[ Back to AAS Book Prizes Main Page ]
Allen's book is a highly original history of Taipei told through analysis of place naming, maps, photographs, films, urban planning, architecture, parks, museums and memorials, and sculpture. These disparate forms are organized neatly around the theme of "displacement": the movement of objects, the renaming of streets, or the politically-driven reinscription of meaning onto existing memorial sites.
More than a history of the physical transformations of the city, Taipei traces the genealogy of urban space and architectural forms through Taiwan's multiple periods of colonizations and into the post-martial-law era, investigating their political and ideological implications. Using a variety of analytic methods—taken from geography, history, architecture, literature, film, semiotics, and ethnography—Allen shows the influences and forces that have converged in the specific construction of Taipei.
The focus on the physical constitution of the city is an inspired device to direct readers to questions one could ask about any global city: Who made it in this way and why? How does the past endure and how is it erased? How is it used and disputed? Beautifully written, Taipei is accessible to readers from a range of disciplines. It is the first book devoted to Taiwan to win the Levenson prize.
Selection Committee: Kirk Denton, Chair (Ohio State University); Timothy Cheek (University of British Columbia); Susan Blum (University of Notre Dame)
Andrea S. Goldman's Opera and the City, The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770–1900 lifts the curtain on Beijing's commercial theater in the 18th and 19th centuries, exploring the interactions of actors, theater-goers, playwrights, and the Qing court. Goldman's plot arises from a rich range of challenging sources, encompassing registers of beautiful "boy actresses," court regulations meant to control theater spaces and personnel, the scripts of individual plays, and programs of historical performances. The cast of characters includes marginal literati whose breathless accounts of cross-dressing beauties helped shore up their status as cultural arbiters, even as those same literati identified with actors as men of undervalued talent.
It stars an imperial court helpless to regulate the commercial theater until, ironically, its embrace of a particular opera genre proves to be an effective mechanism of ideological control. It shows performers and audiences shaping the meanings and messages of commercial opera by popularizing specific dramatic scenes. And in the exciting dénouement, we learn that our typical image of Qing culture may in fact be an artifact of the post-Taiping period, and not represent High Qing at all. Deeply researched, elegantly written, and analytically sophisticated, Opera and the City is a virtuoso performance par excellence.
Honorable Mention: Scott Cook (Grinnell C.); The Bamboo Texts of Guodian, A Study and Complete Translation (East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2012)
Selection Committee: Beverly Bossler, Chair (UC-Davis); Eugenio Menegon (Boston U.); Michael Nylan (UC-Berkeley)
The Religious Question in Modern China, co-authored by Vincent Goossaert and David Palmer, is a tour de force account of Chinese religiosity over the past century and across mainland China, the "new Chinese states" of Taiwan and Singapore, and diaspora communities in Southeast Asia and further afield. It digests and makes legible a huge body of research (including their own major monographs) to a general China readership that often ignores or stereotypes religion in and from China. Goossaert and Palmer demonstrate the centrality of religious belief, activity, and organization in modern Chinese history, bringing religion into our comprehensive study of China since 1900.
In their ground-breaking research, Goossaert and Palmer synthesize studies in English, French, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages. The volume is long and detailed, but addresses key questions: What is Chinese religion? What is the social ecology shaping religion and in turn shaped by it? What is, and has been, the relationship between the Chinese state and religious practice and religious communities from the Qing, to the Kuomintang's state, to the Chinese Communist Party's nation? The authors demonstrate that religion is a central variable in modern politics in China, particularly the role of "political religiosity" in the secularizing states of both Republican and Maoist China. They are explicitly comparative in their conceptualization of Chinese religion. This comprehensive study provides a lucid, richly informed, and generously appreciative account of the realities of religion in Chinese life. It makes the history of religion in modern China and contemporary religious activity readily available for serious comparative research.
Selection Committee: Timothy Cheek (Chair), Kirk Denton, Maris Gillette.
Song Yingxing's The Works of Heaven and the Inception of Things (Tiangong kaiwu) has long been read as a catalogue of craft technologies. In Dagmar Schäfer's brilliant rereading, it has quite a different meaning: it is a work of cosmology. Schäfer demonstrates that Song's interest in material production was based in a metaphysical theory of qi, or material force. Craft production was important to him because it demonstrated the constant and all-encompassing transformation of qi. She shows how deeply Song's ideas were shaped by the late Ming context in which he lived, where men of the official class were routinely exposed to craft production in the course of their duties, and how he shared the prevailing belief in a social and intellectual divide separating scholars (who had the ability to understand physical phenomena) from craftsmen (who, in Song's view, merely manipulated such phenomena).
Yet Schäfer also stresses that Song's particular theory of the universe was a radical departure from the conventional metaphysics of the day, especially in denying the centrality of moral principle in cosmic transformations. Placing Works of Heaven in the context of Song's life, his many other writings, and the intellectual, social, and political climate of his time, Schäfer persuasively argues that Song saw craft processes as "the revelation of universal principles" and thus as a pattern for literati action during a time of political upheaval and socioeconomic imbalance. The Crafting of the 10,000 Things is a model for future work in the history of Chinese thought.
Honorable Mention: K. E. Brashier, Ancestral Memory in Early China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2011).
Selection Committee: Robert Campany (Chair), Cynthia Brokaw, Beverly Bossler.
Painting the City Red is a fantastically original study of the interaction between cultural producers, urban planners, and city residents in the creation of urban space. Challenging the conventional view of urban culture as a response to the physical reality of the City, Braester shows how Chinese filmmakers and stage performers were often directly involved in the building of that reality. Focusing on the period from the 1950s to the present, Braester sees dramatists and filmmakers acting as cultural brokers, helping to forge an "urban contract" between planning authorities, real estate developers, propaganda officers, and city dwellers. Collectively, the parties to this contract promoted the development of Mao-era Beijing and Shanghai, the gentrification of contemporary Taipei, as well as the revamping of Beijing in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
Braester examines over a hundred Chinese films and plays, blending in rich archival material related to the circumstances of their production and interviews with individuals involved. His exemplary scholarship demonstrates the complex nature of "art worlds," while making an elegant and important argument about the significance of cultural production to shaping the world in which we live. Theoretically astute yet virtually jargon-free in its formulation, the book combines excellent sinological research with a genuine contribution to drama and film studies, urban studies, and political history. Braester's work encourages us to take a fresh look at cities we thought we knew, and to reconsider the way we look at cities and their culture in general.
Selection Committee: Michel Hockx (Chair), Tom Gold, Paul Pickowicz
Through sophisticated analysis of Tang-era writing, reading, and collecting practices, Christopher M. B. Nugent's Manifest in Words, Written on Paper challenges many conventional assumptions about medieval China's manuscript culture and demonstrates both the need and the rewards of better understanding the material lives of poetic texts, from their first oral or written composition through the diverse trajectories of their subsequent circulation.
Impressively wide-ranging in scope, rich in detail, and broadly interdisciplinary in its methods and the implications of its arguments, Nugent's book engages with and contributes to contemporary critical-theoretical discourses in several areas: the nature of memory and its role in the preservation and transmission of texts, the complex relationship of orality to text, the historically specific dimensions of the act of reading, the perception—and means for creating the perception—of spontaneity as a literary value, and the nature of textual collecting as a mode of literati culture. By furthermore exemplifying mastery of best practices for textual analysis and craftsman-like care in the articulation of its arguments, Manifest in Words, Written on Paper sets the terms for future scholarship on the activities of authoring, reading, transmitting, and collecting texts in every time period of China's history.
For these accomplishments, the committee congratulates Christopher M. B. Nugent and nominates him for the 2012 Joseph Levenson Prize for a nonfiction scholarly book on China (pre-1900).
Honorable Mention: R. Kent Guy: Qing Governors and Their Provinces: The Evolution of Territorial Administration in China, 1644–1796 (University of Washington Press, 2010).
