Teaching Late Imperial China

Chen Hongshou 陳洪綬, 1599–1652 Great Ford on the Yellow River

So, if the class makes1 I will be doing Late Imperial China in Spring. I was going to do a few weeks of basic stuff, do some Sanyan Stories, set up their research projects, and at the end do the Glory of The Qing and have them read Soulstealers. 

This is a pretty social and cultural and economic class, and there are a lot of things I could put in between. What I was thinking of doing was picking a dozen or so possible topics and then letting them vote for the 6 or so they like best. Here are some early thoughts. Any other ideas?

***update-here are the winners. I think I will consolidate some of these, but these are the final votes.

Bandits and pirates 65
Peasants and rebellions 44
Secret Societies 38
Elite women and culture 25
Common women and law 22
Lineages and family structure 16
Imjin War 15
Art-The painter’s practice 14
Tales of the strange 14
Borderlands 13
Agriculture and population 12
Tumu Incident 10
Opera 10
Jesuits 9
Taiwan 9
Urban life 9
Confucian rebels 9
Novels and popular literature 9
Commerce and silver 7
Tibet 4
Art-Collecting and cultural capital 3
Courtesans 2
Environmental history and the Little Ice Age 2
The Manchu Great Enterprise 1
Religion -popular 1
Salt 1
Local government and Yamen runners 0
Southern Ming 0
Religion- formal 0
Zheng He and Southeast Asia 0
The “tribute system” and foreign relations 0
Manchus and Han 0
Eunuchs and Bannermen 0
Law 0


Bandits and pirates Pretty obvious what this is about, although we will see that the line between bandits and soldiers (and pirates and ordinary sailors) was often blurry.

Tumu Incident In 1449 a Ming army, commanded by the Emperor Yingzong was surrounded and captured by Mongol forces. The ensuing crisis tells us a lot about Ming politics and foreign relations.

Art-The painter’s practice We will not be able to do a unit on Chinese art, but we can do one on people who painted for money, which was one of the ways poor educated people got by.

Art-Collecting and cultural capital Why do people want art? What role did owning and knowing about it play in being a shi?

Borderlands This is a more Qing topic, but throughout the period relations with non-Han people inside the empire were important.

Local government and Yamen runners What happened when the bottom level of the official system met commoner society?

Courtesans Buying sex and culture for money was something Chinese men loved to do and write about.

Tibet Tibet became part of the Qing empire in 1720 and Tibetan Buddhism was the cultural glue that held Qing Central Asia together.

Lineages and family structure The lineage was one of the most important innovations in family structure in the period.

Southern Ming Loyalists continued to support the Ming, and we can do a unit on why this was so important to them.

The Manchu Great Enterprise How did a small tribe become rulers of China?

Jesuits China was one of the great targets of missionary work, and the Jesuits of Beijing were at the center of one of the great examples of intercultural communication in the period.

Tales of the strange Sanyan Stories are pretty realistic. Well, at least they are less weird and supernatural than Pu Songling, and we could do a unit on his Strange Stories.

Religion- formal Buddhism was the most organized and socially important religions in the Ming, and Tibetan Buddhism had a huge political role in the Qing.

Religion -popular “Superstition” and the things people believed and did in their everyday lives.

Confucian Reformers From the Late Ming Donglin group to Qing Evidential Research there were all sorts of reformers around.

Zheng He and Southeast Asia Zheng He’s voyages are one of the famous events of World History, and while he did not conquer much the voyages did create a new relationship between China and Southeast Asia.

The “tribute system” and foreign relations This has been the topic of a lot of work of late, and versions of this system were important throughout the period.

Manchus and Han In the Qing the Manchus were the dominant group, and their relations with the Han majority mattered a lot.

Eunuchs and Bannermen In both the Ming and the Qing the rulers had a separate bureaucracy, but there were some important differences between them.

Women Two possible women’s history units would be

-Elite women and culture-Particularly in the Qing, elite women wrote poetry, produced art and participated in literati culture

-Common women and Law-More ordinary women tend to turn up in the sources when they get involved in a legal matter, so this is more a unit on the legal system and things like marriage, prostitution, etc.

Imjin War In 1592 Japan invaded Korea, and the Ming intervened to protect the Korean state. This is a great place to look at foreign relations and the military.

Opera The most popular art form

Secret Societies From the Red Turbans to the White Lotus these were the way ordinary people organized to protect themselves and get justice.

Agriculture and population Most people in China were farmers, and the rapid expansion of agriculture and population in the period were linked.

Peasants and rebellions A slightly different focus than the topic above

Taiwan Was a center of Ming resistance, a pirate haven, a Dutch colony and eventually a frontier region.

Salt A key source of state revenue, a great thing to smuggle, and something everyone would buy.

Environmental history and the Little Ice Age The Little Ice Age was one of the reasons for the fall of the Ming, and the growing pressure on resources was a major issue in the Qing.

Urban life Beijing, Suzhou, markets, temples, festivals. A huge chunk of Chinese culture happened in the urban areas.

Confucian rebels Li Zhi, and other literati eccentrics and rebels.

Novels and popular literature Love? Bandits? It is all here.

Law Law cases generated a lot of what we know about ordinary life.

Commerce and silver China was the center of the commercial world, and economic growth led to social and cultural transformation.



  1. Our administration is on the warpath against “boutique” classes and majors  

Qing Taxation

My Christmas stuff

Since I got a bit of flak for asking for Taisu Zhang’s The Ideological Foundations of Qing Taxation: Belief Systems, Politics and Institutions for Christmas I thought I would post…not a review but at least some thoughts.

The main purpose of the book is to explain the fiscal weakness of the Qing state, especially the late Qing state. To some extent this is a comparative book, in that Zhang is putting the Qing in an early modern context, and trying to explain why the Qing only taxed the population at a rate of 1-2% a year, as opposed to Tokugawa and Meiji Japan with state revenue making up 15-20% of GDP, England at 10-15%, Tsarist Russia at 6-7 % and Ming China at 5% (pg. 4 and chapter 1). This was the source of all sorts of problems for the Qing  and even into the Republic. Zhang attributes this primarily to a strong ideological commitment to low agricultural taxes,  He sees as being unique in Chinese history, since almost every other dynasty expanded agricultural taxes at some point. So the book fits into both long run Chinese history and early modern global history.

This is all really interesting, but not really relevant to my research, or to my teaching. Even for Late Imperial China, which I am teaching next semester I will probably not get that deep into tax policy, and I will not do much comparative stuff. The book is a lot of fun to read, however, in part because it summarizes a lot of the recent work on state capacity, economic history, demographics the Great Divergence etc. Admittedly, it is written by someone from a Law school, so he spends a lot of time encouraging readers to take ideology seriously and explaining that a crude rationalism does not really work here. Nor does he have much truck with crude theories of “Confucian” aversion to “speaking of profit”. Rather, he argues that Qing taxation was driven by the empirical assumption that higher agricultural taxes were simply not possible.

