China’s Historic Studies in 2009

Paraphrased by Beijing Budding Flower International Cultural
Promotions Co., Ltd. from a summary written by Xiang Yannan &
Zhang Guorong for “China Studies in 2009”

In 2009 a series of articles giving overviews of historic studies in China since the founding fo the People’s Republic and since the opening up and reform in the last 30 years appeared in a number of journals and magazines, such as “Historic Studies”, “Studies of Modern History”, “Studies of Historic Theory” and “Historic Studies Monthly”.
Papers on historic theory, on history of historic studies and on the historic part in China studies include Lu Zhongfeng’s (卢钟锋) “Review and Thoughts on China’s History Studies in the New Period with the Studies on the Road of China’s Historic Development as the Clue” (in the No. 4 issue of “Historic Studies”), Qu Lindong’s (瞿林东) “Theoretic Achievement in Historic Studies and the Development of Studies on the History of China’s Historic Studies” (in No. 5 issue of “Historic Studies”), Qiao Zhizhong’s (乔治忠) “Research on the History of China’s Historic Studies” (in No. 7 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”) and Zhou xiangsen’s (周祥森) “Research and Thoughts on the Objectivity of Historic Cognition in the New Period” (in No. 9 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”).
In the field of ancient history studies, there were quite a number of writings including Zhang Guogang’s (张国刚) “Comments on Heated Issues in Studies of the History of the Tang Dynasty since Reform and the Opening Up” (carried on the No. 1 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”. In the field of studies on modern history, there were Zhang Haipeng’s (张海鹏) “The Establishment of Development of China’s Modern History in the Six Decades” ( in No. 5 issue of “Historic Studies”) and Li Xisuo’s (李喜所) “Studies on the Main Stream of China’s Modern History since Reform and the Opening Up” (in No. 3 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”).
As far as studies on special history are concerned, the third issue of “Historic and Geographical Studies on China’s Borders” invited such experts as Li Sheng (厉声) and Jia Jianfei (贾建飞) to give summaries and predictions of border studies, studies of historic borders in a country of multiple nationalities and studies on China’s border and neighboring regions. In the field of the history of culture, there was He Xiaoming’s (何晓明) “Studies of the History of Chinese Culture since Reform and Opening Up” (in No. 5 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”). In the history of legal system, there was Chen Zhaosi’s (陈兆肆) “Comments on the Studies of the History of Jail of the Qing Dynasty in Recent 30 Years” (in No. 5 issue of “The Forest of History”). 2009 saw the 30th anniversary of the journal “Studies of Modern History”, which published important research achievement in studies of modern history, carried a series of articles of review and summaries of the studies. The magazine “Research of Chinese History” carried seven papers to mark the century old study of “Dunhuang” and to review the past, to look at the present and predict the trend of studies of the subject matter.
A.    Features of Historic Studies in 2009
1, Highly sensetive on newly excavated documents. The Yuelu College of Hunan University and Qinghua University were most conspicuous in collecting respectively the bamboo slips of the Qin Dynasty and the Warring States period. The “Study and Protection Center of Unearthed Documents” of Qinghua University convened a symposium on June 15, 2009 on the bamboo slips of “Baoxun” (covered by Guangming Daily on the 12th page on June 29, 2009); shortly after the journal “Cultural Relics” carried in the third and sixth issues papers by Chen Songchang (陈松长) “A Review of Qin Dynasty Bamboo Slips Collected by the Yuelu College”, by the Study and Protection Center of Qinghua University “Interpretation of Warring States Bamboo Slips Entitled “Baoxun” and Collected by Qinghua University” and by Li Xueqin (李学勤) “A Few Issues on Bamboo Slips ‘Baoxun’ Collected by Qinghua”. The magazine “Research of Chinese History” followed suit by carrying, in its column of “Sorting and Study of Newly Unearthed Documents”, five papers on Qinghua Bamboo Slips and five on Yuelu College Slips. Other academic journals also paid much attention to newly discovered documents, for instance, “Forest of History” in its fourth issue carried some papers on the Qinghua Bamboo Slips. The use of new material was an important factor in pushing historic studies in 2009, searching and exploring historic material were as important, and the combination of the two, or the dual proof, has been a common approach of studies. Duan Yu’s (段渝) “Early Communications with the Outside in Southwest China—the Southern Silk Road in the Qin and Han Dynasties” (No. 1 issue of “Historic Studies”) was a result of studying records in ancient document and discoveries in archaeology, and his conclusion was that there was a southern silk road to middle Asia via India from southwest China.
