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HST271

Week 10: Exploration Packet 2

One thing that interested in about the reading this week was just how strained Chinese-Soviet relations were. I had never thought to view Chinese-Soviet relations in this tenuous way. I had wrongly assumed that since both countries self-identified as communist, they would both mostly get along. However, as perfectly illustrated here, that is most definitely not always the case! It has been interesting to track the growth and decline of Chinese-Soviet relations throughout our readings, from the U.S.S.R.’s support of the fledgling Chinese communist party, to the questionable support the CCP received from the Soviets during the civil war and WWII, to the straining of their relationship during this time. Although the two countries both labeled themselves as being communist nations, it is obvious that they were traveling on two different paths.

In my opinion, the main catalyst for their divergence came from the different views that the Soviets and the CCP had on peace. For the Soviet government, peaceful international relations were swiftly becoming a priority. After Stalin’s reign of terror left Russia in tatters, the new First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, reframed the Russian strategy for international engagement around peace and cooperation. For example, the U.S.S.R. requested to be allowed into NATO, distanced itself from the Algerian National Liberation Front, and encouraged the signing of a Soviet-American friendship treaty. Perhaps the most extreme example of the new Soviet image came in the form of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, in which he conceded the fatal errors of Stalin and his regime.  Thus, the Soviet’s efforts to “De-Stalinize” themselves were beginning to make a real difference both at home and abroad.

China, on the other hand, was still a new-created communist country. While Russia had been established for a while and was evolving their foreign policy to include more cooperative approaches, Mao and his government were still firmly entrenched in the Marxist ideal of revolution. Within Marxist ideology, societal power shifts are constantly taking place and will continue to do so until the final revolution, in which the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeois and equal distribution of the means of production will finally be achieved. Therefore, until this occurred, the proletariat needed to purge all unequal societal influences, or so the CCP believed. Thus, the U.S.S.R.’s shift away from this strictly Marxist model into one that encouraged peaceful cooperation with capitalist countries was very alarming to the newly minted communist nation. Although this is definitely not the whole reason that the two states’ relationship crumbled, I still think these two different approaches to peace played a large role.

Works Cited

Shen, Zhihua, and Yafeng Xia. Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959 : A New History. The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.

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HST271

Week 9: World War II

In response to Dr. D’Haeseleer’s question this week about our readings (“How does your perspective on the War change when you see the long-term perspective from China and then realize that it was followed immediately by a civil war?”), I think my perspective on World War II has changed quite a lot after this week! Learning about how complex the situation in China was before, during, and after World War II made me realize that that yes, WWII was actually a global war. This may seem like an obvious realization (after all, it is literally in the name), but I tend to find myself hyper-focusing on the American and European perspectives during the War. Although being well educated on these aspects of WWII is very important, it is also equally important to learn about other parts of the world during the War and what was happening in their country at the time. Oftentimes, this information explains current world events and situations, such as the power of the CCP in China today.

One part of the reading that I found to be quite interesting was the various tactics that the communists used to fight against the Japanese. I was very interested to find out how they fought against the Japanese forces, as they were already spread so thin from the civil war that was taking place. It turns out that some of their main tactics for combat was guerilla warfare. For example, one way that the communist army would avoid the Japanese forces was through their segment worm trick. This move would involve them starting out with a large unit of men that would drop two men at a time throughout their journey. That way, if they were being tracked then the Japanese would eventually have no more trail to follow since the original unit would be all split up. This was just one of the many techniques that the communists used against the Japanese. Other methods that the Chinese communists to fight the Japanese were outlined by Lin Biao, a general of the communist army, who stated that “What we can do is split the enemy up in smaller groups wherever possible, and destroy them. We can harass them, cut their communication routes so they can get no reinforcements, no food, no supplies of any kind. We have already cut the Chentai railway here in many places.” Ultimately, these methods helped the Chinese clench their victory against the invading forces.

Works Cited

Moïse Edwin E. Modern China: A History Third ed. Harlow, England: Pearson/Longman, 2008.

Smedley, Agnes, J. F Horrabin, and Victor Gollancz Ltd. China Fights Back : An American Woman with the Eighth Route Army. Left Book Club Edition. London: V. Gollancz, 1938.