This book argues that the Qing’s turn toward political pragmatism did not render its fiscal policymaking, at least in agricultural taxation, any less ideological than its Ming or Song predecessors. Instead, it merely rendered it ideological in a different sense: empirical and descriptive, rather than deontological and normative. Qing agricultural taxation was premised on the empirical belief that agricultural production was constantly in real danger of falling below subsistence levels, and simply could not support additional government extraction. By the early eighteenth century, the empirical validity of this belief had become deeply questionable, and would remain so for the rest of the dynasty, but it would maintain a vise-like grip over fiscal politics for another two centuries. Much more than any normative distaste for “snatching profit away from the people,” the longevity and political power of this dubious empirical belief was what made Qing tax policy ideological. In fact, only when we see Qing fiscal ideology through this empirical, rather than normative, lens, can we begin to explain the fundamental differences between Ming and Qing tax policies, or explain the latter’s differential treatment of agricultural versus non-agricultural taxes. pg. 17

The real fun of the book, for me anyway, is how it gets in the weeds of tax debates in in the Ming and Qing courts.1 He discusses the Ming tax debates, especially those over the Single whip reforms, and concludes that in the Ming the empirical link between higher land taxes and peasant rebellion was not as iron-clad as it would be later. (pg. 147) Indeed, the Ming lacked much of a theory of dynastic collapse at all. They blamed the Yuan collapse on them being Mongols, and earlier dynasties were far enough in the past that they did not work well as examples.

The Qing of course had very clear theory of dynastic failure, based on the Ming. In fact, I might say that the Qing was the most historically theorized dynasty in Chinese history. The Ming had just fallen, it was  close match in many ways, many Ming officials served in the Early Qing and the compilation of the Ming History was not completed till 1739. The big lesson that the Qing, and especially Qianlong, took from the Ming was that agricultural taxes, and even land surveys, would lead to peasant revolts.

The land survey problem is particularly interesting. At one point land surveys had been seen as a way of controlling the rapacious big landlords who oppressed the poor and did not pay their fair share of taxes.(pg.205) Surveys came to be seen as a major expense and undertaking (both true) and as something that would lead directly to unrest, as they were seen as harbingers of higher taxes and probably being instigated by local officials who just wanted to collect more money.

as Qianlong put it

If land surveying truly does not burden the people, but instead benefits them, then presumably they would welcome the practice. I have, however, never known this to be true. If land surveying will not lead to tax hikes, then why would local governments wish to spend their funding on it? If the argument is instead that surveying will lead to greater fairness in quota distribution, then why do the people fear land surveying as they fear fire or water hazards?pg. 225

After 1740 it was forbidden for provinces to conduct land surveys on their own authority, and it was pretty clear that the center would not approve them either.  (pg. 226). So the Qing was a modern enough state to have population statistics that told them about the huge population run-up of the High Qing, but not the statistics about growing amounts of arable and land productivity that would make them  less panicked about the pressure on the peasants. Almost the perfect (or imperfect) statistically misinformed modern state.

The book has its problems (including an apparent assumption that ever-growing revenue is the purpose of the state), but there is a lot of interesting stuff in here.

  1. Why yes, I am great fun at parties.  

Grilled Playboy

If you are looking for something fun and useful to teach in a Tokugawa class, I recommend Santo Kyoden  Playboy Grilled Edo Style from Kern, Adam L. Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyoshi of Edo Japan 2d Edition, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019.

This is actually a piece that has been anthologized a lot.  There is a version in Sumie Jones and Kenji Watanabe. An Edo Anthology: Literature from Japan’s Mega-City, 1750-1850. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013. (translation by Sumie Jones) and one in Shirane, Haruo. Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.  (translation by Chris Drake)

I like the Kern version for a few reasons (obviously I can’t judge the quality of the translation) First, it is printed as an illustrated book, with the text in English. The Drake version (in Hirane) is just text with the pictures as illustrations. The Jones version has the English text in the pictures, but I am not crazy about the font1 and the pictures are not as clear. The Kern is either from a better print or it has been touched up or re-drawn. It also reads right to left, which will impress the manga fans in your class.

The real advantage of Kern is that the notes explain all the visual puns and references in the pictures.

The others try to do this, but really don’t have the space for it. The Kern book as a whole is far too difficult to give to undergrads, but he does explain a lot of stuff about the visual culture of the Tokugawa that you can then explain to students and they will think you are smart, whereas really you just read the other parts of the book.

The story is so widely anthologized because it is a parody of the hero’s journey. The main subject, Enjiro, the son of a wealthy merchant, sets off to became a notorious libertine in the floating world.  This of course is what others try to avoid, but he embraces it. Just like those who set out to become master swordsmen or poets he has to train and learn and mortify his flesh and, given that his goal is to be well-known he has to publicize everything he is doing and above all get people to pay attention. Needless to say he fails at all of this, but there are a lot of good jokes and lots of points you can make about Tokugawa culture and how people navigated the new public worlds.

  1. Me a font snob!  

Textbooks and teaching. A new dawn?

Major and Cook’s Ancient China: A history is now available as open access  via Routledge. This is good news, and got me to thinking about teaching and textbooks, a perennial topic. What is workable for assigning to students has evolved a lot over time.

When I was an undergraduate (Gil-galad ruled in Gondolin, Elizabeth II was Queen of England etc. etc.) teachers had to have students buy books. Even things like packets of photocopies were a bit of a hassle, even before the copyright mess. Textbook publishers helped out by not “revising” their books every 15 minutes to kill the used book market, so there were usually cheap copies out there, which students could find by going to the college bookstore. The basic model was that everything the student were going to read, and thus every source they were going to use was selected by the professor. Research, if they did it, would be centered on books, which they could find in the card catalog, rather than articles which were hidden in things called journals.

Now students often don’t buy their books from the college bookstore, and more broadly they learn from a selection of texts, only some of which are selected by the teacher. Just like in the past, teachers lay out when students should be reading things, but in practice they tend to read them when and as needed. -So right before an assignment.1 Mostly these sources are from “Google”, which might mean a JSTOR article, or some old Geocities page. They know that Wikipedia is unreliable, so you should skip that and go to whatever is next on the google list.

Of course textbooks have always been problematic for faculty. Ideally what we want is a real book (i.e. readable, and sounds like it was written by a person) that “covers things” (i.e. gives them a basic narrative and analytical framework) and deals with whatever the current academic concerns are. That is a hard trifecta to hit, as you will realize if you talk to anyone who has ever written one. Of the 6 classes in my rotation I currently only use a textbook for one. Totman’s Early Modern Japan for my Early Modern Japan class. Although it is old enough and cheap enough that I am fine with making them buy it, the book is now free on-line via our library. I think it reads pretty well, in part because it just does, and in part because there is an environmental frame to the whole book, which ties things together. Since Totman is the author it also deals with political structure (the best way to provide continuity) and all that pretty well. Most classes don’t really have a book that works like that. Totman is a bit old, but the only book I know that covers recent scholarship on Tokugawa is Gary P. Leupp and Tao De-min, ed. The Tokugawa World  Only $41 as a Kindle book, but $250 as a hardback (also Routledge). Also, it consists of 60 short essays on topics of recent scholarly interest. A great book to have on hand, either for reference or as a doorstop (1198 pp) but not very undergraduate friendly.