Selection Committee: Ding Xiang Warner (Chair), Cynthia Brokaw, Robert Campany
Eating Rice from Bamboo Roots traces the history of a group of papermakers living on the edge of Sichuan's Chengdu plain. In rich detail, Eyferth analyzes the growth of rural paper making during the first half of the twentieth century, its stagnation and near destruction under Mao, and, for some households, its revival in the 1980s and 1990s. He describes arduous labor routines and captures a way of life that embeds those routines within encompassing community and family relations, gender divisions, marketing networks, and religious associations.
Eyferth confidently manages a rich variety of sources to produce intimate accounts of individuals and households as they struggled to make a living from their technical skills and hard work. His sophisticated combination of archival sources, participant observation, oral histories, and interviews not only opens up new research avenues, but also makes methodological innovations that will positively challenge future fieldwork historians.
In clear and commanding prose Eyferth exposes a deep rural-urban divide, accentuated by Maoist policies, which devalued rural enterprise and the kinds of local knowledge that sustained life and community not only in rural Sichuan but in villages and towns throughout China. Through careful reading of the conceptual literature, innovative methodologies, a keen eye for rural lifeways, and sophisticated analytical skills, Eyferth develops an analysis that is grounded in detail, yet goes well beyond the predicament of any one village to offer significant insights into the dramatic economic and political changes that transformed the Chinese countryside.
Selection Committee: Jonathan Unger (Chair), Michael Hockx, Rubie Watson.
Eugenio Menegon's book is a ground-breaking study of the ways in which Christianity became a local religion in late imperial China. Utilizing materials in Chinese, Japanese, Latin, Spanish, French, German, English, and Italian, Menegon is able to tease this local story out of sources both hostile to Christianity (Chinese government sources like criminal confessions, elite writings, etc) and supportive of it (missionary reports, pamphlets, accounts by Christian families, etc). Menegon marshals this stunning range of sources to paint an amazingly rich and nuanced portrait of an indigenous Christian community in Fuan, Fujian, and to explain how it managed to endure for over four centuries. This is an impressive account—as he puts it—of the "transformation of a global religion into a local one" (p. 154).
Menegon also succeeds in providing a superb and detailed account of the complexities of social and religious life in late imperial China. Menegon is a master of the historical narrative, and the book is beautifully written. In short, the committee salutes the cosmopolitan sweep of Menegon's research, his impressive powers of historical analysis, and his compelling storytelling skills. We are honored to award the book this year's Pre-1900 Joseph Levenson Prize.
Selection Committee: Michael Puett (Chair), Melissa Maccauley, Ding Xang Warner.
Honorable Mention: Robert Ford Campany: Making Transcendents: Ascetics and Social Memory in Early Medieval China (University of Hawaii Press, 2009).
Just One Child is a truly impressive book. Through assiduous interviewing over many years, supplemented by a wealth of hard-to-secure documentation, Susan Greenhalgh has unveiled surprising, important answers to the question of how and why the Chinese leadership came to adopt the one-child family policy. She convincingly shows that the program originated with an influential Chinese missile scientist and his colleagues, who were able to use the prestigious aura of “scientific” analysis to dominate debates over population policy in 1979–80 and to convince top-level political leaders to take drastic action. This history is important in its own right, given that the one-child policy has affected such a vast number of people so dramatically.
What makes Greenhalgh’s book outstanding is that she insightfully utilizes her case study to address questions of a broader scope. She shows how policy gets made at the top of the Chinese party-state and how Deng reformers thought about policy-making in general. She examines the role in modern policy-making of “scientism”—a faith in the power of science to conjure up solutions—and shows how this had a particular attraction in the immediate post-Mao period. She sheds new light on the circumstances in which intellectuals began to enter the policy-making arena, and also shows the ways Western models (in this case, the Club of Rome’s population/resource projections) influenced Chinese policy. Throughout, she insightfully links her discussions to international discourses in the social sciences. To an unusual degree, Just One Child combines entirely original scholarship, a sophisticated conceptual framework, and rigorous analysis.
Selection Committee: Jonathan Unger (Chair); Michel Hockx; Rubie Watson
This is an outstanding cultural history of Chinese landscape inscriptions or moya shike, a ubiquitous literary phenomenon in which texts were carved into granite boulders, cliffs, and other features of the natural terrain. It is the first extended treatment in English of these inscriptions in their three-dimensional, material forms, carved as they were into the terrain in their original locations.
Harrist makes a compelling and original argument that the “total semiotic effect” of these texts can only be appreciated when viewed as “integral parts of their landscape settings.” This is a theoretically sophisticated and insightfully written study of the many ways the Chinese landscape served as a medium for literary inscription or, as Harrist notes, the ways in which the Chinese “transformed geological formations into landscapes imbued with literary, ideological, and religious significance.” His judiciously selected examples permit him to explore these inscriptions in their political, religious, aesthetic, ritual, and textual dimensions.
This book is more than a compelling history of landscape inscriptions from the 1st to 8th centuries C.E., it is an engrossing, wide-ranging, and highly original exploration of the Chinese imagination in early and medieval China. Robert Harrist’s well-researched and brilliantly written book is a model of interdisciplinary scholarship, and he is a highly deserving recipient of this year’s Levenson Award.
The review committee also wishes to designate a Honorable Mention, which goes to Feng Li’s "Bureaucracy and the State in Early China: Governing the Western Zhou" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Selection Committee: Shang Wei (Chair); Melissa Macauley; Michael Puett
Barbieri-Low pulls off a major achievement: reconstructing the life and work of the craftsmen who created early China’s most impressive works of art. Combining artistic, archaeological, and textual evidence, he gives us a finely drawn portrait of how they created objects, how they suffered, and how other strata viewed them.
Artisan skills, regarded as “clever” but morally unrefined by literati, nevertheless gave them a sense of social solidarity and put them in close contact with the court, the market, and consumers. From an artisan’s perspective, Han China looks surprisingly modern: the most successful men and women used modular designs in an almost industrial production line, they branded their pieces with their own names, and they sought out opportunities for profit whenever possible. Others, however, were not so lucky. They suffered under the oppression of bonded labor and were poisoned by toxic chemicals used in lacquer production.
The author’s rich description of these little-known historical subjects stands out as an exemplary work of social, artistic, and archaeological history.
Selection Committee: Peter Perdue (Chair); Stephen West; Shang Wei.
Revolution of the Heart is an imaginative and well-researched study of sentiment as public discourse in modern China. Haiyan Lee’s innovative approach to the matters of love, emotion, intimacy and sexuality has brought the study of modern China to a new level of theoretical rigor and sophistication. This book raises important questions about the place of love and affectivity in modern political discourse, nationalist struggle, social transformation and revolution. The author makes the modern and premodern divide untenable by taking us back to the cult of qing, demonstrating convincingly how this earlier philosophical tradition and its reworking by modern writers in 1900–1950 can help reframe the highly contested articulations of moral sentiment in the May Fourth episteme of romantic love. Her close readings of familiar and unfamiliar texts are always illuminating and sometimes even surprising and provocative.
Love is a vast subject for an academic book such as this, but Haiyan Lee has risen to the challenge with aplomb. Does love matter to politics? This central question raised by her excellent book troubles the distinction between the public and private spheres and explains why literature has been central to social struggle. As the most prominent public discourse of sentiment, literature occupies the center stage in her study but her concerns are social, political, and historical. The book is distinguished by its dynamic and fruitful engagement with the question of moral vision in modern China and, as such, is richly deserving of the Joseph Levenson Prize.
Selection Committee: Michael Dutton (Chair); Sherman Cochran; Lydia Liu.
Pattern and Person is an unusual and engrossing study of material culture in the social thought of Classical China. In it, Martin Powers offers a new way of thinking about ornamentation in relation to social hierarchy, political organization, and personal agency in the Warring States Period. Commencing with an observation of the shift from modular to free-flowing design, epitomized in tropes of clouds and dragons, Powers takes the reader on an extraordinary intellectual journey that raises important questions about art, artisanry, taste, identity, politics, and history.
