Anne Kerlan

Ruan Lingyu, an actress coming from the lower classes of Shanghai who became one of the most popular stars of the early 1930’s in Shanghai and China, seems to have climbed the social ladder in parallel with her film success. Such was her fame that, when she died in 1935, it is said that a hundred thousand people followed her coffin through the streets of Shanghai. Yet, while she died at the height of her fame, living with a wealthy tea merchant, she was buried in a pauper’s graveyard. We will take a closer look at this contradictory trajectory, questioning the double-sided status that saw the actress-star socializing with prominent members of the economic, political and cultural elites of her time, while being perpetually drawn back to her humble origins by some articles written in the press and films she starred in. Confronting the discourses and images produced about her or with her with the few factual data concerning her life we have, we will examine the unstable social status of this movie star, the places of sociability with which she was associated, the representations that were given of her private and public life in the press of the time, and the way in which the company that hired her, Lianhua film company, built her mediatic personality and played on these paradoxes. This paper will use documents from publications of the time (magazines, newspapers) as well as films of the actress to reconstruct and examine this trajectory.

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Bryna Goodman
University of Oregon

Speculative Figures” examines elite involvement and elite sociability in the financial speculation that was at the heart of Chinese stock exchange fervor. It also considers the stock exchange as itself an engine of social mobility and elite social transformation. Research in newspaper reportage and advertisement, Chamber of Commerce minutes, Japanese Ministry of Finance archives, and Chinese serialized fiction published at the time of the bubble permits discussion of both real and imagined, Chinese and Japanese “speculative figures” who were involved in the exchanges. The primary focus is on economic, intellectual, and cultural elites, and the operation of elite networks and institutions like the Shanghai Chinese Chamber of Commerce. My materials permit some tracking of the involvement of Japanese financial interests and Japanese collaborators in Chinese exchanges, attempts by Chinese authorities to govern the Chinese exchanges, and their struggles to govern unruly Chinese exchange entrepreneurs

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Cameron Campbell
We introduce a new study of kin networks of jinshi and juren examination degree holders. Entries for Jinshi (進士) and Juren (舉人) in 19th century Huishi (會試) and Xiangshi (鄉試) Tongnianchilu (同年齒錄) included the names, degrees, and positions held by kin of the degree holder beyond the patrilineal fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers who were the subject of Ho-Ping Ti’s (1962) classic study of elite social mobility, as well as more recent related studies. We have recently completed transcription of information for 786,635 kin of 28,694 19th century jinshi and juren degree holders. On average, jinshi listed 90 kin in their entries, and juren listed 22. Variation between degree holders in the number of kin listed was substantial. Some degree holders listed hundreds of kin, and a small number listed more than one thousand. These detailed information on kin networks will allow for quantitative assessment of Robert Hymes’  (1986) critique of Ho (1962): that many of the degree holders who were ‘new’ in the sense of not having a father, grand-father or great-grandfather who held a degree had other kin who held degrees or were otherwise of high status. We will present descriptive results on the types of kin recorded by degree holders, including an assessment of who was likely to record more or fewer kin, and initial results on the share of apparently ‘new’ men who had other male kin who held degrees. Beyond contributing to the study of elite social mobility in historical China, the information on distant kin recorded in the Tongnianchilu will be an important resource for the study of late Qing elites, because it will provide information on the larger social context of degree holders.
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Cécile Armand
ENS de Lyon

Since the Opium Wars in China (1839-1842), the foreign educated have been subjects of contrasting interpretations. These interpretations have oscillated between portraying them as champions of modernization and as instruments of foreign imperialism. However, the terminology “returned students” and the social group it signifies have often been accepted uncritically, without delving into the associated concepts and social narratives underpinning the study abroad movement.

This paper embarks on an exploration of the genesis of the returned students as a distinct social entity in modern China. It investigates their historical roots, development, and discursive practices from a multilingual and long-term perspective, utilizing vast digitized corpora from the Modern China Textbase (MCTB), including students journals (Chinese Students’ Monthly), Chinese newspapers (Shenbao) and English periodicals (China Weekly Review, China Press, North-China Herald). By leveraging computational techniques, including natural language processing (NLP) and text analysis, such as topic modeling, semantic networks, word embeddings, and sentiment analysis, this study seeks to address the following questions:

1. What terminologies were employed in English and Chinese to delineate this novel group? When and in what contexts did these terms surface in the press?
2. How were these individuals linked to the concept of modernization? What competing views and values did they embody? How did their characterization evolve over time?
3. Who were the primary proponents of these characterizations?
While this research places particular emphasis on American returned students, it also investigates the distinctions in representations and discourses compared to Chinese individuals who pursued education in other countries, such as Japan and Europe. What factors set them apart? Did they constitute a homogeneous community, or did they comprise diverse subgroups with conflicting interests?

By conducting a corpus-based investigation into the historical notions and cultural narratives surrounding foreign-educated elites, this study aims to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of China’s complex relationships with the Western world.

