Cross-Currents E-Journal (No. 13)

December 2014
Editors' Note
John Lie, University of California, Berkeley
Sungtaek Cho, Korea University


Joshua H. Howard, University of Mississippi

This article examines the popularization of “mass songs” among Chinese Communist troops during the Anti-Japanese War by highlighting the urban origins of the National Salvation Song Movement and the key role it played in bringing songs to the war front. The diffusion of a new genre of march songs pioneered by Nie Er was facilitated by compositional devices that reinforced the ideological message of the lyrics, and by the National Salvation Song Movement. By the mid-1930s, this grassroots movement, led by Liu Liangmo, converged with the tail end of the proletarian arts movement that sought to popularize mass art and create a “music for national defense.” Once the war broke out, both Nationalists and Communists provided organizational support for the song movement by sponsoring war zone service corps and mobile theatrical troupes that served as conduits for musicians to propagate their art in the hinterland. By the late 1930s, as the United Front unraveled, a majority of musicians involved in the National Salvation Song Movement moved to the Communist base areas. Their work for the New Fourth Route and Eighth Route Armies, along with Communist propaganda organizations, enabled their songs to spread throughout the ranks. 

Keywords: Anti-Japanese War, Li Jinhui, Liu Liangmo, Lü Ji, Mai Xin, mass song, National Salvation Song Movement, New Fourth Army, Nie Er, United Front, Xian Xinghai

Related audio-visual links:

Original film performance of “March of the Volunteers
“Jiuguo junge
“Zai Taihangshan shang”
“People’s Liberation Army March” 
“New Fourth Army Anthem”

Nanny Kim, Heidelberg University

In the official records, copper mines in the southwest of the Qing empire seem to suddenly appear in the late 1730s. In part, this impression is an effect of government attention. Copper, which was the most important metal for casting cash coins, became a pressing concern when imports of Japanese copper dwindled. The government responded by developing domestic resources. Seemingly overnight, Yunnan mines reached impressive levels of productivity and replaced imports. For several decades, the Tangdan mines in northeastern Yunnan supplied most of the copper consumed by the centrally important metropolitan mints. The sudden boom is remarkable and not entirely plausible. This article reassesses the history of Qing-period mining by examining a particular case study. It explores an essay about the Dongchuan earthquake of 1733 that provides a glimpse at the empire’s leading copper mines on the eve of the recorded boom. A close analysis of figures, mining technology, and organizational structures reveals that the mines had been developed by mining entrepreneurs and migrant workers for a considerable period of time outside government attention, operating in a gray zone of unlicensed exploitation. The studied case permits a new assessment of the role of the state and of nonstate players in the industry. Moreover, it throws a new light on the image of Qing society and economy created by the official emphasis on agriculture and the actual role of the nonagrarian sector.

Keywords: China, Yunnan, Qing period, mining, social history, economic history, nonagrarian economy

Tobie Meyer-Fong, Johns Hopkins University

The Chinese garden now symbolizes timeless national, cultural, and aesthetic values. But as real property in the past, gardens inevitably were subject to the vicissitudes of their times. This article focuses on gardens and the Taiping Civil War (1851–1864). During the war, many gardens were reduced to tile shards and ash. Surviving gardens functioned as objects of longing and nostalgia, sites of refuge (physical and emotional), or a means to display status under the new regime. In the postwar period, gardens served as status symbols, places to commemorate loss or celebrate restoration, and venues for renewed sociability. This article uses a series of case studies to explore the multiple meanings associated with gardens, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, and the Qing dynasty—in the past and today.

Keywords: Chinese gardens, Suzhou, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Yangzhou, Hangzhou, Qing dynasty, Nanjing, cultural heritage, tourism

Laura Pozzi, European University Institute

During the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945), children were a major subject of propaganda images. Children had become significant figures in China when May Fourth intellectuals, influenced by evolutionary thinking, deemed “the child” as a central figure for the modernization of the country. Consequently, during the war, cartoonists employed already-established representations of children for propagandistic purposes. By analyzing images published by members of the Cartoon Propaganda Corps in the wartime magazine Resistance Cartoons, this article shows how portrayals of children fulfilled symbolic as well as normative functions. These images provide us with information about the symbolic power of representations of children, and about authorities’ expectations of China’s youngest citizens. However, cartoonists also created images undermining the heroic rhetoric often attached to representations of children, especially after the dismissal of the Cartoon Propaganda Corps in 1940. This was the case with cartoonist Zhang Leping’s (1910–1992) sketches of “Zhuji after the Devastation,” which revealed the discrepancies between propagandistic representations and children’s everyday life in wartime China.

Keywords: Second Sino-Japanese War, War of Resistance, history of childhood, cartoons, propaganda, Cartoon Propaganda Corps, Zhang Leping

Margaret Mih Tillman, Purdue University

In the 1920s and 1930s, Chinese adapted scouting, which had originally been developed to masculinize British youth as future colonial troops. While Chinese families and teachers valued scouting as a form of outdoor recreation, Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang after 1927 connected scouting to preparation for military training. In addition to fostering masculinity among boys, the Chinese Scouting Association also directed Girl Scouts with new models of patriotic girlhood. The Guomindang promoted the distinct femininity of the Girl Scouts and channeled girls’ patriotism into nursing. As China entered World War II, Girl Scouts became significant symbols of patriotism in an increasingly militarized children’s culture. The Guomindang showcased Yang Huimin, a Girl Scout and heroine in the Battle of Sihang Warehouse, as a spokesperson for the Nationalist cause, but it could not fully control her public image.

Keywords: Girl Scouts, scouting, gender roles, China, World War II

Review Essays, Notes & Bibliographies

Helen Siu, Yale University

In 1985, David Faure and I bonded with young historians from Zhongshan University (later renamed Sun Yat-sen University) in Guangzhou, China. At the time, we were inspired by the French Annales School of historical research, in particular the anthropologically oriented work of Marc Bloch. Just as French historians were exploring the multiscalar factors in economy, society, and culture that underlay the unfolding of historical events, anthropologists were moving away from evolutionary, functional, and structuralist views of culture. These scholars began to stress culture’s processual, negotiated construction in time and space. Anticipating synergy, we focused on the purposeful, meaningful actions of individuals and groups who make history as they make their lifeworlds....

Margaret Kuo, California State University, Long Beach

The two works under review are both compelling historical studies that use gender as a category of analysis to make important contributions to our understanding of the construction of the modern Chinese state, the periodization of modern Chinese history, and the political and cultural significance of controlling the female body. While both books engage with gender as broadly construed, they adopt different approaches. Michelle King’s analysis focuses on discursive representations that took place, for the most part, outside the context of the state—what Confucian elites, foreign experts and missionaries, and Chinese nationalists wrote about female infanticide over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This discursive approach has been used before but rarely to such insightful effect. King’s research deepens our understanding of gender and imperialism in the nineteenth century by illustrating how imperialist notions of China as a backward and heathen place were constructed in part on dubious claims that identified female infanticide as an emblematically Chinese cultural practice. Elizabeth Remick’s gender analysis, in contrast, centers on the state institutions that were developed in the early 1900s to regulate prostitution, including tax policies, licensing fees, zoning regulations, medical examinations, and police supervision. Her study of the newly erected local and provincial government regulatory regimes is a pathbreaking demonstration of how the regulation of gender roles was at the heart of state-building efforts in early twentieth-century China....