CCS Scholars Forum - Fall 2020

Presented by Richard von Glahn, Helen Rees, and Sunkyu Lee

Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 video or install Flash.CCS-Scholar-Forum---Fall-2020-4y-uli.jpg

The CCS Scholars Forum is a series that aims to bring together scholars on campus working on disparate aspects of Chinese studies in order to facilitate greater dialogue and collaboration. Each speaker will deliver a short and accessible presentation, introducing a current research project; followed by a general discussion. Each forum will pair scholars at different stages of their careers from different fields. These forums are envisioned as a means to strengthen ties within our Chinese Studies community at UCLA. Students and faculty with an interest in China are strongly encouraged to attend.

For our third quarterly forum in Fall 2020, we will have Richard von Glahn, Helen Rees, and Sunkyu Lee share with us their current works. We will be live-streaming the forum via Zoom; please register for zoom link.

 Please View Recorded Video Here


‘Japanese Piracy’ and the Emergence of Port Polities in Sixteenth-Century Maritime East Asia

In the sixteenth century, the formation of the first truly global trading network, one centered on Chinese consumption of Japanese and American silver, had far-reaching political as well as economic consequences for the East Asian maritime world. One salient feature of this era was the rise of “Japanese piracy” (Wokou 倭寇; J. Wakō)—a misnomer, really, since they were neither Japanese nor pirates, but rather multinational merchant companies who defied the Ming dynasty’s ban on overseas trade to smuggle silver into China. This trade also spurred the formation of “port polities”—whose economic base rested on maritime trade rather than land revenues—across maritime East Asia. Port polities emerged in Japan, Ryukyu (Okinawa), and Vietnam; the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch colonial outposts in Macau, Manila, and Batavia can also be considered representatives of this political phenomenon, as well as the Zheng regime in coastal China in the mid-seventeenth century. This talk will examine the close relationship between the seafaring Wokou merchants and the Ōtomo daimyo in Kyushu, who sought to capitalize on their Wokou and Portuguese connections to achieve economic, military, and political supremacy in the Japanese archipelago. The ultimate failure of the Ōtomo quest presaged the disappearance of the port polity model as an alternative to the Chinese agrarian bureaucratic state in East Asia over the course of the seventeenth century.

Richard von Glahn is Distinguished Professor of History at UCLA, where he has taught for more than thirty years. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author of Fountain of Fortune: Money and Monetary Policy in China, 1000-1700 (California, 1996), The Economic History of China from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2016), and other books in Chinese and world history, as well as serving as co-editor of The Cambridge Economic History of China (scheduled for publication in fall 2021). Currently he is engaged in research on wide-ranging issues such as the economic history of maritime East Asia, the fiscal state in Chinese imperial history, and the rise and demise of paper money during the Song-Yuan-Ming dynasties.


Playing the Flute in Shanghai: Creating a Collaborative Documentary Film with One Teacher, One Colleague, and 25 Other Participants

Most of my ethnomusicological research over the last thirty years has focused on traditional musics in villages and small towns of Yunnan Province, but this presentation is about a completely different project I undertook more recently, a world away in urban Shanghai. For much of my career, I have kept my performing activities on Chinese flutes  (the transverse dizi and endblown xiao) largely separate from my academic research, but they came together over 2015–2019 in a collaborative documentary film project that had its roots in my student days at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music back in the late 1980s.  The film, Playing the Flute in Shanghai, focuses on the musical life of my flute teacher Dai Shuhong 戴树红 (b.1937), a renowned exponent of both dizi and xiao, and a spellbinding storyteller who had often brought sixty years of Chinese musical history to life for me through his amazing memory and extensive photograph albums. My colleague Professor Aparna Sharna, the fine documentary filmmaker in UCLA's Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, proposed making a documentary about Dai laoshi's eventful musical life; Dai laoshi agreed, and the three of us planned and discussed each stage of the work. My showings of rough cuts in Shanghai as work progressed drew twenty-five more of his participating friends, family members, and students to give invaluable critical input that shaped the film in ways important to them, and vastly improved the final product. It was shown at a film festival in Shanghai in 2019, where it won an award; most of the twenty-six participants came to watch. It should achieve distribution next year.  

Helen Rees, a professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA, studied Chinese music at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in the late 1980s. Since 1989 she has undertaken extensive field and archival research on traditional musics of Yunnan Province, publishing the book Echoes of History: Naxi Music in Modern China (OUP, 2000) and collaborating on thirteen ethnographic CDs of Yunnanese music. She has interpreted and presented for visiting Chinese musicians at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Amsterdam China Festival.


Military Crises, Wall-building, and Imaginings of the Great Wall in Sixteenth Century China

In 1990, Dr. Arthur Waldron published The Great Wall of China: from History to Myth, challenging the existing idea of an ancient origin and two-millennia existence of the Great Wall by calling it a myth. In the current time when the wall emerges again as a powerful divider between “us” and “them,” I want to revisit Waldron’s thesis that wall-building was a political and strategic decision in mid-sixteenth century Ming China. This talk consists of two parts: firstly, I introduce how sixteenth century officials constructed a new historical narrative of the Great Wall, claiming the wall-building as a Sinic practice. Secondly, I investigate the emerging practice of mapping the Great Wall, which not only naturalized the presence of the wall throughout the entire northern frontier, but also facilitated a territorial definition of the politico-cultural community in Ming China.

Sunkyu Lee is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department, UCLA. Her dissertation explores how maps shaped the imaginings of political boundaries in Ming China (1368-1644).


Please upgrade to a browser that supports HTML5 audio or install Flash.

Audio MP3 Download Podcast

Duration: 1:07:30


Transcript   * This might take a few seconds to load.

published icon

Published: Thursday, October 15, 2020