Borders of Chinese Civilization

Geography and History at Empire’s End

Borders of Chinese Civilization

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 4 maps Published: April 1996

Author: Douglas Howland

Asian Studies > East Asia, Geography, History > Asian History

D. R. Howland explores China’s representations of Japan in the changing world of the late nineteenth century and, in so doing, examines the cultural and social borders between the two neighbors. Looking at Chinese accounts of Japan written during the 1870s and 1880s, he undertakes an unprecedented analysis of the main genres the Chinese used to portray Japan—the travel diary, poetry, and the geographical treatise. In his discussion of the practice of “brushtalk,” in which Chinese scholars communicated with the Japanese by exchanging ideographs, Howland further shows how the Chinese viewed the communication of their language and its dominant modes—history and poetry—as the textual and cultural basis of a shared civilization between the two societies.
With Japan’s decision in the 1870s to modernize and westernize, China’s relationship with Japan underwent a crucial change—one that resulted in its decisive separation from Chinese civilization and, according to Howland, a destabilization of China’s worldview. His examination of the ways in which Chinese perceptions of Japan altered in the 1880s reveals the crucial choice faced by the Chinese of whether to interact with Japan as “kin,” based on geographical proximity and the existence of common cultural threads, or as a “barbarian,” an alien force molded by European influence.
By probing China’s poetic and expository modes of portraying Japan, Borders of Chinese Civilization exposes the changing world of the nineteenth century and China’s comprehension of it. This broadly appealing work will engage scholars in the fields of Asian studies, Chinese literature, history, and geography, as well as those interested in theoretical reflections on travel or modernism.



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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

D. R. Howland is Associate Professor of History at DePaul University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Note ix

Introduction 1

I. Encountering Japan 9

1. Civilization from the Center: The Geomoral Context of Tributary Expectations 11

Civilization and Proximity 13

The Bounds of Diplomatic Protocol 15

Japan in the Qing Record 18

An Aside: The Aborted Legacy of the Ming 26

The Matter of International Treaties 28

The Decision to Grant Japan a Treaty (1870) 31

Japanese Incident/Dwarf Intrusion (1874) 35

2. Civilization as Universal Practice: The Context of Writing and Poetry 43

Brushtalking 43

The Written Code: Hanwen/Kanbun 45

The Play of the Code 48

Tong Wen: Shared Writing/Shared Civilization 54

Playing the Code: Occasional Poetry 57

Celebrating Tong Wen: Poetry and History 62

The Value of Civilization in Japan 65

II. Representing Japan 69

Prologue: Geographical Knowledge 71

3. Journeys to the East: The Geography of Historical Sites and Self in the Travelogue 80

Images of the East 81

Recovering History through Geographical Sites 86

Travel Accounts 92

4. The Historiographical Use of Poetry 108

The Poems on Divers Japanese Affairs 110

The Epistemological Basis of the Poetry-History Homology 119

Poetry and Geography 129

Evidential Research 135

5. The Utility of Objectification in the Geographic Treatise 157

The Decade of Geographic Treatises on Japan 158

The Local Treatise as a Model 164

Utility as Means and End 173

Strategies of Objectification 176

III. Representing Japan's Westernization 195

6. Negotiating Civilization and Westernization 197

Analogy and Containment 200

The Precedence of Learning before Action 201

Western Learning and Western Ways 203

Alternative Approaches to World Order 222

Afterword 242

Notes 251

Bibliography 303

Glossary 323

Index 333
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1772-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1775-3
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