Along the way, his careful deployment and exposition of texts from early thinkers and writers provides multiple reminders of the wealth of classical resources available for critical political thought in contemporary China. The book is marked by a sustained tone of intellectual inquiry, a richly discursive approach to the problems under consideration, and great versatility in its balance of attention to texts and artifacts. A distinguishing feature of the book is the author’s cautious but explicit comparative approach which illuminates distinctive features of Chinese culture in the period under review while simultaneously revealing parallels and points of convergence between trajectories of thought in China and Europe. This feature makes Pattern and Person an unusually appropriate recipient of an otherwise richly deserved award. In a field of excellent entries that between them covered three millennia of Chinese history, this highly original, engagingly written book was truly outstanding.
Selection Committee: Antonia Finnane (Chair); Peter Perdue; Stephen West.
Sherman Cochran’s study of inter-Asian consumer society opens new ground with the question, who were the agents of commercial modernization in the Chinese business world during the interwar years and the Pacific War?
His thesis is that middle-brow Chinese nationals and ethnic Chinese business entrepreneurs established commodity empires with regional rather than national scope. They creatively adapted advertising media and the categories of “modern” and “neo-traditional.” They eluded existing economic, political, managerial barriers to become what Cochran calls “agents of consumer culture.” Their tactics included founding newspapers and purportedly professional journals, mobilizing popular performances, and organizing bureaus of advertisement in their companies. Bringing his expertise in business history to bear on the question of Asian-based consumer advocates, he illustrates the organizational and corporate managerial side of marketing and branding.
Among the points this study of entrepreneurs raises for scholarship generally is the problem of allegiance. Detailed chapters on fixers and colluders, Xu Guanqun (1899-1972) and Aw Boon-haw of Tiger Balm fame, show how closely the business practices of each Chinese mogul mirrored and engaged Japanese economic imperialism before and during the occupation.
Central figures like Xu, Aw, Huang Chujiu and Xiang Songmao came from a petit bourgeois class background and lacked direct exposure to English, European or American schools or management theories. However, as men of the people, Cochran argues, they had the common touch it took to mediate foreign ingress and to “localize” what came from a world beyond 19th century Chinese conventions.
Selection Committee: Tani Barlow (Chair); Ching Kwan Lee; Ruth Rogaski.
Peter Perdue’s study fundamentally alters how we understand the relationship between Qing China and the people of Central Eurasia. His book concentrates on the period of time from the rise of the Manchus in the first decades of the seventeenth century to the return of the Torghuts in the last half of the eighteenth century, an event with which, he says, “the steppe ended, and a great chapter in world history closed.” This comment points to a highly commendable feature of this sweeping and meticulous study: Perdue places the Qing march into central Asia squarely in the contexts both of Chinese and of world history. He shows, for example, how the Qing response to trade with Britain on China’s south coast was shaped by the earlier but quite different Qing experience on the Eurasian frontier. On a larger world stage, Perdue compares state building in Qing China, France, and the Ottoman Empire, pointing to both similarities and dissimilarities in these efforts.
Any attempt to summarize the richness of Perdue’s study surely will miss much. It bristles with insights and should occupy a prominent place in the libraries of all serious historians, regardless of their area of specialty. It is noteworthy too that Perdue continues a rich tradition of multilingual research we must not allow to decline. He draws upon sources and scholarship from Chinese, Japanese, Manchu, German, French, and Russian, to say nothing of English, the latter a language he also writes with clarity and grace. We congratulate him.
Selection Committee: Steven Durrant, Chair; Antonia Finnane; Martin Kern.
In this extraordinary book, Professor Dutton re-tells the story of what animated the Chinese revolutionary politics through an empirical history of policing. He skillfully shows how a binary division of friend and enemy was the ground of Mao Zedong’s theory of politics and Maoist practices of politics including mobilizations, purges, assassination, and scapegoating. His binary division became the driving force behind the political passions and violence that marked Communist rule from the Jiangxi Soviet through the Cultural Revolution.
Over the period covered in this detailed study of the police apparatus and its shifting functional spheres in a revolutionary society, Professor Dutton also demonstrates how intense emotions drove a politicization of all spheres of life as a dynamic of loyalty and betrayal took the place of the machinery of crime and juridical punishment. He thus offers a superb illustration of how political theory is inextricable from the history of the political.
This theoretically innovative and remarkably well-sourced study in institutional history gives a compelling portrait of the magic of commitment and faith as well as the institutional politics of post-revolutionary policy. This important book will be widely read by scholars and students in social sciences and humanities, particularly by those interested in political theory and socialist history.
Selection Committee: Li Zhang, Chair; Tani Barlow; Ruth Rogaski
Antonia Finnane’s Speaking of Yangzhou is an extraordinary book: a local historical study that at once problematizes and develops the category of local history itself, by exploring a locality whose elites, and thus much of whose social life and culture, were not local but immigrant from elsewhere. It is a rich work of narrative history that weaves into and through its narrative significant responses to current scholarly controversies on a striking range of topics. Finnane both challenges and refines the notion of merger or boundary-blurring between literati and merchants in the Ming and Qing. She extends and develops our awareness of the special character of those cities whose hinterland is not their own surrounding region but, arguably, China as a whole. She delves deep into the earlier roots of the modern phenomenon of Subei ethnicity. The book will be necessary reading as well for scholars interested in gender, in lineage and kinship organization, and not least in the institutional and social workings of the salt monopoly. Finnane shows absolute mastery of both the primary sources and an abundant secondary literature on all these topics. As if all this were not enough, the book is a model of historiographic style: Finnane’s writing is elegant and crystal clear even where her topics are at their most complex.
In a year of strong candidates, Speaking of Yangzhou richly deserves the Levenson Prize for the best new book on pre-1900 China.
Selection Committee: Robert Hymes, Chair; Steven Durrant; Martin Kern
This is an outstanding, innovative study of how the concept and practice of weisheng, a term that encompasses hygiene, health, sanitation, public health and disease control, took hold in China, through western and Chinese agency. Weisheng was central to the conception of modernity. Its changing meanings are associated with state power, scientific standards of progress and the fitness of races; these meanings reflect the many dimensions of modern Chinese experiences. This book examines all these topics, and also looks at the dark obverse of weisheng, germ warfare.
Ruth Rogaski’s book matches an exciting theoretical conception with detailed, painstaking research using many different sources. She focuses on one city, Tianjin, the location of several different foreign concessions, and thus the locus of various different medical encounters. The book looks at a long period, from the pre-treaty port period to the start of the Communist era. This long time span allows an examination of traditional medicine, and of the use of germs in warfare.
The writing of the book is clear and engaging, and accessible to specialists and non-specialists. It will have a major impact within and beyond the China field. For all these reasons the members of the Modern China Committee unanimously agreed that this book should be the winner of the 2006 Levenson Prize. We are particularly pleased to name Hygienic Modernity as the prize winner because it was in competition with so many other excellent books.
Selection Committee: Diana Lary, Chair; Hu Ying; Li Zhang
In a year with many strong candidates, this year’s pre-1900 Levenson Prize goes to John Makeham’s Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects. Few texts have mattered as much to Chinese life as the Analects; but as Makeham shows, nobody encountered this text without the mediation of commentaries. By carefully examining four particularly important commentaries spanning a period of 1600 years – and the debates that surrounded them in their own times — Makeham shows us changing views of what the Analects was, of who Confucius had been, of the intellectual’s role in politics, and of the cosmological position of historical actors. He thereby sheds light on several major issues in Chinese literary and intellectual history, illuminating both specific periods (and thus historiographies) and Chinese thought more generally. Specialists will find original ideas about each text and period, and readers curious about periods and issues remote from their principal concerns will find complex matters explained with admirable clarity.
But the book is more than four exemplary interpretations of particular commentaries; it offers invaluable insights into the place of commentary in Chinese culture more generally. Perhaps none of us can completely shake the emphasis that modern Western culture places on “original” work as opposed to “mere” commentary, but Transmitters and Creators provides a bracing reconstruction of what it was like to work within intellectual traditions with very different presuppositions. In sum, Makeham shows us centuries of Chinese scholars making sense of Confucius, of each other, and of themselves in fascinating and inter-connected ways. We are pleased to award the Levenson Prize to John Makeham for Transmitters and Creators.