2. The Introduction, Thinking and Application of New Theory and New Approach By the end of 2009, “Historic Studies” invited Deng Xiaonan, Liu Liyan, Bao Weimin, Liu Pujiang, Ke Jun and others to write about “researches on the history of Song, Liao and Jin periods” with the theme—“New Vision, New Topic and New Approach”. Liu Zongling’s (刘宗灵) “Body History and Studies on China’s Modern History—Comments on Huang Jinlin’s Works on Body History” (No. 3 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”) pointed out that new interpretation of history could be obtained when historic material is analyzed from the special triangle of body history. Yao Fei’s (姚霏) “A Preliminary Probing on the Hair-Cut Movement among Chinese Girls in Modern Times (1903-1927)—an Analysis from the Triangle of ‘Body’” (No. 3 issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”) was a trial of the mode of study in body history. At the same time Li Yuzai’s (李玉在) “Exploring the Sphere of Methods in Historic Studies” (No. 3 issue “Historic Studies Monthly”) is worthy of attention, because the paper tried to deal with the cognition problems in application of theory and method, the relationship between applying method and value judgment, the relationship between applying methods and description of big historic events. To some extend, the exploring of method at the level of cognition is something that should not be neglected in the studies of history in 2009.
3。Attention is still paid to and discussions continued on the cognition of the route of China’s historic development and the position of Marxist theory in China’s historic studies  Hou Xudong (侯旭东) was refuted by a number of scholars on his viewpoint that the political system from the Qin Dynasty to the Qing was not autocratic expressed in his article entitled “Knowledge Archaeology on Autocracy in Ancient China” carried in the 4th issue of “Modern History Studies” of 2008. Huang Minlan (黄敏兰) criticized Hou with facts and in the triangle of approaches of study in her article “What are the basis for denying ancient Chinese autocracy—discussions with Mr. Hou Xudong”, which was carried in the 6th issue of “Modern History Studies”; Wan Changhua (万昌华) did the same in his article “A Knowledge Archaeology that Deviated from the Basic Point” (issue no. 9 of “Historic Studies Monthly”); Ning Ke (宁可) expounded on the formation and evolution of the centralized power of China’s autocracy in his “China’s Centralized Autocratic System in the Feudalist Society” (issue No. 1 of “Literature, History and Philosophy”).
With the deepening of China’s reform and opening up, there have been diversified studies owing to the active vitality in the ideological and academic spheres. An issue that has often been asked is how to regard the guiding significance and methodology significance of Marxism and how to regard contemporary western academic theories. Zhang Haiping (张海鹏) held “a historian with vision should not discard the methodology and world outlook of Marxism while absorbing things valuable from western historic theories under the circumstances of changing and verified academic fields.” (issue no. 6, “Modern History Studies”) There ought to be some disputes in time to come as they are important theoretical issues; Tolerance towards different academic views may be an upside of the historic studies within China studies in 2009.
4. To reveal the modern value of the traditions of China’s historic studies in the comparison of Chinese and Western historic studies  The existence of the concept of China Studies is caused by the existence of Western Studies. Therefore, the features and values of China Studies can be made conspicuous only in comparison. China Studies would be lifeless if it departs from the world. One thing that is worth of mentioning is that the comparative studies in history in 2009 made some progress.
For a long time, the ordinary features of Chinese history have been affected by related treatise of Hegel in early 19th century. Even though Hegel was criticized by both Chinese and foreigners, yet, analysis in depth from the triangles of logic and history was seldom. In the first issue of “The Journal of Beijing Normal University” of 2009, Mr. Liu Jiahe (刘家和), in his “The Continuity and Unity of Historic Development—Comments on the Distortion by Hegel on the Features of Chinese History”, refuted Hegel’s viewpoint that China’s history is non-historic history from the triangle of logic and history with the comparison in history, historic studies and theories with a broad vision. This can be considered a dialogue with the west from the height of historic theories. Yang Nianqun (杨念群), in his “The Disputes between “Quality” and “Culture” and the Composition of Chinese Historical View” (issue No. 5 “Forestry of History”), analyzed the disputes between “quality” and “culture” in Chinese history and pointed out Chinese historical view has its own unique composition, which can not be explained or interpreted by the concepts of western historic evolution. These historic analysis with a comparison between Chinese and western studies, should no doubtedly be affirmed in the history part of China Studies.
Some historic comparisons by a few scholars are also worth commending, for instance, Dong Xinjie’s (董欣洁) “The Tradition of China’s General History and the Compilation of World History” (the 3rd issue of “Forest of History”, Xiang Yannan’s (向燕南) “Modern Factors in Traditional Historic Theories as Seen from the Triangle of ‘Yes/Should’” (the 12th issue of “Historic Studies Monthly”), Qiao Zhizhong’s (乔治忠) “Comparisons between Chinese and Foreign Historic Studies as Judged by the Viewpoints of Official History Writings in Ancient China” (the 2nd issue of “Historic Theories”) and Wang Chengjun’s (王成军) “Comparison of Trends and the Birth of Historic Studies on Chinese and Western Biographies” (the 3rd issue of “Historic Theories”). It is undoubtedly an opportunity to develop China Studies and a national duty for China study workers to re-discover the modern value of China’s traditional historic studies by way of comparison at a time when the mode of “modern” historic studies, which was marked with “rationality” and “scientific”, is encountering difficulties in ontology and cognition.
