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

Poetic Transformations: Eighteenth-Century Cultural Projects on the Mekong Plains

Claudine Ang
In the eighteenth century, multiple migratory groups with competing political ambitions converged on the Mekong plains. In the frontier region, literati‐officials of a territorially-expanding Vietnamese state crossed paths with a network of diasporic Chinese Ming loyalists closely affiliated with the coastal trading network. Drawing on vernacular Vietnamese and classical Chinese sources, Claudine Ang identifies the different ways two leading statesmen of the time employed literature to transform the frontier region. In their rival cultural projects, we see the clash between the aspirations of Vietnamese and Chinese migrants. Ang shows how a bawdy play, in which a lascivious monk turns his charms on an unsuspecting nun, acted as a vehicle for differentiating Vietnamese lowlanders from their neighbors, and she uncovers in a suite of landscape poems coded messages aimed at founding a new Ming loyalist stronghold on the Mekong delta. Through its close reading of satirical drama and landscape poetry, Poetic Transformations captures a historical moment of overlapping visions, frustrated schemes, and contested desires on the Mekong plains.

The Worship of Confucius in Japan

James McMullen
How has Confucius, quintessentially and symbolically Chinese, been received throughout Japanese history? The Worship of Confucius in Japan provides the first overview of the richly documented and colorful Japanese version of the East Asian ritual to venerate Confucius, known in Japan as the sekiten. The original Chinese political liturgy embodied assumptions about sociopolitical order different from those of Japan. Over more than thirteen centuries, Japanese in power expressed a persistently ambivalent response to the ritual’s challenges and often tended to interpret the ceremony in cultural rather than political terms.Like many rituals, the sekiten self-referentially reinterpreted earlier versions of itself. James McMullen adopts a diachronic and comparative perspective. Focusing on the relationship of the ritual to political authority in the premodern period, McMullen sheds fresh light on Sino–Japanese cultural relations and on the distinctive political, cultural, and social history of Confucianism in Japan. Successive sections of The Worship of Confucius in Japan trace the vicissitudes of the ceremony through two major cycles of adoption, modification, and decline, first in ancient and medieval Japan, then in the late feudal period culminating in its rejection at the Meiji Restoration. An epilogue sketches the history of the ceremony in the altered conditions of post-Restoration Japan and up to the present.

Imperiled Destinies: The Daoist Quest for Deliverance in Medieval China

Franciscus Verellen
Imperiled Destinies examines the evolution of Daoist beliefs about human liability and redemption over eight centuries and outlines ritual procedures for rescuing an ill‐starred destiny. From the second through the tenth century CE, Daoism emerged as a liturgical organization that engaged vigorously with Buddhism and transformed Chinese thinking about suffering, the nature of evil, and the aims of liberation. In the fifth century, elements of classical Daoism combined with Indian yogic practices to interiorize the quest for deliverance. The medieval record portrays a world engulfed by evil, where human existence was mortgaged from birth and burdened by increasing debts and obligations in this world and the next. Against this gloomy outlook, Daoism offered ritual and sacramental instruments capable of acting on the unseen world, providing therapeutic relief and ecstatic release from apprehensions of death, disease, war, spoilt harvests, and loss. Drawing on prayer texts, liturgical sermons, and experiential narratives, Franciscus Verellen focuses on the Daoist vocabulary of bondage and redemption, the changing meanings of sacrifice, and metaphoric conceptualizations bridging the visible and invisible realms. The language of medieval supplicants envisaged the redemption of an imperiled destiny as debt forgiveness, and deliverance as healing, purification, release, or emergence from darkness into light.

Ethnic Chrysalis: China’s Orochen People and the Legacy of Qing Borderland Administration

Loretta E. Kim
Ethnic Chrysalis is the first book in English to cover the early modern history of the Orochen, an ethnic group that has for centuries inhabited areas now belonging to the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The Qing dynasty (1644–1911) was a formative period for Orochen identity, and its actions preserved the Orochen as a separate ethnic group. While incorporating the Orochen into the imperial political domain through military conscription and compulsory resource extraction, the Qing government created two Orochen subgroups that experienced disparate levels of social and economic autonomy. The use of “Orochen” as an official modifier by Qing officials forms an early layer of the chrysalis that embodies various senses of ethnic identity for people who have been identified, or self‐identified, as Orochen. Since the Qing, the Orochen have continued to cherish the perception that their Qing‐period ancestors were key players in the defense and economy of northeast China. Tracing the evolution of Qing policies toward the Orochen along the Chinese–Russian borderland, Loretta Kim examines how the impact of political organization in one era can endure in a group’s social and cultural values.

