Frontiers of History in China

ISSN 1673-3401

ISSN 1673-3525(Online)

CN 11-5740/K

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, Volume 14 Issue 4

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Fidelity and Sacrifice: The Gender Discourse of Traders in Pre- and Post-Opium War Canton
John D. Wong
Front. Hist. China. 2019, 14 (4): 473-507.

Abstract   PDF (395KB)

This article examines the discourse of two American couples in the China trade regarding fidelity and sacrifice during the period in which the spatial confines of the Canton system gave way to the intensified interactions of the Treaty Port era. Before the Opium War, when the Qing court had mandated that Western husbands conducting business in Canton live apart from their wives, marital tension was accentuated by the separation from absentee husbands. In the subsequent Treaty Port era, enhanced spatial mobility of the couples did not assuage their concerns. Instead, intensified cross-cultural encounters allowed them to project their feelings and expectations on the “foreign other” as racial categories developed and their imperial proclivities began to escalate. Bringing the Western women in contact with elite Chinese and other Western women only aggravated their agitation as they faced their Chinese counterparts, whom they readily construed as competitors. The socio-political and spatial reconfigurations provided new dimensions to the discourse of fidelity and sacrifice. The voices of the American couples recorded here are those of individuals, but the underlying anxiety they articulated represented the growing pains of more intimate Sino-Western encounters.

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Seeking and Managing Wealth: Advice from a Guangdong Mother in Late Qing and Early Republican China
Clara Wing-chung Ho
Front. Hist. China. 2019, 14 (4): 508-534.

Abstract   PDF (3569KB)

This article traces the life of Qu Fengzhu (1860–1927), a native of Panyu, Guangdong, with special focus on her Zhijia yaoyi (Basic principles of household management). Whereas many women from elite families in late imperial China emphasized the importance of their sons studying hard in order to secure a place in the government or to live with dignity, Qu Fengzhu focused on seeking and managing wealth properly to sustain the family finances. Living in the greater Canton area loaded with heavy commercial activities and East-West interaction opportunities, as well as witnessing the political and social transition from the imperial era to the republican era, Qu Fengzhu gave very pragmatic advice to her offspring without elaborating much on high-sounding truths and principles. She set four rules for her children to follow and emphasized the importance of diligence and frugality. In a flourishing commercial world, the relatively conservative arguments on wealth management contained in Zhijia yaoyi somehow incorporates moral education. This makes its author’s words carry weight and significance.

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The Origin of “Chinese Philosophy”
Sang Bing
Front. Hist. China. 2019, 14 (4): 535-574.

Abstract   PDF (558KB)

Using the analysis of a single word to launch a conceptual review of (a problem in) cultural history, the Chinese term zhexue 哲學 (wisdom-learning, tetsugaku) is not simply a translation of the word “philosophy”; its inventor, Nishi Amane (1829–97), regarded it as the (Western) counterpart of Oriental learning (Tōyōgaku). The first explicit linkage of “philosophy” with “the East” was at The University of Tokyo, where it played an important role in the work of Katō Hiroyuki (1836–1913) and Inoue Tetsujirō (1855–1944). Inoue’s History of Oriental Philosophy, written under Katō’s inspiration, used Western philosophy to systematize ancient Chinese thought, and transformed “philosophy” (tetsugaku) from a learning of others, or Western learning, into an important component of the spiritual world of the East, and into a kind of universal knowledge. This was completely different from earlier lectures on “China philosophy” (shina tetsugaku) by Nakamura Masanao (1832–91) and Shimada Jūrei (1838–98) which still followed the Chinese underlying structure, and in the background, it had the intent of grasping the power to control East Asian discourse. In China, when young scholars like Wang Guowei (1877–1927) embraced philosophy, they already took its universality as a self-evident premise. This kind of alignment later evolved into a situation where it seemed entirely natural to use Western systems to interpret Chinese thought, and it also induced serious scholars to reflect. However, “Oriental philosophy” and “Chinese philosophy” provide East Asia and especially China with an opportunity to reevaluate its traditional culture. In this connection, “Chinese philosophy” includes: first, using philosophical concepts to re-provision ancient thought (the so-called history of Chinese philosophy); second, the occurrence of “philosophy” and “Chinese philosophy” and their evolution after their arrival in China; third, drawing on philosophy to enrich and develop China’s thinking. When seeking out “philosophy” in the veins and arteries of China’s history, the first and second aspects must be strictly distinguished. As to what the future may hold, the effect of the third aspect is most important.

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The Qing Dynasty Ministry of Justice Memorials and “The New History”
Chang Jianhua
Front. Hist. China. 2019, 14 (4): 575-630.

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The Qing Dynasty Grand Secretariat Archives are considered to be among the four great ancient texts discovered in modern Chinese history, and the memorials from the Ministry of Justice have garnered particular attention due to their well-preserved socio-economic content(s). From the 20th century onwards the New History, with its emphasis on drawing upon the social sciences’ discussions of citizens, communities and society, came to replace the more traditional “Imperial Genealogy” style of historiography, affording us a grander view of history. Progressing forward with “the times,” the New History continued to innovate and diversify the field; in terms of Qing dynasty social historical research, it brought about constant exploration and change within the field, first having shifted from socio-economic history to social history, then moving on to life history, the investigation of the “seeds of capitalism,” class relations, lower-class society, marriage and family relations, law and justice, gender studies, daily life (“life, livelihood and environment”), and so on, continually pushing the boundaries of academic research. Yet, underlying all this change was a close relationship between the use of the Ministry of Justice Memorials and the field’s overall development. This article not only introduces several findings made by academicians in using the Ministry of Justice Memorials, but also sets out to further reveal the relationship between the New History and the memorials themselves, probing into the deeper question of broader changes in historiography and their relationship with generational shifts in intellectual thought.

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7 articles