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Ritual Imitation and Political Identity in North China: The Late Imperial Legacy and the Chinese National State Revisited! by Kenneth Pomeranz In the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely assumed that the main contribution of the Republican era to the development of the Chinese nation-state was negative : these years were seen as the decline into chaos that dissolved "Confucian" and "imperial" political formations, paving the way for the importation of radically new "modem" and "national" ones. The issues that seemed central to the models of "modernization" popular at the time seemed to have little relevance for Republican China, in which effective national institutions and nationalist consciousness were largely noticeable by their absence. The state-making literature of the 1970s-with its emphasis on the often unwelcome growth of bureaucracy, taxation, conscription, and policing, rather than a shared enterprise of nation-building-seemed to have much more to say to China specialists. Beginning with Philip Kuhn's seminal articles on taxation and local government in Republican China, numerous scholars found substantial continuities between the efforts of various Republican regimes and the more successful consolidation that occurred after 1949. And in the process, ways· in which the Qing state laid the foundations for post -1949 China surfaced, tooespecially in the last decade or two of the dynasty, but in some cases extending much further back-continuities with important implications for both the feasibility of consolidation and for the particular characteristics of the Chinese national state.2 In the last fifteen years or so, scholarly interest has returned to considering how ideas like "nationhood," "citizenship," and "modernity" have become part of the standard mental equipment of people all over the world. Though the new literature no longer sees this as the inevitable and unambiguously welcome process that modernization theory celebrated, these concepts are once again being treated as the antitheses of older pre-Enlightenment (or pre-Hegelian, or preFrench Revolution) ways of being, and their acceptance as a central part of the formation of a modem state and society. While the latter point is almostcertainly true, the sharp opposition between "imperial" and "national" political cultures in much of this literature seems quite questionable, especially in the Chinese case; so does the emphasis in much of this Jiterature on the "nation' as Twentieth-Century China, 23.1 (November 1997): 1-30 2 Twentieth-Century China a wholly imported, essentially Hegelian concept. At the very least, such analyses need to be balanced by the project that Bryna Goodman describes in her recent study of native place organizations in Shanghai: "By tracing the role of older cultural elements in the imagining of the nation, this study ... contributes to this developing discussion by providing a counterweight to excessive emphasis on the contribution of new historical elements."3 One way or the other, the process of re-thinking the relationship of China's late imperial past to the formation of its modem national state( s) in light of these new turns in the broader literature is beginning: focusing now less on areas such as taxation than on areas such as religion, ritual, and nationalism.4 The present essay takes up Goodman's project, but for a largely rural and relatively "backward" area. It begins by laying out some of the directions and implications of recent scholarship for two related parts of this inquiry: 1) how did the principles by which local elites legitimated themselves facilitate or obstruct the acceptance of national authorities as legitimate? and 2) how did the imperial legacy help or hinder the process by which ordinary people came to think of themselves as part of the gigantic abstraction "China"? It then complicates these questions with an investigation of evidence from one part of North China, suggesting that what may seem like small differences in local social structure could profoundly influence the extent to which the imperium did or did not leave a legacy conducive to twentieth-century nationalism. The area in question is not very well documented, and the arguments in this section must be regarded as exploratory rather than empirically well-supported. They represent both my best guess about the region and-perhaps more importantly-a set of suggestions for how we might...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 1-30
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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