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Chinese Research on Urban History by Zhang Limin Translated by Linda Grove Modem Chinese urban history is a new subject which has emerged in recent years. It takes one city, a group of cities, even cities nationwide as the subject and analyzes their functions and positions, discusses their development and change and studies the modernization process, searching for the patterns of urban development and relating those patterns to broader social and economic factors. To carry out this comprehensive research in urban history an interdisciplinary approach is necessary, one that combines such social science disciplines as politics, law, economics, sociology, demography, culture and psychology with information from such natural sciences as management, urban planning and architecture. This interdisciplinary approach has attracted scholars from a broad range of fields who are working together to understand the history of Chinese cities and to bring their historical knowledge to aid in resolving contemporary problems. After the Cultural Revolution, social scientists in China realized that although previous research had made some significant contributions there were still many unsolved problems. Methodological and theoretical problems had led to a lack of objectivity and insufficient depth in the analysis of complicated historical phenomena . Although scholars had been working since the early 1950s, there was still no common agreement on an overall explanation for the development of Chinese modem society. This reflection has led some Chinese scholars to pioneer in such new fields of research as the history of the Republic of China, business history, history of enterprises , history of regions, history of cities and also research on social classes, living conventions and cultural psychology. Urban history has been one of the most important of the new branches of historical research for several reasons. First, the very nature of cities have made them gathering places forpeople, economic institutions, politics, technology and culture. Thus the interdisciplinary approach is ideally suited to the study of urban history. In Chinese modem history, the coastal cities were the bases for the Western invasion of China and also the centers of Chinese traditional power structures. At the same time, they were centers for the popularization of Western civilization and the emerging centers of capitalism. The cities were thus focal centers for the clash between modem and traditional economic, social and cultural institutions and were also the birth place of many new transitional forms born of the fusion of Western and traditional elements. Secondly, the revival of the study of sociology and demography in recent years has played an important role in the study of urban history. The cities, which provide a wealth of historical and contemporary data, are an ideal place for the testing of hypotheses in these fields. Third, international academic communication has greatly spurred research on Chinese modem urban history. The study of Western urban history developed rapidly in the 1970s.Western sociologists , anthropologists and economists began to look at the development of cities from the perspective of transportation technology , architecture and design. They also examined the urban economy and the special constitution, regional relations and economic structures of urban centers. From a sociological point of view, there was interest in social structure, organization, community and personal relations, and from the cultural point of view interest in systems of control, concepts of values, townsfolk's use of leisure, and traditional social customs. This kind of interdisciplinary approach combining the social sciences and natural sciences stimulated the development of urban history-an interest that was broadened by opportunities for Chinese field work experience. At the same time, scholars from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the West worked on cities in China. The prominent American anthropologist William Skinner made use of original materials and on-the-spot investigations, combined with central place theory, to analyse the nineteenth centwy Chinese market structure and distribution of cities and towns. He sketched out the spatial distribution pattern of Chinese cities and towns at the end of the feudal age. This marked the beginning of research on Chinese urban history. Rhoads Murphey's research on Shanghai and William Rowe's study of Wuhan [Hankou] have served as a great inspiration to Chinese scholars. In Japan, 47 Hibino's research on the shift of Chinese cities and Kojima Reiitsu and...


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