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Christian Henriot
Aix-Marseille Université

This paper explores the parallel yet interlocked journeys of three prominent merchants from Zhejiang who became key social and political brokers in modern Shanghai: Zhu Baosan (1848-1926), Yu Qiaqing (1867-1945), and Wang Xiaolai (1886-1967). Originating from relative social obscurity, they initially entered Shanghai’s bustling commerce as shop apprentices, with Wang Xiaolai being the exception who had passed the xiucai imperial examination and came with some social. Over time, each entrepreneur established a diverse portfolio of enterprises, ranging from banking and trade to shipping and manufacturing. They also cultivated expansive networks that extended well beyond their initial community circles. This study delves into their emergence in the public sphere, examining how public action served as a catalyst in propelling them to social and political prominence. Through their stories, the paper offers insights into the intricate interplay between individual agency, social networks, and public engagement in shaping influential figures in modern Shanghai.

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Christopher A. Reed
The Ohio State University

Learning from the Wise Men: KMT Elites and the Pedagogical State, 1928-37

Through close readings combined with archival research, my paper will examine a selection of articles published by leaders of the Chinese Nationalist Party (中國國民黨 [hereafter KMT]) in the journal, Central Weekly (中央週報 [ZYZB]). An internal circulation-only printed publication, ZYZB was published in Nanjing by the party propaganda department (宣傳部 [XCB]) from 1928. During the Tutelage Phase of state-building, it provided China’s ruling party a means of educating its membership, particularly at the lower levels of party membership, in party ideology. In this way, it contributed to Republican China’s “pedagogical state” (Culp, 2019).

The KMT and Sun Yat-sen first organized the XCB (Fitzgerald, 1996; Reed, 2015) in 1924. Four years later, with Sun dead, conflict with the Communists out in the open, and Nanjing proclaimed the new capital, this internal party propaganda department expanded its reach sufficiently to substitute for the party-state’s propaganda ministry (Reed, 2022). It also promoted the KMT’s more general efforts to subsume and replace state functions and institutions with its own.

Drawing on internal documents from Taipei’s KMT Archives and Nanjing’s No. 2 Archives, as well as on published articles attributed to a selection of the KMT’s “wise men” (Chiang Kai-shek, Hu Hanmin, Dai Jitao, Shao Yuanchong, etc.), this paper will address issues of party-state organization, inner party dynamics, and mobilization in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The social history of official print culture as revealed in Republican China’s propaganda dynamics will shed light on state-building by China’s early pedagogical state and will contribute to conference discussions of elite circulation (1), power and governance (2), intellectual and cultural elites (4), and elite networks and institutions (5).

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Dan Knorr
University of Cambridge

As the capital of Shandong Province, the city of Jinan had long served as a center of regional governance and a hub for inter-regional exchange. After 1850, the Taiping War and other crises intensified these functions, leaving indelible marks on both the material and social landscape of the city. In Jinan, local elites and provincial officials wielded new managerial powers, first via local militias and then in humanitarian and hydraulic projects. These phenomena suggest links to long-mooted narratives of localism, regionalism, and the emergence of an extra-bureaucratic public sphere in the late Qing period. However, in Jinan local elites’ cooperation with and even dependence on the government and the alignment of provincial administration with broader state interests belie crucial aspects of these narratives. Personal links, institutionalized cooperation across provincial boundaries, and the growing threat of foreign imperialism to Qing sovereignty did foster a sense of national belonging, but it was not inevitable that burgeoning nationalism would undermine the Qing state. Even in late 1911, members of Jinan’s elite class clung to hope that the Qing could be salvaged. This paper introduces the diverse and interlinked spheres of elite activism in Jinan and offers a new interpretation of the relationship between late Qing elites and the state. Rather than the emergence of a public sphere characterized by autonomy from the state, I argue that late Qing elite activism constituted an evolution of an imperial public that drew together elites in their disparate roles as members of local communities and imperial officials and that was itself the core of the Qing state. This public became increasingly nationalistic in form, but as Jinan’s history of inter-provincial entanglements illustrates, this change represented evolution rather than abrupt rupture and might have resulted in the reinvention of Qing rule rather than its demise.

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Eileen Chow 周成蔭
Shewo institut

This study focuses on Cheng Shewo (1898-1991), a pivotal figure in the history of modern Chinese journalism. From 1924-1945, Cheng Shewo built up a newspaper empire, mainly through his development of a series of innovative mass-oriented editorial strategies and scientific management techniques, as well as an extensive social network of journalists and writers. Operating from various locations such as Beiping, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, this newspaper group attracted notable figures including renowned novelist Zhang Henshui (1895-1967), journalists Zhang Youluan (1904-1990), Xiao Tongzi (1895-1973) from the Kuomintang, as well as Communist Party members Sa Kongliao (1907-1988) and Yun Yiqun (1905-1978).

