Ming and Qing Historical Studies in the People's Republic of China

Ming and Qing Historical Studies in the People's Republic of China

Ming and Qing Historical Studies in the People's Republic of China

Ming and Qing Historical Studies in the People's Republic of China

Excerpt

In 1978, during discussions with the Science and Technology Association of the People’s Republic of China, representatives of the U.S. Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic of China suggested sending a group of ten American historians of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) periods to visit China the following year. That suggestion was accepted, and an invitation was issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences for an American delegation to spend four weeks in China during June, 1979. From the point of view of the CSCPRC, the goal of this delegation was to further scholarly communication between the two countries by learning about the state of Ming-Qing historical studies in China through seminars and informal discussions, by reporting on American work in these fields, and by visiting libraries and archives in order to facilitate later access for U.S. scholars wanting to do historical research on an individual basis.

The rubric of Ming-Qing history fits naturally into American Sinology. Most of the university specialists in Chinese studies in the U.S. today are in history; and most of the latter, do research on the Ming and Qing periods. Of course, under that general rubric there are a number of different interests. The delegation members were in part chosen by the CSCPRC to represent these various areas of research: early Ming institutional history, legal history, the MingQing transition, Qing economic history, seventeenth-century intellectual history, popular uprisings and religion, Taiping historiography, and so forth. However, the Ming-Qing rubric does not altogether correspond to historical fields as they are currently defined in China, where special fields of interest tend to correspond to contemporary historical motifs: economic history to sprouts of capitalism, or social history to peasant wars. And because the Opium War (1839-1842) is taken by historians in China to periodize the division between ancient and modern history, the Ming and early Qing belong to the former (and to the Institute of History), and the late Qing to the latter (and to the Institute of Modern History). Furthermore, the division between gudaishi (ancient history) and jindaishi (modern . . .

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