Asian History Carnival #1

Map of Asia, 1784

Welcome to the first Asian History Carnival! The deadline for submissions was 10/10, which just happened, this year, to fall on the holiday of Columbus Day (observed in Hawai’i as “Discover’s Day“). Columbus, as we all know, never made it to Asia, in no small part because he was relying on the geographically unsound writings of Marco Polo. In honor of this conjunction, I’ve composed a haiku, and because this is a blog carnival, there are links:

Marco Polo wrote
a bad book about China;
Columbus read it.

In honor of the tradition of Marco Polo, we will take our virtual journey from West to East. And we won’t be terribly picky about geography. Since this is the first AHC, I’m also going to take considerable liberties to introduce certain particularly good Asian history bloggers (who might host future editions?).

Middle East
Our first stop is a 3rd century Syrian …. what? (it’s a quiz, I don’t want to ruin the surprise)

Central Asia
The honor of the first submission to the first AHC went to J. Otto Pohl, proprietor of the Carnival of Diasporas, with his History of Cotton in Uzbekistan.

Sepoy is one of my favorite bloggers, so it’s hard for me to pick from his œuvre. There’s the posts on drugs and games, Madrasas and Pehlwani, rebel warriors and, my personal favorites, on language. His facility for erudite procrastination makes him one of my favorite writers.

Southeast is running a series of historic photos of Bangkok, like this collection of 1920s images from a Japanese documentary.

Alan Baumler has a great facility with images and with complicated historical and cultural issues.

Natalie Bennett did a very nice review of the Chinese women’s language Nushu, much easier reading than most of the academic treatments I’ve fallen asleep over.

Andrew Meyer, who has one of the coolest blog names I know, attempted meta-history, which got a little conversation going. He didn’t go quite as deep as to deny the existence of China, but it was still interesting.

The Angry Chinese Blogger seems to focus on controversies, like the lawsuit regarding the hundred-head race, textbooks and the degradation of the Great Wall in the face of development.

Owen Miller writes quite a bit on Korean history: for his “best foot forward” he offered to share his old book collection, in this case mid-20c Korean materials with fascinating histories. Miller also recommended Antti Leppanen’s Finnish language (but with lots of English links) Korean History course blog.

Konrad Lawson did some very nice work in Korean history a while back (and more to come, I’m sure): among my favorites were his discussions of the language and reality of slavery and an old geography text.

Todd Crowell, whose blogging is really just an offshoot of his fine reportage, notes the end of almost four decades of Narita protests.

Imperialism is a running theme in blogging about Japanese history, for obvious reasons. Jane Pickard used Kenkoku Kinen no Hi to talk about imperialism and anti-emperor sentiment in her family. Joi Ito used his impressively deep family history to talk about Japan’s new National ID system. Mutant Frog (no, they’re not a heretical offshoot of our group, really!) noticed that the Kodansha publishing house had an imperialistic background. And in the cultural imperalism category, KokuRyu noted both some successes and some problems in Japanese archaeology.

Without question the most controversial post on Frog in a Well so far has been Tak’s Jared Diamond piece. Konrad Lawson’s been plumbing the depths of historical memory, in the form of nostalgia and movies.

Finally, some of my own meanderings. A question about 1590s warfare led to Stephen Turnbull’s history of the Japanese invasions of Korea, which led me to read Turnbull’s Ninja.

Special thanks to Konrad Lawson, Natalie Bennett, J. Otto Pohl, Manan Ahmed and Owen Miller. All errors of fact, spelling, interpretation or tone are entirely my fault. Probably.

Wanna waste some time? Simon World’s Asian Blogroll is your one-stop shop.

The position of host is open! If you’re an Asian history blogger, you can volunteer to host the 12/12 edition! Or, just write some good history between now and then, and share it with all of us. Contact me.


  1. Congratulations on doing a splendid job on putting this together. Although I know why you defined Asia as you did for this carnival, I think the definition is still open for historical debate. In particular the boundries between Europe and Asia have historically been fuzzy. I am hoping that in future carnivals there can prehaps be some meta-theme on the difficulty of marking the line between Europe and Asia in the past. This of course has present day implications regarding the place of the Turkish Republic and the Russian Federation, both of which are neither completely European or Asian.

  2. I think this is faboo. You might remember me complaining when I hosted the Early Mod Carnivalesque that I had few Asia posts to offer. Hopefully this Carnival will bring more Asian history bloggers to everyone’s attention! Thanks!

  3. Thanks. Since I work in East Asia, I’ve largely been able to ignore the fuzzy borderlands issue (though it gets complicated in the industrialized age, for other reasons). I’m not sure there’s been, recently, a sufficiently coherent argument about “an Asia” that would make sitting on the border more interesting than any other cross-cultural interaction, but I’m open to arguments.

    Non Sequitur: A colleague reminded me that 10/10 is the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Republic! A bit more relevant than Columbus Day, to be sure. I must remember to check the calendar next time.

  4. Thanks for giving attention to my course blog (Issues of Contemporary Korean History)! I knew from the start that keeping it in English would have provided for a wider audience, but since I don’t have many opportunities besides teaching to use my own language, I use it by principle also in the blog. (And I can also hide from the wider audience the fact that I’m not really a specialist on the subject, just an anthropologist of contemporary Korea…)

  5. Jonathan: Isn’t the Hawai‘i designation for Columbus Day Discoverers’ Day, not Explorers’ Day. You have to actually find something before you achieve fame and fortune. You can’t just sail around looking. It’s the difference between publication and research, isn’t it?

  6. Sir,

    Shame, shame, shame. That there is no haiku.

    Haiku properly have seasonal words, for a start. In Japanese they go go-shichi-go, but in English, well, not so much. You could look at the Oct. 22 post on my blog to get yourself up to speed on this much misunderstood genre, or better yet check out some of the links under “Haiku in English” on the right hand side.

    It’s a funny little ditty though and I applaud you for it. However, I suggest you claim that it is a senryu. Senryu don’t need seasonal words.

    x Cheryl

  7. Hi!

    I don’t know if anyone might be interested, but a literary ePamphlet called The Poetic Image: haiku & photography is looking for submissions, of which I am guest editor.
    Submissions should be sent to Birmingham Words.

    Closing date: February 28th 2006
    Publication date: April 15th 2006

    Birmingham Words website: and just click onto Publications at the top of the webpage.

    Submissions are welcome from anywhere in the world.

    Alan Summers

    We are currently looking for submissions for our first Birmingham Words pamphlet:

    The Poetic Image: Haiku and Photography

    to be published in April 2006 and to be guest-edited by haiku poet Alan Summers.

    We are looking looking for submissions from poets and photographers. What we need are:

    haiku or any related forms (haibun, renga, tanka etc.)

    black and white photography (JPEGs only, please)

    The collection will be published online in PDF format and available for free download from this site.

    Please send submissions either in the body of an e-mail or as file attachments to:

    You may send up to five poems or two pages of poetry (whichever is shorter) and/or up to five photographs. Please also include your full name and a brief biography of no more than 50 words.

    All submissions must be the author’s own work and previously unpublished elsewhere.

    Unfortunately we are unable to pay contributors.

    We will respond to all submissions by the end of March 2006. Please read the submissions guidelines fully before submitting!

    Closing date: February 28th 2006
    Publication date: April 15th 2006

    The Birmingham Words Team

  8. Actually Marco Polo wrote an excellent book about Asia. So far I’ve only read the Central Asian (journey there) and Indian Ocean (journey back) parts for at least for these sections the book is both geographically accurate and culturally observant.

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