Week 4: First Clash with the West and Crisis Within

Module 2: Fragmentation and Reform (1 of 2) (Sept. 14 - Sept. 20)

As we're moving into week 4, I would love to hear how things are working for you this semester.

Please add your comments to the anonymous typepad so I know what to keep and what to adjust.

I'm open for suggestions, but we may have to call a meeting or create a shared document to hash out changes that will affect the flow of the course or the structure. As you know, none of us signed up for a semester of remote teaching and learning, and just like you I am trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. I am constantly firefighting small crises, and I fear you feel left abandoned, since I don't jump in regularly enough with feedback. Yet the work I see in the comments and blog posts shows me you're all doing great with the material. Tell me what you need from me most during this semester!

Blank page in 19th century journal, grainy paper, with in the middle a line in handwritten copperplate "A blank in my Existence"; a lock on the right of the notebook or journal
William Almack's Journal, MS Add.9529,Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Table of contents

Background

As we move into the nineteenth century, the tone of Chinese history shifts dramatically, and you can easily see why many Chinese speak of the "century of humiliation", from 1839 with the first Opium War, until 1949, with the Liberation (i.e. the founding of the People's Republic of China under the Communist Party). However, that overlooks a lot of complexity and nuance, and only moves forward a teleological narrative (that is, all events lead inevitably to a single goal) leading to the triumphant founding of the PRC.

Nevertheless, it is clear that in the nineteenth century, the Qing state was in trouble. The origins of the crisis lay in the eighteenth century, as you read last week, and we can debate if the pressure of the West was simply an opportunistic move when the imperialist powers spotted a weakened state to exploit, or if tipped the Qing into a series of crises.

Why does it matter? This is how Hong Kong became a British colony, and after the second Opium War, Shanghai became a city with an international reputation. Furthermore, in an ironic reversal of the situation, much of the opioid crisis in the US is fueled with fentanyl that is originally produced in China, see for instance this NPR story, or a quick search on reputable news sites for "fentanyl China".

One of the most harrowing episodes of Chinese history is undoubtedly the period of the Taiping Kingdom, or the Taiping Rebellion. Hong Xiuquan, a man from southern China, had visions he was the younger brother of Jesus, and drew a large following. Between 1850 and 1864, the Taiping spread across southern China, and occupied large sections of Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and southern Hubei, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces. Millions of people were affected, and twenty to thirty million people lost their lives in the upheaval.

And while all of this was happening, the British and French saw fit to put more pressure on the Qing to negotiate a better deal, triggered the second Opium War, and sacked the Yuanmingyuan, henceforth known as the Old Summer Palace, right outside Beijing. The ruins of the Western buildings (xiyanglou) designed by the Jesuits are still standing, as a gruesome reminder of the horrible history.

Why does it matter? The national humiliation at the hands of Western powers, as constructed in a nationalist reading of these events, plays into China's current drive to be better, bigger, stronger, and more independent. Western nations cannot be trusted as collaborators, because of these past events, in such an interpretation. Turning these events into black-and-white stories increases nationalist sentiments, and increases the perception of insurmountable tensions between "China" and "the West".

Readings

Basic set (everybody reads/views this)

  • Summary Chapter 7
  • Summary Chapter 8
  • Timeline Part 2 (check for events up to 1870)
  • Map (layer 2 = Part 2)
  • Slides (Gdrive link)
  • Primary source: Almack, William. Journal (July 1837- July 1841), MS Add.9529. Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. (PDF) (#opium, #Canton, #trade)
    • More of the journal in Exploration Pack 2
    • William Almack was a tea trader in Canton, and had started a journal recording his adventures in China. After a lapse, he resumes his writing to document the events that led up to the Opium War, but opens with some musings on the whole problem of the opium trade.
  • Primary source: Lin Zexu. "Letter to the English Ruler", in Sources of Chinese Tradition: From 1600 through the Twentieth Century, Vol. 2, 202-205. Edited by Wm. Th. de Bary and R. Lufrano. Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. (PDF) (#opium, #diplomacy)
    • I included the background information; the letter itself is further down, pp. 5-8 of the PDF, marked in red brackets.
  • Spence, Jonathan. God’s Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan, pp. 203-204. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. (#Taiping, #religion) (PDF)
    • Excerpt from a report to the Foreign Ministry, France
    • Letter from Captain de Plas of the French vessel Cassini
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: have a go at setting up your own opium-for-tea trade in the game High Tea (Note: the game needs Flash, and I found that Chrome does not work, but if you allow Flash to run on Firefox, you can play it. You don't have to play the game!) Read more about the game's development on this website (#opium).
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: The sacking of the Old Summer Palace (1860) was the beginning of a long trajectory of how Chinese art objects from the Imperial collection ended up in different parts of the world, some in the Forbidden City in Beijing, others in the Palace Museum collection in Taipei, others in Western Museums. Read about it in this article from the South China Morning Post with graphic-novel illustrations.
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: Podcast: Melvin Bragg and guests "The Taiping Rebellion". In Our Time, BBC Radio 4, Feb. 24 2011.

