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Absolute Delusion, Perfect Buddhahood

The Rise and Fall of a Chinese Heresy

Jamie Hubbard

In spite of the common view of Buddhism as nondogmatic and tolerant, the historical record preserves many examples of Buddhist thinkers and movements that were banned as heretical or subversive. The San-chieh (Three Levels) was a popular and influential Chinese Buddhist movement during the Sui and T’ang periods, counting powerful statesmen, imperial princes, and even an empress, Empress Wu, among its patrons. In spite, or perhaps precisely because, of its proximity to power, the San-chieh movement ran afoul of the authorities and its teachings and texts were officially proscribed numerous times over a several-hundred-year history. Because of these suppressions San-chieh texts were lost and little information about its teachings or history is available. The present work, the first English study of the San-chieh movement, uses manuscripts discovered at Tun-huang to examine the doctrine and institutional practices of this movement in the larger context of Mahayana doctrine and practice. By viewing San-chieh in the context of Mahayana Buddhism, Hubbard reveals it to be far from heretical and thereby raises important questions about orthodoxy and canon in Buddhism. He shows that many of the hallmark ideas and practices of Chinese Buddhism find an early and unique expression in the San-chieh texts.

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Academies and Society in Southern Sung China

Linda Walton

Academies belonged to a broad constellation of educational institutions that flourished in the Sung (960-1279), an era marked by profound changes in economy, technology, thought, and social and political order. This study, the first comprehensive look at the Sung academy movement, explains the phenomenon not only as a uh_product of intellectual changes, but also as part of broader social, economic, political, and cultural transformations taking place in Sung China. Academies and Society in Southern Sung China makes extensive use of commemorative inscriptions and other documentation on nearly 500 academies and thus provides a crucial historical perspective on the origins of this key institution.

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Acting the Right Part

Political Theater and Popular Drama in Contemporary China

Xiaomei Chen

Acting the Right Part is a cultural history of huaju (modern Chinese drama) from 1966 to 1996. Xiaomei Chen situates her study both in the context of Chinese literary and cultural history and in the context of comparative drama and theater, cultural studies, and critical issues relevant to national theater worldwide. Following a discussion of the marginality of modern Chinese drama in relation to other genres, periods, and cultures, early chapters focus on the dynamic relationship between theater and revolution. Chosen during the Cultural Revolution as the exclusive artistic vehicle to promote proletariat art, "model theater" raises important questions about the complex relationships between women, memory, nation/state, revolution, and visual culture. Throughout this study, Chen argues that dramatic norms inform both theatrical performance and everyday political behavior in contemporary China.

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Administering the Colonizer

Manchuria’s Russians under Chinese Rule, 1918-29

Blaine R. Chiasson

Harbin of the 1920s was viewed by Westerners as a world turned upside down. The Chinese government had taken over administration of the Russian-founded Chinese Eastern Railway concession, and its large Russian population. This account of the decade-long multi-ethnic and multinational administrative experiment in North Manchuria reveals that China not only created policies to promote Chinese sovereignty but also instituted measures to protect the Russian minority. This multi-faceted book is a historical examination of how an ethnic, cultural, and racial majority coexisted with a minority of a different culture and race. It restores to history the multiple national influences that have shaped northern China and Chinese nationalism.

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The Age of Irreverence

A New History of Laughter in China

Christopher Rea

The Age of Irreverence tells the story of why China’s entry into the modern age was not just traumatic, but uproarious. As the Qing dynasty slumped toward extinction, prominent writers compiled jokes into collections they called "histories of laughter." In the first years of the Republic, novelists, essayists and illustrators alike used humorous allegories to make veiled critiques of the new government. But, again and again, political and cultural discussion erupted into invective, as critics gleefully jeered and derided rivals in public. Farceurs drew followings in the popular press, promoting a culture of practical joking and buffoonery. Eventually, these various expressions of hilarity proved so offensive to high-brow writers that they launched a concerted campaign to transform the tone of public discourse, hoping to displace the old forms of mirth with a new one they called youmo (humor).

Christopher Rea argues that this period—from the 1890s to the 1930s—transformed how Chinese people thought and talked about what is funny. Focusing on five cultural expressions of laughter—jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor—he reveals the textures of comedy that were a part of everyday life during modern China’s first "age of irreverence." This new history of laughter not only offers an unprecedented and up-close look at a neglected facet of Chinese cultural modernity, but also reveals its lasting legacy in the Chinese language of the comic today and its implications for our understanding of humor as a part of human culture.

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Age of Openness, The

China before Mao

Frank Dikotter

This short book moves away from the hostile assessment of republican China common in mainstream history to portray the era instead as a diverse and cosmopolitan one, documenting the country's impulse to join the world and open its borders, markets and minds before closure under communism.

