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Reviews 439 D. R. Howland. Borders ofChinese Civilization: Geography and History at Empire's End. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996. ix, 341 pp. Hardcover $52.95, isbn 0-8223-1775-3. Paperback $22.95, ISBN 0-8223-1772-9. D. R. Howland has produced a major work in the fields ofmodern Chinese history and modern Sino-Japanese relations. Despite a few idiosyncracies, this is a book that no serious scholar in these fields can afford to ignore. One ofthe most affecting qualities of this book is the seriousness with which the author treats his subject matter, Chinese writings about Japan from the late Qing period, especially the 1870s and 1880s: his book "explores the ways in which Chinese categorized Japan as an object ofknowledge" (p. 2). It thus not only looks at these important and little-studied texts, but goes further to explore the conception ofknowledge undergirding Chinese views ofJapan at the time. He sees these crucial years, from Chinese perspectives, as the era when Japan was cashing in its East Asian chips (i.e., China's universal "Civilization") and opting for the new "international" order created by the West. There, at China's edge, Civilization was being repudiated for a system completely alien to the region, and most Chinese were horrified. While the texts under analysis reflect a changing Chinese knowledge ofJapan, they also contributed to changing Chinese representations ofits neighbor. Although Howland unabashedly invokes extensively from the pantheon of "theory," this does not remarkably mar his analysis. This is truly one ofthe great successes ofthe book. All too often, recently, theory has tended to ride roughshod over historical data in scholarship on East Asian culture and history, but that is decidedly not the case here. The author clearly shows his sound training in traditions of Chinese prose and poetry, and he takes the issue oflanguage with great seriousness. Indeed, the use ofliterary Chinese as a medium of communication between elite Chinese and Japanese in this period forms an important theme throughout this book, and Howland's talent as a translator, especially of Chinese poetry, is extraordinary. The general genres ofwriting that Howland uses are Chinese geographies of, travel writing about, and poetry concerning Japan. He uses them all in highly creative ways to which a short review cannot do justice. The principal texts with which he deals include: Yao Wendong tyfcStffî., Riben dili bingyao B^ifeiSÄIc; Huang Zunxian MMM, Riben guozhi B^H/È and Riben zashi shi ?^?5?#;© 1997 by University Wang Zhichun ?.~??, Tan yinglun WEM; Fu Yunlong M9fi, Youli Riben ofHawai'i Presstujing^gJg 02fs:[I[$l; Chen Jialin WMM, Dong cha wenjian Iu WE-WiMM; and Wang Tao ??|@, Fusangyouji Í^JÜÍSílB, among others. 440 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 I found the sections on language, the brushtalk (bitan ifafe), and the importance of a shared literary Chinese medium between Chinese and Japan in these years especially fascinating. One or two qualms. Howland purposefully translates what is now a Chinese "pejorative," wo {|?, as "dwarf; thus, the infamous wokou ???p? becomes the "dwarfpirates." This is, indeed, as the term is usually translated , and Howland realizes that it is probably a mistranslation (see p. 256 n. 29); in fact, none ofMorohashi's definitions of wo {¡H (Jpn: wa jf?) may be rendered "dwarf." Probably retaining the original Chinese term with an extended exploration would be the best policy here, especially since such a huge percentage of these "Japanese pirates" turned out to be Chinese. And, Howland does have an excellent discussion of the differences between wo 1Ì? and Riben B ^ toward the end ofhis first chapter. Yet, he still translates wo -ff! as "dwarf," occasionally backsliding (p. 82) into making the error that his earlier footnote seemed to be warning against. Similarly, he translates the character zhuan \% as "biography," as it is used in the dynastic histories. This works well for individuals in the biography section of the histories, but not so well for the entries on countries, as in Riben zhuan B^ {$, which he translates as "Japan Biography," even though he knows it sounds clumsy in English. Of course, zhuan can mean "biography," but here it is usually rendered "tradition...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 439-440
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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