Kenneth Pomeranz, Chair; Robert Hymes; David Schaberg.
The 2005 Joseph Levenson Book Prize (post-1900 category) is awarded to Yan Yunxiang’s Private Life Under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949–1999, published by Stanford University Press. An outstanding rural ethnography, the book explores a subject barely touched by previous scholarship: the personal and emotional dimensions of family life among Chinese villagers. Professor Yan draws upon his insider’s understanding of one village in Northeast China, where he labored as a farmer for seven years in the 1970s and where he returned as a trained anthropologist in 1989 to embark on fieldwork spanning more than a decade, to develop a richly nuanced portrait of the personal experiences and moral universe of ordinary villagers. His purview ranges from more public issues such as social networks, family property and support for the elderly, to the private arena of romance, sex, birth control, and gender dynamics. The research is exceptionally thorough, the analysis is highly illuminating, and the presentation is direct, sensitive and moving.
While obviously sympathetic to his informants’ efforts to navigate a confusing and changing world, Yan Yunxiang also paints a sobering picture of a countryside in which unbridled individualism is growing apace, without the requisite public associations to restrain it. Attributing some of the patterns he observes to pre-revolutionary traditions, others to the policies of the socialist state, and yet others to the influence of the post-Mao market economy, Professor Yan offers a complex and dynamic view of the beliefs and behaviors of contemporary Chinese villagers.
Elizabeth Perry; Hu Ying; Diana Lary.
Way and Byway combines the rich, fact-heavy result of careful research with a serious awareness of the theoretical problems of the field.
On one level, the book offers a beautifully written picture of religious practice by focusing on the cult to the Three Lords of Huagai Mountain, a Daoist center in Jiangxi. The book draws on a wide-ranging group of sources that include both materials from the Daoist canon and more secular sources.
Hymes won the Levenson prize previously for his earlier social history of the region, Statesmen and Gentlemen: The Elite of Fu-chou, Chiang-hsi, in Northern and Southern Song (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and he puts his unique knowledge of Jiangxi local society to excellent use in his depiction of the families who supported the Three Lords.
On another level, the book addresses one of the most powerful paradigms about Chinese popular belief: the view that the Chinese pantheon of the popular deities mirrored the Chinese bureaucracy of the real-world. Hymes proposes instead a much more subtle alternative. Yes, believers sometimes approached the gods as bureaucrats. But more often they addressed them in a personal way, promising the gods rewards if the gods gave them certain boons. To make this argument Hymes engages the rich anthropological literature, concluding persuasively that the Daoist rites of renewal (jiao) offered an opportunity for people with both types of understanding of the gods to worship them side by side.
Barmé has given us a magisterial and elegant work. He writes from inside a decades-long knowledge of Feng Zikai, the foremost artist of China’s cartoon/sketch painting style and a noted essayist. He has tracked down Feng’s every influence, reference, and allusion in the intensely sedimented world of twentieth-century literary and artistic production. The reader is drawn into a world of Buddhist monks who teach Western painting, Japanese artists, feuding leftists, and an artist whose work expressed his own melancholy at the inability to recover a "child’s heart" and at all the political dislocations of Republican China. Barmé’s erudition creates for us the environment in which Feng maturedone where Schopenhauer, Takehisa Yumeji, the doctrines of Buddhism, late-Ming essayists, and refined attention to quwei (zest or sensibility), as well as the death of three of Feng’s children, were as much part of the landscape as Japanese encroachment, worker demon-strations, student activism, and wartime retreat to the interior. Each chapter sets Feng in the context of Chinese intellectual and artistic history: the impact of modern education, the political engagement of 1920s and 1930s intellectuals, the many varieties of nationalism before and during the anti-Japanese war, and the process of accommodation to CCP rule. In Feng Zikai’s life, Barmé paints us a cultural world infinitely richer and more varied than the conventional twentieth-century story of revolutionary nationalism and ascendant Communism. This is an extraordinarily evocative and gracefully written portrait.
In A Patterned Past: Form and Thought in Early Chinese Historiography, David Schaberg shows us how intelligent individuals in early China strove to make sense of their historical experience. The book’s main sources are the Zuo zhuan and the Guo yu, which jointly constitute pre-Imperial China’s most important body of historical narrative. These texts portray members of a highly cultivated aristocratic social milieu manipulating language and shaping memory in a quest for the principles of ritually correct behavior. Schaberg shows masterfully how these protagonists formulated and presented their arguments in a competitive rhetorical arena.
The book, like its source texts, touches upon the full richness of pre-Imperial Chinese culture. With its unique blend of historical, philological, and philosophical perspectives, it creates a new basis for understanding a crucial formative stage of Chinese intellectual history; and through its well-presented comparisons with Western traditions, above all with ancient Greece, it opens up the world of the Zuo zhuan and the Guo yu to readers from the Humanities and Social Sciences at large.
Scholars in and outside the China field will come away impressed by the author’s profound erudition, his sophisticated command of his analytical instruments, his mastery of the elegant yet difficult language of the sources, and his own luminous writing.
Lucien Bianco’s Peasants Without the Party: Grassroots Movements in Twentieth-Century China represents a quarter-century of innovative and careful research about peasant discontent. Against whom is such discontent directed, and under what circumstances does it develop? How much did Chinese peasant concerns shape the direction of the revolution? Has the revolution in turn altered the character of current protests, or do they continue earlier patterns? Through painstaking research in gazetteers, official memoirs, chronologies, and archival sources, Lucien Bianco concludes that twentieth-century peasants did not easily protest, and that when they did, their protests generally were local and specific rather than abstract and national or global.
Arguing that class consciousness and revolutionary activity did not come "naturally" but that they could certainly be nurtured, Bianco provides a thoroughly documented corrective to earlier narratives of peasant revolution. In doing so, he helps students of the Chinese revolution understand not only the role of the peasant, but also the discourse of peasant revolution that is woven throughout social life. Furthermore, through his constant revision of his earlier ideas and his evenhanded consideration of work by other scholars, Bianco exhibits a fine sensitivity to changes in the researcher’s intellectual approach over time, as well as to the biases inherent in historical sources. Peasants Without the Party is the culmination of a powerful research initiative that has reshaped our understanding of peasant unrest in recent Chinese history.
Replete with structure and texture, Ten Thousand Things delivers a highly original thesis with verbal economy and visual elegance. The author has proposed that the ubiquitous use of modules (Versatzstücke)—standardized parts that can be assembled into an endless variety of units—influenced both the appearance of art work and the mode of thinking of artists and artisans in pre-imperial and imperial China. Indeed, a modular system of production is evident in the making of the Chinese script, bronzes, buildings, and painting scrolls among other things; drawing an analogy that was probably anything but accidental, Song philosophers believed it to be the very principle that governed nature’s creativity.
In bridging the divides between "high art" and "craft," connoisseurship and social production, as well as philology and political history, this book is a milestone in the study of art history and material cultures in China. In arguing that Chinese art and culture are just as dynamic as those in Europe, albeit with very different concepts of "art" and "creativity," Professor Ledderose has opened doors for new comparative studies that do justice to both global frameworks and cultural specificities.
The selection committee for the Levenson Prize on twentieth-century China is pleased to present this year’s award to Edward J.M. Rhoads’ Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early-Republican China, 1861–1928 (University of Washington Press, 2000). Rhoads’ penetrating analysis opens up new ways of thinking about the Manchus and their relationship with the Han Chinese. As he masterfully probes the nature of Manchu identity, the author traces its shifting meaning during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His cogent depiction of the boundaries between Han and Manchu through the end of the dynasty and beyond underscores the reality that the anti-Manchu-ism of the 1911 revolutionaries was much more than mere rhetoric.
