In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Features 33 Tu Wei-ming, editor. The Living Tree: The ChangingMeaning ofBeing Chinese Today. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994. xvi, 295 pp. Hardcover $45.00, isbn 0-8047-2191-2. Paperback $14.95. In October 1990, little more than a year following the slaughter ofthe innocents at Tiananmen, a contingent of Chinese intellectuals and China scholars met at the East-West Center at the University ofHawai'i and convened the "Conference on the Meaning ofBeing Chinese." The conference was carried out under the joint aegis ofthe Center's Dialogue of Civilizations Project and the American Academy ofArts and Sciences, and the scholarly deliberations of those several days yielded a collection ofessays first published in the spring of1991 as volume 120, number 2 of Daedalus and called The Living Tree: The ChangingMeaning ofBeing Chinese Today. The identically titled volume under review here represents a second incarnation of this initial collection with the addition of two new essays, the revision of several ofthe original pieces, and a new preface prepared by the editor, "the Confucian scholar" Tu Wei-ming. Ranging over a great variety of topics—the construction ofidentity, the Chinese diaspora, sexual scapegoating in Chinese fiction, memory and cultural identity , "Cultural China," guanxi xue (the study of networks) as an index of Chineseness , the constitution and consciousness of huaqiao and huayi (overseas Chinese), and the "premodern" forms of Chinese thought and feeling—and drawing on a host ofperceptions and positions, the essays stand as a "first take" on representing the multiple, shifting forms oflate twentieth-century Chinese identity. The portrait of Chineseness that results is complex and contradictory. Indeed, there is so much at work here in defining China, Chineseness, ethnicity, nationhood, and culture that the collection defies description, though the reader can track the divagating contours ofits multiple arguments by relying on the preface and on the orchestral introduction by Professor Tu with which the book opens. Besides Tu's introduction, "Cultural China: The Periphery as Center," there are ten other essays: Mark Elvin, "The Inner World of1830"; Vera Schwarcz, "No Solace from Lethe: History, Memory, and Cultural Identity in Twentieth-Century China"; Myron L. Cohen, "Being Chinese: The Peripheralization ofTraditional Identity"; Ambrose Yeo-chi King, "Kuan-hsi and Network Building: A Sociological Interpretation"; Wang Gungwu, "Among Non-Chinese"; David Yen-ho Wu, "The Construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese Identities"; Zhu Hong, "The© 1997 by University 'Evil Wife' in Contemporary Chinese Fiction"; L. Ling-chi Wang, "Roots and the ofHawai'i PressChanging Identity ofthe Chinese in the United States"; Victor Hao Li, "From Qiao [W) to Qiao (fé!)"; and Leo Ou-fan Lee, "On the Margins of the Chinese Discourse: Some Personal Thoughts on the Cultural Meaning ofthe Periphery." 34 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. ?, Spring 1997 It is an eclectic sampling combining literary, anthropological, historical, and sociological perspectives, and this heterogeneous quality may be taken to reflect the plural manifestations of the contemporary Chinese community. Beginning from Professor Tu's self-conscious advocacy that the essays are intended to frame the discourse of Chineseness, the interpretative inclination ofthe following review is to treat the work as a living document oflate twentieth-century intellectual history, the value ofwhich may prove greater in retrospect in years to come than it is now.1 As it would require a great expanse oftext to accord each essay the specificity ofanalysis appropriate to it, I will offer a summary of some ofthe arguments while training the glare ofmy critique upon the conceptual apparatus supporting the volume and evaluating in greater detail some of the more provocative contributions. With a work of such wide scope, diverse persuasion, and weighty consideration , the challenge for editor and reader alike is finding a frame appropriate to contextualizing it. The challenge is met in Professor Tu's novel assertion that contemporary Chinese identity is best understood as discourse, discourse that transpires within an emergent cultural space that "encompasses and transcends the ethnic, territorial, linguistic, and religious boundaries that normally define Chineseness " (p. v). To describe more concretely what is meant by this unconventional definition, he advances the neologism wenhua Zhongguo, "Cultural China." Upon this complex foundation the volume's essays, more or less comfortably, rest. "Cultural China...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 33-50
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.