Ideally, open source textbooks would fill the gap, but those tend to be only for US or World history and I have not been that impressed with them. Even at my school more and more books are available free as e-books via our library, so you can assign monographs or chapters, but not textbooks. Major and Cook is a pretty good book, with a chronological structure, but enough sidebar-type things (Changes, Debates on Salt and Iron etc,) to make it work for a more culture and philosophy class, which is how I tend to teach it. Of course, since it is free on-line you don’t even have to use the whole thing. Major and Cook are, not surprisingly, very good on all the recent archeological stuff, but, if I did not want to do all that (I usually start at Anyang and leave the early stuff to the Chinese Archeology class that my colleague teaches) I can have them not read those bits. If Leupp and Tao was also open access I could use bits of that in Tokugawa class. Unfortunately, the universe of stuff that ends up open access or free via our university library does not really work that way. Ideally, it should. Scholars get access to stuff on-line, why not students? Making more stuff like Major and Cook open access should be a major goal of scholars, and a major scholarly achievement for fine people like Major and Cook.

  1. Our students in particular will generally not read anything unless there is an imminent graded assignment attached to it.  

Who were the people in wartime China?

Just for fun, here is a table I found of those who jumped from the parachute tower in Chongqing between April of 1942 and April 1943.


I suppose I should open with explaining what that is and why I care. The tower opened on Boy’s Day, April 4, of 1942. Building the tower was part of the mass aviation movement that aimed to create future pilots and paratroopers but also to spread knowledge of aviation throughout society. Although the Chinese movement was modeled on the Soviet parachute movement, which spread all over the Soviet Union, the Chinese movement only managed the one parachute tower in Chongqing during the war.


Needless to say, if you are going to transform the people you need statistics on how well you are doing. What categories do you divide the people into?

Well, male and female obviously. Although the movement was connected to the war effort and thus training men for the military they were supposed to reach women as well, and did. The age breakdown is about what I would expect. It skews young, in part perhaps because the movement was focused on (though not limited to) schools. They do not seem to have been much interested in mobilizing and transforming anyone over 30, although old geezers of 63 were welcome to try. The categories are about what you would expect. Students 學 are the largest group (are they counting all youth there, or just those enrolled?) Military 軍 next, which makes sense. I would love to know how they are categorizing 商merchants and 工  workers, and for that matter if they are relying on self-identification. Government people is the final large category (1217), which would probably include the female postal worker who is one of the jumpers interviewed in the article after this one. Journalists get their own category as do 外籍, which might be foreigners or also might be Overseas Chinese.

The provincial breakdown is interesting in that they did it at all. Presumably they are trying to show that they were mobilizing all of China. Sichuan of course has the largest group, and Jiangsu the second (all those Shanghai and Nanjing people). The rest follow more or less as you might expect. 外籍 is again at 27, which means that either not a single Overseas Chinese jumped, or that they were all listed under their ancestral province, either of which would be interesting.

I am still looking for statistics for the entire war period, but supposedly over 500,00 (non-unique) people jumped during the war.

Tokugawa Japan-What’s the question?

So, again this fall I will be having students in my upper-level class (in this case Early  Modern Japan) do a group research project. The end of the project will involve them writing an essay in response to a pretty broad prompt from me.

For the Modern China class, the prompt was easy. “Republican China-Abortive Revolution or not?” Modern Japan was also easy. “Taisho-WTF?”. For Early China I had them read Huainanzi and write about it as the Outcome of Classical Chinese philosophy.1 What to do for this class? In general, framing the “big question” at the end is the thing I struggle with most.

Here is what I have now

The purpose of this project is for us to read some things (academic articles, book chapters and short primary source selections) that will help us to understand Tokugawa Japan. Each of you will join a group of 1-3 people Each of you will read one article, book chapter or short primary reading and write a summary of it for your group. Then you and your group will discuss what we can get from these three readings and present on them to the class. You will then each individually write a brief essay (basically your mid-term) answering this question.

The Tokugawa rulers tried to create a system that would prevent or least manage social and economic change. What did they do and how well did it work? How well were they able to understand and shape what was going on in Japan, and how did the Japanese people react to, avoid or revolt against their efforts?

Please note that this is a very broad question, and part of the assignment is thinking about a way to frame and limit your answer for the final essay. You need to think about your readings (and the things other people presented), probably do some research, and write a real essay that gives your answer to this question. You are going to have to figure out what aspects of change in this period you think are most important, or most interesting, or that you understand best.

As you might guess, my goal is to give them a question broad enough that they can fit almost anything they want to focus on in there, but still give the overall group discussion a bit of structure.

I also need to come up with all the little sets of three readings for the groups to do. I think I will do that Akō vendetta myself as a sample So the readings might be

-McMullen, James. “Confucian Perspectives on the Akō Revenge: Law and Moral Agency.” Monumenta Nipponica 58, no. 3 (2003): 293–315.
-Tucker, John Allen. “Rethinking the Akō Ronin Debate: The Religious Significance of Chūshin Gishi.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 26, no. 1/2 (1999): 1–37.
-The primary source stuff on the debate about the case in DeBarry
-The Keene translation of Chūshingura
That is four readings rather than three, and couple of them are too long, but it does give me a chance to present on secondary stuff and two types of primary sources.
Any thoughts?


  1. Hey, I had to read Theses on Feuerbach  as an undergrad  

Hong Kong Education in Chinese Schools 1929

Today I was browsing through US national archives microfilm reels containing state department records related to British Asia, 1910-29.1 There is always fun and unexpected materials in these collections and I thought I would share one that offers a little snapshot of what children in “Vernacular” (Chinese language) middle and primary school students were assigned to study in 1920s.

