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In China's Galaxy Empire: Wealth, Power, War, and Peace in the New Chinese Century (Oxford University Press, 2024), authors Dr. John Keane and Dr. Baogang He, target a development of enormous significance: China's return, after two centuries of decline and subjugation, to a position of prominence in world affairs. The daring thesis is that China is…
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After the end of the Maoist era in the People's Republic of China, the rise of queer communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has generated growing public and academic attention. Drawing on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in northwest China, Casey James Miller offers a novel, compelling, and intimately personal perspective on C…
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What roles did Americans play in the expanding global empires of the nineteenth century? In The China Firm: American Elites and the Making of British Colonial Society (Columbia University Press, 2024), Thomas M. Larkin examines the Hong Kong–based Augustine Heard & Company, the most prominent American trading firm in treaty-port China, to explore t…
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For two centuries, the Xiongnu people–a vast nomadic empire that covered modern-day Siberia, Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang—were one of the Han Dynasty’s fiercest rivals. They raided the wealthy and prosperous Chinese, and even forced the Han to treat them as equals—much to the chagrin of those in the imperial court. There’s not much known abou…
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In Seeking Truth in International News: China, CGTN and the BBC (Routledge, 2023) Dr Vivien Marsh analyses the differences between journalistic traditions in China and the West, and extent to which this impacts the ability of news media to hold power to account. This facilitates a fascinating account of the role of journalists in seeking truth from…
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With a focus on Robert Morrison, Protestant Missionaries in China: Robert Morrison and Early Sinology (U Notre Dame Press, 2024) evaluates the role of nineteenth-century British missionaries in the early development of the cross-cultural relationship between China and the English-speaking world. As one of the first generation of British Protestant …
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In People's Diplomacy: How Americans and Chinese Transformed US-China Relations During the Cold War (Cornell UP, 2024), Kazushi Minami shows how the American and Chinese people rebuilt US-China relations in the 1970s, a pivotal decade bookended by Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China and 1979 normalization of diplomatic relations. Top policymakers i…
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In this episode, Jenna Tang shares with us her translation of Lin Yi-Han's Fang Si-Chi's First Love Paradise: A Novel (HarperVia, 2024), one of the most iconic works of Taiwan's #MeToo movement. Thirteen-year-old Fang Si-Chi lives with her family in an upscale apartment complex in Taiwan, a tightknit community of strict yet doting parents and privi…
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Xuanzang (600/602–664) was one of the most accomplished and consequential monks in the history of East Asian Buddhism. Celebrated for his sixteen-year pilgrimage from China to India, his transmission and translation of hundreds of Buddhist texts, and his training of a generation of masters in China, Korea, and Japan, Xuanzang’s life and legacy are …
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In December 1937, Bernhard Sindberg arrives at a cement factory outside of Nanjing. He’s one of just two foreigners, and he gets there just weeks before the Japanese invade and commit the now infamous atrocities in the Chinese city. As the writer Peter Harmsen notes, Bernhard’s background isn’t particularly compelling: He’s bounced from job to job,…
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Christine Tan argues that the most fruitful way to read the Zhuangzi, if one is seeking political and ethical insight, is through the Jin Dynasty commentator Guo Xiang. In Freedom’s Frailty: Self-Realization in the Neo-Daoist Philosophy of Guo Xiang’s Zhuangzi (SUNY Press, 2024), she lays out her reasoning for this position, offering her interpreta…
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Indoctrinating the Youth: Secondary Education in Wartime China and Postwar Taiwan, 1937-1960 (U Hawaii Press, 2024) examines how the Guomindang (GMD or Nationalists) sought to maintain control of middle-school students and cultivate their political loyalty over the trajectory of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, and postwar Taiwan. D…
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During the Republican period (1912–1949) and after, many Chinese Buddhists sought inspiration from non-Chinese Buddhist traditions, showing a particular interest in esoteric teachings. What made these Buddhists dissatisfied with Chinese Buddhism, and what did they think other Buddhist traditions could offer? Which elements did they choose to follow…
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During the Qing dynasty in China, a wide variety of people participated in a lottery game named weixing (“surname guessing”), which had participants placing bets on the surnames of civil service examination candidates. A fiercely competitive process, those who passed the various levels of the civil service and military examinations could climb the …
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Today I had the great pleasure of talking to Associate Professor Jennifer Dorothy Lee on her new book, Anxiety Aesthetics: Maoist Legacies in China, 1978-1985 (U California Press, 2024). Anxiety Aesthetics is the first book to consider a prehistory of contemporaneity in China through the emergent creative practices in the aftermath of the Mao era. …
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For centuries, the vastness of the Chinese market tempted foreign companies in search of customers. But in the 1970s, when the United States and China ended two decades of Cold War isolation, China’s trade relations veered in a very different direction. In Made in China: When US-China Interests Converged to Transform Global Trade (Harvard Universit…
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In his latest book At Home in Nature: Technology, Labor, and Critical Ecology in Modern China (Duke UP, 2022), Ban Wang uses an ecocritical lens to examine anthropocentrism, technoscientific hubris, and ecologically destructive modes of production in modern China. Analyzing modern discourse, literature, film, and science fiction, Wang asserts that …