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HST271

Show and Tell Module 3: Delving into Diary of a Madman

When I realized that the time for our module 3 show and tell project was upon us, I immediately knew what topic I wanted to explore more deeply. Ever since I first read Lu Xun’s famous short story, “Diary of a Madman”, I was intrigued by the deeper meaning of the piece. What broader point was Xun trying to make, if any? Was it a commentary on Chinese society? An examination of the human condition? Or simply the horrifying tale of a man sinking deeper and deeper into delusion. With these questions in mind, I began my research to find out the truth.

Before I dive into my findings, however, I will first go into some context about the piece. The author, Lu Xun, was born in the year 1881 in the city of Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province [1]. He almost became a doctor, but instead took up the profession of healing the souls of the populace after seeing a slideshow depicting people idly watching as a person was executed in front of them [2]. Xun believed that his writing could achieve his goal and began to author stories that strove to “dissect the malaise of Chinese humanity in symbolic form and…resurrect the Chinese body from the curse of living death”[3]. From this wish came “Diary of a Madman”. When this story first came out in 1918, it was written in Baihua (or Colloquial Chinese) [4]. This decision to use Baihua was a massive departure from the norm and caused quite a stir, since most Chinese literature was written in Wenyan (or Classical Chinese), which most of the Chinese population was unable to understand [5]. Even before they even picked up his work, Lu Xun wanted the Chinese people to know that his goal with “Diary of a Madman” was to create enormous cultural change. However, the content of his story was even more shocking than his choice of language. “Diary of a Madman” tells the tale of a presumed madman who believes that his entire village is made of cannibals who are planning on eating him.

The first meaning that has been drawn from this odd story comes from James Reeve Pusey’s book Lu Xun and Evolution. In this, he states that “Diary of a Madman” is an examination of human nature and that Xun is pointing out how evil humanity truly is [6]. However, Pusey does not believe that “Diary of a Madman” is painting an irredeemable picture of humanity. He points to a line in the story where the main character states that the reason that the children of the village also eat people is because “their fathers and mothers have taught them to be like that” [7]. Therefore, Pusey proposes that Xun is using “Diary of a Madman” to point out the evil in human nature; however, that that evil is a learned one, not one that a person is born with [8]. Thus, Xun’s emphasis on the innocence of young people provides an avenue for the restoration of humanity: through the children, who are too young to be tainted by humanity’s villainy. This idea is solidified through the last line of the story, which is a simple command to “Save the children”[9].

A different interpretation of Diary of a Madman comes from Lu Xun’s revolution: writing in a time of violence, whose author, Gloria Davis, views Xun’s inclusion of cannibalism in his story as a means to critique the social structure of China [10]. This concept appears in the story when the protagonist comes to the realization that “…I’m someone with four thousand years’ experience of cannibalism behind me”, revealing Xun’s disdainful view of an ancient Chinese society whose structure had oppressed so many [11].  As Davis puts it, “…it [Diary of a Madman] produces a visceral indictment of “the old society’s” anthropophagic appetite, the depth of which is progressively revealed to the protagonist” [12]. Thus, the normalized cannibalism taking place within the protagonist’s village functions as a metaphor for harmful practices normalized through tradition in Chinese society.

Although there were many more theories and interpretations of Lu Xun’s story to explore, these two were the ones that made the most sense to me, especially when combined. At the time when Lu Xun was writing this story, China was in a time of great turmoil. Political unrest within the country was causing rumbling of rebellion and long-held Chinese customs and traditions were being reexamined by the newly emerging, youth-powered Communists [13]. The two theories I have outlined here present a cohesive view of Diary of a Madman as a story that exists as a perfect representation of both this evolution of culture and desire for youth-driven change. Not only had Lu Xun written a masterful, horrifying short story that captured the attention of readers worldwide, he was also able to capture the discontent and disillusionment of an entire generation.


Footnotes

[1] David Wang, “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”, in The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2:413–564, 474, 2010, doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[5] Ibid.

[6] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[7] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[8] James Reeve Pusey, Lu Xun and Evolution, (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998), retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[9] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[10] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[11] Lu Xun, and William A. Lyell, Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 41,  https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[12] Gloria Davis, Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2013), 231, https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

[13] Chapter 13 Summary.

Bibliography

Chapter 13 summary

Davis, Gloria. Lu Xun’s Revolution : Writing in a Time of Violence. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2013. https://doi.org/10.4159/harvard.9780674073944.