In February, 1929 the US consul to Hong Kong 1926–29, Harold Shantz composed a report on “Educational System of Hong Kong” which runs to some 34 pages, including a nice (but incomplete) list of the sources used. At the time, the report claims that there were an estimated 977,900 people in Hong Kong, 50,490 students, of which 37,417 students were in Chinese schools. Most of the British government materials can easily be found elsewhere, but I was particularly interested by the enclosures which purported to be (examples of?) syllabi for each year of “the Higher Primary division” and “the Middle School Division” for what I believe are the private Chinese schools for boys and girls. Shantz claims that there were 590 urban and 185 rural schools in operation as of 1927, with a third of the former and over half of the latter receiving subsidies from the Hong Kong colonial government. The report includes the form used to register schools, along the detailed ordinances for their regulation, including the requirement that “floors be washed at least once a week”, desks arranged “so that light falls upon the left of the pupils”, smoking prohibited, spitting only in spittoons, corporeal punishment of girls forbidden, detailed regulations for the administration of corporeal punishment to boys, etc.2

Below I have transcribed the material from the enclosures with the primary school and middle school syllabi, which I think are a great way to explore the focus of education in Hong Kong Chinese language schools, as depicted in these syllabi. It is not clear to me if this is from a particular school’s submission or an example drawn from patterns found across schools. The report doesn’t say anything about the origins of the syllabi:

Higher Primary First Year Class:

(1) Cho’s Commentaries [ Zuo Zhuan? 左傳 ]
(2) Mencius
Chinese History: 高級小學新選歷史教科書 一二册
Chinese Literature:
(1) The Kwok Man Reader with notes and Explanations Book 1 (The World Press)
(2) Selections from 古文評註補正
Chinese Composition & Letter Writing
Arithmetic: 高級小學新選教科書[專?]一册 [incomplete title?]
Geography: 高級小學新選地理教科書一二册
English Reading: “First Year English for Higher Primary School”
English Dictation from the reading book
English Writing – Vere Forster’s [sic Foster’s] Copy Book, Medium Book 1 & 2
English Conversation – daily & common expressions
English Composition – making sentences
Moral Lessons: 朱子小學集解
Nature Study: 高級小學新選自然教科書一二册
Chinese Writing: copying model specimens
Chinese Painting: Flowers & Landscapes

Higher Primary Second Year Class:

Confucian Classics:
(1) Mencius (continued from First Year Class)
(2) Confucian Analects
Chinese History: 高級小學新選歷史教科書三四册
Chinese Literature:
(1) The Kwok Man Reader with notes & explanations Book 11. [2?] (The World Press)
Chinese Composition on simple subjects & Letter Writing
Arithmetic: 高級小學新選算術教科書二册
Geography: 高級小學新選地理教科書三四册
English Reading: “Second Year English for Higher Primary School”
English Dictation – from reading book.
English Writing – Vere Forster’s [sic Foster’s] Copy Book, Medium Book IV.
English Conversation – on chosen subjects or lessons of the reading book
English Composition – making sentences
Moral Lessons: 朱子小學集解 (continued from First Year Class)
Nature Study: 高級小學新選自然教科書三四册
Chinese Writing: Copying model specimens
Chinese Painting – Flowers & Landscapes

Higher Primary Third Year Class:

Confucian Classics:
(1) Mencius (continued from Second Year Class)
(2) The Analects (continued from Second Year Class)
Chinese History: The Earliest Times
(1) 鑑史提綱
(2) 通鑑輯覽
Chinese Literature:
(1) The Kwok Man Reader with notes & explanations Book 111. [3] (The World Press)
(2) Selections from 古文評註補正
Chinese Composition on simple subjects
Arithmetic: 高級小學新選算術教科書三四册
(1) Notes on Hong Kong Harbour [Notes on the harbour of Hong Kong by F.J. de Rome and N. Evans?]
(2) 初中教書地大學
English Reading: China’s New Century Readers, Second Reader [China’s New Century Readers by L. T. Yoen, Hanson Lee and Fong F., 1915?]
English Dictation – from reading books
English Grammar: Nesfield’s Grammar Book 1 & II. [possibly a chopped up school edition of Manual of English Grammar and Composition by John Collison Nesfield]
Conversation – on chosen subjects or lessons of the reading nbook
English Composition – on elementary subjects
Moral Lessons: 朱子小學集解
Hygiene: 生理衛生學 [claims to be translation of Physiology and Hygiene John W. Ritchie
Chinese Writing: Copying model specimens  ([臨碑?])
Chinese Painting: Flowers & Landscapes

Middle School First Year:

Confucian Classics:
The Four Books (continued from Third Year Class Higher Primary Division)
Chinese History – continued from Third Year Class, Higher Primary Division.
(1) 通鑑輯覽
(2) 本國史中學教科書
Chinese Literature – Selections from the following books;-
(1) 古文辞[類纂?彙纂?]
(2) 古文評註補正
Chinese Composition:
(1) Essays on simple Classical & Historical Subjects
(2) Essays on miscellaneous subjects
General History – 中學用教科書西洋史上卷
English Literature: Aesop’s Fables
English Grammar – Nesfield’s Grammar Book III.
Translation – simple exercises
English Dictation – from English text or simple story books
Arithmetic – Beginning with Hall & Steven’s School Arithmetic
Algebra – beginning with Hall & Knight’s Elementary Algebra
Geography – [left blank]
Chinese Painting – Flowers & Landscapes
Nature Study: 中學用教科書植物學

Middle School Second Year:

Confucian Classics:
The Four Books (continued from First Year Class)
Chinese History – continued from First Year Class
(1) 通鑑輯覽
(2) 本國史中學教科書
Literature: Selections from the following books:
(1) 古文辞[類纂?彙纂?]
(2) 古文評註補正
(1) Essays on Classical & Historical subjects
(2) Essays on miscellaneous subjects
General History – 共和國教科書西洋史下卷
Geography – 中學用外國地理教科書上下卷
English Literature: Stories from Arabian Nights
English Grammar:
The parts of speech & simple parsing
Book – Nesfield’s Grammar Book III
Translation of short pieces
English Composition – exercises on simple subjects
English Dictation from English text or story books
Arithmetic – continued from First Year Class.
Book; Hall & Steven’s School Arithmetic
Algebra – continued from First Year Class
Book; Hall & Knight’s Elementary Algebra
Nature Study – 中學用教科書礦物學動物[每?]一冊

Middle School Third Year:

Confucian Classics:
The Four Books (continued from Second Year Class)
Chinese History – continued from Second Year Class.
(1) 通鑑輯覽
(2) 中學用教科書本國史
Literature: Selections from the following books:
(1) 古文[類纂?彙纂?]
(2) 六朝文絜
(3) 古文評註補正
(1) Essays on Classical & Historical subjects
(2) Essays on miscellaneous subjects
General History: Great Men and chief events of the world.
Book: “Scenes from European History” by G. B. Smith
Geography: General Geography of the World
Book: Long’s Geographical Series Book 1.
English Literature: Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare.
English Grammar: The parts of Speech, simple Parsing & Analaysis
Book: Nesfield’s Grammar Book IV.
Translation: E. to C. & C. to E.
English Composition
(a) “Specimens of Short Essays” Book 1
(b) Exercises
English Dictation: Seen & Unseen pieces
Arithmetic – continued from Second Year Class
Book: Hall & Steven’s School Arithmetic
Algebra – continued from Second Year Class
Book: Hall & Knight’s Elementary Algebra
Geometry – to begin with Hall & Steven’s School Geometry Parts I – IV.
Physics – to begin with Gorton’s “A School Course in Physics
Principles of Economics:
中學用經濟學教科書 (supplemented by English Notes)
Chinese Painting: Flowers & Landscapes

