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The Social Network: Lisu Use Digital Media to Find Each Other and Preserve Their Culture

Lisu (identified by patchwork bags, and man wearing blue shirt) wait in line for the bank to open on a very chilly morning in Fugong, China. Photo: Mark Goldschmidt By Michele Zack In the mid-1980s, I was a budget tourist on a hill tribe trek far from roads or electricity in Northern Thailand. There, I first encountered the Lisu—adaptable, egalitarian highlanders scattered in corners of China, Myanmar, and Thailand (tiny populations also live in India and Laos). I picked up with the group again in the 1990s when—by then based in Thailand—I wrote a popular ethnography of Lisu living in three nation-states with three different political systems. That book never saw print, but a new publisher 15 years later agreed to take up the project when still no book about Lisu had been published. I proposed to update the original work with a new longitudinal angle. Thirty years after first meeting members of the Lisu community, I have finally published The Lisu: Far from the Ruler (University Press of ...

The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up – A Q&A with Author Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer’s 2008 debut book, The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed, recounted his time spent living in the crowded hutong alleyways of China’s capital during the run-up to that year’s Olympics. In 2015, he published In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China, which picked up Meyer’s story as he moved to his wife’s hometown in the countryside and immersed himself in the history of the country’s northeast region. In a new book, The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up, Meyer circles back to his first days in China, when he arrived in 1995 as a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer who couldn’t use chopsticks, spoke no Chinese, and “knew little about the country beyond the Great Wall, pandas, one billion people, fortune cookies, and the indelible image of a man standing in front of a tank.” The Road to Sleeping Dragon follows Meyer as he finds his footi ...

Excerpt: The Book of Swindles

The roads and rivers of China saw a steady stream of travelers during the late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), as merchants moved from place to place, creating a vibrant commercial network that bound together the country’s flourishing southern cities. On the road, however, people were vulnerable: cut off from familiar places and faces, it was easy to fall prey to the roving con men who had devised a plethora of get-rich-quick schemes that would relieve their victims of money and goods. English-language readers can now learn about a wide range of the frauds perpetrated in 17th-century China by picking up The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (Columbia University Press, 2017), written by Zhang Yingyu (fl. 1612-17) and recently translated by AAS Members Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk, both professors in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia. Zhang’s work, Rea and Rusk write in the book’s introduction, “presents a panoramic survey of dec ...

#AsiaNow Speaks with Foong Ping

FOONG Ping is Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art at Seattle Art Museum and author of The Efficacious Landscape: On the Authorities of Painting at the Northern Song Court, published by Harvard University Asia Center and winner of the 2017 AAS Joseph Levenson Book Prize, Pre-1900 Category. To begin with, please tell us what your book is about. The book is about ink landscape painting, one of the most distinctive features of Northern Song dynasty culture. It addresses how these works fulfilled diverse functions at court during the late 11th century—as forms of decoration, as a medium of social exchange, and even as an integral element of this pivotal period’s political history. Through landscape’s unique ability to communicate through embodiment, they became potent symbols of imperial authority, and later became objects through which exiled scholars expressed disaffection and dissent. The first part of my study focuses attention on how and why the Song imperial establishment—emper ...

Interview with Qin Gao, Author of Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China

Official state media reports in China frequently speak of how the Communist Party-led government has “lifted 700 million people out of poverty” since implementing economic reforms in the late 1970s. Yet there are still millions of people in the country who struggle to maintain long-term employment and constantly teeter on the edge of a financial cliff. Dibao, or the Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, is a government program intended to help its recipients step back from the edge of that cliff. By distributing cash payments to those who qualify, Dibao is meant to provide China’s poorest citizens with the funds to cover their basic expenses during periods of un- or under-employment. First implemented in Shanghai in 1993, Dibao was expanded to all urban areas in 1999 but has only been available to rural residents since 2007; there are now approximately 60 million people receiving welfare payments through the program. AAS Member Qin Gao, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work ...

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