With the help of the Jesuits, the Qianlong emperor (often said to be Chinas Sun
King in the long eighteenth century) built European palaces in the Garden of
Perfect Brightness and commissioned a set of twenty images engraved on copper in
Paris. The Second Anglo-Chinese Opium War in 1860 not only saw the destruction
of the Garden, but also of the images, of which there are only a few left in the
world. The John Rylands set contains a coloured image which raises even more
questions about the construction of the palaces and the after-life of the
images. How did it travel from Paris to Bejing, and from Belgium to the John
Rylands Library? This article probes the fascinating history of this image. It
highlights the importance of Europeans in the making of Chinese history and
calls for studies of China in Europe.
Ten Lessons tells the story of modern China from the eve of the First Opium War to the Xi Jinping era. This was a most turbulent period of time as the Middle Kingdom was torn apart by opium, Christianity, modernisation, imperialists, nationalists, warlords and the Japanese, and as China reinvented and reasserted itself on the world stage in the post-Mao era. Unlike the handful of existing textbooks, which narrate without primary sources and without engaging with academic debate, Ten Lessons is devoted to students, from university to high school, as it uses extensive primary sources to tell the story of modern China and introduces them to scholarship and debates in the field of Chinese history and beyond. This will help students understand the real issues involved, navigate their way through the maze of existing literature and undertake independent research for essays and dissertations. The book also points out gaps and inadequacies in the existing scholarship, to encourage postgraduate studies. It is ‘mental furniture’ for the increasing army of journalists, NGO workers, diplomats, government officials, businesspeople and travellers of all kinds, who often need a good source of background information before they head to China.
May-Fourth intellectuals/revolutionaries blamed Confucianism for China’s problems but the ancient philosophy now lives in harmony with modernity. This chapter takes a look at China’s transformation from the unique perspective of sports, the arts and the family. A century of revolution and reform has seen the modernisation of these aspects of life in China; they teach us great lessons about change and continuity.
The death of Mao ended the Cultural Revolution and opened the way for Deng Xiaoping to undertake much-needed reform. Post-Mao economic reform has pulled millions out of poverty and enabled China to catch up with Western countries/economies. But this has been accomplished without political reform, which has led to a series problems that will continue to plague the CCP.
This chapter examines the Mao era (1949–1976), when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched many initiatives, the Great Leap Forward being one, to advance the country economically. But differences within the CCP led to a fierce power struggle that resulted in the Cultural Revolution. This brought the country to the brink of collapse and unprecedented suffering to the Chinese people and economy.
Women provide a great window for us to gauge the transformation of modern China. This chapter examines the lives and works of Chinese women from the late Qing to the post-Mao era. Although many historians believe that they were oppressed, this chapter will challenge this verdict on women’s liberation and it will also introduce students to the growing body of complex scholarship.
Nationalism did not save China, as the country disintegrated after the 1911 revolution. Warlords were able to control different parts of the country and they battled each other for power. This was further compounded by Russian–Japanese rivalry and the Japanese invasion. War seemed endless as the Chinese people were subjected to the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists after the end of the Second World War.
This chapter illustrates the Age of Empire in Asia as Britain, France, Russia, Germany and Japan took turns to batter the declining Qing. They carved out their spheres of interest and set up colonies; their encroachment roused resentment, which culminated in the Boxer Rebellion and added fuel to Chinese nationalism. Anti-imperialism would be a major political platform for revolutions to come.
This chapter traces the origins of the two Opium Wars; it charts the development of both of these Anglo-Chinese conflicts and discusses their consequences. It introduces students to the illustrious historiography and current debate and points out gaps in existing scholarship.