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Bandits in Print: "The Water Margin" and the Transformations of the Chinese Novel (Cornell UP, 2023) uses the classic novel The Water Margin (Shuihu Zhuan) to examine the world of print in early modern China. Scott W. Gregory traces the way this beloved novel about outlaw heroes, honor, corruption, and brotherhood was adapted and changed by differe…
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Even as most contemporary states look to history in order to legitimize their existence in some way or other, the past – and narrations of it – hold particular weight in China. This is not a new phenomenon, for which pasts to elevate and which to suppress has long been a concern for both intellectuals and those seeking to rule the states and empire…
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China’s rise to global prominence is a pretty good contender for the most important world development in the past 30 years. But now the question is how Beijing managed to be successful on the international stage–let alone how large that success is—with fierce debates between hawks and doves in the West and elsewhere. Jeremy Garlick tries to offer a…
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If you are familiar with traditional Chinese literature, you have likely come across the figure of the “shrew,” a morally threatening woman who is either transgressive and polluting, promiscuous, or violent (or perhaps a combination of all three). Scholars of literature typically write about how this archetype faded out after 1911, while the figure…
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Transpacific Cartographies: Narrating the Contemporary Chinese Diaspora in the U.S. (Rutgers University Press, 2023) examines how contemporary Chinese diasporic narratives address the existential loss of home for immigrant communities at a time of global precarity and amid rising Sino-US tensions. Focusing on cultural productions of the Chinese dia…
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Alexander Statman's book A Global Enlightenment: Western Progress and Chinese Science (U Chicago Press, 2023) is a revisionist history of the idea of progress reveals an unknown story about European engagement with Chinese science. The Enlightenment gave rise not only to new ideas of progress but consequential debates about them. Did distant times …
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In Seeking a Future for the Past: Space, Power, and Heritage in a Chinese City (U Michigan Press, 2024), Philipp Demgenski examines the complexities and changing sociopolitical dynamics of urban renewal in contemporary China. Drawing on ten years of ethnographic fieldwork in the northeastern Chinese city of Qingdao, the book tells the story of the …
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Indigenous knowledge of local ecosystems often challenges settler-colonial cosmologies that naturalize resource extraction and the relocation of nomadic, hunting, foraging, or fishing peoples. Questioning Borders: Ecoliteratures of China and Taiwan (Columbia UP, 2023) explores recent ecoliterature by Han and non-Han Indigenous writers of China and …
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Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour has become a milestone in Chinese economic history. Historians and commentators credit Deng’s visit to Guangzhou Province for reinvigorating China’s market reforms in the years following 1989—leading to the Chinese economic powerhouse we see today. Journalist Jonathan Chatwin follows Deng’s journey in The Southern…
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Contemporary Chinese film and literature often draw on time-honored fantastical texts and tales which were founded in the milieu of patriarchy, parental authority, heteronormativity, nationalism, and anthropocentrism. Cathy Yue Wang's Snake Sisters and Ghost Daughters: Feminist Adaptations of Traditional Tales in Chinese Fantasy (Wayne State Univer…
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Through an original framework of literary sensory studies, Sensing the Sinophone: Urban Memoryscapes in Contemporary Fiction (Cambria, 2022) provides a comparative analysis of how six contemporary works of Sinophone fiction reimagine the links between the self and the city, the past and the present, as well as the physical and the imaginary. It exp…
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China’s communist revolution has an intricate relationship with gender and religion. In Enchanted Revolution: Ghosts, Shamans, and Gender Politics in Chinese Communist Propaganda, 1942-1953 (Oxford UP, 2023), Xiaofei Kang moves the two themes to the center stage in the Chinese Revolution. It examines the Communist Party’s first anti-superstition ca…
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Dr Pierce Salguero sits down with Dominic Steavu, a historian of Chinese religion and healing from UC Santa Barbara. We discuss the central role of the body in medieval Daoist practices, and talk about the Daoist use of psychedelics to facilitate mystical experiences. Along the way, we touch on talismanic tattoos, internal alchemy, and embodied non…
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In 1911, as China was beset with challenges, a new generation of scholars considered a new problem: what to do with former imperial borders? How could China’s frontiers be considered part of the new nation? In Frontier Fieldwork: Building a Nation in China’s Borderlands 1919–45 (UBC Press, 2022), Andres Rodriguez looks at how students, travellers, …
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The fascinating, untold story of how the Chinese language overcame unparalleled challenges and revolutionized the world of computing. A standard QWERTY keyboard has a few dozen keys. How can Chinese—a language with tens of thousands of characters and no alphabet—be input on such a device? In The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information…
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"What happened in Hong Kong is not an anomaly but a warning" - Hong Kong Human Rights defender Chow Hang Tung, speech written from prison upon receiving a human rights award. In our interview today, I spoke with Professor Michael C. Davis, author of Freedom Undone: The Assault on Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong (AAS and Columbia UP, 20…