Lu Xun, and Lyell, William A.. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1990. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=39159&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Pusey, James Reeve. Lu Xun and Evolution. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. 1998. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=5462&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Wang, David. “Chinese literature from 1841 to 1937”. In The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, Chang, Kang-i Sun & Owen, Stephen (arg.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2:413–564. 2010. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521855594.008.

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HST271

Week 8: Women in China

One part of the reading this week that immediately caught my attention was Mao’s apparent concern with the issues of women in China. This piqued my interest because in my senior year of high school I wrote a research paper on the life of women in the U.S.S.R., with particular attention paid to women living in Soviet Russia. While doing my primary research for this project, I found out how invested Vladimir Lenin was in the rights of women living in Russia. He championed their right to work outside the home and created systems of public childcare so that they could have a family and do the work they loved. Although his plan did not work out, as it ended up creating an unbearable double shift for these mothers, Lenin’s attention to women’s rights remained me of the same attitudes that seem to be present in Mao.

Reading the information available in chapter 2 of the book The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past helped to place Mao’s concerns about women’s rights at the time in context. From what I read, women were treated absolutely terribly in China during this time. The book described their situation as being “feudal”, as there were various rules in place meant to keep women in line. From a young age girls were taught their place in society via foot binding, a practice whose only purpose was to show that a man could ‘afford’ a wife whose feet were essentially useless. Women were expected to marry quite young, serve their husband’s family, and stay quiet and content until their sons married and they could exercise some control over her. Thus, the vicious cycle started anew. In addition to all of this, women were often beaten by their husbands, both when their husbands were angry with them and when they became angry with their husbands. Either option would tend to result in some form of violence towards women. If all of this was not enough, women in China were thought of as being essentially nothing. According to the reading, if a person knocked on the door of a house and the only person inside was a woman, she would say “No one is home”. In my opinion, this perfectly illustrates just how insignificant women were in Chinese culture; if a man was not present in the home (or life) of a woman, then she did not exist.

Works Cited

Summary of Chapter 16

Hershatter, Gail. The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. Asia Pacific Modern, 8. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

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HST271

Week 7: Exploration Packet 3


One aspect of the basic set that immediately caught my attention this week was the piece of the Tintin comic. When I was much younger (around 7 or 8 years old) I used to read Tintin comics all of the time! I was fascinated by his over the top adventures (I believe he met the abominable snowman at one point) and the quirky cast of characters that accompanied him (including captain Haddock and the detective twins Thompson and Thompson). However, I never realized that Herge included current events in his comics. It was a bit surreal to reread the section of the Tintin comic that Dr. D’Haeseleer posted with fresh eyes, aware of the context and deeper meaning behind what Herge was portraying. Although this information is not exactly deep or scholarly, I still got quite a bit of enjoyment out of reading something from my childhood!

For the packet reading this week, I focused on the information in packet 3, which covered the city of Shanghai during and a bit after the time period we are focused on now. Something that stood out to me was from the book “The End of Old Shanghai”, specifically chapter 6. In this chapter, the author touches on the remodeling of Shanghai that Chiang Kai Shek ordered take place. His vision for the city was one that incorporated both the tradition of ancient China with the newness and perceived legitimacy of the West. Thus, he obtained Dayu Doon, an architect who was proficient in “Chinese Renaissance” style and specialized in combing American and Chinese influences into his work. What interested me most about this portion of the reading was the cultural blending that Chiang Kai Shek wished to have in his ‘modern’ version of Shanghai. Before his reforms, Shanghai was considered to be quite a modern city. However, people would complain that Shanghai was not Chinese anymore and that only the walled portion of the city showed its true features. This reminded me of our ongoing look at modernity and how there can be such a thing as too much ‘modernness’. After all, although Shanghai was technologically impressive, it had lost almost all of its cultural identity, since Shanghai was not defined by the modern or cutting edge. Rather, it was steeped in the rich tradition of the past and the vast cultural footprint of China. Therefore, Shek’s wish to restore that element of Shanghai while also retaining its modern reputation was (although daunting) quite admirable

Works Cited

Hergé. Tintin: The Blue Lotus

Carter, James. Champions Day : The End of Old Shanghai. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2020. 