Pick one Exploration Pack:

Exploration Pack 1: Plain Textbook

All the details in one handy package and two dips into primary sources:

  • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China. Third ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
    • Chapters 7 and 8.
  •  Chen, Janet Y, Pei-kai Cheng, Michael Elliot Lestz, and Jonathan D Spence. The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collection. Third ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.
    • 7.1-7.2: "Memorials on opium" (#opium, #government) (PDF)
    • 8.4 "The Ten Commandments" and 8.5 "Taiping Religious Verses (from the 'Ode for Youth')" (#Taiping, #religion) (PDF)

Exploration Pack Two: Opium War

A deeper dive into two perspectives on the Opium War: a longer extract from the Almack journal (including some hot action), and a Chinese account to give you the Chinese perspective of these events, as well as a background piece to help you find your bearings.

  • Standage, Tom. A History of the World in 6 Glasses. New York: Walker & Co, 2005. (#opium, #trade, #war) (PDF)
    • pp. 206-212 only (in red brackets), but I provided the whole chapter in case you're interested.
    • Background
  • Almack, William. Journal (July 1837- July 1841), MS Add.9529. Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives. (PDF) (#opium, #Canton)
    • Primary source: check out the photographs of the journal in this Google folder (I only transcribed a small part so far)
  • Wei, Yuan, and Edward Harper Parker. Chinese Account of the Opium War. Pagoda Library, No. 1. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1888. (ebook through Trexler library) (#opium, #war)
    • pp. 1-17. (note that the pages load slowly)
    • Translated and edited from a larger Chinese text written by Wei Yuan.
    • "The paper illustrates the extraordinary faithfulness with which the Chinese endeavour to perfect their histories," as the author states in his preface.
  • Note that the Adam Matthew collection has many pamphlets and books from the nineteenth century on the Opium war.

Exploration Pack Three: Taiping rebellion

Note that these materials contain descriptions of violence that some readers find upsetting.

  • Meyer-Fong, Tobie S. "4. Bones and Flesh." In What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2013. (ebook Trexler) (#Taiping, #war, #violence, #religion)
  • Zhang, Daye. "Part 2." In The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath. Translated by Xiaofei Tian. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013. (ebook Trexler) (#Taiping, #war, #violence, #religion)
    • An eye witness account from a Chinese boy, who writes his memoirs at a later age.
  • Check out this tweet to see the devastation wrought by the Taiping armies .
  • OPTIONAL EXTRA: More eye witness accounts and personal narratives available through Trexler library, with the search term su:China History Taiping Rebellion, 1850 1864 Personal narratives
    • May be useful for Show and Tell projects for Module 2

Assignments

Note: all times are "Muhlenberg time" (Eastern daylight time)

Reminder: Peer feedback week 3 post

3 points, due Monday Sept. 14 by 11.59pm.

As you are reading different texts from each other, it is important that you read each other posts, because you can cover more ground; when you read the same material, you can also see other perspectives, and think about deepening your understanding.

Below you find links to four blog posts from your fellow students.
If one of the websites is your own, or it is twice the same person's, refresh the page, and you should get new sites.

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:
  • Post 4:

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students using Hypothes.is group HST271.
You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around in the other materials you did not read in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures, videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you've commented on four posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
- I commented on four fellow students' initial posts on the readings from Week 3, using the group HST271.
- I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond a "nice" or "great".
- I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Blog posts

5 points, due by Thursday, Sept. 17. 11.59pm.

Write a blog post exploring themes or ideas based on your reading. You do not need to have all the answers. In fact, learning to ask good analytical or research questions is a skill you can develop during the semester.