This book opens up, in a way no other work has done, a detailed picture of key developments in China’s early twentieth century history: the wide-ranging aftereffects of the 1898 reform movement, the nature of Qing rule in its last decade, the intricate political maneuvering during the 1911 revolution, the process of dynastic abdication, and the nature of the relationship of warlords to the Manchus after 1912. Its careful and detailed analysis is an outstanding contribution to the study of modern Chinese history.
One of the most enduring shibboleths in the narrative of Chinese history—measuring the success of foreign "conquest dynasties" by their degree of sinification—has been under assault for some time. Pamela Crossley’s splendid study demolishes the notions of ethnicity, cultural boundaries, and historical continuity on which this thesis has rested. More importantly, she draws our attention to the power of the universal emperorship to historicize and authenticate, to create identities and histories through ideological affirmation.
The vision of imperial monarchy enunciated by Hung Taiji and his successors fashioned new identities for their constituencies (Manchus, Mongols, and Chinese) and themselves (Buddhist cakravartin, Confucian sage-kings, and heirs to Chinggis Khan). In so doing they initiated the genealogizing of social and political identities, not through mere "invention," but through discovery of their historical roots. This power of historicization was most fully exercised by Qianlong, for whom the Qing emperorship did not merely meld together diverse cultural traditions, but rather unified fundamentally unassimilable peoples. Crossley highlights the "fictional" nature of the histories constructed to legitimate these genealogical identities, while illuminating how they made these identities "real" by evoking a sense of immutability of the past. Qing conquests created the territory of the modern Chinese nation. Crossley shows that the mythologies of the self-generation of emperorship and empire authorized by Qianlong have had equally profound effects on modern Chinese ideas of race, culture, and historical identity. Her delineation of the configurations of Qing imperial ideology compels us to rethink the narratives of earlier "conquest dynasties" as well.
Professor Dorothy J. Solinger, Professor of Politics and Society at the University of California-Irvine, has written a seminal study fully deserving of the Levenson Prize and the intellectual legacy of Professor Levenson. Contesting Citizenship in Urban China: Peasants, Migrants, the State, and the Logic of the Market, addresses a variety of subjects of critical importance to contemporary Chinese studies. It is also a significant contribution to social science in the disciplines of political economy, modern history, sociology, and political science.
The vehicle of Solinger’s analysis is China’s "floating population" of migrants from rural to urban areas, but her study ventures far beyond to study the state’s provision of social resources to China’s rural and urban residents under communism and the current transitional state to market-based allocation of goods and services. She portrays a micro contest of migrants and residents over resources as a shifting macro relationship between an atrophying socialist state and nascent capitalist society. In so doing, she offers some important insights into China’s current and future plight.
Solinger’s study is also remarkable for the extraordinary range of primary sources she draws upon—multiple field trips and 150 hours of interviews with subjects in six major Chinese cities, a vast range of central and local government documents, social surveys and statistics, a vast number of Chinese publications. In brief, Professor Solinger has written an important study on a novel topic that is empirically pathbreaking, theoretically sophisticated and comparatively grounded, and fascinating to read.
Confusions of Pleasure is a gem of historical craftsmanship. Using an unusual array of rich but seldom tapped sources—most memorably the uninhibited anecdotes, observations, and complaints of disgruntled literati—Timothy Brook brings to life the vibrant mercantile society of Ming China and reveals the power of commerce to shape quotidian culture in all spheres of private and public life. While conducting his lively tour of life as it was actually lived in the Ming he manages also to synthesize the literature on Ming economic development and to show that Ming China was still the center of the world economy, as he puts it that even "the tide of the Atlantic was pulled by the Chinese moon." Ingeniously putting together woodcuts, gazetteer entries, quantitative data, and literati complaints about commercialization, he creates a memorable picture of a society in the midst of dynamic growth. After reading this book, no one will be able to ignore Ming China’s devotion to commercial profit and conspicuous consumption, as it vividly portrays bricklayers, merchants, officials, prostitutes, silk weavers, book publishers, and bandits all plying their trades in response to the growing cash nexus. This work is a model of how to combine narrative, anecdote and rigorous analysis into a thoroughly enjoyable, lively, and vivid portrait of social and economic change in early modern China.
Volume One of Lynn White’s Unstately Power, Local Causes of China’s Economic Reforms, offers a profoundly important revision of the conventional view of the reforms that have dominated Chinese political, economic and cultural life since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Instead of focussing on the ways in which dictates from the political center inspired the changes, White offers compelling evidence that fundamental transformations at the local level arose out of circumstances created by the hollowing out of governmental institutions during the most destructive phase of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. White’s exhaustive research also turns on its head the conventional wisdom about East Asian Developmental State theory by demonstrating that China’s remarkable growth over the last twenty years came about not as the result of targeted central investment in strategic industries, as was the case throughout the rest of the region, but rather was a bottom-up process of local capital being fused with local entrepreneurialism and foreign investment.
Spinning a riveting narrative pivoting on the changing economic position of Shanghai, White leads his readers step by step through the process by which the re-shaping of rural enterprise led to the progressive disintegration of the economic system that had marked the early years of the People’s Republic. Eventually the growth of new networks among regions and industries rendered untenable the old combination of low factor prices and high cost finished products that had underwritten a substantial part of the income of the state. Among other things, this book should reshape the ongoing sinological debate about the relations in China between state and society, showing how the connection has many more facets than most scholars have recognized heretofore.
For nearly two decades, Susan Mann has pioneered the study of later imperial Chinese women’s history. This book is the culmination of that apprenticeship, but it is also far more. Deeply grounded in many types of Qing sources, and unusually alert to the potential regional and class biases of the surviving record, the book is beautifully constructed and engagingly written. Informed by the latest developments in feminist theory, it shuns all polemic and cliché. This is wonderfully three-dimensional history, deeply humanistic, and distinguished by an empathy toward its subjects—men as well as women, seen as real human beings struggling to create for themselves satisfying lives within the constraints of their socio-cultural environment.
Precious Records is the work of a master scholar, with long disciplinary experience in political, economic, and intellectual, as well as cultural history. It asks big questions, and answers them in sophisticated ways. To cite but one example, it ponders the effect on women’s lives of the unprecedented geographic mobility which in large part defines what Mann—importantly—stakes out as China’s "long eighteenth century." This, then, is a definitive work of Chinese gender history which yet strikingly transcends its genre: it is a landmark contribution to Chinese history as a whole.
The Coming of the Cataclysm brings to completion Roderick MacFarquhar’s monumental, three volume study of The Origins of the Cultural Revolution. Representing a prodigious research effort carried on over a period of decades, this last volume takes advantage of new sources and new information not previously available. Thus the author is able to put a variety of events, such as the Socialist Education Movement and the Sino-Soviet split clearly in the context of the attempted recovery from the appalling famine of 1959-1961. The work offers a sharply etched portrait of elite politics in China and a clear-eyed account of the issues and personalities that helped drive the country into turmoil and violence.
Replete with the essential details of how government in China works through meetings, investigations, speeches, and informal connections, this is also a wonderfully told tale of political ambition, intrigue, sacrifice, and betrayal. We are shown how personal tragedies like a loyal minister drive from office led to a larger derangement of political life and how such subtle tendencies in turn set the stage for suffering on a national scale. Mixing a deep knowledge of sources with a keen political intelligence, the author advances our understanding of how Mao Zedong and his increasingly fractious band of comrades led their party and China to the abyss.
In Ink Plum: the Making of a Chinese Scholar-Painting Genre, Maggie Bickford presents an absorbing and erudite analysis of the gradual development and the transformations of the ink plum genre in Chinese painting. The book’s title notwithstanding, this is much more than a study of a single painting genre. It is a thorough exploration of the fluid cultural meanings of the plum in Chinese civilization, first in nature and later in painting, poetry, popular culture, politics, and thought.
Professor Bickford’s command of the relevant literary sources, in addition to her familiarity with extant paintings, is particularly Impressive. She uses an abundance of poems, colophons, essays and other writings about the ink plum, some quite obscure, to provide a richer intellectual context than could be constructed from consideration of paintings alone. With unfailing sensitivity and perceptiveness, she traces innovations, rivalries, and creative syntheses from Northern Song to Southern Song and on through the Yuan dynasty.