B.    There were some tendencies that are worth of attention in some special historic studies  Sociological theories, in particular ethnology, were adopted onto some conspicuous researches, most of which focused on the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the modern times, maybe because of the availability of historical material. To cite a few examples, Zhao Shiyu (赵世瑜) studied the cluster in towns of Shanxi and related cultural identification; Feng Erkang (冯尔康) studied patriarchal clans and sacrificial activities; Chen Baoliang (陈宝良) studied women’s life. Their research results were carried in “Studies of the Qing History”, “Studies of Anhui History” and “Fujian Forum”.
These sociological researches probed into such contents as social organizations, class status, patriarchal clans, women, refugees, calamity relieves, medical security, charity and so on.
With the overpowering of studies of the history of sociology, the studies of the history of culture were on the downside in 2009 compared with the upbeat in the 80s of last century; however, the studies were combined with that of the history of sociology, cultural phenomenon were examined in the society, for instance, Han Xiaoli’s (韩晓莉) “Rural Society as in Cultural Performance—Shanxi Yangge Drama and Rural Life at Late Qing and Early National Periods” tried to analyze the modern rural society from the triangle of Yangge Drama. Aside from the history of culture, the studies of the history of law were also affected by the studies of the history of sociology. 2009 saw some combined studies of law and sociology, for instance, Zhang Chengzong’s (张承宗) “Legal Issues Related to Women and Cases in the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Periods” (No. 2 issue of “The Journal of Nanjing Polytechnic University”) examined specific regulations about women in the aspects of marriage, rites, legality, personal and property right, and held that the social status of women didn’t change much at these periods; Zhang Yongping’s (张永萍) “Comparison of the Marriage System in the Tang and Western Xia” (No. 2 issue of “Hebei Academic Journal”) also adopted the method of combination of law and social histories. In the studies of the history of law in 2009, the studies of the legal systems of nationalities deserve recognition, in particular, Shao Fang’s (邵方) “Preliminary Exploration of the Litigation and Judicial Systems of the Western Xia” (No. 4 issue of “Comments on Laws”) and Jiang Xin’s (姜歆) “Review of Western Xia Codes from the Buddhist and Taoist Angles” (No. 4 issue of “Journal of Ningxia Normal University”).
Studies of economic history was as intense as before, and a lot of results were made public, including expounding of new issues based on the analysis of newly excavated material, for instance, Zhang Rongqiang’s (张荣强) “The Household Registration of the 20th Year of Jianyuan in the Former Qin Dynasty and Changes in the Han and Tang Household Registration Systems” (No. 3 issue of “Historic Studies”); opinions that were different from accepted ones were voiced, take Chen Shangsheng’s (陈尚胜) “On the Unfair Issues in Domestic and Foreign Trade in the International Trade Policies in Early Qing—Questioning the Exclusive Foreign Policy of the Qing Dynasty” (No. 2 issue of “Literature, History and Philosophy”) challenged the widely accepted opinions that the foreign trade policy of early Qing was closed and exclusive, and held that such an opinion was forced upon the Qing Dynasty by the British and other Western European industrial counties. It is very impressive that the studies of economic history were detailed and penetrating in 2009.
As far as the studies of political history in 2009 are concerned, the viewpoint that “live” history of system should be studied proposed by Deng Xiaonan (邓小南) and other scholars a few years ago received more support. The fruitful results include “The Birth and Evolution of the Basic Official Rankings—Studies on the Officer System in Northern Zhou, Sui and Tang Dynasties” (No. 1 issue of “Journal of Zhejiang University”) by Lu Xiangqian and Xiong Weizhi (卢向前、熊伟之), “The Rise and Fall of the Powers of the Eunuch Officials as Judged by the Changes on the Post of Meritorious Officer in the Tang and Five Dynasties” (No. 3 issue of “Studies of Religion”) by Zha Mingyao (查明昊) and “Time and Space Features of the Execution of the Duties of the Supervision Department in the Song Dynasty” (No. 5 issue of “Historic Studies”) by Yu Wei all paid attention to the evolution of systems and the mutual effect between political systems and the society.
However, opinions that much were to be desired in discipline construction and the growth of the academic system were voiced. Some held that the branching of modern disciplines has been hampering the deepening of historic studies.
In any case, 2009 is gone, we should place our hopes on 2010.