ASCJ 2009
Session 44: Room 11-209

Reflection of Modern China in Foreign Eyes: A Study of Journals, Novels, Critics from the Perspective of Cultural Interaction and Cross-Culture Understanding

Organizer/Chair: Chen Yu, Kansai University

This panel will demonstrate how cross-culture understanding varied with divergent perspectives of foreigners about modern China in the 1900s. In general, regarding the Western perception of the Oriental countries of the time, there is a hypothesis saying that the West was preconceived with the so-called Orientalism, a prejudiced notion of East Asia. What caused the West to form such a stereotyped view of the Orient? We also want to know whether the Western perception of the Orient has provided an opportunity for westerners to reconsider their own culture? Chen’s study of the Illustrated London News reveals how mass media exerted its impact upon the western public by analyzing the journal’s reports on the Chinese Taiping rebellion. The papers of Xu and Zou aim to show how Japanese perceived China by examining the Shanghai-related Japanese literature and Ding Ruchang, a Chinese general involving in the first Sino-Japanese War. Xu’s study analyzes the cultural interaction between the two Asian countries, China and Japan, while Chen sets up his framework for the West and East. By comparing the appraisements of General Ding Ruchang between Chinese and Japanese historians, Zou provides a new perspective to view East Asian culture through reevaluating historical figures of common interest in the region.

1) Chi Sung Chen, Kansai University
Images of Taiping Rebellion in the Illustrated London News

During the Victorian age, the English gradually built up their collective understanding of East Asia with the development of the publishing industry. These increasing dispatches and reports in a certain way represent not only the emerging of the East Asian world, but also the Western perception of the East.

   Through comparison of the East Asian sketches in the Illustrated London News (the ILN) with Chinese documents, I would like to analyze the different impressions of the Chinese Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864). While Chinese authorities regarded the Taipings as rebels, English journalists and missionaries seemed to sympathize with these Chinese god-worshippers in the very beginning. Thus, if we compare the sketches in Chinese documents and the ILN, the latter are obviously presented in a more realistic way, while the former provided only simplified images.

   The ILN sketches of the Taiping rebels also reflect British policy changes. At the beginning stage of the rebellion, in 1853, the rebels were portrayed as virtuous and pale. Yet after the British government decided to get involved in suppressing the rebellion, the sympathetic tone of the reports shifted to harsh criticism, and the rebels in 1863 were depicted as vile and dark-skinned figures.

   In this presentation, I will try to answer the following questions: How different were the interpretations between Chinese records and British reports? How can we identify the ranks of the Taiping chiefs in the picture. Through answering these questions, we might be able to enrich the dimensions of our view of the Taiping Rebellion through a multi-angled perspective.

2) Xiao Chun Xu, Kansai University
The Image of Modern Shanghai in the Eyes of Japanese Literary Men

The opening of Shanghai in 1843 disclosed a new page of Shanghai's history. Due to the establishment of concessions after the Opium Wars, Shanghai was divided into two parts: the prosperous urbanized areas and the disorderly old districts. This unique combination of Modern Shanghai, which was called the magic city at one time, with its magnetic cultural glamour, attracted a number of Japanese writers to settle down from the end of 19 century. Some of them were motivated by curiosity and exotic experience, and the others for following the fashion. Their experience and impression with the city left many articles in different newspapers and journals, as well as in stories and novels, after these writers returned to Japan. Among them, there were writers like Akutagawa Ryunosuke who felt disgusted with Shanghai,whereas there were others like Muramatsu Shofu, who had a deep affection and affinity with this grand city. Why did the two writers who visited Shanghai during the same period have so contrastive image about this magic city? Their different purposes of visiting Shanghai and their different experiences with Shanghai may have great influence on their opinions of the city. The analysis of their different personal experiences and tones of writings will help discover the cultural interaction between Japan and China, Shanghai in particular, at that time, and the mutual influences upon each other.

3) Shuang Shuang Zou, Kansai University
What does a Failing General`s Suicide mean?
Comparing the Interpretations of Ding Ruchang's Suicide

Until the first Sino-Japanese War broke out, China was still the strongest empire in East Asia regardless of being shocked by the First and Second Opium Wars. However, in the First Sino-Japanese War, China was defeated by Japan. As a result, the status and relationship of China and Japan changed, as did the power balance in East Asia. The war not only changed politics in the two countries, but also left deep impact on the literary world of both countries. A large quantity of literary works about it was created. Among them is a surprising amount of Ding Ruchang’s encounters with the war. The commodore of Chinese warship in the Sino-Japanese war committed suicide in desperation, which was featured in Japanese newspapers and magazines, and even drew the attention of several famous writers such as Ogai Mori and Ichiyo Higuchi. They regarded him as a heroic figure, a true warrior, and considered his surrender as humanistic act that reduced the casualties of his soldiers. In contrast, I found the reports and literary description of Ding Ruchang in China were quite different. He was paid little respect, but denounced as a coward and a traitor. I believe that the differing perceptions of Ding Ruchang in China and Japan were due to the differing national interests of the two sides. More importantly, the materials I found led me to believe that the Chinese and the Japanese people have distinctive views of a failing general’s suicide because of their different cultural backgrounds and value judgments.

Discussant: Jian Zhao, Tokiwakai Gakuen University