Ink Plum is written in a graceful and unpretentious style with descriptions of paintings exceptionally well integrated into the relevant discussion in the text. Meticulous analyses of paintings enable the reader to retrace mentally the action of the painter’s brush and to visualize the painter at work. Ink Plum is particularly valuable for its questioning of the supposed polarities between different schools and approaches to plum painting. Bickford convincingly argues, for example, that the painting record does not sustain the purported disjunction between Southern Song Academic and scholar-amateur styles, and she proposes a much more subtle and satisfying method of analyzing the complex relation between the two. On this issue and many others, Bickford’s study brings our understanding of the dynamics and wealth of a key aspect of the Chinese cultural tradition to a new level.
Awakening China is an interpretive tour de force which explains how a dynamic, if unstable, political China emerged in the early twentieth century from complex, fragmented social and cultural forces. It is an ambitious attempt to capture the broad, penetrating spirit of the Nationalist revolution: the enthusiasm, exuberance, optimism, and ruthlessness of a movement on the march. Casting a wide net, Fitzgerald examines an impressive range of issues, from personal hygiene and fashion to art and architecture to retrieve the values and concerns that motivated ordinary people to participate in politics and encouraged their political leaders to believe that a coherent Chinese people was within their grasp. Fitzgerald shows that this process of politicization, or "awakening," was neither a simple emergence nor a unilateral imposition, but rather a complex negotiation of multiple actors and perspectives. The study opens many issues for empirical study and frames older questions about nation and class in ways that will stimulate debate about the basic language used to both do and study politics in China.
One of the most controversial episodes in Sino-Western relations was the 1793 Macartney mission to Qing China. James Hevia’s timely book skillfully combines post-modern interpretation with new archival sources to present a revisionist account of that mission in light of Qing foreign relations and the development of modern European diplomacy. The two different modes of political practice and ideological claims betray, according to Hevia, substantially different conceptual frameworks and signifying practices, which informed both the British organization of the embassy and the Qing arrangements for its reception.
Cherishing Men From Afar is to be commended for the clarity of its written style. But the strength of Hevia’s account lies in its clear delineation of Manchu rulership in Qing times. We also learn in Cherishing Men From Afar how the European discourse about diplomatic relations between equal states was an artifact of European global expansion. Cherishing Men From Afar unravels the specific historical challenges that a land-based Qing imperium and a seafaring British empire each confronted when they met face to face formally for the first time in 1793. Hevia’s valuable study recommends that we should be open to multiple interpretive positions when investigating the complex interactions between "China" and the "West" before 1900. In this way, the actual confrontation between the two expansive imperialisms, and their mutually exclusive forms of diplomacy, become historically specific rather than subsumed under the universalist pretensions of only one of the imperialisms.
The selection committee for the Levenson Prize on twentieth-century China is delighted to present this year’s award to R. Keith Schoppa’s Blood Road: The Mystery of Shen Dingyi in Revolutionary China (University of California Press, 1995). A Masterful blend of social, political and cultural history, Blood Road chronicles the life and death of the enigmatic revolutionary figure, Shen Dingyi. A landlord and land reformer, a politician and poet, a lapsed Communist who helped purge the Guomindang of communism, Shen was a provincial leader of national stature during the Chinese revolution of the 1920s.
This is no standard biography, however. Ingeniously crafted as a murder mystery, Blood Road takes its readers on a suspense-filled search for Shen’s assassin-from the rural villages and provincial capital of Zhejiand to cosmopolitan Shanghai. In the process, Schoppa has much to say about the fluid construction of overlapping, yet competing social networks, spatial meanings, and political identities in modern China. Above all, he demonstrates just how contingent and unpredictable the course of a revolutionary movement can be. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Blood Road engages a host of theoretical issues ranging from the personal to the political. On both methodological and substantive grounds, this is an outstanding contribution to the study of twentieth-century China.
This meticulously researched book leads its readers into the "real Buddhism" of tenth-century China, with important ramifications for our understanding of social and religious history in the late imperial period. It explores the changing concepts of afterlife and purgatory, the religious practices of lay believers, and the fascinating variants of non-canonical expressions of these concepts and practices in words and pictures. S. F. Teiser takes a multi-faceted approach to the Scripture on the Ten Kings by considering its medieval versions as artifacts, as ritual texts with strong connections to their contemporary world of judicial hearings and punishments, and, most consequentially, as early articulations of ideas about what happens to one in the years after death, which remained a notable part of Chinese thinking down to the present. Teiser exposes for his readers the problems inherent in his manuscript sources, which receive here their first full treatment in a Western language. At the same time, he conveys some of their immediacy and vitality to enrich our understanding of medieval Tun-huang, tenth-century China, and Chinese society. The book is a model for the contexualized study of earlier and later Chinese religious texts and the communities in which they were produced.
We re delighted to present the 1996 Joseph Levenson Prize for the best book in 20th-Century Chinese Studies to Julia F. Andrews for Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, published by University of California Press.
Dr. Andrews’s book is an admirable blend of artistic sensibilities, intellectual history, and political analysis. She combines an artist’s sensitivity for the aesthetic dimensions of painting with an intellectual historian’s insight into the turbulent lives of the painters themselves, and a political analyst’s concern for the evolution of cultural institutions over the first thirty years of the People’s Republic of China.
Institutional changes and factional disputes are treated in great detail in the book, delivering new insights into how an important elite suffered, and in most cases weathered, the political storms from the Anti-Hu Feng campaign through the anti-rightist campaign to the Cultural Revolution. But it is the paintings themselves that convey emotion and immediacy to the story; we not only read who was painting and who was attacking or being attacked, but also see, in the copious illustrations, what was being painted and contested. This we are able to appreciate continuities in techniques and styles as well as fresh creative syntheses occasioned by foreign influences and altered political circumstances. Above all, we follow the plight of Chinese painters as they struggled to be true to their craft and calling, even in the worst of times.
Encyclopedic knowledge, artistic insight, and attractive book design combine in this volume to present a vibrant, dynamic, and comprehensive verbal and visual description and depiction of art and artists in modern China, and render the book richly deserving of the Joseph Levenson Prize.
In a field which seems to be increasingly dominated by monographic studies of particular texts or episodes, Patricia Ebrey’s book is distinguished by its breadth, range and ambition. Ebrey engages large questions about the world of women in the Sung Dynasty. Despite daunting problems with sources, she has filled a vast gap in our understanding of Sung civilization by constructing a vivid account of the domestic lives of women. Written in clear prose, the book opens the world of Sung Dynasty domestic life to specialist and non-specialist alike. Specialists will particularly appreciate the lucid synthesis of scholarly research, much of it pioneered by Ebrey herself. In fundamental ways, the book furthers our understanding of women and work and of women as property holders. The work’s most important contributions may lie outside the realm of specialist research: as a standard for further work in this field, Ebrey’s work on Sung women will be read and used by scholars and students of all periods of Chinese history as well as by comparativists and theory builders.
In 1984 Vaclav Smil offered an original, descriptive account of environmental degradation in China which unsettled many readers, both in China and abroad. Since then, he returned to China to make on-the-spot observations, gather often scattered and fragmentary data, and examine policies and attitudes during the era of reform. Applying general scientific knowledge to these, he has now produced an insightful overview of the environment, its prospects, and the consequences for the future modernization of Chinese society: China’s Environmental Crisis. It is both impressive to specialists and accessible to general readers, as an ambitious analysis of "the fundamental factors, needs, prospects and limits of modern Chinese society, all seen through the critical environment constraints and impacts." Much of his analysis is understated; many of his conclusions compelling.
Readers will appreciate the responsible approach he has taken to data that is often uncertain and speculative in a field that has often attracted sensationalist accounts and predictions. Readers may also take away from this book a heartening admiration and encouragement for what can be accomplished on sensitive and difficult issues when the scholar is wise, modest, empathetic, and indefatigable. Moreover, they will note the author’s appeal to a balanced account of a contemporary China whose citizens at the start of this decade were, in Dr. Smil’s words, "better fed, housed, and schooled, had access to a wider variety of goods, had more leisure, and vastly longer life expectancy than at any time in the country’s long history."