Middle School Fourth Year:

Confucian Classics:
(a) The Four Books (continued from Third Year Class; to be completed to cover up [to?] the University syllabus)
(b) One section of the “Five Classics” as required by the University syllabus for the year concerned.
Chinese History:
The Earliest times to the Sui Dynasty or the Tang Dynast to the Ming Dynasty as required by the University syllabus of the year.
(1) 通鑑輯覽
(2) 本國史中學教科書
Literature: Selections from the following books:
(1) 古文[類纂?彙纂?]
(2) 文選
(3) 駢文筆法百篇
(4) 唐詩三百首
(5) 十八家詩鈔
(1) Essays on Classical & Historical subjects
(2) Essays on miscellaneous subjects
(3) Ping Man
(4) Poetry
General History:
The outlines of European History in the nineteenth Century
(this period has been stuck to in order to make the students understand the growth of modern nations & the sources of modern systems).
Book: History of Western Europe by James Harvey Robinson (to be helped by summary & supplementary notes given by the teacher)
General geography of the world as required by the University syllabus.
Book: Longman’s Geography series Book II.
English Literature:
Set book or books as required by the University syllabus of the year
English Grammar:
The parts of speech & their uses; Parsin; Analysis; Explanation of Idioms as required by the University syllabus
Book: Nesfield’s Grammar Book IV. (supplemented by notes on Idioms).
Translation: E. to C. & C. to E. Encluding [sic] passages from the Four Books.
English Composition:
(a) “Specimens of short Essays” Book II
(b) Exercises
English Dictation:
Seen & Unseen pieces
Arithmetic: As required by the university syllabus of the year
Book: Hall & Steven’s School Arithmetic
Algebra: As required by University syllabus
Book: Hall & Knight’s Elementary Algebra
Geometry: As required by University syllabus
Book: Hall & Steven’s School Geometry
Trigonometry: so far no time could be spared for this subject
Book Keeping – so far this subject not yet taught.
Principles of Law:
Book: 中學用法治教科書 (supplemented by English notes)
Book: “An Elementary study of Chemistry” by Mc Pherson & Henderson (Chinese equivalents for technical terms supplied by the teacher).

Interestingly, the report also includes works assigned for teaching training (“normal school”):

Normal School First Year:

Normal School Second Year:

From this we can get a closer look of the distribution of the mix of Chinese classical education with integration, increasingly, of English language materials and Western history in Chinese and English. Some of the textbooks can be found online and I have linked to online editions from before the year the report came out, where I think I have found something similar.

  1. Records of the Department of State Relating to Internal Affairs of British Asia, 1910-29 Roll 18 846g Hong Kong  

  2. Enclosure No. 2 to report of Harold Shantz, “Educational System of Hong Kong”  

Japanese and English Bilingual Seminars and Workshops

Sayaka Chatani, Hiro Fujimoto, and Maho Ikeda are starting a new bilingual Japanese and English research exchange seminar series. The first of these is coming up on 18 May: an online manuscript workshop featuring a manuscript workshop with Yuri Ōkubo, “Ambivalent Aspirations: Okinawan Collaboration with the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”. You can register for this Zoom event online here.

As Sayaka, who was one of our early Frog in a Well members, puts it, “Use Japanese or English, whichever you feel more comfortable speaking in, to participate.” I find this to be a really exciting new initiative that I hope will really take off.1   This kind of multilingual spirit is similar to the one Frog in a Well was founded on back in 2004 (see our first post here). As a starting PhD student, I had hoped to develop an online space where scholars studying Japan, China, and Korean, across several humanities disciplines could post in either English or, for each of three blogs, Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. It didn’t work out that way, mostly due to my own failure to build up and sustain a community of posting graduate students and academics writing in languages other than English.

I have, however, seen great examples of the kinds of events Sayaka describes: truly multilingual spaces for academic exchange around the study of East Asian history. In Japan, I have really enjoyed being part of some small workshops that had both Chinese and Japanese languages as their working languages. In Taiwan, I have enjoyed some roundtables and talks that were bilingual Chinese and English. In Korea, I’ve been to both a Korean-Japanese bilingual workshop and a Korean-Chinese bilingual conference, and numerous events where Korean and English mixed. When they work well, the more free flowing discussion sessions often include lots of code-switching as technical terms and phrases are dropped in with the other language or a switch of language can heighten dramatic emphasis.

The place I have seen the most reluctance to try things like this is the United States – the world’s heart of English language chauvinism. There are certainly exceptions, including some wonderful Japanese studies workshops organised by Carol Gluck at Columbia University over the years. Unlike the fully bilingual events I have experienced in East Asia, these also usually included at least some sequential translation or summaries, especially during open discussion sessions. I think these Columbia workshops were easily the most stimulating academic exchanges I witnessed during my years as a student in the US.

When I have proposed such events myself, or lamented their absence, I’ve sometimes been told that these kinds of bilingual events are exclusionary. I find such responses bewildering. As if, by making an event that is primarily targeting a highly specialized group of experts English only, we are somehow being more inclusive? I think there are two ways to respond to this.

1) The first is what we might call the 最起碼的要求 or “minimum requirement” argument for scholars of East Asia. I don’t think it is an unreasonable expectation for scholars of Japanese history, for example, to know Japanese, as a bare minimum. The Chinese version of this phrase pops into my mind because I can hear the voice of a Chinese student I overheard many years ago commenting to a friend after someone asked whether an upcoming Japanese language roundtable, in Japan, on Japanese colonialism, would include English translation for the benefit of a few foreign students in the audience. Simply put: if you are going to study and publish about the region, learn the relevant language. At the very least be able to read and understand it, even if you are uncomfortable in presenting or publishing in it. Yup, it’s hard. Nope, I don’t want to hear your excuses. What’s that you say? You only understand 75% of what is said in the relevant language when those academics start talking back and forth at a rapid fire pace?

2) This brings me nicely to the second response, which we might refer to as the “Welcome to the fucking party” argument, or without the profanity, the problem of forgotten exclusion. At most international conferences, but to be honest, pretty much any event at a large international institution, your audience is likely to include non-native speakers of English. They may be really fantastic at English. You might never have heard them make an error, and their writing may only occasionally give away the fact that they worked damn hard for many years to master the maddening English language on top of their own. However, many of these participants won’t necessarily catch everything speakers say during talks, and they may have just a bit less willingness to join the fray in discussion if they have to produce polished academic speech on the fly. They may be unfamiliar with particular accents or idiomatic phrases. Their understanding may struggle more when the exchange speeds up in open discussion sessions. They may drift off for a minute only to discover that the loss of context makes it hard to follow the discussion when they re-focus. Their heads may start to pound after prolonged concentration and they may be less confident their fluency in their non-native language will hold up when fatigued.