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HST271

Show and Tell Project 2: My Life in China and America

The first thing that stood out to me in the reading for My Life in China and America was the connection between Wing Yung’s experiences and the racism that Chinese Americans experienced during this time. At the beginning of the read that Dr. D’Haeseleer assigned, Yung recounts a few of his experiences in the United States, with one specific story challenging racist ideas that people had about the Chinese during this time. After Yung politely confronted a Scottish immigrant about his behavior, the Scotsman proceeded to punch Yung in the face. Yung, stunned and upset, retaliated by punching the man even harder in the same spot, which resulted in the Scotsman grabbing Yung’s hands. At this point, a manager stepped in and asked what was happening, to which Yung responded that “…I was only defending myself. Your friend insulted me and added injury to insult. I took him for a gentlemen, but he has proved himself a blackguard” 1. Because of this comment and the sore beating that he took, the Scotsman ended up not showing his face in public for a week. Yung described this as being due to him “being whipped by a little Chinaman in a public manner”2. The incident ended up causing quite the sensation among the Chinese people living there because “no Chinese within its jurisdiction had ever been known to have the courage and pluck to defend his rights…when they had been violated or trampled upon by a foreigner”3. It also caused Yung to earn the respect of those in his community for his unwillingness to be disrespected by those around him. Yung hoped that his acts would inspire his fellow countrymen to defend themselves in the future and that “the people of China will be so educated and enlightened as to know what their rights are, public and private, and to have the moral courage to assert and defend them whenever they are invaded”4. From what I learned in the documentary, his hopes perfectly described the actions and reactions of the Chinese Americans to the discrimination that they faced during the time of the exclusion acts. From suing the United States government for their right to be recognized as citizens to demanding justice when numerous Chinese people were horrifically lynched, the Chinese Americans truly carried out Yung’s call to know and defend their basic human rights, even in the face of unspeakable odds.

The second piece of the reading that caught my attention was Yung’s journey through Taiping country, as he called it. When Yung was traveling through China, he decided to make a trip through the area taken over by the Taiping rebels. While there, he ended up meeting with Kan Wong, Hong Xiuquan’s nephew. The two had a very cordial meeting and Yung was able to suggest some reforms and improvements to the Taiping governmental system. These included establishing a military based on scientific principles, organizing a civil government, and creating a banking system with a system of currency. Wong expressed his interest in Yung’s proposals but explained that the was unable to implement them because he could not acquire the proper backing. The Taiping system of government was democratic, so any important decisions “required the consent of the majority to any measure before it could be carried out”5.

I found this democratic system of government to be surprising and yet another example of modernity within Chinese history. This type of thinking reminded me of Li Zicheng and how he displayed post Enlightenment ideals in his rebellion. Although Hong Xiuquan, or, perhaps, the people around him, were probably more deliberate with his ideology than Li Zicheng, it seems that the Chinese rebellions up to this point have both adhered to ‘modern’ ways of thinking. With this in mind, I found it interesting that Kan Wong would have been unable to get backing for the reforms that Yung suggested. It seems that although there were definitely elements of modern thought present in the Taiping movement, there was also discord and/or an unwillingness to change completely.

The final piece of this reading that caught my attention was Yung’s thoughts on the outcome of the Taiping rebellion. According to Yung, and probably most historians, the fifteen years that were spent fighting the rebellion were all for naught, for “It left no trace of its Christian element behind either in Nanking, where it sojourned for nearly ten years, or in Kwang Si, where it had its birth. In China, neither new political ideas nor political theories or principles were discovered which would have constituted the basal facts of a new form of government. So that neither in the religious nor yet in the political world was mankind in China or out of China benefited by that movement. The only good that resulted from the Taiping Rebellion was that God made use of it as a dynamic power to break up the stagnancy of a great nation and wake up its consciousness for a new national life…”6. Although Yung’s assessment is harsh, the accuracy of his statements still struck me and made me look at current events through a different lens. What seemingly large, momentous events that are occurring will end up being nothing but a blip of history, having no sway on anything domestic or international? Can that even happen anymore, what with the internet and the amount of global connectivity that it allows? I suppose that only time will tell!

Endnotes

  1. Wing Yung, My Life in China and America, (Cer Classics. Hong Kong: Reprinted by China Economic Review Pub, 2007) 42.
  2. Ibid. 43
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid. 65
  6. Ibid. 72

Bibliography

Yung, Wing. My Life in China and America. Cer Classics. Hong Kong: Reprinted by China Economic Review Pub, 2007.