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Allegorical Architecture

Living Myth and Architectonics in Southern China

Xing Ruan

Allegorical Architecture offers the first detailed architectural analysis of built forms and building types of the minority groups in southern China and of the Dong nationality in particular. It argues that Dong architecture symbolically resembles its inhabitants in many ways. The built world is an extension of their body and mind; their experience of architecture is figurative and their understanding of it allegorical. Unlike the symbolism of historical architecture, which must be decoded through a speculative reconstruction of the past, the Dong tell stories about inhabitants in their living state in the recurrent process of ritualistic making and inhabiting of their built world. This book thus offers architectural analysis of both spatial dispositions (building types) and social life (the workings of buildings). Xing Ruan likens the built world to allegory to develop an alternative to textual understanding. The allegorical analogy enables him to decipher minority architecture less as a didactic "text" and more as a "shell," the inhabitation of which enables the Dong to renew and reinvent continually the myths and stories that provide them with an assurance of home and authenticity. Attention is focused less on the supposed meanings (symbolic, practical) of the architecture and more on how it is used, inhabited, and hence understood by people. Throughout, Ruan artfully avoids the temptation to textualize the built world and read from it all sorts of significance and symbolism that may or may not be shared by the inhabitants themselves. By likening architecture to allegory, he also subtlety avoids the well-worn path of accounting for rich traditions via a "salvage ethnography"; on the contrary, he argues that cultural reinvention is an ongoing process and architecture is one of the fundamental ingredients to understanding that process. Ruan offers "thick description" of Dong architecture in an attempt to understand the workings of architecture in the social world. Paying attention to Dong architecture within a regional as well as a global context makes it possible to combine detailed formal analysis of settlement patterns and building types and their spatial dispositions with their effects in a social context. Architecture, in a broad sense, is assumed to be an art form in which the feelings and lives of its makers and inhabitants are embodied. The artifice of architecture—its physical laws—is therefore analyzed and contested in terms of its instrumental capacity. Allegorical Architecture is a work of refreshing originality and compelling significance. It will provide timely lessons for those concerned with the meaning and social sustainability of the built world and will appeal to architects, planners, cultural geographers, anthropologists, historians, and students of these disciplines.

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Ambassadors from the Island of Immortals

China-Japan Relations in the Han-Tang Period

Zhenping Wang

Using recent archaeological findings and little-known archival material, Wang Zhenping introduces readers to the world of ancient Japan as it was evolving toward a centralized state. Competing Japanese tribal leaders engaged in "ambassador diplomacy" and actively sought Chinese support and recognition to strengthen their positions at home and to exert military influence on southern Korea. They requested, among other things, the bestowal of Chinese insignia: official titles, gold seals, and bronze mirrors. Successive Chinese courts used the bestowal (or denial) of the insignia to conduct geopolitics in East Asia. Wang explains in detail the rigorous criteria of the Chinese and Japanese courts in the selection of diplomats and how the two prepared for missions abroad. He journeys with a party of Japanese diplomats from their tearful farewell party to hardship on the high seas to their arrival amidst the splendors of Yangzhou and Changan and the Sui-Tang court. The depiction of these colorful events is combined with a sophisticated analysis of premodern diplomacy using the key concept of mutual self-interest and a discussion of two major modes of diplomatic communication: court reception and the exchange of state letters. Wang reveals how the parties involved conveyed diplomatic messages by making, accepting, or rejecting court ceremonial arrangements. Challenging the traditional view of China’s tributary system, he argues that it was not a unilateral tool of hegemony but rather a game of interest and power in which multiple partners modified the rules depending on changing historical circumstances.

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Ambition and Identity

Chinese Merchant Elites in Colonial Manila, 1880–1916

Andrew Wilson

What binds overseas Chinese communities together? Traditionally scholars have stressed the interplay of external factors (discrimination, local hostility) and internal forces (shared language, native-place ties, family) to account for the cohesion and "Chineseness" of these overseas groups. Andrew Wilson challenges this Manichean explanation of identity by introducing a third factor: the ambitions of the Chinese merchant elite, which played an equal, if not greater, role in the formation of ethnic identity among the Chinese in colonial Manila. Drawing on Chinese, Spanish, and American sources and applying a broad range of historiographical approaches, this volume dissects the structures of authority and identity within Manila’s Chinese community over a period of dramatic socioeconomic change and political upheaval. It reveals the ways in which wealthy Chinese merchants dealt in not only goods and services, but also political influence and the movement of human talent from China to the Philippines. Their influence and status extended across the physical and political divide between China and the Philippines, from the villages of southern China to the streets of Manila, making them a truly transnational elite. Control of community institutions and especially migration networks accounts for the cohesiveness of Manila’s Chinese enclave, argues Wilson, and the most successful members of the elite self-consciously chose to identify themselves and their protégés as Chinese.

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Americans and Macao

Trade, Smuggling, and Diplomacy on the South China Coast

Edited by Paul A. Van Dyke

The theme of this volume is the American relationship with Macao and its region through trade, politics, and culture, and the focus is mainly on the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The essays address topics such as the role of the China trade in US pacific expansion and exploration, US consuls, smuggling networks, American women's perceptions of China, and missionary and educational work. In all of the encounters, Macao emerges as a central player, adding a new dimension to our understanding of Sino-American relations.

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