If these things sound familiar to native English speakers then it is likely that you have experienced something similar in another language you are otherwise confident in, and it should be easier for you to flip the board and view things from the other side. These facts don’t change just because English is some kind of academic lingua franca. By making a specialist event bilingual, choosing a second language that everyone should know given the content/context of a particular event (of course, I’m not claiming general interest events need to do this – context matters), and giving people the freedom to speak the language they feel most comfortable in throughout, you take a serious step taken towards levelling the playing field. The outcome is never 100% mutual understanding and perfect dialogic utopia. A bilingual environment is one in which everyone except the native bilingual participants has to struggle at least a little bit. In that shared struggle is born a kind of mutual compassion that produces the best kind of academic exchange.

  1. I see there is another bilingual event coming in 1 June, with a “new books from Japan” series『医学とキリスト教 日本におけるアメリカ・プロテスタントの医療宣教』by 藤本大士. Register here. Both of these events are through the recently founded Modern Japan History Association.  

Cleaning Up Tables from Primary Sources in ChatGPT

I’ve been following with interest the debates around the rapid emergence of powerful large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, its Bing sibling Sydney, Meta’s Galactica, and Google’s Bard. One important recent discussion of this can be found here. My current status: deep concern mixed with pragmatic curiosity.

Summation of United States Army Military Government Activities in Korea (March, 1946)

Given the propensity of ChatGPT (mid-February, 2023 version) to happily invent facts, people, nonexistant citations, and quotations, I’m not yet too worried about how this impacts historical essays produced by students. However, while its shortcomings in this regard may give only temporary relief as these models evolve, it also limits its usefulness for quick information lookups on things you are not already expert enough on to call bullshit on. So are there any current use cases for historians? I stumbled on one potential use through a post on Mastodon: apparently, ChatGPT is not bad at cleaning up and formatting tables from raw text.


To test this, I took some very badly formatted data from a single table randomly chosen from my photo of a March, 1946 issue of a Summation of United States Army Military Government Activities in Korea. Here is a view of the original table:

Here is the poorly formatted text extracted from this:

From   To    Quantity (in suk)
Cholla Pukto  Seoul  32,000
             Inchon       6,000
                           Mukko       8,000
                       Chechon  2,000
                       Wonju  2,000
                       Chunchon    8,000
Cholla Namdo    Mukko              8,000
Chung Chong Pukto       Seoul 4,500
Chung Chong Namdo   Seoul 36,000
                Inchon          6,000
Kyong Sang Pukto   Chechon       5,000
                 Mukko    7,0000

Now give ChatGPT the instructions to clean up the table:

This produced the following:

Selecting the text from the entire table, copying (from Firefox browser, in my case) and pasting it directly into (Mac) TextEdit or Microsoft Word retained the table formatting perfectly. But here it is again below. I asked ChatGPT to reproduce the table as HTML for easy copy/paste here with prompt: “reproduce this table as html”:

From To Quantity (in suk)
Cholla Pukto Seoul 32,000
Inchon 6,000
Mukko 8,000
Chechon 2,000
Wonju 2,000
Chunchon 8,000
Total 58,000
Cholla Namdo Mukko 8,000
Chung Chong Pukto Seoul 4,500
Chung Chong Namdo Seoul 36,000
Inchon 6,000
Total 42,000
Kyong Sang Pukto Chechon 5,000
Mukko 7,0000
Total 12,000

You might notice that the model added “total” where it detected sub-totals for some sections. Also notice that the mistakenly transcribed 7,0000 is converted to 7,000 in the reply, but back to 7,0000 in the HTML table when I requested it in the next prompt (h/t to Janis for noticing this). Clearly a reminder to check the results as carefully as with OCR outputs.

There are lots of other places online that offer services for cleaning up messy data, but I have had mixed results with them. This worked quite well and can potentially save a lot of time cleaning up tabular data in OCRs of historical documents.

Confucius at Eighty: Sufficiently Decayed or Ready for a Great Xi Change?

克己復禮 Keji fuli (restrain the self, restore the rites).

Kong Qiu, Kongzi, or Master Kong, known in English as “Confucius,” marked the passing of the decades:

At fifteen I set my heart upon learning.
At thirty, I had planted my feet firm upon the ground.
At forty, I no longer suffered from perplexities.
At fifty, I knew what were the biddings of Heaven.
At sixty, I heard them with docile ear.
At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own heart;for what I desired no longer overstepped the boundaries of right.

But eighty? Nothing. No help at all, perhaps because he had died?

So when I passed the age of eighty myself, I instead turned for advice to Koko, a supposedly Japanese character in W.S. Gilbert’s supposedly Japanese Mikado, who sings:

There is beauty in extreme old age.
Do you fancy you are elderly enough?
Information I’m requesting
On a subject interesting:
Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough?  

Are you old enough to marry, do you think?
Won’t you wait till you are eighty in the shade?
There’s a fascination frantic
In a ruin that’s romantic;
Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?

You can hear them sing it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VsJPYqWv6Y

If Master Kong had responded using Gilbert’s trimeter anapests it might have looked something like this, but even Gilbert could not have found a rhyme for that infernal nonsense “Confucius”:

Yes there’s beauty in extreme old age.
My feet are not yet planted in the ground.
I’m an octogenarian
Waiting to be centenarian
I’m a junzi who is waiting to be crowned.

At seventy, the dictates of my heart
Would never let me stray into the wrong.
I heard them with a docile ear
That turned into a fossil ear.
I’m still waiting to be crowned King Kong.

You venerate my lecture “table-scraps”
(That’s “Analects” in English) to begin.
Commentators periphrastic
Made my legacy dynastic,
But some Confucians lost it in the Qin.

The Han drew all together under Tian.
But Latter Han then fell apart again.
Three heroes dared to eat a peach,
And Buddhists called out each to each,
Before Tang Taizu centered it again.

The Neo-Way philosophers of Song
Revived my Dao and searched for living roots.
Their philosophies might vary
But were Sources for deBary
And ripened into many Zhu Xi fruits.[1]

In recent years I ‘ve seen a big Xi change,
With China’s roots pushed back 5,000 years.
If to legacies Confucian
We add Maoist Revolution
The sum is oligarchic engineers.

[1] Some texts have the variant “Juicy Fruits” ®

Group research assignments

Final report on group research assignment.

It  seems to have gone pretty well. Of the 22 students who finished the class 14 did the survey about it (anonymous, but they got points for it) All of them claimed to have liked the assignment, and learned something from it, and, most importantly, to have learned things from other students presenting their research and from the group part of it.

This is the third time I have done this.

Abortive Revolution (Modern China)

Group research project -Abortive Revolution

Taisho project (Modern Japan)

Syllabus blogging HIST 437 Modern Japan and the Taisho project

Huainanzi (Early China)

Failure to communicate -Huainanzi

The point of these assignments is for students to read some stuff, discuss it in their groups, present on it, and then (individually) write something based on their own reading and what their fellow students have presented.

