The Earthy Glories of Ancient China

Ian Buruma from New York Review of Books
French schoolchildren used to be taught that they were descended from the Gauls, a tribe that emerged around the fifth century BC. It is a common conceit of 19th-century nationalism that citizens of modern nation-states can trace their national...

Media

04.19.17

ChinaFile Presents: Ian Johnson on ‘The Souls of China’

Ian Johnson & Ian Buruma
On April 13, ChinaFile and The New York Review of Books co-hosted the launch of author Ian Johnson’s new book The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao at the Asia Society’s New York headquarters. Johnson discussed the book with Ian...

Books

02.16.17

Chinese Theology

Chloë Starr
In this groundbreaking and authoritative study, Chloë Starr explores key writings of Chinese Christian intellectuals, from philosophical dialogues of the late imperial era to micro-blogs of pastors in the 21st century. Through a series of close textual readings, she sheds new light on such central issues in Chinese theology as Christian identity and the evolving question of how Christians should relate to society and state.Reading these texts in their socio-political and traditional literary contexts, Starr opens a new conversation about the nature of Chinese theology and the challenge it offers to a broad understanding of how theology is created and contextualized. Concentrating on those theologians who have engaged most actively with their cultural and political milieus, Starr argues throughout her readings, as she examines how Chinese literary traditions and reading patterns have shaped Chinese theology, that text is as important as context. —Yale University Press{chop}

Books

12.20.16

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom

John Pomfret
From the clipper ships that ventured to Canton hauling cargos of American ginseng to swap for Chinese tea, to the U.S. warships facing off against China’s growing navy in the South China Sea, from the Yankee missionaries who brought Christianity and education to China, to the Chinese who built the American West, the United States and China have always been dramatically intertwined. For more than two centuries, American and Chinese statesmen, merchants, missionaries, and adventurers, men and women, have profoundly influenced the fate of these nations. While we tend to think of America’s ties with China as starting in 1972 with the visit of President Richard Nixon to China, the patterns—rapturous enchantment followed by angry disillusionment—were set in motion hundreds of years earlier.Drawing on personal letters, diaries, memoirs, government documents, and contemporary news reports, John Pomfret reconstructs the surprising, tragic, and marvelous ways Americans and Chinese have engaged with one another through the centuries. A fascinating and thrilling account, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is also an indispensable book for understanding the most important—and often the most perplexing—relationship between any two countries in the world. —Henry Holt{chop}

Facing a Transition of Power, China’s Xi is More Desperate Than Ever to Control Young Minds

Echo Huang
Quartz
With 2017 nearing, it’s likely China will expand its campaign to further instill the ideologies of the party in young minds

A Revolutionary Discovery in China

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
1.As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China...

Media

03.04.16

China’s Coming Ideological Wars

Taisu Zhang
For most Chinese, the 1990s were a period of intense material pragmatism. Economic development was the paramount social and political concern, while the various state ideologies that had guided policy during the initial decades of the People’s...

What Is the I Ching?

Eliot Weinberger from New York Review of Books
The I Ching has served for thousands of years as a philosophical taxonomy of the universe, a guide to an ethical life, a manual for rulers, and an oracle of one’s personal future and the future of the state. It was an organizing principle or...

Media

11.09.15

Can the China Model Succeed?

Daniel A. Bell, Timothy Garton Ash & more
Is this a new model? Is authoritarian capitalism, Leninist capitalism, something that has durability? Have the rules changed about how countries develop? That used to be, remember, that open markets led ineluctably to open societies. How does it...

Viewpoint

11.05.15

The Problem With the China Model

Andrew J. Nathan
The ideological competition between democracy and authoritarianism was supposed to have died with the Cold War. But it has returned with a vengeance, powered above all by the rise of China. Now comes a book by a respected scholar that purports to...

Respect Your Elders: Confucian Kindergartens Catch On in China

Jeremy Page
WSJ: China Real Time Report
The Party is now introducing traditional culture classes in state-run kindergartens and other levels of schooling.

Viewpoint

04.23.15

China’s Leftists Are Embracing Confucius. Why?

Taisu Zhang
When Jennifer Pan and Yiqing Xu posted their new paper, “China’s Ideological Spectrum,” last week, it marked the first time that anyone has provided large-scale empirical data on the ideological shifts and trends within the Chinese population. China...

Sinica Podcast

04.20.15

China’s Ideological Spectrum

Kaiser Kuo & David Moser from Sinica Podcast
Last week, Harvard doctoral student Jennifer Pan and MIT graduate student Yiqing Xu co-released a paper, “China’s Ideological Spectrum,” that has garnered a tremendous amount of attention in China-watching circles. And the reason for the fracas?...

Chinese Atheists? What the Pew Survey Gets Wrong

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Earlier this month, I came across a fascinating opinion survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The report asked people in forty countries whether belief in God is necessary for morality. Mostly, the results aren’t surprising...

Environment

12.05.13

Daoism, Confucianism, and the Environment

from chinadialogue
In September, an unusual environmental organization was launched in one of the most ancient and significant sites in China—the Songyang Academy, Dengfeng, Henan. Founded in the eleventh century AD, this was one of the four Confucian Academies of...

