Publications Program

The Asia Center Publications Program is one of the world’s most widely respected publishers of scholarly books in East Asian Studies, publishing about 15 new titles per year. The program has published nearly 500 titles since its founding in the 1950s; it became part of the Asia Center in 1998. In the past decade, books published by the Asia Center have won more than a dozen major awards in their respective fields.

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List of Publications

Publications

Du Fu Transforms: Tradition and Ethics amid Societal Collapse

Lucas Rambo Bender
Often considered China’s greatest poet, Du Fu (712–770) came of age at the height of the Tang dynasty, in an era marked by confidence that the accumulated wisdom of the precedent cultural tradition would guarantee civilization’s continued stability and prosperity. When his society collapsed into civil war in 755, however, he began to question contemporary assumptions about the role that tradition should play in making sense of experience and defining human flourishing.In this book, Lucas Bender argues that Du Fu’s reconsideration of the nature and importance of tradition has played a pivotal role in the transformation of Chinese poetic understanding over the last millennium. In reimagining his relationship to tradition, Du Fu anticipated important philosophical transitions from the late-medieval into the early-modern period and laid the template for a new and perduring paradigm of poetry’s relationship to ethics. He also looked forward to the transformations his own poetry would undergo as it was elevated to the pinnacle of the Chinese poetic pantheon.

Uncertain Powers: Sen’yōmon-in and Landownership by Royal Women in Early Medieval Japan

Sachiko Kawai
Uncertain Powers is an original and much-needed analysis of female leadership in medieval Japan. In challenging current scholarship by exploring the important political and economic roles of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Japanese royal women, Sachiko Kawai questions the traditional view of the era as one dominated by male, retired monarchs and a warrior government. Instead the author populates it with royal wives and daughters who held the title of premier royal lady (nyoin) and owned estates across the Japanese archipelago. Nyoin, whose power varied according to marital status, networks, and age, used their wealth and human networks to build temples and organize their entourages to assert religious, cultural, and political influence. Confronted with social factors and gender disparities, they were motivated to develop coping strategies, the workings of which Kawai masterfully teases out from abundant primary sources.Uncertain Powers presents a nuanced and groundbreaking study of the relationship between a nyoin’s authority and her actual power, demonstrating how, as members of political factions, as landlords, and as religious and cultural patrons, nyoin struggled to transform authority into power by means of cooperation, persuasion, compromise, and coercion.

Wang Anshi and Song Poetic Culture

Xiaoshan Yang
A poetic culture consists of a body of shared values and conventions that shape the composition and interpretation of poetry in a given historical period. This book on Wang Anshi (1021–1086) and Song poetic culture—the first of its kind in any Western language—brings into focus a cluster of issues that are central to the understanding of both the poet and his cultural milieu. These issues include the motivations and consequences of poetic contrarianism and the pursuit of novelty, the relationship between anthology compilation and canon formation, the entanglement of poetry with partisan politics, Buddhist orientations in poetic language, and the development of the notion of late style.Though diverse in nature and scope, the issues all bear the stamp of the period as well as Wang Anshi’s distinct personality. Conceived of largely as a series of case studies, the book’s individual chapters may be read independently of each other, but together they form a varied, if only partial, mosaic of Wang Anshi’s work and its critical reception in the larger context of Song poetic culture.

Karma and Punishment: Prison Chaplaincy in Japan

Adam J. Lyons
Despite being one of the most avowedly secular nations in the world, Japan may have more prison chaplains per inmate than any other country, the majority of whom are Buddhist priests. In this groundbreaking study of prison religion in East Asia, Adam Lyons introduces a form of chaplaincy rooted in the Buddhist concept of doctrinal admonition rather than Euro-American notions of spiritual care.Based on archival research, fieldwork inside prisons, and interviews with chaplains, Karma and Punishment reveals another dimension of Buddhist modernism that developed as Japan’s religious organizations carved out a niche as defenders of society by fighting crime. Between 1868 and 2020, generations of clergy have been appointed to bring religious instruction to bear on a range of offenders, from illegal Christian heretics to Marxist political dissidents, war criminals, and death row inmates. The case of the prison chaplaincy shows that despite constitutional commitments to freedom of religion and separation of religion from state, statism remains an enduring feature of mainstream Japanese religious life in the contemporary era.

Chinese Asianism, 1894–1945

Craig A. Smith
Chinese Asianism examines Chinese intellectual discussions of East Asian solidarity, analyzing them in connection with Chinese nationalism and Sino–Japanese relations. Beginning with texts written after the first Sino–Japanese War of 1894 and concluding with Wang Jingwei’s failed government in World War II, Craig Smith engages with a period in which the Chinese empire had crumbled and intellectuals were struggling to adapt to imperialism, new and hegemonic forms of government, and radically different epistemes. He considers a wide range of writings that show the depth of the pre-war discourse on Asianism and the influence it had on the rise of nationalism in China.Asianism was a “call” for Asian unity, Smith finds, but advocates of a united and connected Asia based on racial or civilizational commonalities also utilized the packaging of Asia for their own agendas, to the extent that efforts towards international regionalism spurred the construction of Chinese nationalism. Asianism shaped Chinese ideas of nation and region, often by translating and interpreting Japanese perspectives, and leaving behind a legacy in the concepts and terms that persist in the twenty-first century. As China plays a central role in regional East Asian development, Asianism is once again of great importance today.

