Banner Image Source Original image held by the Harvard-Yenching Library
of the Harvard College Library, Harvard University

June 2018

About the cover

The first time I saw the image on the cover of this issue of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, I had an uncanny feeling. Was that odd character in the center of the diagram real? Strange as it looked, how could it not be real, appearing as it did in a seventeenth-century text? Still, it brought to mind the artist Xu Bing’s 徐冰 Book from the Sky (Tianshu 天書), which looks like a set of old woodblock-print books but turns out to be composed entirely of gibberish characters of the artist’s own creation.

As it turns out, the character is not real, at least not in the sense of being legible as script. Rather, it is a compound phonetic symbol developed by Ge Zhongxuan 葛中選 on the model of qin 琴 (zither) tablature. As Nathan Vedal explains in his article in this issue, Ge developed his phonetic notation system with the aim of representing all sounds in speech, including those that had no corresponding Chinese characters. His choice of qin tablature reflected his understanding that a cosmological link connected linguistic speech and musical pitches. He developed these ideas in his magnum opus, Tailü 泰律 (Grand pitches, 1618).

The diagram conveys linguistic information contained in rhyme tables presented elsewhere in Tailü. The character in the center is an amalgam of components, each representing a particular linguistic sound; put together, the components represent a syllable inexpressible using existing Chinese characters. The diagram’s outer circle contains the names of musical pitches, including some of Ge’s own creation, each of which he believed could be correlated with a particular part of the syllable. Topping it all off are the characters da zhuang 大壯 (great strength), referring to a hexagram from the Yijing 易經. Ge created sixty-four of these diagrams, each corresponding to one of the Yijing’s sixty-four hexagrams, for each rhyme group in an attempt to catalog all possible sounds in the universe.

The linking of phonetics to the cosmology of the Yijing—not to mention the use of pseudo–Chinese characters to represent the [End Page vii] sounds—places Ge’s system off the family tree that would eventually yield the International Phonetic Alphabet. However, we should not conclude that his work was any less sophisticated than that of his European counterparts. Indeed, his linking of linguistic sounds and musical pitch anticipated by well over a century the work of philologists like Joshua Steele, who published his Prosodia Rationalis in 1779.1 The taxonomic urges of the early modern world took form in late Ming China, no less than in Georgian England. HJAS thanks the Harvard-Yenching Library for its kind permission to reprint the image.

1Joshua Steele, Prosodia Rationalis: or, an Essay towards Establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech, to Be Expressed and Perpetuated by Peculiar Symbols, 2nd ed. (London: J. Nichols, 1779).

Ge Zhongxuan 葛中選, “Da zhuang” 大壯, in Tailü 泰律, 12 juan 卷 in 6 vols. (ce 冊) (n.p.: Yunnan tushuguan, 1914), v. 3, j. 5, p. 2a (seq. 3), Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Editorial Preface & In Memoriam

Editorial Preface


New Scripts for All Sounds

Cosmology and Universal Phonetic Notation Systems in Late Imperial China

Nathan Vedal

I argue that cosmological methods, and the debates they inspired, were a major source of innovation in phonological scholarship during the late Ming. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century scholars strove to document the scope of possible sounds existing in the universe. Realizing the Chinese script was insufficient to fully record them, they explored new notation systems to comprehensively describe sound. Although competing contemporaneous approaches called for analyzing phonology according to regional or historical differences, Ming cosmologists asserted a significant alternative that they believed overcame limits of place and time. This case study suggests a need to rethink the impact of Ming scholars on Chinese intellectual history and on the history of writing in China.

摘要 (中文)


The Art of Reframing the News

Early Meiji Shinbun Nishiki-e in Context

Chelsea Foxwell

In 1874–1875, hundreds of colorful nishiki-e (woodblock prints) pictorialized individual articles previously published in Tokyo’s main daily newspapers. Because many prints foregrounded violent, sexual, and supernatural themes, they have been viewed as “hybrid” Edo-Meiji media forms that demonstrate an imperfect understanding of what constituted the news. In the context of 1870s’ urban culture, however, news nishiki-e were part of a broader category of “old media”—including theater, short illustrated fiction, and oral storytelling—that self-consciously incorporated the newly prominent term shinbun (news or newspaper). These prints exploited the indeterminacy of images and the possibilities of text-image interplay to draw out social tensions and encourage audiences to reflect critically on changes wrought by the Restoration. Because the choice of what to think always remained with the reader-viewer, the disappearance of news nishiki-e thus constituted the loss of a mode of criticality.