Sinica Podcast

11.13.13

Daoism for the Action-Oriented

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
{vertical_photo_right}What Would Confucius Do? What for that matter would Laozi not do? This week on Sinica, Kaiser and Jeremy ask these and other questions of Sam Crane, Professor of Contemporary Chinese Politics at Williams College and author of...

Conversation

10.07.13

Why Is Xi Jinping Promoting Self-Criticism?

Stephen C. Angle & Taisu Zhang
Critics both within and without China have suggested that Xi Jinping’s promotion of self-criticism by Communist Party cadres has at least two motives: it promotes the appearance of concern with lax discipline while avoiding deeper reform, and it...

Books

06.19.13

Confucianism as a World Religion

Anna Sun
Is Confucianism a religion? If so, why do most Chinese think it isn’t? From ancient Confucian temples, to nineteenth-century archives, to the testimony of people interviewed by the author throughout China over a period of more than a decade, this book traces the birth and growth of the idea of Confucianism as a world religion.The book begins at Oxford, in the late nineteenth century, when Friedrich Max Müller and James Legge classified Confucianism as a world religion in the new discourse of “world religions” and the emerging discipline of comparative religion. Anna Sun shows how that decisive moment continues to influence the understanding of Confucianism in the contemporary world, not only in the West but also in China, where the politics of Confucianism have become important to the present regime in a time of transition. Contested histories of Confucianism are vital signs of social and political change.Sun also examines the revival of Confucianism in China today and the social significance of the ritual practice of Confucian temples. While the Chinese government turns to Confucianism to justify its political agenda, Confucian activists have started a movement to turn Confucianism into a religion. Confucianism as a world religion might have begun as a scholarly construction, but are we witnessing its transformation into a social and political reality?   —Princeton University Press

Books

03.29.13

The Little Red Guard

Wenguang Huang
When Wenguang Huang was nine years old, his grandmother became obsessed with her own death. Fearing cremation, she extracted from her family the promise to bury her after she died. This was in Xi’an, a city in central China, in the 1970s, when a national ban on all traditional Chinese practices, including burials, was strictly enforced. But Huang’s grandmother was persistent, and two years later, his father built her a coffin. He also appointed his older son, Wenguang, as coffin keeper, a distinction that meant, among other things, sleeping next to the coffin at night. Over the next fifteen years, the whole family was consumed with planning Grandma’s burial, a regular source of friction and contention, with the constant risk of being caught by the authorities. Many years after her death, the family’s memories of her coffin still loom large. Huang, now living and working in America, has come to realize how much the concern over the coffin affected his upbringing and shaped the lives of everyone in the family. Lyrical and poignant, funny and heartrending, The Little Red Guard is the powerful tale of an ordinary family finding their way through turbulence and transition. —Riverhead Books

Out of School

08.03.12

The Rehabilitation of Pearl Buck

Peter Conn
In the summer of 1934, Pearl Buck boarded a ship in Shanghai that was bound for America. She was forty-two years old, and had lived for thirty-four of those years in China, mostly in cities along the Yangzi River. Pearl and her first husband, John...

The Chinese Political System is Not a Meritocracy (Opinion)

Sam Crane
Useless Tree
Daniel A. Bell has a piece today in the CSM, arguing that the PRC political system is, basically, a meritocracy that holds lessons that might correct the flaws of US democracy.  Bell is a philosopher and he tends to...

A Confucian Constitution for China: Where's the Popular Sovereignty?

Sam Crane
Useless Tree
Daniel Bell and Jiang Qing have a short op-ed in today's NYT outlining what a Confucian political system for China might look like. This is a large and complex topic, and the brevity of the piece really cannot do it justice, so any critique...

A Confucian Constitution in China (Op-Ed)

JIANG QING and DANIEL A. BELL
New York Times
The political future of China is far likelier to be determined by the longstanding Confucian tradition of “humane authority” than by Western-style multiparty elections. After all, democracy is flawed as an ideal. Political legitimacy is based solely...

What Confucius Said

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
1.The first Western-language version of Confucius’ sayings—later known as the Analects—was published in Paris in 1687, in Latin, under the title Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, with a brief dedication to King Louis XIV, thanking him for supporting...

Turbulent Empire

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
Among the great and enduring questions in the study of Chinese history are these: In an agricultural country of such extraordinary size how was the land farmed and what were the patterns of ownership and tenancy? How was the rural revenue extracted...

Why Confucius Counts

Jonathan D. Spence from New York Review of Books
One would be hard pressed, surveying any of the political cultures in human history, to find a parallel for the continuity, longevity, and vitality of Confucianism. This moral and ethical system was given initial shape in the fifth and fourth...

Bringing Up the Red Guards

John Gittings from New York Review of Books
Everyone who has studied the Chinese Cultural Revolution has his own favorite quotation from the Red Guard press. Those who want to make fun of it can always pick one of Mrs. Mao’s ridiculous pronouncements (“‘P'an T'ien-shou’ is a...