Chiang Kai-shek’s Politics of Shame: Leadership, Legacy, and National Identity in China

Grace C. Huang
Once a powerful figure who reversed the disintegration of China and steered the country to Allied victory in World War II, Chiang Kai-shek fled into exile following his 1949 defeat in the Chinese civil war. As attention pivoted to Mao Zedong’s communist experiment, Chiang was relegated to the dustbin of history.In Chiang Kai-shek’s Politics of Shame, Grace C. Huang reconsiders Chiang’s leadership and legacy by drawing on an extraordinary and uncensored collection of his diaries, telegrams, and speeches stitched together by his secretaries. She paints a new, intriguing portrait of this twentieth-century leader who advanced a Confucian politics of shame to confront Japanese incursion into China and urge unity among his people. In also comparing Chiang’s response to imperialism to those of Mao, Yuan Shikai, and Mahatma Gandhi, Huang widens the implications of her findings to explore alternatives to Western expressions of nationalism and modernity and reveal how leaders of vulnerable states can use potent cultural tools to inspire their country and contribute to an enduring national identity.This book is also available in paperback.

Opportunity in Crisis: Cantonese Migrants and the State in Late Qing China

Steven B. Miles
Opportunity in Crisis explores the history of late Qing Cantonese migration along the West River basin during war and reconstruction and the impact of those developments on the relationship between state and local elites on the Guangxi frontier. By situating Cantonese upriver and overseas migration within the same framework, Steven Miles reconceives the late Qing as an age of Cantonese diasporic expansion rather than one of state decline.The book opens with crisis: rising levels of violence targeting Cantonese riverine commerce, much of it fomented by a geographically mobile Cantonese underclass. Miles then narrates the ensuing history of a Cantonese rebel regime established in Guangxi in the wake of the Taiping uprising. Subsequent chapters discuss opportunities created by this crisis and its aftermath and demonstrate important continuities and changes across the mid-century divide. With the reassertion of Qing control, Cantonese commercial networks in Guangxi expanded dramatically and became an increasingly important source of state revenue. Through its reliance on Hunanese and Cantonese to reconquer Guangxi, the Qing state allowed these diasporic cohorts more flexibility in colonizing the provincial administration and examination apparatus, helping to recreate a single polity on the eve of China’s transition from empire to nation-state.

Testing the Literary: Prose and the Aesthetic in Early Modern China

Alexander Des Forges
The civil service examination essay known as shiwen (modern or contemporary prose) or bagu wen (eight-legged essay) for its complex structure was the most widely read and written literary genre in early modern China (1450–1850). As the primary mode of expression in which educated individuals were schooled, shiwen epitomized the literary enterprise even beyond the walls of the examination compound. But shiwen suffered condemnation in the shift in discourse on literary writing that followed the fall of the Ming dynasty, and were thoroughly rejected in the May Fourth iconoclasm of the early twentieth century.Challenging conventional disregard for the genre, Alexander Des Forges reads the examination essay from a literary perspective, showing how shiwen redefined prose aesthetics and transformed the work of writing. A new approach to subjectivity took shape: the question “who is speaking?” resonated through the essays’ involuted prose style, foregrounding issues of agency and control. At the same time, the anonymity of the bureaucratic evaluation process highlighted originality as a literary value. Finally, an emphasis on questions of form marked the aesthetic as a key arena for contestation of authority as candidates, examiners, and critics joined to form a dominant social class of literary producers.

Financial Liberalization and Economic Development in Korea, 1980–2020

Joon Kyung Kim and Yung Chul Park and Hail Park
Since the early 1980s, Korea’s financial development has been a tale of liberalization and opening. After the 1997 financial crisis, great strides were made in building a market-oriented financial system through sweeping reforms for deregulation and the opening of financial markets. However, the new system failed to steer the country away from a credit card boom and bust in 2003, a liquidity crisis in 2008, and a run on its savings banks in 2011, and has been severely tested again by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Financial liberalization, clearly, has been no panacea.This study analyzes the deepening of and structural changes in Korea’s financial system since the early 1980s and presents the empirical results of the effects of financial development on economic growth, stability, and the distribution of income. It finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, financial liberalization has contributed little to fostering the growth and stability of the Korean economy and has exacerbated income distribution problems. Are there any merits in financial liberalization? The authors answer this query through empirical examinations of the theories of finance and growth. They point to a clear need to further improve the efficiency, soundness, and stability of Korean financial institutions and markets.

Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance: Essays on the Shishuo xinyu

Jack W. Chen
Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance is a study of the Shishuo xinyu, the most important anecdotal collection of medieval China—and arguably of the entire traditional era. In a set of interconnected essays, Jack W. Chen offers new readings of the Shishuo xinyu that draw upon social network analysis, performance studies, theories of ritual and mourning, and concepts of gossip and reputation to illuminate how the anecdotes of the collection imagine and represent a political and cultural elite. Whereas most accounts of the Shishuo have taken a historical approach, Chen argues that the work should be understood in literary terms.At its center, Anecdote, Network, Gossip, Performance is an extended meditation on the very nature of the anecdote form, both what the anecdote affords in terms of representing a social community and how it provides a space for the rehearsal of certain longstanding philosophical and cultural arguments. Although each of the chapters may be read separately as an essay in its own right, when taken together, they present a comprehensive account of the Shishuo in all of its literary complexity.

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