P51. Power, State, and Society in China’s Republican Era

Session: Session 7, 3:45-5:15 pm, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Innovation

Chair: Rhonda Huo (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Zhixin Luo (Binghamton University), Luming Xu (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Zhanhao Zhang (Indiana University Bloomington)

The Female Version of Yao and Shun: Empress Dowager Longyu’s Funeral and the Decentralized Power of Ritual

Speaker: Zhixin Luo
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Binghamton University
Abstract: This paper studies the funeral of Qing empire’s last empress dowager Longyu. Since she played a pivotal role during the transition of power from the Qing empire to the Republic of China, her funeral largely functioned as a public forum to discuss her decision, the legacy of the Qing empire and the legitimacy of the power transition. Many Qing loyalists felt betrayed by the power transition, as did many former Qing officials who now served the Republic. President Yuan Shikai intended to utilize this funeral to portray the Republic as the rightful successor to the Qing empire. Meanwhile, the loyalists wanted to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to the Qing dynasty. The imperial court wanted to maintain its good relation with Yuan, but it still needed to show that it had not become unimportant. Longyu’s funeral thus provided us an excellent chance to examine the symbolism and legacy of the Qing monarchy during the early Republican era.  Funeral is often studied as a public event where a single agenda is underlined. In some other case studies, public rituals like funerals often spur a competition among different narratives. By examining Longyu’s funeral, this chapter demonstrates that a funeral can also be viewed as a decentralized cultural event where participants with different agendas or interpretations chose to act according to their own terms. The Republican government, the imperial court and the loyalists all had their own interpretations of the funeral and its symbolism, yet they managed to incorporate all into the funeral.

Suppressing Bandits: Social Policing of Warlord Government in Manchuria, 1918-1928

Speaker: Luming Xu
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Banditry was a constant threat to the social security of Chinese society during the Republican period, Manchuria (Northeast China) was one of the regions that had been most seriously afflicted. In order to maintain social order in Manchuria, the Fengtian Clique Government, a warlord regime that ruled Manchuria from 1916 to 1928, launched a series of “bandit suppression” (jiaofei,  剿匪) campaigns to eradicate bandits within its territory. However, the number of bandits in Manchuria increased significantly under the high pressure of suppression during this time, which marked the failure of the Fengtian Clique government’s security apparatuses. This thesis will examine the factors that contributed to the eventual failure  of the Fengtian Clique government’s “bandit suppression” campaigns by focusing on the institutional history of the Fengtian Clique government’s social policing system. I argue that the  intense relationship between the Fengtian Clique government and Manchurian local societies, the factional divisions within the Fengtian Clique government, Japanese and Russian colonialism in  Manchuria during the early twentieth century were the main factors that damaged the effectiveness of the security apparatuses of the Fengtian Clique government.

Christianity and Chinese Modernity: New Cultural and May Fourth Movement Reconsidered

Speaker: Zhanhao Zhang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Indiana University Bloomington
Abstract: The May Fourth and New Culture Movement have long attracted the attention of historians, both from the west and the sinophone world. As a characteristic, the focus of the historiography works centered around Chinese modernity and its connection with Mr. De and Mr. Sai, or the emphasis on democracy and science. However, it is teleological to conceptualize the movement as a pure pursuit of democracy and science for modernizing China. Instead, many intellectuals emphasize the role of religion, specifically Christianity, in the process of Chinese modernization. Following historian Rebecca Karl’s concept of competing revolution in modern China, this paper will focus on the relatively muted Christian-style revolution in the May Fourth and New Culture Movement. Overall, during the May Fourth and New Culture Movement, intellectuals such as Chen Duxiu, Zhou Zuoren, Yu Dafu, and Bing Xin believed in the potential of Christianity for modern China. Specifically, they perceived that universal love and sacrifice within the Christian doctrines could serve as the foundation for the Chinese to learn equality and civic duty as the essential part of modern citizenship. Moreover, when individuals suffered from nihilism because of forced integration into modern society, Christianity could serve as the solution to the modernity crisis. Man could form emotional and spiritual connections with others. Besides, through Christianity, people could find a purpose in life.