This study employs biographical materials related to Cheng Shewo and his associates to conduct a historical social network analysis of the Cheng newspaper group. Through digitized interpersonal relationship traces, we investigate the the developmental trajectory of Cheng Shewo’s newspaper group and the organization of journalistic networks in different regions and examine how these networks contributed to shaping new spaces for discourse. Furthermore, we will look into how the newspaper group accumulated and utilized social resources, and how these resources flowed across different locations. Additionally, we explore the roles played by these journalists in the context of social changes, how they shared common values, and how they diverged in their political choices.

Through a thorough historical social network analysis, this research offers a fresh perspective on Cheng Shewo’s newspaper group. We shed light on the formation process of the newspaper group, revealing how its social networks influenced its developmental trajectory. Simultaneously, we gain an in-depth understanding of the operational dynamics of the newspaper group across different regions and time periods during the Republican era, as well as the roles and interactions of its members. This study contributes to the study of how Republican-era intellectuals established new conceptual and material spaces for free speech, while meeting the demands of market-oriented mass media practices.

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Gregory Scott
The University of Manchester

The New Commonwealth of Print: Rethinking Buddhist Elites in Modern China

For much of Chinese history, exemplary Buddhist monastics and laypeople could only gain widespread fame after they died. In order for their teachings and their biographies to reach a mass audience, they had to be first collected, compiled, and edited, and then carved on woodblocks, printed, and distributed. The arrival of mechanised movable type printing technology in China in the late nineteenth century, however, forever changed what was possible in the realm of print. Now, Buddhist ideas could be put to paper in mass quantities and distributed across the land within weeks instead of decades. Virtually all the Buddhist elite monastics and laypeople of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were already well-known during their own lifetimes, and indeed many attained their elite status through the power of their publications. This presentation will explore how this modern world of printing and publishing reshaped what was possible in the realm of Buddhist elites, side-lining those who could not or would not embrace it, propelling those who were masters of self-promotion to new heights of power, and transforming the relationship between the elite Buddhist author and their audience of readers. I will examine the trajectory of some monastic and lay authors who emerged from obscurity to become well-known figures through their publications, and will outline how publishers helped to establish these elite figures through advertisements, monographs, book series, and periodical articles. My argument will be that this new mass mechanised print culture generated opportunities for new types of Buddhist elites to emerge, and that these elites also had a reflexive influence on the publishing world that brought them to fame, reshaping this “commonwealth of print” according to their own aims and values.

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Gus Tsz-kit Chan
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

Modern Chinese Elites and China’s Introduction to Statistics

After China suspended its monthly reports of urban surveys, the 20% plus unemployment rate among its youth (16−24) immediately went viral to symbolize its economic downturn. Although the statistics bureau explained it had misleadingly included young students in its calculation, checking its previous reports reveals more. In January 2023, the bureau started pairing up the unemployment rate with a list of interviewees’ education levels. This calculus was never specified in the 2018 methodology. Based on the time consistency, one can reasonably assume the modification was related to the new state policy that prompted graduates to enter the job market. Thus, the failed stimulus made another reason behind the state internalizing its employment data.

The above incident shows the intricate relationship between education statistics and statecraft in China. Already in 1910, the Qing Empire’s new Ministry of Education (xuebu 學部) introduced histograms to the bureaucracy, categorized local schools, and prepared primary educational statistics for its statecraft. While civil examination and education reform were popular research topics, very few have studied the dialectics between educational statistics and Chinese statecraft. There are a few traces that appear promising. For instance, Meng Sen (孟森1868−1938), the chief editor of semi-academic dongfang zazhi, not only translated Japanese textbooks of statistics and accounting but also applied illustrations and quantitative arguments in his critical editorials about China’s internal customs. Huang Yanpei (黃炎培1878−1965), before earning his reputation as the minister of education, once visualized 40 years of Maritime Customs data to narrate China’s failure in its commercial war. Zhu Junyi (朱君毅1895−1963), Director of Statistics of the National Government, got his Ph.D. in pedagogy in Columbia University and continued to translate books of educational psychology and statistics. Over the first half of the twentieth century, psychology, pedagogy, and statistics were packaged in the same genre, a school of thought that went back to the theory of mental and social measurement by Edward Thorndike (1874−1949).

Two hypotheses can be formulated based on the above. First, there could be an ever-growing tendency that binds the “macro-statistics” of education (i.e., the number of schools, graduates per year, and sector) to China’s statecraft, while the numbers gradually articulated under the paradigm of the “social statistics.” Secondly, the “micro-statistics” of education (i.e., mean, median, and mode of students’ age, height, and test scores) helped introduce and formed the foundation of the “mathematical statistics” in Chinese academia. This research proposes to analyze the role Chinese elites played in both hypotheses with materials of biographies, periodicals, and textbooks. It argues that this new account of modern Chinese elites following the introduction of statistics can help us identify an early relationship between statistics, education, and economics in China’s early modernization process.

