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Abstract

This chapter explores the practice of ethnography in late imperial, Republican era, and contemporary China with an eye to how the course of its development has both intersected with and diverged from ethnographic practices in Euro-American contexts. Viewing this span of time as a continuum highlights that who constitutes an ethnos is always a political as well as a cultural and historical question. In the two centuries preceding 1800, China saw dramatic territorial expansion, a significant increase in travel, and a proliferation of publishing outlets. Travelers and frontier officials often recorded and sometimes published observations they made regarding the different peoples they encountered. As in early modern Europe, methods of inquiry based on direct observation were increasingly touted as superior in accuracy and reliability to the received wisdom of earlier written records. During the first half of the twentieth century, inspired in part by the urge to define China as an emerging nation state, Chinese intellectuals took a renewed interest in the folklore, beliefs, and practices of both rural and culturally non-Chinese peoples. Researchers at China’s major universities strove to locate their scholarship within the emergent discipline of ethnography internationally, distinguishing it from earlier forms of traditional Chinese scholarship. Yet Chinese ethnography also retained its own distinctive concerns and characteristics. After 1949, in an ongoing effort at nation building, the government of the People’s Republic of China enlisted teams of ethnographers to identify and categorize China’s vast population. As a result of these studies, the government now officially recognizes the People’s Republic as being constituted of 56 different ethnic groups. Much of the ethnography in China today can be described as falling under the rubric of minzu studies, which focus on these specific groups, thereby further solidifying their identities.

In: The Making of the Human Sciences in China
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How did Asia come to be represented on European World maps? When and how did Asian Countries adopt a continental system for understanding the world? How did countries with disparate mapping traditions come to share a basic understanding and vision of the globe?
This series of essays organized into sections on Jesuit Circuits of Communication and Publication; Jesuit World Maps in Chinese; Reverberations of Matteo Ricci's Maps in East Asia; and Reflections on the Curation of Cartographic Knowledge, go a long way toward answering these questions about the shaping of our modern understandings of the world.
In: Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples (Huang Qing zhigong tu)
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In: Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples (Huang Qing zhigong tu)
In: Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples (Huang Qing zhigong tu)