I think there are a couple things to change in the future. There are two parts of the process that need fixed. Right now it goes

-Students pick a group of 1-3 people, and choose a set of readings.

 -Students read their individual reading, write an analysis of it, and then discuss it with their group.

 -The group writes a paper synthesizing the three readings, and does a presentation to the class on them

   -I think I will get rid of the group paper. It is sort of the same thing as the presentation, and getting them to synthesize it once (for the presentation) is enough. It tends to be hard enough to push them towards synthesis of the three readings and why they matter, rather than just pasting the three reading papers together. Students tend to draw more from the presentations than from the group paper anyway.

-Students write an essay based on their own readings and the presentations of the other groups.

    This is probably the biggest weakness. I try to write broad “questions” as topics for their essay, and then encourage them to narrow it down a bit. This is something that is difficult to do at the best of times. Maybe add a meeting with me to help with the question framing?

The other issue, of course, is how to do this for my other classes. The Republican period in Modern China, Taisho in Modern Japan and Huainanzi for Early China all fit nicely in the early/middle part of the class and lend themselves to questions about how this period (or at least some of the things going on it it). How to do this for my other two upper levels, Early Modern Japan and Late Imperial China? Those are both classes that focus more on social and cultural history, and don’t really have a clear middle bit that would work for this.

Maybe for Japan something like “Representation and reality” focusing on elites and the reading public tried to understand and represent the society around them? For China maybe something on the shi as doctors to society? In other words, rather than something chronologically central, maybe more socially central?

The Banality of a New Spirit Movement 새마음운동

While poking around for English language materials to offer students on post-1945 South Korea, I came across The New Spirit Movement, a 1979 collection of short speeches by Park Geun-hye (Pak Kŭnhye, Park Keun Hae), president from 2013-2017 and thereafter convicted and jailed until 2021 on charges of bribery and various abuses of power. I believe the work is an English language edition of 『새마음의 길』published in the same year.

Park was daughter of the Korean president and dictator Park Chung Hee, who took power following a 1961 military coup and ruled as president from 1962 until his assasination in October, 1979. Her mother was also killed in 1974, after which the daughter stepped into something of a first lady role. One of the roles that Park Gyeun-hye embraced was as one of the leaders of a “New Spirit Movement” (새마음운동, also translated as New Mind, New Heart and New Spirtual Movement) in the late 1970s, a “vague and ineffective” campaign to “reform the thinking pattern of people.”1

This vagueness can be seen throughout this collection of speeches. It reminded me of the kind of warm good feeling fluff I had seen in lots of materials of another more international movement, the Moral Re-Armament movement, as well as Chiang Kai-shek’s “New Life Movement” (新生活運動), an observation already made by David Steinberg in a 1982 review article.2

In another 1980 piece discussing the movement, Hans U. Luther quotes one informant as saying “Not two persons could provide a definition for [the New Spirit Movement] that they would agree” and two others: “To the young female clerk at the post office, Saemaum is a term she could not being to define. But if she is asked what she did for Saemaum, she can tell about the flowers she helped to plant around the post office a month or two ago. To the taxi driver the Saemaum program might mean not spitting out the window of his vehicle.”3

All About the 충효예 忠孝禮

So what does Park herself (or whoever composed the speeches) have to say about the movement in a book of some 130 pages (in the English version)?

Park giving a speech to students at a New Spirit Movement. On the wall behind her: 忠孝禮는 우리 마음의 거울 (ch’ung-hyo-ye are the mirror of our heart/spirit).

Without a doubt the keywords in this “new” movement is a move to cultivate “traditional” values, the most important of which are loyalty (ch’ung 충 忠), filial piety (hyo 효 孝) and propriety (ye 예 禮). Anyone familiar with the history of the region will recognize here three of the key Confucian virtues, but one of the things I found interesting about this campaign and speeches is that, unless I’m mistaken, there is not a single mention of “Confucius”, “Confucianism”, or any specific Chinese classical text in the book. The closest it comes to this is, again vaguely, “The ways of chung, hyo and ye were expounded to the world by the sages of old” (120) and a mention of the Confucian scholar Yi Yul-gok (Yi I, 98). In contrast, a whole speech is dedicated to the compatability of the New Spirit Movement with Buddhism, as Park speaks to a hall of monks.

As the reader moves through one repetitive and vacuous speech on moral and spiritual reform to another, it becomes quickly clear that these three core concepts of loyalty, fillial piety, and propriety not only seriously overlap, but that they are such capacious concepts, that Park is able to fill them with almost anything.

Ch’ung is the key to an advanced nation, where “one can drink good coffee in any coffee shop” and ensuring that “when we make an appointment, the spirit of chung directs us to be there on time.” (17) Hyo (at level of family and nation) seems to be the only thing that can give humans purpose: “Suppose a schoolchild gets 100 marks in an examination but has no parents or family to whom he can brag about his performance. Suppose a sports champion wins in a world competition but has no fellow countrymen with whom he may rejoice and no fatherland to which he may bring back the glory. Then, what is the good of the triumph?” (39) As for Ye, “it is an act of propriety to answer respectfully the call of one’s parents and elders; it is an act of propriety to share food with a hungry person…keeping a promise is an act of propriety” (28).

Park doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the fact that care for one’s elders is sometimes filial piety and sometimes propriety; or keeping promises is sometimes about loyalty and sometimes propriety. In fact, in the speeches in the second half of the book, in the vast majority of cases, Park seems to give up disaggregating them entirely and merely refers to “chung, hyo and ye” or, sometimes, just the “new spirit” when she describes what virtue is manifest in an action. This new spirit calls on Koreans to suck it up and properly learn the honorifics of the Korean language. “Some say [they] are difficult to grasp. But I wonder if such people are not really shifting the blame from themselves to the language…If we are going to claim to be a cultured people, we should not expect everything to be simple.” (77), to behave yourself when in a foreign country (79, 87), stop pollution (91-93), and reprimand naughty children (56). Fairly often, she seems to get bored by the specificity of the examples entirely, and will roll out broad generalizations: “Our Campaign for a New Spirit impels us to reflect on and remedy all wrongs in all areas of our life.” (78)

Reading, or rather skimming, through these extremely repetitive speeches, one gets the impression you can tell more from the final lines of each speech that identify the audience Park is speaking to than anything else in them: ch’ung, hyo, and ye mostly become highly malleable containers for her to fill with whatever content best addresses whatever the message of the day is to a particular group.

Ironies and Aftermaths

In the relatively few places I have seen the 새마음 movement discussed, it has most often been connected as growing out of, or connecting to the much more famous “New Community Movement” (새마을운동). An interesting contrast can be seen between the New Spirit movement and Park Chung Hee’s publications on the New Community movement, such as in the English edition of Saemaul : Korea’s New Community Movement (1979) or his earlier musings in 1964 Our Nation’s path; Ideology of Social Reconstruction, with their relatively more concrete political program and, in the latter case, a negative assessment of the role of Confucianism on Korea’s past.