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HAN Haozhe 韩昊哲

This paper compares 342,000 elite Chinese university students with 4,999 academicians and ‘experts’ elected or selected by the Chinese Academies of Science and Engineering and the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, to show that in contrast to well-known findings for elite education in France and recent findings for elite students, faculty, and intellectuals in the United States, the distinctive defining feature of the Chinese academe is the salient proportion of top students and scholars from diverse disadvantaged backgrounds. We document two distinct silent revolutions in the Chinese academe. First beginning in 1952, a significant proportion of elite university students came from non-elite backgrounds which was a sharp contrast to before. Second, while this was also true for academicians and experts, in contrast to elite university students of disadvantaged background who are increasingly urban, Chinese academicians and experts from disadvantaged families, especially after 1977, are increasingly rural.

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Helena Lopes
Helena Lopes
Cardiif University

This presentation introduces an ongoing research project on the life and wartime career of Guo Jingqiu, also known as Helena Kuo (1911–1999). This Macau-born, Guangzhou-educated Chinese woman had a stellar, albeit now forgotten, career as a journalist, writer, public speaker and translator in China, Britain, France and the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. In her articles, novels and autobiographies, Guo Jingqiu presented China and the significance of its wartime resistance to global audiences through intimate narratives of her personal journey of education, work, travel, and interaction with a range of multinational actors. This project aims to assess the importance of multilingual Chinese women in China’s cultural diplomacy in World War Two and to recover Guo’s highly visible wartime career, that contrasts with her post-war absence from histories of China’s War of Resistance, histories of women in China, and histories of Chinese migration in Europe and the United States. Methodologically, the presentation will reflect on the use of various digital and print sources (both written and visual), as well as fieldwork visits, exploring how these contribute to shedding new light on gender, nationalism and China’s global connections during the Second World War through Guo’s case.
The paper will address research findings on Guo’s gendered depictions of her migratory experience as a single woman, of displacement during the war, and it will delve into her representations of a sophisticated and resilient China that challenged discriminatory assumptions whilst upholding ideas aligned with Nationalist China’s globally connected intellectual and political elites, with whom she interacted closely. I argue that Guo’s wartime writings merged the national and the global, the individual and the collective, interweaving ideas of women’s and national liberation with a cosmopolitan sensibility and achieving a wide international reach.

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Henrike Rudolph
University of Göttingen

China’s Semi-bureaucratic Networks and the Constructive Engagement of Non-Communist Elites

Since its inception, the Chinese Communist Movement has been marked by a nascent tension between cadres, who monopolize political power, and the learned elites, who monopolize knowledge. Moving between Mao’s “anti-elitist elitism” (Ip 2010) and the “dual-function” of intellectuals (Konrad and Szelenyi 1979) under Deng, China prospered when both groups found an equilibrium of constructive engagement. As I argue in this paper, the core task of the United Front since the 1940s has not only been to cooptate China’s elites but to redefine their self-understanding and positionality vis à vis the state. The paper discusses what I call “semi-bureaucratic networks” by examining both the linguistic networks of United Front propaganda as well as the career paths within United Front organizations. It thus questions dominant state-elite dichotomies and contributes to a new conceptualization of United Front Work as a political theory and practice from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping.

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This paper compares 342,000 elite Chinese university students with 4,999 academicians and ‘experts’ elected or selected by the Chinese Academies of Science and Engineering and the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, to show that in contrast to well-known findings for elite education in France and recent findings for elite students, faculty, and intellectuals in the United States, the distinctive defining feature of the Chinese academe is the salient proportion of top students and scholars from diverse disadvantaged backgrounds. We document two distinct silent revolutions in the Chinese academe. First beginning in 1952, a significant proportion of elite university students came from non-elite backgrounds which was a sharp contrast to before. Second, while this was also true for academicians and experts, in contrast to elite university students of disadvantaged background who are increasingly urban, Chinese academicians and experts from disadvantaged families, especially after 1977, are increasingly rural.

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JIANG Jie 蔣傑
Shanghai Normal University

This paper explores the networks, power, and roles of the business elites in modern Shanghai, with the aim of revealing the interpersonal relationships, power structures, and roles within this distinctive group. It is widely recognized that the business elites in Shanghai played significant roles in various domains of modern China, including the economic, political, diplomatic, social, and military spheres. Through the establishment of businesses, they were instrumental in driving the prosperity of the Chinese economy. By possessing critical economic resources, they actively participated in major political events. Moreover, the business elites exerted influence in international exchanges, facilitating communication and fostering connections between China and foreign nations. Through assuming specific social responsibilities, they extended their involvement to encompass urban governance, and in some cases, even formed their own armed forces. By leveraging large-scale historical corpora and computational methods, this paper quantifies and visualizes the intricate and tightly-knit network established by the business elites in modern Shanghai. The findings reveal that this network not only served as a conduit for economic transactions but also functioned as a mechanism for the consolidation of power and resources.

