Papers on Premodern History II

Imperial
Wednesday
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room A

  • Jiyan Qiao, “From Literati Self-Governance to Statism—The Political Theory of Wang Anshi as Antidote to Mid-Eleventh Century Republicanism”
  • Jinghuo Zhang, “Representing Drama Scene within Inches: New Explanation on Bronze Mirrors with Pattern ‘Half-Open Door’ in Song Dynasties (960–1279)”
  • Yiying Pan, “Bandits, Porters, and Waged Laborers: Weaving Spaces for the Itinerant Population in 18th- and 19th-Century Sichuan and Beyond”
  • Chiara Rutigliano, “Guangxu Era Telegrams in the Historical Archives of the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale:’ The Specific Roles of the Zongli Yamen and the Grand Council”

Jiyan Qiao, “From Literati Self-Governance to Statism—The Political Theory of Wang Anshi as Antidote to Mid-Eleventh Century Republicanism”

As the theorist of a watershed political event in China’s middle period (c. 750–1550), Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021–1086) has been studied by generations of prominent scholars around the world, giving rise to what Ari Levine calls “an industry of sinology.” Surprisingly, however, not only do major controversies remain unresolved to this day, but a number of central issues have not been addressed or are still left half-answered. For instance, we all know the reform officially launched in 1069/2 aimed for unifying morality 一道德 (yi daode). But what were the specific values this morality was made up of? Beyond what Peter Bol has told us, can we know more? And how did Wang plan to make it uniformly upheld by everyone across the vast realm? Since James Liu’s monograph published in 1959, we have been calling the reform the “New Policies”—does this capture the gist of what was being fundamentally changed? During their first meeting in 1068/4, Emperor Shenzong 神宗 (r. 1067–85) asked Wang Anshi what should be done first in governance, to which Wang responded: “Beginning with choosing the method” (yi ze shu wei shi 以擇術為始). Paul Smith has shown us what Wang’s method looked like in state economy, but was this the main sphere Wang was referring to? Most of the ten thousand words in his well-known letter to Emperor Renzong 仁宗 (r. 1023–63) were, after all, on creating the kind of personnel Wang deemed desirable. And, what was the method of governance that Wang wanted his to replace, to begin with? As the first step in a full-scale study that is likely to revise our understanding of Northern Song intellectual and political history, this paper takes up the formidable task of answering this set of closely interconnected questions. It does so first and foremost by locating the context of Wang Anshi’s theoretical writings at the theory and practice of literati self-governance that had become the mainstream by the mid-eleventh century. After having made this case, I then proceed to reconstruct Wang’s political theory, showing that he worked out a systematic way to put an end to the growing moral individualism and value pluralism—symptoms of chaos to him—that the republican form of government gave rise to and to reestablish the state personified by the emperor as the absolute center of all individuals’ lives, so as to realise the perfect order he envisioned, and focus the government’s job on changing human nature, so that this order can last forever. I conclude this paper by summarising my answers to the questions raised in the beginning and drawing out some implications they may have for comparative studies, for instance with early twentieth century Germany.

Jinghuo Zhang, “Representing Drama Scene within Inches: New Explanation on Bronze Mirrors with Pattern ‘Half-Open Door’ in Song Dynasties (960–1279)”

This paper focuses on a specific type of Song (960–1279) Bronze Mirror, which is decorated with a pattern of drama characters and landscape scene such as bridge, palace, river, etc. Found in various regions, not only in China, but this sort of mirror can also be found in Korea and Japan. However, the meaning of this pattern is still to be figured out. For its depicting a specific visual element of “Half-open door,” which frequently appeared in the tomb, many scholars may deem it as a reflection on religious beliefs. Some suggest that it shall be “Tang Ming Huang visits the Moon palace”, some believe it depicts the story of “Xiwangmu (Queen Mother of the West) and Zhoumuwang (King Mu) meet in the Mountain Kunlun,” while the discussion remains inconclusive.
Through analysing previous viewpoints of scholars on this pattern carved on a mirror, this paper will propose a new explanation, that this pattern actually depicts the story of “Pei Hang” written by Pei Xing first published in Tang Dynasty (608–907) and become prevalent during Song Dynasties, which also echo the development of drama at that time.

Yiying Pan, “Bandits, Porters, and Waged Laborers: Weaving Spaces for the Itinerant Population in 18th- and 19th-Century Sichuan and Beyond”

This paper examines how scholar-officials in Sichuan adjusted their strategies for managing the itinerant population from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century. The paper concentrates on administrative responses to a particular type of local bandits called guolu, who continued to perplex administrators since their initial emergence in the 1730s. Bringing together rich materials (i.e. local archives, inscriptions on local fort-constructions, central-level memorials and military cartographies), this paper argues that the scholar-officials shifted from a “legal approach” to an “environmental approach” for tackling the guolu since the late-eighteenth century. Before the 1770s, scholar-officials cared more about how to align the guolu with a discriminated legal category (such as “bare sticks”) and designate legal punishments accordingly. From the 1770s to the 1820s, triggered by the successive regional chaos stemming from the Second Jinchuan Campaign (1771–1776) and the “White Lotus” War (1796–1804), the administrators’ accumulated knowledge about the spatial practices of the itinerant people in general and relied heavily on the spatial knowledge of these itinerants. Specifically, administrators discerned the umbrella networks (i.e. networks of river transportation or salt circulation) that connected the guolu to transporters and labourers in proto-industries; they also realized the necessity to nourish these multilayered non-agrarian networks and leave spaces for the itinerant population, because of the state-level demand for resolving the tension between a streamlined bureaucracy and shrinking fiscal capacity. This paper further claims that this local lesson of Sichuan pushed the Qing state to re-conceptualize the demography-space relationship on the imperial scale since the nineteenth century.

Chiara Rutigliano, “Guangxu Era Telegrams in the Historical Archives of the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale:’ The Specific Roles of the Zongli Yamen and the Grand Council”

My Ph.D. project aims to analyse an impressive corpus of official Chinese telegrams from the late Imperial Era found in the historical archives of the University of Naples “L’Orientale.” To date, the telegrams are still insufficiently studied and researched. The unexpected documents, which came to light in the 1990s, consist of a considerable number of telegrams from 1884 to 1899, during the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1875–1908), on the eve of the collapse of the Manchu Empire and the imperial system in its entirety. We are uncertain about the reasons of their transfer but suspect they were probably transferred to Naples from Beijing’s Grand Council by the Italian sinologist Guido Amedeo Vitale (1872–1918). My research not only aims at recovering the fundamental data which are inherent to the internal and external affairs exchanged during the Celestial Empire, but also it identifies and takes into account the historical context in which the events of the telegrams developed in a particularly complex political and cultural era. After a historical introduction on the development of the imperial telegraphic communications system, my contribution to the 23rd EACS Biennal Conference intends to present an analysis of the structure and dynamics that regulated imperial communications via telegraph. Two important Qing institutions played a decisive role: the Zongli Yamen 總理衙門 and the Grand Council 軍機處 . I intend to clarify the role they played and define the duties of the officials working within their premises, in order to clarify the ways they contributed to the conservation of this important material.

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Room A
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Imperial