Papers on Modern History IV

Qing
Thursday
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room A

  • Richard Van Ness Simmons, “The Emergence of the Sinophone Diaspora in the Southern Seas: From the Perspective of the 17th Century ‘Selden’ Map of China”
  • Christina Till, “Of Documents Lost and Found: Sanshi Documents and Chinese Provincial Archives”
  • Ines Eben von Racknitz, “Prince Gong as a Statesman: European and Chinese Concepts of Dynasty and Rulership”
  • Georgijs Dunajevs, “Two Accounts of an Obscure Secret Society Rebellion in 1870s Gansu”

Richard Van Ness Simmons, “The Emergence of the Sinophone Diaspora in the Southern Seas: From the Perspective of the 17th Century ‘Selden’ Map of China”

The Selden Map of China held by the Bodleian Library of Oxford University provides a vivid array of geographic evidence that enriches our understanding of the formation of the Hokkien speaking Sinophone diaspora in Southeast Asia during the 17th century. Acquired from the estate of John Selden, the eminent London lawyer and scholar, who had obtained it in 1653, the map was likely drawn in the late Míng. Though its exact provenance is unclear, the Bodleian Library notes “the Map’s depiction of that area was to remain the most accurate for another two centuries.” It portrays the southern China coast and includes many regions around the southern sea, including the Philippines, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, and the countries of Southeast Asia. The map also renders a detailed set of interconnected shipping routes, all with compass bearings radiating out from the port of Quánzhōu, a key point of origin of Hokkien speakers. This study examines the background and significant features of the map and considers what the sea routes and depiction of 17th-century Asian sea travel imply with regard to early Sinophone migration in the region and the spread of the Chinese language. The early migrations led for example to the so-called Hokkien-affiliated “language of the Sangleys” that arose in the Philippines in the 17th century (Klöter 2011). Overall, we find a finely detailed and richly informative congruence between the Hokkein speaking Chinese diaspora’s modern geographic distribution and the 17th-century sea routes indicated on the Selden map.

Christina Till, “Of Documents Lost and Found: Sanshi Documents and Chinese Provincial Archives”

According to a popular narrative in Chinese archival studies, late Qing provincial archival holdings suffered greatly from the encroachment of foreign powers in the border regions of the Qing empire. A great number of documents, mostly from the provincial administrations of the late Qing dynasty in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, are supposed to be “dispersed and lost” (sanshi). Chinese archival historians attribute this loss either to the destruction of archives following the consolidation of foreign powers in the border regions or to the fragmentation and relocation of archives and documents beyond the Qing borders. This paper is first in trying to provide a more comprehensive approach to an understanding of the histories of archival holdings from the late Qing period at the northeastern border region of today’s Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces. This also includes an account of the destruction and fragmentation of archival holdings that were a result of the conflicts of the nineteenth century. Retracing the history of provincial archival holdings will not only help understand the overall development of archives in the late Qing, but also give an account of the socio-political circumstances that allowed for the production and preservation of archival documents in what is often referred to as “the periphery.” Moreover, the restitution of documents previously held in Russian archives to China in the 1950s proves that, in some cases, the existence of late Qing archival documents from the border regions influenced Sino-foreign relations long after the end of the Qing dynasty.

Ines Eben von Racknitz, “Prince Gong as a Statesman: European and Chinese Concepts of Dynasty and Rulership”

Differing concepts of sovereignty, dynasty, and rulership were the cornerstones, that framed the diplomatic negotiations between Great Britain, France, and China accompanying the dramatic events of the China war of 1860. They became evident in the political interactions between the British and the French plenipotentiaries, the Earl of Elgin and Baron Gros, and the representative of the Xianfeng emperor, his 26-year-old brother, Prince Gong, who was quite unexpectedly entrusted with a rather complex political crisis after his imperial brother had left Beijing in flight. The war ended in a devastating loss for the Chinese rulers when the Europeans burned their summer palace, the Yuanming yuan. Interestingly, during the entire negotiations, the British and French were aware of the Manchu identity of the Chinese emperors and the fragility of their rulership. How then did British, how did the French conceptualise rulership and dynasty in China? How did they fashion themselves as representatives of the British and French empires respectively? How did the Qing-dynasty present herself in 1860, and does the Manchurian identity of the house of Aisin Gioro play a role in the diplomatic negotiations? Which concepts did the Manchu rulers and the Chinese bureaucrats have of European dynasties? It is the aim of this paper, to analyse, clarify, and differentiate concepts of rulership and dynasty, that were employed in the transnational political context of the diplomatic negotiations between Great Britain, France, and China during the China War of 1860.

Georgijs Dunajevs, “Two Accounts of an Obscure Secret Society Rebellion in 1870s Gansu”

The Qing history was persistently marred by many rebellions, which, political and economic factors aside, were often either started or supported by sectarian religious movements and secret societies. Some, like the Tiandihui 天地會 and the Gelaohui 哥老會 gained empire-wide publicity and left a long-lasting impact on China’s politics, economy, and society. There was, naturally, also a number of local, small-time secret societies, most of which fell into relative or full obscurity. Such was the case of the Qiaoqiaohui 悄悄會 (“The Clandestine Society”), active in Central-Western Gansu in the 1870s, which, besides being the namesake of an earlier sect from the Qianlong-Jiaqing eras, has been virtually lost to history.
The present paper stems from the author’s fortuitous discovery of an untitled document in the collection of Pēteris Šmits at the National Library of Latvia that sheds some light on the history and nature of the Qiaoqiaohui. Along with an essay by a local official in the Republican-era Gaotai County Gazetteer, these appear to be very rare sources of knowledge on the activities of this rebellious cult. Both accounts share a strong supernatural aspect, featuring tropes not dissimilar to ones found in the classical Chinese supernatural narrative zhiguai. I explore how the image of the society’s members merges with that commonly attributed to rebels in literature, as well as how its remembrance is preserved in local customs, making the putatively historical Qiaoqiaohui rather a part of local folklore than pure history.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room A
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Qing