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JIANG Junyan 蔣俊彥
Columbia University

A key paradox of social revolutions is that despite their radical, modernist claims, success often requires effective mobilization of the peasantry, who are typically conservative and inward-looking. This article studies how traditional institutions of rural society can help movement entrepreneurs mobilize for a modern revolution. Using newly digitized data on over 54,000 family genealogies and 500,000 revolutionary martyrs from 637 uprisings nationwide, we examine the role of clan and kinship system during the incipient stage of the Chinese Communist Revolution (1927–1936). Triple-difference estimates suggest that local organizers mobilized significantly more co-clan members to join uprisings than non-co-clans. We also find evidence that the characteristics of organizers’ clans and the local clan structure are among the most decisive factors in predicting uprising occurrence and outcome. These findings highlight the subtle yet significant linkage between agrarian institutions and modern revolutions and offer a new perspective on the origin of Chinese communism.

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Chih-wen Kuo
KUO Chih-wen 郭至汶
National Chia-yi University

The introduction of Western medicine in China can be traced back to the arrival of the American missionary Peter Parker in 1834, who practiced medicine in Canton and established hospitals subsequently. Alongside the establishment of medical facilities, medical missionaries engaged local Chinese individuals to assist in medical operations. Recognizing the need for local support in these healthcare institutions during the 19th century, missionaries took the initiative to establish medical schools. These institutions aimed to provide professional training to Chinese students aspiring to become doctors and nurses. A significant milestone in this journey occurred in 1887 with the foundation of the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, marking a pivotal moment in the development of Western medicine in China. After 1900, various medical schools were established in cities such as Peking, Shanghai, Nanking, Soochow, and Canton, which contributed to training the first generation of Chinese elites in medicine. The year 1915 witnessed the founding of the Chinese Medical Association in Shanghai, an initiative led by Chinese elites. This event marked the localization and integration of Western medicine into China’s healthcare landscape. The study is focused on examining the period from 1887 to 1915, specifically analyzing the group of medical school graduates. It delves into their transition from training within different church systems to their pivotal role in the establishment of the Chinese Medical Association. Additionally, this study explores the social mobility of this group and investigates the interplay between their social networks and the formation of the association.

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Lena Henningsen
Heidelberg University

It is a truism that Chinese culture is a culture of reading; and – with the exception of the time of high socialism – reading has always been a marker of cultural capital. Yet, how exactly did reading impact on individuals, society and the larger developments and transformations in Chinese history? What did Chinese citizens read when, why, and how? In how far was reading a transformative act for everyone – and what readings were limited to certain groups, to intellectual, literary or political elites? Studying historical reading practices poses a number of methodological problems, not least because it is very often a private, even intimate activity of which little historical documents exist. Extant accounts – often autobiographical sources – are ephemeral, anecdotal, and very often vague. To analyze reading practices during China’s long 1970s quantitatively, we developed the ReadAct database (https://readchina.github.io/readact.html) chronicling concrete historical reading acts as recorded in a broad array of life writing sources. In this paper, I will present findings from the database, taking into account the biases and blind spots in the sources and in the database. Considering that most accounts were written by urban educated youth sent to the countryside and considering what they chose to write about in their accounts (and what to leave out) the database chronicles how much of the social, literary and intellectual change commonly associated with the early years of the reform era had its origins in the reading quests of the rusticated educated youth. Moreover, these reading quests also anticipate how as a group these youths – many of them social and political outcasts at the time – would transform into the literary, cultural and / or intellectual elite of the early reform years.

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LIEN Ling-ling 連玲玲
Academia Sinica

Modern Chinese intellectuals heavily depended on translation to acquire new knowledge; a phenomenon Lydia Liu has termed “translated modernity.” However, within the field of translation studies, scholars have predominantly focused on examining the translation process, its subjects, concepts, linguistic influence, and social repercussions. Regrettably, they have often paid less attention to the characteristics of the translator community, neglecting the pivotal roles that translators played in shaping in this process of modernization.

Utilizing the Modern Women’s Journals Database established by the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, this paper explores this “translingual practice” from the perspective of translators. It seeks to answer several key questions: What significance did the act of translation hold for these individuals? How did the emergence of new media platforms create a space for a new breed of intellectuals engaged in foreign literature? What specific bodies of knowledge did the journals and translators endeavor to introduce to their readers?

Rather than conducting a close reading of a few journals, this paper adopts digital methods to examine the translation practice from a more distant perspective. In so doing, it aims to explore this practice across the entire collection of women’s journals with the database, thereby unveiling the formation and influence of knowledge networks associated with these translated works

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Matthew Sommer
Stanford University

Sexual Exploitation of Actors and Servants by Qing Elites

As many scholars have documented, a distinctive feature of elite male culture in the Ming-Qing era was homoerotic connoisseurship of beautiful boy actors and servants. Such connoisseurship played an important role in elite male bonding and was expressed through shared poetry and an avid fan literature that ranked actors by their beauty and other qualities. What we have lacked is insight into the experiences and perspectives of the actors and servants who were the objects of such attention, as well as an explicit understanding of the sexual exploitation that underlay all that refined aesthetic expression. This paper will address these lacunae by exploring sex scandals from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (documented in legal case records and in confidential reports to the emperor) that involved high-ranking men of the conquest elite. These scandals, and the subsequent prosecutions of key protagonists, illustrate both the extent of elite male privilege and the limits of official tolerance. They also lay bare the human trafficking and sexual exploitation that were central to Beijing’s famous theatrical world and elite lifestyle.