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The pursuit of antiquity was important for scholarly artists in constructing their knowledge of history and cultural identity in late imperial China. By examining versatile trends within paintings in modern China, this book questions the extent to which historical relics have been used to represent the ethnic identity of modern Chinese art. In doin…
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A vivid, thoughtful examination of how technological innovation—especially AI—is shaping the tensions between democracy and autocracy during the new Cold War. So much of what we hear about China and Russia today likens the relationship between these two autocracies and the West to a “rivalry” or a “great-power competition.” Some might consider it a…
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In an era where states and politicians regularly weaponize moral emotions to foment intergroup conflict and violence, understanding the dynamics of violent mobilization and state authority are more relevant than ever before. In Righteous Revolutionaries: Morality, Mobilization, and Violence in the Making of the Chinese State (U Michigan Press, 2022…
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Just a decade ago, before COVID upended everything, tens of thousands of migrants from African countries traveled to China in search of economic opportunity. One 2012 estimate put the African population in Guangzhou alone at 100,000. When the British-Nigerian travel writer Noo Saro-Wiwa heard about this community, she decided to travel to Guangzhou…
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Dreams of Flight: The Lives of Chinese Women Students in the West (Duke UP, 2021) explores the significance of transnational educational mobility in the life aspirations of young, middle-class Chinese women. Based on extensive, long-term ethnographic research, Fran Martin explores how young Chinese women negotiate competing pressures on their ident…
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As Taiwan gains prominence on international headlines, often framed in terms of conflict with China, it’s easy to neglect the island nation’s human stories and nuances. Niki Alsford’s book Taiwan Lives: A Social and Political History (University of Washington Press, March 2024) aims to provide a more nuanced counterweight to the sensationalism and …
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The ethnic Chinese have had a long and problematic history in Indonesia, commonly stereotyped as a market-dominant minority with dubious political loyalty toward Indonesia. For over three decades under Suharto’s New Order regime, a cultural assimilation policy banned Chinese languages, cultural expression, schools, media, and organizations. This po…
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What role do China and other Asian countries play in the global amber trade? And, what can we learn about the big challenges of our time by studying amber? In this episode, Kenneth Bo Nielsen talks to Alessandro Rippa about the global flows and significance of this seemingly inconspicuous lump of fossilized tree resin, a material that is at the hea…
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A brief stay in France was, for many Chinese workers and Chinese Communist Party leaders, a vital stepping stone for their careers during the cultural and political push to modernize China after World War I. For the Chinese students who went abroad specifically to study Western art and literature, these trips meant something else entirely. Set agai…
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The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the turbulent end of China’s imperial system, violent revolutionary movements, and the fraught establishment of a republican government. During these decades of reform and revolution, millions of far-flung “overseas Chinese” remained connected to Chinese domestic movements. Transpacific Reform a…
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In December 1937, the Chinese capital, Nanjing, falls and the Japanese army unleash an orgy of torture, murder, and rape. Over the course of six weeks, hundreds of thousands of civilians and prisoners of war are killed. At the very onset of the atrocities, the Danish supervisor at a cement plant just outside the city, 26-year-old Bernhard Arp Sindb…
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On the podcast today, I am joined by Mai Corlin, who is researcher at the department of cross-cultural and regional studies in the University of Copenhagen. Mai will be talking about her new book, The Bishan Commune and the Practice of Socially Engaged Art in Rural China (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) Mai’s book examines the new rural reconstruction mo…
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Today’s guest is Charles B. Jones, Associate Professor and Director of the Religion and Culture graduate program in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. He will be speaking with us about his new book Chinese Pure Land Buddhism: Understanding a Tradition of Practice, just published in the Pure Land Budd…
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Peter Harmsen's book Shanghai 1937: Stalingrad on the Yangtze (Casemate, 2015) describes one of the great forgotten battles of the 20th century. At its height it involved nearly a million Chinese and Japanese soldiers while sucking in three million civilians as unwilling spectators and victims. It turned what had been a Japanese adventure in China …
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For all the talk of China being a peaceful country with no aggressive intentions, it has behaved like most other rising powers – spending lots of money on its military. But what do we know of how that military is used? James A. Siebens is the editor of China’s Use of Armed Coercion: To Win Without Fighting (Routledge, 2023). Listen to him in conver…
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In this captivating translation of the imaginative prose essay collection Wild Grass (1927) and experimental memoir Morning Blossoms Gathered at Dusk (1928), Eileen J. Cheng expertly showcases the range and imagination of Lu Xun (1881–1936), generally considered to be the father of modern Chinese literature. Combined, these two books include storie…
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In this vivid and highly original reading of recent Chinese history, Scents of China: A Modern History of Smell (Cambridge University Press, 2023) Dr. Xuelei Huang documents the eclectic array of smells that permeated Chinese life from the High Qing through to the Mao period. Utilising interdisciplinary methodology and critically engaging with scho…
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