摘要 (日本語)

新聞錦絵は、 1874 年に登場し、以前報道された殺人や猥雑な事件を色彩豊かな錦絵で表象した。「古いメディア」の絵の不確定性、書画の相互交錯を駆使しつつ、新造語の「新聞」を意識的に取り入れ、読者に社会的緊張を自主的に思索するよう促したメディアであった。

From Land Reclamation to Land Grab

Settler Colonialism in Southwest China, 1680–1735

John E. Herman

This article challenges the notion that Kangxi-era policies (1661–1722) toward the southwest were laissez-faire. In June 1681, the Kangxi emperor extended the Qing state’s land reclamation program to recently pacified areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou. Programmatic incentives encouraged government officials to recruit Han settlers from China’s interior to reclaim land in these southwestern provinces, and officials profited enormously from this state-sponsored campaign. Since the southwest was populated almost exclusively by non-Han peoples at the time, the land reclamation program amounted to nothing less than the outright seizure of non-Han lands. This program of settler colonialism was accompanied by an equally aggressive state campaign to undermine the independence of non-Han leaders by increasing the number of tusi titles and offices bestowed specifically upon non-Han elites. Indeed, many features integral to colonization of the southwest during the Yongzheng emperor’s reign (1723–1735) originated under Kangxi’s rule.

摘要 (中文)

本文對康熙皇帝在西南邊疆採取自由放任政策的普遍看法提出異議。作者認為,清朝在 1681 年吳三桂叛亂後,用土地開墾計劃,鼓勵內地漢人遷移、定居西南邊境。直到 1713 年,康熙對漢人入迁、聚居西南的速度和範圍感到滿意為止,才呼籲官員縮減規劃,不再對新開墾土地徵稅。

The Last Words of Confucius

Michael Hunter

Despite the wealth of literature about Kongzi 孔子 (Confucius) from early China, there is a curious lack of stories about Kongzi’s last words. A brief survey of last words shows that this lacuna sets Kongzi apart from various early Chinese figures as well as from culture heroes elsewhere in the ancient world who inspired similarly vibrant traditions. Moreover, extant stories set before and after Kongzi’s death explicitly reject a core function of last words in the ancient context, that of anticipating and curating a dying person’s legacy via instructions to a successor. Thus, the problem of Kongzi’s last words challenges the long-standing notion of Kongzi as the founder of a multigenerational school, one whose members recorded, composed, and transmitted his teachings for posterity.

摘要 (中文)


Review essays

The Natural History of Japanese Colonialism

Angus Lockyer

Spirituality, Transcendence, and the Circulatory History of Modern Asian Religion

David A. Palmer

Analects for Schoolgirls and Underemployed Warriors: Testing a Cultural History of Confucianism in Japan

David Mervart

Book reviews

Women in Japanese Religions, by Barbara Ambros.

Heather Blair

Staging Chinese Revolution: Theater, Film, and the Afterlives of Propaganda, by Xiaomei Chen.

Rosemary Roberts

Information, Territory, and Networks: The Crisis and Maintenance of Empire in Song China, by Hilde De Weerdt.

Charles Hartman

Back from the Dead: Wrongful Convictions and Criminal Justice in China, by He Jiahong.

Matthew H. Sommer

China’s Transition to Modernity: The New Classical Vision of Dai Zhen, by Minghui Hu.

Dagmar Schäfer

Onnagata: A Labyrinth of Gendering in Kabuki Theater, by Maki Isaka, and: Edo Kabuki in Transition: From the Worlds of the Samurai to the Vengeful Female Ghost, by Satoko Shimazaki.

Carolyn Morley

China and the Church: Chinoiserie in Global Context, by Christopher M. S. Johns.

Kristina Kleutghen

Celestial Masters: History and Ritual in Early Daoist Communities, by Terry F. Kleeman.

Stephen R. Bokenkamp

Intimate Empire: Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan, by Nayoung Aimee Kwon.

Samuel Perry

Zhuangzi and Modern Chinese Literature, by Jianmei Liu.

Mabel Lee

Imitation and Creativity in Japanese Arts: From Kishida Ryūsei to Miyazaki Hayao, by Michael Lucken.

Miryam Sas

The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, by Christopher Rea.

Thomas Moran

China’s Early Mosques, by Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt.

Wei-Cheng Lin

Imperial Genus: The Formation and Limits of the Human in Modern Korea and Japan, by Travis Workman.

Michael Kim