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Paul Katz
Academia Sinica

This paper will examine the growth and transformations of local elite networks centering on temple cults based on a case study of the Lianzuoshan Guanyin Temple in Daxi (大溪蓮座山觀音亭), a leading Hakka sacred site in northern Taiwan. It will present preliminary findings about elite men and women who supported the temple, the types of networks they participated in, and the ways in which these networks changed over time. Networks to be studied include some that are familiar to many social historians (commercial, transportation, irrigation, marriage, etc.) plus others that are often overlooked (education, poetry, charity, medicine, etc.), as well as those for the artisans, performers, and other specialists essential to the maintenance of a temple’s incense power.

While I have yet to collect sufficient data for formulating a typology to analyze these phenomena, my research will tentatively consider using social network analysis, which characterizes network structures in terms of nodes (individuals within a network) and their links (relationships). One of my main goals is to input information about the elites who supported the Guanyin Temple into a database that will include each individual’s name, dates, native place, address, profession, links to the temple (such as financial and/or literary patronage, membership in a temple committee or ritual association, etc.), and relationships with other men and women who supported this sacred site. Whether such data may permit the production of sociograms representing nodes as points and links as lines remains to be seen, but it might be feasible for use in evaluating the density (number of connections) and centrality (extent of interactions) of individuals in the Guanyin Temple’s networks. I also hope to map the spatial features of these networks by using GIS technology.

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Robert Bickers
University of Bristol

This paper will provide a preliminary report on the extent to which the foreign staff of the China National Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (CNRRA) 1943-47) drew on men and women with existing experience of living and working in China. CNRRA was the single largest operation globally of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. We currently have an anecdotal understanding that it drew significantly from those with experience of working in the infrastructure of the treaty port establishment in China (which was formally abolished in the 1943 UK-China and US-China ‘friendship’ treaties), but no detailed account. Drawing on datasets of personnel employed in the Chinese Maritime Customs, municipal administrations, interned allied nationals, and a new dataset of CNRRA staff, we will put this to the test. Scholars of the history of humanitarianism have recently turned to explore the colonial roots of international aid organisations, and this study will draw on and contribute to that literature, seeking to understand how former ‘Chian hands’, elites and non-elites, refashioned themselves to find opportunities in the new organisations of the postwar, and post-treaty world.

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Simon Lam
Oxford University

The Principle of Local Self-Governance: Elites and County Politics in Postwar Shunde, Guangdong, 1945-1949

After suffering through seven years of intermittent Japanese occupation, the county of Shunde in Guangdong province emerged from the Second Sino-Japanese War battered and broken. The unfavourable situation, however, did not dampen the euphoria of victory, and with it came along growing calls for greater elite participation in the reconstruction of postwar China. Contrary to the traditional interpretation of Kuomintang (KMT) unwillingness to share regional power, there was much discussion of the need for “local self-governance (地方自治)” on provincial, county, and township levels within party circles in the immediate postwar period, with a general consensus that this was a foundational principle of the KMT which should be actively implemented. Sheltered in the southern province of Guangdong far away from major battlefields of the Chinese Civil War and relatively untroubled by Communist insurgency, Shunde county serves as the ideal case study in examining the KMT’s enactment of local self-governance as well as elite involvement in county and township governing bodies. Despite the initial convergence in interests, local elites soon realised while the KMT was happy to hand over day-to-day administrative tasks, policymaking remained the monopoly of the party with elites only expected to play a consultative role. This paper argues that elite disillusionment with the KMT lay less as is often claimed in its implementation of self-governance and other policies, but rather its unwillingness to fully allow for elite political agency in regional governance structures.

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Tao Jiayi 陶佳怡
University of Vienna

This paper will provide a preliminary report on the extent to which the foreign staff of the China National Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (CNRRA) 1943-47) drew on men and women with existing experience of living and working in China. CNRRA was the single largest operation globally of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. We currently have an anecdotal understanding that it drew significantly from those with experience of working in the infrastructure of the treaty port establishment in China (which was formally abolished in the 1943 UK-China and US-China ‘friendship’ treaties), but no detailed account. Drawing on datasets of personnel employed in the Chinese Maritime Customs, municipal administrations, interned allied nationals, and a new dataset of CNRRA staff, we will put this to the test. Scholars of the history of humanitarianism have recently turned to explore the colonial roots of international aid organisations, and this study will draw on and contribute to that literature, seeking to understand how former ‘Chian hands’, elites and non-elites, refashioned themselves to find opportunities in the new organisations of the postwar, and post-treaty world.