Unlike the more substantive debates on what was or was not an outcome of the New Community Movement, most of what I found in a cursory search doesn’t suggest that this campaign amounted to much more than some big gatherings to listen to Park Geun-hye and line up to meet her. I see Park was involved in a 새마음 hospital of some kind, though I don’t know what connections it has to the movement. One short piece suggests that the movement pops up again in a corporate setting in recent years.4

One irony of this moral reform movement is, of course, that rather than a paragon of moral virtue, Park came to personify corruption and the abuse of power. Her presidential record and the scandal that led to her eventual conviction has been explored in great depth by journalists, many of whom have looked back at her political career in the 1970s. Through our St Andrews library, I don’t have access to Korean academic databases to dive deeper into the scholarly literature on the campaign, but the most detailed exploration of the New Spirit movement and its contemporary political connections I came across comes in a 2015 Hankyoreh piece which explored the New Spirit Movement in connection with debates on textbook reforms: 2015년 ‘새역사 운동’ 뿌리는 1970년대 ‘새마음 운동’ (IA) together with this 2014 OhmyNews piece: 새마음운동으로 유신독재의 주역이 된 박근혜 (IA)

The more direct connection between this 1970s campaign and Park’s final years as president comes from the fact that a founding leader of the movement was the former colonial police officer and cult leader Ch’oi T’ae-min (최태민). Ch’oi had long exerted influence on Park, and, following Ch’oi’s death, his daughter, Ch’oe Sun-sil (최순실), who was also a leader in the movement, played the most central part in the scandal that brought Park’s downfall. This Korea Times article (IA) claims that the New Spirit volunteer organisation (새마음 봉사단) was created by Ch’oi T’ae-min in 1975 when he renamed an earlier National Salvation religious organisation (구국선교단) was renamed. I’ve seen a lot of different claims floating around about what, in practice, all these various 새마음 organisations (a hospital, a school, university organisation, buddhist group, and factory laborers) actually did in practice, other than line up in large numbers to hear Park’s speeches, but I haven’t seen all the evidence lined up myself. At the very least, the movement was a clear early example of bringing together these three figures. There is some nice footage (including two of the screenshots included above) in this news clip, 뉴스타파 – 최순실+박근혜 ’40년 우정’ 동영상 발굴 (IA), showing Park and Ch’oi Sun-sil together at a New Spirit Movement event at Hanyang University with a cameo appearance from former president Yi Myŏng-pak (이명박 Lee Myung-bak), who was also convicted for corruption and abuse of power.

The same year as the Hanyang University event in the clip, and only a few months before her father’s assasination, Park’s collection of speeches 『새마음의 길』(The Way to a New Spirit) was published, which I assume is the same work as the very rapidly translated New Spirit Movement. The leading conservative daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo reviewed the work in March (1979.3.10 p5), gushing with praise:

저자의 문장은 세련되어있 다. 저자의 話法은 有情의 對話와 같다.
전혀 구호나 이데올로기의 선전은 없다.

The author’s style is refined. Their manner of speaking is that of a warmhearted conversation. The work is completely free of slogans or ideological propaganda.

In a way, I agree with this assessment. Relatively vacuous moral/spirital political campaigns such as the New Spirit Movement, Moral Re-Armament, New Life movements, etc., which thrived most in deeply anti-Communist contexts, as they yearned to generate enthusiasm for innocuous broad umbrella “Do good better best, like we used to, but in a fresh new way” campaigns. There were plenty of slogans in the campaign itself, seen on banners hanging all around Park when she gave these speeches, but like the speeches themselves, they had to be almost empty of meaningful concrete content that might generate controversy: the banality of moral reform campaigns seems here to be on full display.

  1. Juergen Kleiner Korea: A Century of Change (2001), 157.  

  2. David I. Steinberg, “Development Lessons from the Korean Experience–A Review Article,” The Journal of Asian Studies 42, no. 1 (1982): 95.  

  3. Hans U. Luther “Government Campaigns in South Korea: Exorcism and Purification of Nature and People” Internationales Asienforum no. 1-2 (1980), 63.  

  4. 새마음운동을 생각한다  매일경제 2013.11.11 IA  

Drawings in the North Korean Magazine Hwalsal/Hwasal

I’ve been watching Twitter not-so-slowly go into decline and it has made me reflect on  how, increasingly over the last decade, I’ve been sharing fun sources by twitter thread than on the Frog in a Well blog here. I’ve since made the move to Mastodon (@konrad@coop.social) but for whatever reason, that new home seems like a better place to share links to blog entries instead than confusing threads with short posts. I’ve downloaded a backup of all my old tweets and thought I would start picking out some of the source related threads I’ve posted there to share again here in the form of blog posts.

This first post will share a series of images I came across back in May, 2021 while browsing the issues of the North Korean journal Hwalsal (활살)/Hwasal (화살) or “The Arrow”, which can be found in the wonderful Library of Congress digitized North Korean Serials collection. This publication (looks like Hwalsal 활살/弓矢 is a variant and was common in Hamgyŏng dialect, the journal switched to Hwasal in 1959) is full of political artwork and slogans, a few of which I have shared below.

The reactionary author (활살 1956.5):

Taking out the paperwork-ist’s compost (활살 1957.3):

The blindness of the “Empiricist’s planning” (화살 1959.4):

The subjectivist puts together its agricultural plan (화살 1960.3):

Making imperialism puke out its colonies (화살 1959.2):

North and South Korea compared (화살 1961.9):

At the new Pyongyang zoo, the animals will tell you if they are gifts from the Soviet Union, China, or Mongolia (화살 1959.8):

An employer who doesn’t understand the Juche ideology. All these books, and yet not a single volume on Korean history (활살 1956.4):

Things detrimental to agriculture: locusts, sparrows, weeds, and idlers (활살 1958.4):

“The Dogmatism Machine” (활살 1956.5)

“Life changes with every step.” (활살 1956.2):

Aesop’s ant and the grasshopper fable put to work (활살 1955.9):

Beware the poisonous bourgeois thought found in reactionary literature (활살 1956.2):

Self criticism will save you from carrying your bureaucratism bundle off the cliff into the jaws of capitalist thought. (활살 1955.5):

Stopping floods and drought by planting trees. (활살 1954.3):

Heading to work. Yesterday vs today. (활살 1958.12):

Group research project -Abortive Revolution


Here is the semi-final list of topics for the group research project. So if you want a definitive list of all the things that were going on in Republican China… This is not it. More a list of things I came up with, but it does cover a lot of ground.

Abortive rev topics-E

This Fall I will again be having students do a group research project. They will split into groups and read some articles and present on them and then write something based on what everyone has presented. (Some links to previous versions of this type of thing below).


Here is a draft of the project assignment, along with a start of a list of possible readings. Any advice about possible topis is welcome!




Failure to communicate -Huainanzi

Taisho Project assessment