It is within this responsible and balanced framework that the author’s masterful synthesis of environmental constraints and degradation proceeds. The sheet scope of his analysis is powerful. He begins with an extensive review of existing trends in population growth and the pressures which these exert on the environment. This introduces a survey of the biospheric foundations of the nation. Against these constraints he reviews with empathy the needs and the expectations for quality of life in the drive for modernization. Given this background, the author proceeds at length to the prospects for the energy and agricultural resources crucial to sustain modernization. Here the vision of "crisis" is most fully developed to its frightening conclusions and sober recommendations.
Among the author’s most persuasive methods is his masterful account of the interactions of the array of elements across the scope of his study, and how such interactions combine to threaten both the environment and expectations for sustaining modernization in China. Here the author had demonstrated the central importance of his work to any reader who would comprehend the challenges confronting China: leaders, scholars, all those tempted to exaggerated expectations of the potential of post-Mao economic reforms, and finally all those who share the author’s desire that China remain "fundamentally a place of hope."
Through the author’s scope and his insight into environmental interactions, he has provided a path-breaking study, the opening of a field that should grow and produce major cooperative efforts of immense significance. The implications of his work extend through the sciences and social sciences into considerations of culture. Such a book invites scholars in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities alike to join him in building on his magnificent achievement.
In this challenging, original work, Jing Wang extracts centuries of stone lore from Chinese textual history, identifying the intertexual meanings of jade and stone in three Chinese novels. In the process, Professor Wang displays the full range of imaginative possibilities that stone imagery opens to the reader. She then examines a paradoxical constraint: the iconoclastic author who subtly constructs a narrative around the unstable relationship between stone and jade seems compelled to conclude by returning to a unitary whole. Professor Wang places the reader at the center of this tension between unitary narrative structure and shifting, liminal images, providing new insight into the power of China’s greatest fiction. This is a brilliant synthesis of literary criticism and textual analysis, lucid and unburdened by its complexity. Professor Wang immeasurably enriches out reading of the text by revealing the architechtonics of the Chinese novel.
Zhang Longxi’s book introduces a strikingly bold and original voice to the current discourse on comparative culture. Much of the discussion in this field, by both Western and Chinese scholars, has been marked by a somewhat passive and uncritical acceptance of the concepts and categories that dominate current Western debates. Professor Zhang, on the basis of his profound knowledge of both Chinese culture and modern Western theory, here raises fresh, challenging questions concerning some of the basic assumptions of the debate itself. Professor Zhang’s own area of expertise is in the field of comparative literature and comparative literature criticism. This has made it possible for him to conretize most vividly some of his more general theoretical observations through his extraordinarily sensitive and penetrating readings of the poetry of figures such as Rilke and Mallarme in the West and of Tao Qian and Wang Wei in China.
The book opens to scholarship an aspect of the Chinese communist movement that was almost wholly unknown before. Meticulously researched, eloquently written, and filled with ethnographic and biographical detail, it vividly portrays the fate of the communist forces left behind by the Long Marchers in south China in the mid 1930s. Despite the paucity of earlier work on the subject, Benton’s treatment is magisterial.
The work has major consequences for scholarly understanding of many issues in twentieth century Chinese history, including the structure of the communist movement in the 1930s, the history of the Sino-Japanese War, the political experiences the communist leaders brought to their work after 1949, and the uses of memory and forgetting in the public history of the communist past. The book is indispensable to anyone who seeks to understand twentieth-century China.
In Art and Political Expression in Early China, Martin J. Powers presents us with a brilliant interpretation of the evolution of Chinese art during the Han period. Focusing on architectural and pictorial styles, especially as found in Han tomb art, Powers illuminates the changes in aesthetic standards from the Former to the Latter Han Dynasties and offers a superb analysis of the complex manifestations of a classical revival in the Latter Han. His work brings alive in an unprecedented way the artistic development of this formative period of Chinese history.
Beyond its merits as art history, this pathbreaking study provides a provocative analysis of the relation of artistic forms and imagery to the social, political, intellectual, and cultural history of the Han. Powers’ keen appreciation of the critical and rhetorical dimensions of aesthetic forms as well as written texts makes his work exciting, provocative, and methodologically challenging. This book will invite lively discussion as well as fruitful debate. It is certain to be recognized as a stunning contribution to Sinological studies.
Chinese Village, Socialist State is a vivid, nuanced, fully realized evocation of rural revolution in North China in which political science, history and sociology perfectly complement each other. The result is a model of interdisciplinary excellence. The authors tell a fascinating, complex human story. The village community of Wugong comes alive through well-crafted snapshots of local characters ranging from the rural intellectual to the Party boss and the local bully.
By patient and careful analysis of a wide variety of documents and by juxtaposing interview over a ten year period of fieldwork, the authors have been able to recreate the triumphs and tragedies of a village as it sought to adjust to changing policies from above and expose in a most compelling fashion the human and economic consequences of collectivization. Throughout, Chinese Village, Socialist State makes a strong, clear argument about the significance of pre-1949 history for an understanding of patronage networks and state-society relations in the People’s Republic of China.
This book will make a significant contribution beyond the China field to peasant studies, comparative political economy and the sociology of revolution. And it will be enjoyed by many readers who simply appreciate a well told story.
In Soulstealers, Philip Kuhn uses the social and administrative panic generated by an outbreak of sorcery in the middle of the eighteenth century to examine closely both the dark underside of Qing popular culture and the problematic nature of imperial power. His book is a fascinating study of vagabond monks, agitated villagers, harried suspects, harassed bureaucrats, and an aroused and frustrated emperor. Kuhn’s deep immersion in the archives and careful reading of the correspondence between Qianlong and his officials provides the basis for a subtle, powerful, and still relevant inquiry into the dynamics of autocratic rule. Always respectful of the complexity of his subject and his sources, Kuhn is able to address these large and interesting questions without dogmatism and with an exemplary and engaging humanity.
This bold and ambitious study of rural socio-economic change presents a thought-provoking extension of the author’s earlier work on North China. It asks the broadest theoretical questions about economic and social development in China, and answers them in suggestive new ways. Arguing that the logic of economic change in rural China is fundamentally different from the England-based models of both Adam Smith and Karl Marx, it introduces an original analysis of agricultural involution and the familization of labor. Huang’s path-breaking methodology combines a broad survey of the historical record over six centuries with detailed field work in contemporary China. He clearly demonstrates the fruitfulness of research which crosses the 1949 divide, generating mutual illumination of past and present. This original interpretation of Chinese development makes an important contribution to the comparative literature on family history, and economic and social change.
Wu Hung’s book is a comprehensive study of the art and inscriptions on the funerary shrine of a scholar named Wu Liang who died in 151 A.D., a few decades before the end of the Han dynasty. It is located in what is now Jiaxiang county of Shandong province. This beautifully decorated offering shrine was first studies in the eleventh century, and has been the object of intermittent investigation ever since by scholars in China, Japan and the West. Wu Hung’s masterly treatment is the culmination of centuries of scholarship, a rich combination of traditional textual study with modern critical approaches. It includes a discussion of the history of scholarship on the shrine, detailed descriptions and illustrations of the wall carvings, and translations of all it inscriptions. But the real beauty of this book is its elucidation of the ideology of the carvings in the context of Han dynasty thought and literature. It is this integration of textual, historical, iconographic and stylistic approaches that establishes the methodological importance of Wu Hung’s study. This combination opens art history to the rest of the cultural world, and places it in the middle of all discussions of Han thought and religion.
In Sum, this is a most impressive book, well worthy of the Levenson Prize. The Stanford University Press is also to be congratulated for its excellent printing and arrangement of this volume.