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Thorben Pelzer
Leipzig University

Infrastructural Development in the Chinese West: Towards a Historical Transport GIS for China

The paper looks at the infrastructural development of the Great Rear (houfang) area, e.g., the non-occupied Western regions during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The 1937–1938 Westward Relocation (xiqian) of the Nationalist government and its industrial and intellectual infrastructure, including the migration of large parts of the elite, established the wartime spatial format of a divided state. The Nationalist elite was forced to increase its engagement with non-Han locals and prepare cultural assimilation policies through infrastructural connections. The assumption is that the former interior and, to a limited extent, the border regions temporarily changed meaning and function. The new conception of the centre and periphery prioritised connections to the temporary capital and westward logistics over the coastal and maritime links in the occupied east. This unplanned change in the speed and direction of infrastructural development may have become infused into the spatial configuration of the country, living on even after the war ended.

Recently released geospatial network libraries that connect simple geographic features with network analysis allow for the recreation of dynamically changing historical transport networks. Historical maps archived at the Academia Sinica, the Library of Congress, and the National Diet Library form the basis for recreating these networks. By transforming archival maps into simple features, adding and extrapolating archival data on travel time, transforming the infrastructure into a grid on top of a topological raster, and enriching this network with background information such as population statistics, the simulation can provide quantified information about the historical transformation of the region and the larger country. This includes changes in travel times, the quantified assessment of the development of centres and peripheries on the national and provincial levels, as well as connections and disruptions between them.

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Tim Salzer
Justus Liebig Universität Gießen

The politics of the price in the Republic of China, 1919-1937

In the Qing governmental apparatus, market prices were a fundamental informational resource. Thus, fluctuations in the prices of basic staples were documented in a far more rigorous and systematic way then many other forms of numerical information. Furthermore, official reports about price fluctuations were of immediate practical importance, as the price reporting system represented the informational infrastructure for the Qing’s anti-famine policy. While over the late imperial period, the price reporting system gradually collapsed, in the young Republic, bureaucrats once more turned to market prices to render the material existence of their citizens legible. Yet, despite this apparent continuity between the late imperial and early republican period, in reality, much had changed. Thus, the sociological profile of those studying prices as well as their position in the state bureaucracy, the range of prices deemed relevant for matters of statecraft, the policies which price movements informed, the conceptual framework for the interpretation of price fluctuations, the institutional network through which government agencies obtained data and the intended public for official economic information all had evolved in significant ways.

In this contribution, we reconstitute these interrelated changes through the study of two public agencies in the Republican administration: the Bureau of Economic Information (經濟討論処) and the Bureau of Markets (財政部駐滬調查貨價処) between 1919 and the beginning of the Sino-japanese war, drawing on both archival records from the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Modern History, the Institute of Modern History of the Academia Historica and Chinese- and foreign-language newspapers accessible via the histtext R-package. In so doing, we aim at providing a first sketch of the governmental problems which arose in a context where Western- and especially American-educated bureaucrats gradually came to conceptualize the territory and polity under the control of the Republican administration as a highly interconnected “price system”.

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Sorbonne Université

My presentation will deal with the subject of lower-level Chinese elites in Japan-dominated Manchukuo, focusing on the case of one low-ranking officer of the Manchukuo Army, Shi Mingru. The social history of Manchukuo’s majority Chinese population is poorly known, due to an impaired access to sources in the PRC and to the emphasis placed by existing scholarship on Japanese settlers, minorities, and the ideology that underpinned the “puppet-state”.

For these reasons, the publication of Shi Mingru’s personal diary by Chinese scholars based in Jilin and Changchun in 2012, is a precious addition to historical knowledge. The document, which is roughly 1200 pages long, covers the years 1938 to 1945. It is rich in information about Shi’s daily life, yet hard to leverage, as an isolated document that makes comparison difficult. Such sources usually call for a qualitative, close-reading approach. Although this remains indispensable, I will focus on the insights that can be gained through the application of computational methods to a single, first-person, long document, highlighting three themes:

– How can computational methods help us reconstruct Shi Mingru’s social network? How does this network change along with Shi’s evolving career, paralleling Manchukuo’s intensifying mobilization for the Japanese war effort?

– Shi Mingru writes down every book he reads and every movie he watches. What picture of his cultural practices do computational methods help us paint? How “Manchukuoan”, Chinese, or Japanese, is his cultural world, and how does it evolve overtime, particularly with the strengthening of wartime censorship?

– What do computational methods tell us about Shi’s use of written Chinese, hence about his educational background, but also about the characteristics of the written Chinese language in Manchukuo, marked by both regional peculiarities and Japanese influence?

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Wang Zuoyue
California State Polytechnic University

Making Choices:
Chinese Transnational Scientific Elite, the Chinese Civil War, and the Cold War

During the critical decade of 1945-1955, elite Chinese scientists formed transnational networks that included communities in mainland China, Taiwan, the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. Against the backdrop of the intensifying Chinese civil war and the early global Cold War, many of them found that they had to make fateful choices that would affect where they and their families would live and work. This paper examines the experiences of a number of these leading Chinese scientists in this period, drawing on recently available primary sources such as the diary of Zhu Kezhen, a leading Chinese meteorologist who maintained extensive contact with members of the global Chinese scientific elite, and files from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It argues that often such decisions were informed not just by a single factor, but by a combination of geopolitical, professional, and personal considerations and circumstances, with implications for not only their own scientific careers but also national science and technology policy, especially in China and the US.

