A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation State, 1900-1949

By Tong Lam | Go to book overview

4 The Nationalization of Facts
and the Affective State

On April 15, 1932, the archaeological fieldworkers from the national government who were working about a kilometer east of Wuguang village in Anyang county, Henan province, knew that they were onto something important when they observed the soil color as well as the ceramic remains nearby.1 They had every reason to believe that this was one of the many sites that could help historians confirm the existence of the Shang dynasty (1576–1046 B.C.E.) with concrete evidence, and hence ennoble Chinese history by extending it further back in time.2 But as they began to dig a tenmeter-long trench in order to further assess the site, an intimidating mob led by an influential local landlord with the surname Xu arrived. The furious landlord accused the fieldworkers of intentionally destroying his ancestral tombs and demanded that they leave his premises immediately. A few days later, Li Ji, an archaeologist and the field director, invited local officials to mediate the conflict and tried to explain to Xu that they were merely conducting scientific research and had no intention of damaging his ancestral tombs. Xu, however, was not convinced; he subsequently filed a lawsuit against Li and accused him of conspiring with local officials to steal treasures from his family tombs. The evidence, according to Xu, was that the excavated trench was only “a few steps” away from one of the ancestral tombs. Li and his colleagues, for their part, contended that Xu’s accusations were groundless and insisted that the site was quite a distance from said tombs. Indeed, they were not unaware of the ramifications of intruding on someone’s ancestral tombs since geomancy (fengshui xue), an elaborate system of knowledge that claimed that the location of a house or tomb had significant influence over the fortune of one’s family, had been a popular cultural practice for centuries. Any attempt to interfere with an ancestral tomb, even by the Nationalist government, which vigorously preached secularism, would

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A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation State, 1900-1949
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Asia Pacific Modern Takashi Fujitani, Series Editor ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The Rise of the Fact and the Reimagining of China 19
  • 2- From Divide and Rule to Combine and Count 50
  • 3- Foolish People versus Soulstealers 75
  • 4- The Nationalization of Facts and the Affective State 91
  • 5- Time, Space, and State Effect 117
  • 6- China as a Social Laboratory 142
  • Epilogue 171
  • Notes 175
  • Glossary 223
  • Bibliography 227
  • Index 253
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