Guoshi dagang , we can get a sense of the struggle of modern Chinese conservatives as they tried to fend off the detractors of Chinese tradition.

Yi Ren

At the beginning of the 20th century, American officials, newspapermen, and businessmen in China promoted and participated in the establishment of a branch of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) in China. The purposes of the China station were to compete with other foreign states seeking influence in China, to promote American values and to eventually lead China down an “American” path. The CPI China station built an image of America as a friendly country which offered political and economic assistance and held a leading position in the new postwar order, an example which China could use for its own development. Chinese people were quick to respond to this propaganda as they wanted their concerns to be addressed at the Paris Peace Conference and sought to reform their national identity. The idea of a Wilsonian international order gained support in China through effective propaganda. After the diplomatic defeat in Paris, however, some Chinese began to consider a path very different from that of America. The CPI’s promotion of a particular development path for China and new world order had various effects on the country. The propaganda came at a time when the Chinese were searching for a new national identity and gained support from many groups. In addition, the Chinese people were not passive listeners of the propaganda and did not blindly accept the information that was “fed” to them.

Pavel Ratmanov, Yan Liu and Fengmin Zhang

This study analyzes medical practitioners’ adaptation to a dynamic cultural and political scene and examines the impact of medical refugees on a local community. In the early 1920s, there was an influential Russian medical community in Harbin that established medical societies and medical schools. The organization of medical societies was a part of the active formation of a professional community and represented a thoughtful measure for countering the control of Chinese officials. The high degree of cooperation between Russian and Chinese medical personnel in the medical-sanitary department of the Chinese Eastern Railway and in Harbin municipal medical facilities was a part of Harbin physicians’ activities.

Yihong Pan

In a fragmented wartime China (1931–45), the levels of violence, suffering, and resistance varied in different regions. The Anti-Japanese War left people with different experiences and memories. To date, both Chinese- and English-language scholarship have paid insufficient attention to the more than two hundred million common Chinese who stayed in Japanese-occupied areas. To help fill this gap, this study provides a thematic analysis of interviews conducted by the author with six Chinese women of the urban middle-class about their experiences in the Japanese-occupied areas. It adds voices and perspectives of ordinary, middle-class women to the rich tapestry of everyday life of wartime China. The oral narratives of these women are everyday accounts of uncertainty, fear, and survival. More important, they are testimonies to the evolution of their gender consciousness and their determination to pursue an education as a means of resisting gender inequality. In addition, these oral narratives show how these women developed strategies in their marriages, work, and political views to reconcile with the reality of living with the enemy. Their everyday forms of resistance helped them maintain dignity in the face of foreign imperialism.

Roger V. Des Forges

From 1644 to 2003, many Chinese historians and novelists debated the existence and the identity of a provincial graduate from Qi county in Henan province who reportedly helped the commoner rebel Li Zicheng overthrow the Ming polity (1368−1644) only to be suspected of disloyalty and killed by the rebel leader, thus clearing the way for the Qing that ruled China from 1644 to 1911. In 2004 there was discovered a genealogical manuscript that goes far towards solving the Li Yan puzzle and allows us to see how rumors were incorporated into histories and literary works that appealed to a wide variety of people over the course of three and a half centuries. In this essay, I compare and contrast the emerging mythistorical figure of Li Yan with other scholar-rebel-advisors in Chinese and world history and suggest that he was most akin to the Lord Chancellor Thomas More in sixteenth-century England who spoke truth to power and was celebrated in twentieth-century history and literature.