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Zheng Yangwen

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.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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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.

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Zheng Yangwen
in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

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.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

This chapter explores Chinese efforts at indigenising Christianity and this could not have been more obvious than with the Taiping Rebellion. It explains why both the Qing’s intellectual elite and foreign missionaries shunned the Taiping Rebellion. It also probes the strange alliance to suppress the Taiping between the Westerners who waged the Second Opium War on China and the Qing regime.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

This chapter examines the origins of the late Qing reform and exposes the difficulties as the conservative and reformist factions battled each other both at court and around the country. Although many historians have argued that the reform was a failure, this chapter singles out a few cases to highlight the foundation it laid for later reforms and the overseas connection which would open a new door for China.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

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.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

The first decade of the twentieth century saw anti-Qing insurrection culminate in the 1911 Nationalist Revolution. But the new Nationalist government of the Republic of China had neither the power nor the means to manage the country. Revolutions of different kinds, from ideological to literary, from feminist to cultural, were also taking place and it was these that were really changing the country.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

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.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History
Zheng Yangwen

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.

in Ten Lessons in Modern Chinese History