  • Length: approx. 400 words. excl. list of materials consulted.
  • Add the list of materials consulted at the end of the post, in Chicago notes and bibliography style.
    • TOP TIP: Just copy the bibliography information from the Reading list here.
  • Add the words "Week 4" in the title
  • Indicate in your post which Exploration Pack you chose.
  • Including an image, and make sure to add a caption with the source/credit.
  • Post on your website, and add to the category hst271.

When you're done, read this declaration carefully and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
- I wrote a post of approximately 400 words in response to the readings.
- I included the bibliographic references for the materials I used for my post.
- I indicated which Exploration Pack I chose.
- I included an image, and I provided a caption and credit (source) for the image.
- I use the words Week 4 in the title, and added the post to category hst271

Show and Tell project for Module 1 (Conquest and Consolidation)

Find all the details, suggestions for formats, and suggestions for additional materials on this dedicated webpage, as well as information on how and where to submit. (You submit a link on Canvas in this assignment)

Peer feedback on post Week 4

3 points, due Monday Sept. 21 by 11.59pm.

Ok, you know the drill, and why reading other's posts is good for you...

Below you find links to four blog posts from your fellow students.
If one of the websites is your own, or it is twice the same person's, refresh the page, and you should get new sites.

  • Post 1:
  • Post 2:
  • Post 3:
  • Post 4:

Leave feedback, questions, thoughts, insights about the contents of the posts of your fellow students using Hypothes.is group HST271. You can ask for clarifications, point out similarities and differences with the material you covered, or with your interpretation. This should encourage you to nose around in the other materials you did not read in the first round.

Use the “Architect’s Model” of giving feedback, and engage with concrete issues. Go beyond “Yeah, I agree,” “I like” or “I think the same”, and instead explain why you have that reaction, or if you disagree, you can try to persuade the original poster of your idea or interpretation.

Remember that Hypothes.is allows for hyperlinks, e.g. to materials that support your argument, or you can include pictures (memes! [yes, there she is again]), videos etc. that help the original poster to learn more.

When you've commented on four posts, read this declaration carefully, and then fill out the Canvas quiz to collect your points.

Declaration
- I commented on four fellow students' initial posts on the readings from Week 4, using the group HST271.
- I made sure to leave substantial comments that move the discussion forward and help to create better insights, and go beyond a "nice" or "great".
- I left comments that I would like to receive myself: thoughtful, helpful, kind, but also pointing out errors so they can be fixed.

Extra credit

1: Rewrite a post

3 points, due by Sunday Sept. 20, 11.59pm

Unhappy about a post you wrote? Feeling you can do better now than a few weeks ago? Had a bad week and rushed to get it in but now you’re ready to do something you can be proud of? Now you can rewrite a post and get extra credit for it!

  • Pick a post from a previous week and use the comments you received to rewrite it.
  • Add a brief paragraph at the end explaining how you rewrote the post: which comments did you address, how did you go about the process (new blank page vs. tinkering), and what you learned about the process of rewriting.
  • tag the post with extra, and add the word rewrite to the title

Read the following Declaration carefully, and then head on over to Canvas to collect your points in the Declaration Quiz:

Declaration
I selected a post from a previous week and rewrote it, using feedback and insights I gained since writing it.
I added a brief paragraph at the end explaining what I did to rewrite the post, and what I learned about rewriting
I added the tag extra to the post, and added the word rewrite to the title.
I made sure the post is still in the category hst271.

2: Record your name with NameCoach in Canvas

1 point, due by Sunday Sept. 20, 11.59pm

Some of you have no doubt wondered how you pronounce my name. (It’s ok, I don’t mind people mispronouncing it. I’d rather you try than say “Oh I won’t even try because I’ll just butcher it.”) To help you out, I recorded it using NameCoach, and put it on Canvas. You can record your name, too!

Check out this a brief video tutorial from our friends at the OIT office, to walk you through. It is very easy. When you’re done, check it is showing up on our Canvas course NameCoach tab.

Then read this Declaration, and go to the Canvas Declaration Quiz to collect your extra credit point.

Declaration
I recorded my name in NameCoach for our Canvas site.
I checked my recording shows up correctly on the Canvas site.

Where to ask questions

Remember that it is highly likely that you are not the only one with that question. Save me time, and help your fellow students by asking questions where others can see them. If you know the answer to a question, jump in! I can’t be everywhere all the time.

Missing link? Wrong information? Email me!

On to week 5: Coming soon!