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Academic and popular accounts of the Opium War have gone through nearly two centuries of change in focus, view, and scope. My study probes this extensive historiography by tracing the evolvement of our understanding of the war through various phases among which we saw the rise of the “China-centered approach” and the beginning of a new trend towards combining government archives with personal records such as memoirs, personal correspondence, and private journals in research. Based on the observation, I will indicate, despite their undeniable achievements, most of the existing scholarships have paid little attention to the ordinary people in China whose lives were deeply affected by the war. It is high time that we pay more attention to human experience of the Chinese people in order to understand not only the war itself but also the history it helped shape.

In: Frontiers of History in China
In: Frontiers of History in China

The military system in the late Tang and Five Dynasties is principally characterized by the transformation of the practice of conscription to the recruitment of mercenary soldiers, along with the changes of military establishments and soldiers’ remuneration. In the early Tang Dynasty, the status and wealth of conscripts were highly valued. While in the late Tang, the martial art of recruits was more valued. This transformation in medieval China illustrates the decline of the imperial power’s direct control over its subjects and reflects the historical trends of the social evolutions taking place during the Tang-Song Era.

In: Frontiers of History in China

By the early 18th Century, the “Rites Controversy” among the missionaries themselves has evolved into a culture conflict between the Qing Empire and Europe. To make the European missionaries in China follow the rites of Matteo Ricci, Emperor Kangxi had French Jesuit missionaries Joachim Bouvet and Jean Francoise Foucquet study the Book of Changes in his royal palace and had further conversions with the European missionaries based on their researches. Not only did this cultural conversation reveal the Figurist’s tendencies, as represented by Bouvet, and the interior conflict among the missionaries themselves after the “Rites controversy,” but also showed Kangxi’s policies towards the missionaries, as well as his attitude towards Western culture and religion.

In: Frontiers of History in China

Conjugal relationship has a predominant role in ancient Chinese familial life. Yet most researches on conjugal relationship have tended to focus on the arrangement of marriage, disregarding marital life after wedding. It is the general impression that matrimonial relation follows the ethics of Confucian doctrine of “the husband as principle of the wife,” or relevant code of laws like “Seven Outs,” edited according to these principles. There are three factors that contribute to marital relationship in the Tang Dynasty: ideology, ethics, and written laws. Although written laws are influenced by Confucian ideology, and hence following Confucian system of manners, on the practical level, ordinance still appears as the most reliable source to analyze familial relationships. People in the Tang Dynasty stress family status when they marry wives, yet when marrying concubines, versatility is of interest. Whereas records in official history documents and epitaphs are not entirely accountable, the complicated relationships between husband and wife, husband and concubine, and that between wife and concubine need to be further illustrated.

In: Frontiers of History in China

During early Qing Dynasty, with the gradual spread of Catholicism among local society, the role of the Catholic Church in treating peoples’ disease became increasingly important. To fulfill the goal of converting Chinese, missionaries not only tried to make a favorable impression by distributing medicine, but also competed with Buddhism, Taoism and other folk religions by constructing a series of romantic images concerning illness in society in order to more successfully disseminate Catholic ideology. The “exorcising” ability of Holy-water, the Cross, the Rosary and other items used in Catholic worship, and the sacramental rituals were exaggerated by missionaries and Chinese Catholics when preaching the Catholic faith in grassroots communities. The dialogue between Catholicism and Buddhism, Taoism, and folk beliefs found in Catholic medical stories from early Qing Dynasty is an important part of Catholic medical culture.

In: Frontiers of History in China

There were numerous books of physiology and hygiene published in the cultural market of the late Qing Dynasty. Their writing and translating purposes, hygienic concepts and hygienic identification in these books displayed the intellectual elites’ efforts in constructing “hygienic modernity” and establishing a national state. Books of physiology and hygiene published in the late Qing Dynasty were firstly translated and edited by missionaries and it was not until 1894 that many Chinese began to edit, translate, and write books of this kind. About one hundred and thirty varieties of books of physiology and hygiene were published in the late Qing Dynasty, most of them were textbooks widely read by people and commonly accepted as books of “hygiene” or “medical science” together with the then published books of Western medical science and books on how to keep a good health. At that time, hygiene was not only a guideline for people’s life and consumption, but also became an ideology to distinguish civilization and savageness with its significance gradually connected with race and nation.

In: Frontiers of History in China

By focusing on the establishment of city administrative organizations, this paper attempts to explore the differences between the local autonomy of Shanghai and Tianjin with a particular emphasis on the causes, purpose, founders, philosophy, form, content and effects. As two of the earliest cities implementing local autonomy, Shanghai and Tianjin are different in many ways due to the different background of their initiators and the social forces involved. By analyzing these differences and their individual characteristics, this paper attempts to explore the ways in which urban administrative organizations were established in China.

In: Frontiers of History in China

Adopting the historical periodization and the “ethnic awakening” theory of Konan Naito, this essay discusses the early formation of East Asian states such as Koguryō, Paekche, Silla and Wa during the 4th and 5th centuries, as well as the political order within the East Asian society shaped by the enfeoffment of the Eastern Jin and the Southern dynasties by using Chinese sources. It argues that the cultural influences of the Qin and Han dynasties promoted the ethnic awakening of East Asian peoples, and during the turmoil periods of the Wei, the Jin, and the Division Era these ethnic groups leaped rapidly in their roads of state-formation. The enfeoffment system of the Eastern Jin played significant role in this process, and therefore set up the basic structure of the international relationship in early modern East Asia.

In: Frontiers of History in China