Understanding Its Past
Publication Year: 1997
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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Tables and Graphs
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To the Reader
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What did it mean to be a daughter in imperial China? How did extraterritoriality affect China’s ability to cope with foreigners in the nineteenth century? What was at stake as the Communists and the Guomingdang (Nationalists) fought a civil war to win the allegiance of China’s people...
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Romanization and Pronunciation of Chinese Words
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Chapter 1: The Family, State, and Society in Imperial China, 600 B.C.E. to A.D. 1900
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This chapter introduces us to imperial China, a period of over two thousand years, when emperors ruled. During imperial times the family was a microcosm of Chinese society, where the patriarch—the male head of the household—ruled the family as the...
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The stories in this section on daughters reveal ideas that Chinese families held for centuries about the place of girls and women in families and in society. Before you read the stories, you will share your own ideas of family life and the roles...
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As you have seen, the Chinese traditionally valued their sons more than their daughters. Sons carried on the family name, took care of aging parents, and performed the necessary rites to honor family ancestors. Sons of well-to-do families could...
3. Parents and Children
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The bonds between children and their parents were strong. Parents had obligations in raising their children, and children had obligations to their parents. In this section you will read about ideal parents and children. Although most Chinese fell short of the behaviors demonstrated by...
4. Foundations of Chinese Thinking
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Earlier sections in this chapter examined the roles of family members and discussed the importance of filial piety in Chinese families. This section discusses Confucius, the great scholar and thinker who articulated these ideas. His teachings became the foundation of Chinese thinking not only...
5. China and the Outside World
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This section looks at China’s interactions with the outside world. These encounters, occurring over many centuries, did not fundamentally change China. Yet they did open Chinese eyes to the outside world. Until the 1600s, the Chinese were advanced...
Chapter 2: Civilizations in Collision: China in Transition. 1750-1920
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This chapter focuses on China during a time of extraordinary change. According to a prominent scholar, nineteenth-century China was marked by (1) foreigners invading, (2) Chinese rebelling, and (3) rulers trying to resist the invasions and quell the rebellions without losing their...
1. The Celestial Empire and the Outside World,1750–1793
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Like many advanced civilizations, imperial China believed its culture surpassed all others. China believed itself the center of civilization, both culturally and geographically. Its rulers regulated foreigners’ access to China and awarded trading rights to “tributary states”—ones that regularly sent extravagant...
2. China, Britain, and Opium, 1839–1842
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This section focuses on opium and how the Opium War changed China. It includes a story about the effect of opium on an ordinary Chinese family, excerpts from a letter a Chinese official wrote to Queen Victoria asking for her help in suppressing the opium trade, portions of a diary...
3. Foreign Encroachment in China, 1842–1911
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In this section we consider the impact of foreign encroachments on China and some of the concessions made to foreigners during the late Qing dynasty. We also examine the most-favored nation clause included in many of the treaties foreign...
4. Domestic Strife, 1850–1873
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During the last years of the Qing dynasty, China was beset by problems from within and without, problems that historians have called “domestic strife and external threat.” The preceding sections focused on how China dealt with the external threats of foreign invasion and Western imperialism. This section examines...
5. Reform and Revolution, 1890–1920
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By the 1890s the failings of the Qing dynasty had become blatant. Some leaders, seeing that changes had to come, favored reform, even initiating some reforms in the late 1890s and the early 1900s. But others simply did not believe that reform could come from within; they advocated...
Chapter 3: Transforming Society: Chinese Communism, From 1920
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In this chapter we trace the beginnings of the Guomindang and the Communist Party, which in the 1920s emerged as the two dominant forces competing for control of China. We see the Guomindang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, use military might to end the constant battling among China’s warlords...
1. Chaos, Confusion, and Civil War, 1920–1949
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Between the advent of the May Fourth Movement and the Communist takeover of the mainland in 1949, a multitude of conflicting social, political, and economic forces kept China in a precarious state of flux—trapped between its imperial past and an uncertain future. New political ideologies...
2. Winning Hearts and Minds
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Communists used forms of propaganda to win the trust and support of poor peasants throughout China. Propaganda taught peasants about Communist programs and helped convince them that their lives would improve under Communist rule. As a result, millions of poor peasants joined...
3. “Dare to Act”: Restructuring Society and the Economy, from 1949
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As you learned in Section 1, the Chinese Communists told the landless peasants they would take land from the rich and redistribute it to the poor. The Communists did as they had promised. Millions of peasants supported the Communist Party over the Guomindang, bringing...
4. Marriage, Women, and the Family
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Communist mass movements designed to transform Chinese society from feudal to socialist produced not only sweeping economic and political changes but also changes in the very foundation of society—the family. In this section we examine the impact that social legislation, political...
5. China and Other Countries, from 1949
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Having examined China’s internal situation in the previous sections, we now turn to China’s relationships with other countries during the five decades after World War II. Political cartoons, background essays, and writings from the Chinese press illustrate the state of these relationships...
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Publication Year: 1997