UCLA Alumnus Wins Third World Studies Book Prize
Hanchao Lu’s "Street Criers: A Cultural History of Chinese Beggars" wins the Cecil B. Currey Book Award for 2005–06
The most recent book of UCLA alumnus Hanchao Lu (Ph.D. in History, 1991) -- Street Criers: A Cultural History of Chinese Beggars (Stanford University Press, 2005) -- has received the Cecil B. Currey Award of the Association for Third World Studies as the best book on the third world in 2005-06. The award is named in honor of one of the foremost experts on the war in Vietnam.
Hanchao Lu was born and raised in Shanghai, and received his undergraduate education at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. After graduating, he joined the Academy as a researcher and published a biography of Robert Hart (1835-1911), the British head of the Chinese imperial customs service; a history of Shanghai; and numerous journal articles and book chapters.
After studying a year in Tokyo, in 1986 Lu came to UCLA as a graduate student, one of the very first students from the People’s Republic of China to enter our history program. Nineteen eighty six was also the year the Center for Chinese Studies was founded (under the leadership of Professor Philip Huang), launching an efflorescence of scholarship on China. Lu studied under Philip Huang (now Professor Emeritus of History), and wrote a dissertation -- “The Workers and Neighborhoods of Modern Shanghai, 1911-1949” -- that sensitively and sympathetically explored the everyday lives of the everyday people of Shanghai.
The work of Hanchao Lu, now Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of History, Technology, and Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, continues to focus on the everyday life of the people of China. This interest is reflected in Lu’s most recent major publications, Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century (University of California Press, 1999) -- which was also an award winner, garnering the Urban History Association Best Book Award in non-North American Urban History in 2001 -- and Street Criers.
The Stanford University Press website describes Street Criers in these words:
"This is a rich and comprehensive study of beggars’ culture and the institution of mendicancy in China from late imperial times to the mid-twentieth century, with a glance at the resurgence of beggars in China today. Generously illustrated, the book brings to life the concepts and practices of mendicancy including organized begging, state and society relations as reflected in the issues of poverty, public opinions of beggars and various factors that contribute to almsgiving, the role of gender in begging, and street people and Communist politics. Panoramically, the reader will see that the culture and institution of Chinese mendicancy, which had its origins in earlier centuries, remained remarkably consistent through time and space and that there were perennial and lively interactions between the world of beggars and mainstream society."
The introduction to Street Criers perhaps best explains the borders of the beggars’ world in China:
"The culture and institution of Chinese mendicancy remains remarkably consistent throughout time and space. The temporal boundaries of this study are marked by the establishment to the People’s Republic in 1949 on one end and by the early nineteenth century on the other -- a conventional periodization for “modern China” -- but much of the beggars’ culture in this period has its origins in earlier centuries. . . . Geographically, this study encompasses dozens of localities across the nation, from the traditional heartland of Chinese civilization on the banks of the Yellow River to the less sinicized Mongolian and Manchurian frontier, from the coastal Yangzi valley in the east and the Pearl River delta in the south to the deep hinterlands near the Tibetan plateau. In terms of China’s urban hierarchy, these widely scattered places encompassed everything from small rural towns to major metropolitan cities, including in between county seats, regional hubs, and provincial capitals. In virtually all things related to mendicancy, from the concept of beggary, to public opinion on beggars, to the ways and techniques of begging, to beggars’ organization and the way Chinese officials coped with them, the similarities across the country greatly outweighed the differences."
Published: Wednesday, November 29, 2006