Rickshaw Beijing is freshly conceived, deeply researched, vividly imagined, and beautifully written. With affection and humor, Strand weaves a rich texture of incident and event into patterns that are complex yet clear. The daily lives and political activities of the urban classes are understood in the context of urban development, the growth of the Chinese state, and the emergence of the public sphere in China. As a multi-disciplinary and comparative work, Rickshaw Beijing draws upon and speaks to the theoretical concerns of political sciences, history, sociology and anthropology, and places 1920s Beijing in historical and cross-national perspective. It illuminates both the uniqueness of Beijing and its participation in worldwide trends. This study affords a view of urban life in Republican China which is nuanced and immediate, yet shaped by a guiding analytical intelligence. Taking its place among several superb recent works on Chinese cities and on Republican China’s economy and society Rickshaw Beijing marks a significant step in the maturation of modern Chinese studies.
This monument study is a path-breaking contribution to our understanding of modern Tibet. Melvyn Goldstein has marshaled an impressive array of documentary, archival and interview sources to provide critical new insights into the political and diplomatic history of Tibet during its independence of Chinese domination. Particularly important is the author’s use of Tibetan sources to go beyond the question of Tibet’s relation to China, and narrate in detail the conflicts within Tibetan society: between monastic and lay elements, between reformers and conservatives, between rival regents’ cliques. The Levenson Prize Committee of the China and Inner Asia Council is proud to give Honorable Mention to Professor Goldstein for this impressive contribution to the development of an important part of our field.
This work is a remarkable and unusual version of the literary biography, written about a most remarkable Chinese man of letters. Professor Hanan argues that the public character of Li Yu was as much an invention as his fiction and drama. Based on an exhaustive reading of primary materials and scholarship in Chinese, Japanese, and European languages, and written with ease and grace, the book is a tour de force of brilliant critical insights punctuated by enchanting translations. The Invention of Li Yu is an exemplary piece of scholarship that not only illuminates the life of Li Yu but provides a wealth of information on aspects of elite life in seventeenth-century China, explores the nature of xiaopin genres of comic and erotic writings, and underscores the premium placed by seventeenth-century readers on the original, the ingenious, and the risqué. It is a work of literary scholarship that is literary in its own right—a delight to read. Members of the committee felt that the book is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joseph Levenson.
Highly original and sophisticated, this book illuminates as none before the transformation of Chinese state and society in the first half of the twentieth century. Drawing extensively on the insights of anthropology, sociology, and political science, as well as European social history, Duara shows how a "cultural nexus" of fiscal administration, lineage organization, informal political brokerage, and organized religion knit the Qing state together with rural society and legitimized its rule. He then analyzes the processes of state expansion and revenue generation that pulled this nexus apart, leading to the breakdown of the Nationalist state and creating opportunities for Communist mobilization. His study engages in a fruitful dialogue with a wide range of previous scholarship on modern Chinese society and history, building upon and modifying many an influential thesis. In so doing, he makes an extremely important contribution to our understanding of modern China, as well as to the broader scholarly discourse on revolution, state-making, and political development.
The Levenson prize committee wishes to acknowledge the excellence of Jerry Norman’s Chinese with a certificate of merit. The book is compact yet comprehensive, accessible to non-specialists yet rigorous, reflecting an exhaustive study of primary and secondary materials in many languages. As a survey of the Chinese language and its scholarship, Norman’s work combines the best of traditional sinology with a valuable introduction to the most recent developments in Chinese linguistics. Written with sparkle and wit, and deeply involved with comparative questions, the book will assert itself in the writings and lectures of China scholars in many disciplines. Members of the committee felt that this book is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joseph Levenson.
Heroic in length and ambition, Andrew Plaks study of the four major Ming novels is a masterwork of criticism. A pleasure to read, the exposition, though frequently dense and elaborate, is scholarly, assured, and formidably erudite. Plaks is sensitive both to the language of the novels themselves and to that of their critics; he treats the novels and their scholarship as part of a cultural continuum, strengthening his treatment by numerous confident and creative passages of translation. Plaks advances our understanding of Ming literati culture in significant ways, arguing that the four great novels represent a new literary genre that developed from the literati concerns of the sixteenth century and that the novels addressed issues that lay at the center of contemporary Neo-Confucian discourse. No reader of Plaks will turn to the novels again without a notably richer and fuller awareness of their complex structures and meanings. The Four Masterworks is a genuine and mature intellectual achievement.
This meticulously researched and highly original study reconstructs the genesis of the episode which marked China’s entry into the twentieth century. Hitherto most often considered for its implications as an international incident, the Boxer Uprising now comes alive as local history. Joseph Esherick’s investigation combines an impressive array of oral and archival sources, quantitative and qualitative methods, and a concern with both economic history and popular culture. The result is a new understanding of the Boxers as an outgrowth of the social ecology and folk practices of western Shandong. At the same time, Esherick’s analysis shows how elements of traditional cultures threatened by new and exogenous pressures can provide the materials for explosive popular movement, the scope and goals of which go far beyond their roots.
Full of valuable, at times, fascinating, information about a topic that is still important to modern scholarship, Kent Guy’s study of the Ssu-k’u ch’uan-shu builds brilliantly on a meticulously prepared foundation of careful historical reading. Working within the context of the relationships both contemporary and traditional, between governance and knowledge, Guy reveals how concerns about cultural promotion, censorship and the preservation and manipulation of the past were fused together in the massive Ssu-k’u editorial enterprise of the mid-Ch’ing. Guy’s analysis succeeds in transmuting biography and philosophy into cultural history, and he writes with modest, graceful authority.
This is a work of pioneering scholarly achievement that provides important new understanding of medieval Chinese society. Its strengths are numerous: Hymes is meticulous in his methodological assumptions and his definitional and analytical precision; he displays admirable historiographical sensitivity; he has an excellent sense of strategic question and he keeps probing for satisfactory answers. Faced with evidence from inscriptions, local histories, and miscellaneous writings that is frequently both sparse and difficult in nature, his responses are frequently imaginative and inventive; he displays impressive scholarly depth throughout and gives evidence of extensive reading in the primary documents and scholarship, both in the extent of his translations and in the impressively detailed and learned character of his footnotes. Despite his erudition, Hymes does not avoid existential description, so that his book is not only analytically powerful but also provides a richly detailed picture of local life in Sung China. Written with an attention to detail that is at times almost heroic, Statesman and Gentlemen is crammed with valuable information (including the appendices on such topics as population and rice production, etc.) for anybody studying this period. Finally, and most importantly, the book addresses important themes, developing a major new hypothesis about a Northern-to-Southern Sung shift in Chinese society, ideology, and political and social strategies that, if born out by subsequent research, will be of fundamental importance. There is bound to be a certain element of informed speculation when the data are so random and exiguous, but Hyme’s demonstration of the way in which elite-state relations changed in several crucial fields of local action represents a new base line from which future scholarship on the subject will have to depart. Statesman and Gentlemen is history at its best , an impressive, rich, and intelligent achievement that fully merits the award of the Levenson prize.
Dr. Walder’s study combines lucid sociological insight with an expert feel for China’s modern historical development. His depiction of authority relationships in Chinese factories significantly enlarges the comparative study of industrial societies. And his explanation of the difference between traditional and modern social networks deepens our understanding of socialist paternalism while broadening our appreciation of contemporary Chinese culture.
The Levenson Book Prize committee judged this book to be a monumental work, synthesizing a wide range of Chinese, Japanese, and Western sources. It shows extraordinary scope, ambition, and narrative power. The Great Enterprise is a true history written with an awareness of world events and global connections. It is obvious that this book is the result of many years work and is a model of its type. Committee members believe that The Great Enterprise is a fitting tribute to the memory of Joseph Levenson.
The Levenson Book Prize committee judged this book to be an absorbing, challenging, and exceptionally well-written account of a major intellectual trend in twentieth century China. The book sparkles throughout with a fine intelligence and is written in such a way that it reaches a wide readership. Chinese Democracy illuminates past as well as present trends in Chinese society. Members of the committee felt that this book is a fitting monument to the memory of Joseph Levenson.