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Xavier Paulès

The use of statistical Yearbooks by historians of Republican China is very common and has until now broadly followed the same pattern : historians simply pick up informations that are relevant to their given research topic.
In this presentation I shall take a different approach. I consider that the publication of yearbooks are political deeds. The books are not mere compilations of data. By the extensive reading of these books it is possible to understand that they indeed convey many political and diplomatic messages. For that purpose, I shall use one of the richest and most famous statistical yearbook of the Republican era, the Zhonghua minguo zongji tiyao 中華民國統計提要 published in 1936 by the Bureau of statistics of the Nationalilst government.

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YAN Yiqiao 延易橋
École Pratique des Hautes Études

War and Worship: The Role of Religious Rituals among Sichuan’s Military Elites in 20th Century China

This article explores the efforts of Sichuan militarists in organizing and participating in various forms of religious rituals during the Republican era. The severe internal military conflicts in the 1920s and 1930s witnessed Sichuan’s military elites reacting to and taking spiritual inspiration from various religious traditions in a war-torn society. At the same time, rituals, including Buddhist Dharma assemblies, Daoist community exorcism ceremonies, as well as rites from other salvationist traditions, appeared to become the ultimate expressions of Sichuan military elites’ religious fascination. Their unwavering investment in ritual practices deepened as China’s war with Japan persisted and conflicts intensified in the 1940s. So far, scholars of modern China have paid less attention to the involvement of modern Chinese elites in religious practices, especially traditional Chinese rituals that were deemed superstitious. The goal of this article is to highlight the overlooked aspect of modern Chinese history— the involvement of Chinese social elites in rituals. I argue that Sichuan military elites’ investment in various ritual traditions should be understood in the context of Sichuan’s socio-political conditions during the Republican era. Moreover, this paper suggests that religion, as manifested through the ritual practices of military elites, was crucial not only for understanding the social dominance of elites in modern China but also for the formation of modern Chinese elites at the turn of the twentieth century.

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YEH Videll 葉韋君
Shih Hsin University

Translation Practices in Modern Women’s Journals (1905-1951)

The ” Modern Women Journals Database ” at the Academia Sinica has compiled a total of 202 journals, encompassing 147,748 articles. Among these articles, 138 journals have collectively published 3,612 translated pieces, with 39 journals exceeding a translation content proportion of 5% or more.

Among the creators of these translated works, the influence of Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) stands out prominently, appearing in 18 distinct journals. Following Gorky are August Bebel (1840-1913), Pearl S. Buck (1892-1937), Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), and Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), with their works serialized in 10 to 8 different journals. The collective works of these authors delve into essential themes such as socialist concerns, women’s roles in the dynamics of family and societal transformations. In the realm of translation, Zhou Shoujuan (1895-1968), Zhu Zongliang (1889-1970), Cheng Xiaoqing (1893-1976), and Wang Yunzhang (1884-1942) have been the most prolific translators, contributing the highest volume of translated works.

These translated pieces showcased in women’s journals provide insights into the lives of women from diverse regions, convey ideas about women’s rights, advocate for social reform, prompt reflections on traditional societal notions, and concurrently facilitate cultural exchange and the elevation of women’s status.


This paper will be divided into two sections to analyze the translation practices in modern women’s journals. Firstly, through the examination of network distribution between women’s journals and authors, as well as between journals and translators, we will explore whether these networks constitute specific group connections. Secondly, building upon this network analysis, we will delve into the genre of the works to investigate the relationship between the translated works network, the positioning of journals, translators, and readership, thereby unveiling the formation and impact of the knowledge network of these translated works.

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ZHOU Xueguang 周雪光
Stanford University

Chains of Opportunities and Elite Mobility: Personnel Flow Patterns in the Chinese Bureaucracy, 1990-2020

In contemporary societies, elite mobility takes place largely in bureaucratic organizations and it is closely associated with the availability of structural positions. In this study we apply a vacancy chain model developed in sociology to examine how vacant positions are filled in the Chinese bureaucracy in successive manner, generating chains of opportunities. Specifically, we analyze the processes through which the positions vacated due to personnel mobility are filled successively, giving rise to a sequence of personnel movement in filling those successively vacated positions. By examining these patterns, we can address key issues such as the sources of elite flow (i.e., from higher- or lower- bureaucratic levels) and inside vs. outside of organizations, as well as the personnel policies and practice that affect those observed patterns of personnel flow. In so doing, we aim to examine the duality of elite mobility and structural constraint in the bureaucratic context.

In our empirical study, we apply this model to study the personnel flow patterns in a large Chinese bureaucracy (government agencies in Jiangsu Province), between 1990 and 2020. The empirical analyses are in process and we will report our findings in our paper at a later stage.

By focusing on the contemporary era and the organizational context, we hope that our study provides a reference point of comparison and a sociological perspective for us to better understand patterns of elite mobility in Chinese history.

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