Cross-Currents e-Journal (No. 3)
The reworking of religious space in modern Japan encompassed the reinvention of the spatial, material, and ritual culture of matsuri 祭り(festivals). After a period of relative official disfavor, festivals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were reinvigorated by changes in ritual process and spatial scope, as well as by shifts in the architecture and sculpture of dashi 山車 (wheeled festival floats). The incorporation of matsuri into broader discourses of national cultural identity was driven by the affective potential of their supposed cultural authenticity. This reinvention of festivity is evident in the Tokoname Matsuri of Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture, where after the 1905 Russo-Japanese conflict several Edo-period shrine festivals were merged into a shōkonsai 招魂祭 (festival for the war dead). The spatial scope and ritual process, as well as the architecture and sculptural iconography, of the six dashi built for the new Tokoname Matsuri tied this regional city into national discourses of cultural authenticity, racial purity, and martial valor. The ideological resonance in prewar Japan of the Tokoname Matsuri and other festivals with nationalist imagery sprang from their indelibly local origins; matsuri were not controlled entirely from the top down, but rather were mediated at multiple levels.
Of the many “exotic” commodities from the West that have changed the lifestyle of the Chinese people over the course of the past two centuries, the bicycle stands out as a prominent example. It has so thoroughly transformed the Chinese mode of transportation that China in the late twentieth century was known as “the kingdom of bicycles.” This essay examines the history of that transformation. The first recorded importation of bicycles to Shanghai took place in 1868. Initially rejected by prospective customers for their incompatibility with Chinese cultural and social conventions, bicycles eventually gained visibility on the streets of many cities and suburbs. The bicycle meant many different things to different sectors of the population, and the social meaning of the bike also changed over time.
The first section of this article offers an overview of modern Chinese cyclists. The author argues that early adopters were Manchu aristocrats and wealthy individuals who sported their bicycles on bumpy roads for the sheer enjoyment of the bike’s exotic quality. The second section of the article examines the story of Pu Yi, the last Qing ruler, and bikers in the Forbidden City. The third section examines women bike riders in China. The author presents evidence to show that cycling carried no liberating connotations for modern Chinese women. By the 1930s, bicycles had lost their exotic quality. They also came to be associated with the comings and goings of urban working people, when cars became the vehicles of the social and economic elite. The outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-45) created a petroleum shortage that grounded all private cars. Bicycles then emerged as the common mode of transportation for the rich as well as the poor, men as well as women. It was the war that laid the foundation for China’s modern transformation into a nation of bicycles.
Note: Article is in Chinese.
Review Essays, Notes & Bibliographies
There are three imperial residences in Kyoto: Gosho (京都御所), rebuilt in 1855 and used for formal affairs even today; Shūgakuin (修学院離宮), a summer retreat on mountain slopes built in the mid-seventeenth century; and Katsura Imperial Retreat (桂離宮), slightly older than Shūgakuin. Upon the death of the Hachijō imperial line in 1881, Katsura came into the hands of the reigning household; shortly afterward, the Imperial Household Ministry was formed and took responsibility for the care of such sites. Sometimes grouped with the other residences, Nijō Palace was originally built not for the imperial household but for the warriors who effectively ruled Japan from the seventeenth to the middle of the nineteenth century; today, it too is managed by the Imperial Household Agency (the scope and name of the Imperial Household Ministry having changed at the end of World War II). Of these four, Katsura, with its extensive grounds and esteemed teahouses in addition to a large, shoin-style residence, is best known of all, used both at home and abroad to illustrate arguments about architecture and national tradition. Yet even so, much remains to be said about the complex, as demonstrated by this brief descriptive bibliography.