Becoming Taiwanese: Ethnogenesis in a Colonial City, 1880s-1950s

Evan N. Dawley
What does it mean to be Taiwanese? This question sits at the heart of Taiwan’s modern history and its place in the world. In contrast to the prevailing scholarly focus on Taiwan after 1987, Becoming Taiwanese examines the important first era in the history of Taiwanese identity construction during the early twentieth century, in the place that served as the crucible for the formation of new identities: the northern port city of Jilong (Keelung).Part colonial urban social history, part exploration of the relationship between modern ethnicity and nationalism, Becoming Taiwanese offers new insights into ethnic identity formation. Evan Dawley examines how people from China’s southeastern coast became rooted in Taiwan; how the transfer to Japanese colonial rule established new contexts and relationships that promoted the formation of distinct urban, ethnic, and national identities; and how the so-called retrocession to China replicated earlier patterns and reinforced those same identities. Based on original research in Taiwan and Japan, and focused on the settings and practices of social organizations, religion, and social welfare, as well as the local elites who served as community gatekeepers, Becoming Taiwanese fundamentally challenges our understanding of what it means to be Taiwanese.

Lost Histories: Recovering the Lives of Japan’s Colonial Peoples

Kirsten L. Ziomek
A grandson’s photo album. Old postcards. English porcelain. A granite headstone. These are just a few of the material objects that help reconstruct the histories of colonial people who lived during Japan’s empire. These objects, along with oral histories and visual imagery, reveal aspects of lives that reliance on the colonial archive alone cannot. They help answer the primary question of Lost Histories: Is it possible to write the history of Japan’s colonial subjects? Kirsten Ziomek contends that it is possible, and in the process she brings us closer to understanding the complexities of their lives.Lost Histories provides a geographically and temporally holistic view of the Japanese empire from the early 1900s to the 1970s. The experiences of the four least-examined groups of Japanese colonial subjects—the Ainu, Taiwan’s indigenous people, Micronesians, and Okinawans—are the centerpiece of the book. By reconstructing individual life histories and following these people as they crossed colonial borders to the metropolis and beyond, Ziomek conveys the dynamic nature of an empire in motion and explains how individuals navigated the vagaries of imperial life.Also available in paperback.

Voting as a Rite: A History of Elections in Modern China

Joshua Hill
For over a century, voting has been a surprisingly common political activity in China. Voting as a Rite examines China’s experiments with elections from the perspective of intellectual and cultural history. Rather than arguing that such exercises were either successful or failed attempts at political democracy, the book instead focuses on a previously unasked question: how did those who participated in Chinese elections define success or failure for themselves? Answering this question reveals why Chinese elites originally became enamored of elections at the end of the nineteenth century, why critics complained about elections that featured real competition in the early twentieth century, and why elections continued to be held after the mid-twentieth century even though outcomes were predetermined by the state. While no mainland Chinese government has ever felt that its rule required validation at the ballot box, the discourses that surrounded elections reveal much about important tensions within modern Chinese political thought. What is the best means to identify talent? Can the state trust the people to act responsibly as citizens? As Joshua Hill shows, elections are vital, not peripheral, to understanding these concerns fully.Also available in paperback.

Just a Song: Chinese Lyrics from the Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries

“Song Lyric,” ci, remains one of the most loved forms of Chinese poetry. From the early eleventh century through the first quarter of the twelfth century, song lyric evolved from an impromptu contribution in a performance practice to a full literary genre, in which the text might be read more often than performed. Young women singers, either indentured or private entrepreneurs, were at the heart of song practice throughout the period; the authors of the lyrics were notionally mostly male. A strange gender dynamic arose, in which men often wrote in the voice of a woman and her imagined feelings, then appropriated that sensibility for themselves.As an essential part of becoming literature, a history was constructed for the new genre. At the same time the genre claimed a new set of aesthetic values to radically distinguish it from older “Classical Poetry,” shi. In a world that was either pragmatic or moralizing (or both), song lyric was a discourse of sensibility, which literally gave a beautiful voice to everything that seemed increasingly to be disappearing in the new Song dynasty world of righteousness and public advancement.

A Path Twice Traveled: My Journey as a Historian of China

Paul A. Cohen
In this memoir, Paul A. Cohen, one of the West’s preeminent historians of China, traces the development of his work from its inception in the early 1960s to the present, offering fresh perspectives that consistently challenge us to think more deeply about China and the historical craft in general. A memoir, of course, is itself a form of history. But for a historian, writing a memoir on one’s career is quite different from the creation of that career in the first place. This is what Cohen alludes to in the title A Path Twice Traveled. The title highlights the important disparity between the past as originally experienced and the past as later reconstructed, by which point both the historian and the world have undergone extensive change. This distinction, which conveys nicely the double meaning of the word history, is very much on Cohen’s mind throughout the book. He returns to it explicitly in the memoir’s final chapter, appropriately titled “Then and Now: The Two Histories.”

Opera, Society, and Politics in Modern China

Hsiao-t’i Li
Popular operas in late imperial China were a major part of daily entertainment, and were also important for transmitting knowledge of Chinese culture and values. In the twentieth century, however, Chinese operas went through significant changes. During the first four decades of the 1900s, led by Xin Wutai (New Stage) of Shanghai and Yisushe of Xi’an, theaters all over China experimented with both stage and scripts to present bold new plays centering on social reform. Operas became closely intertwined with social and political issues. This trend toward “politicization” was to become the most dominant theme of Chinese opera from the 1930s to the 1970s, when ideology-laden political plays reflected a radical revolutionary agenda.Drawing upon a rich array of primary sources, this book focuses on the reformed operas staged in Shanghai and Xi’an. By presenting extensive information on both traditional/imperial China and revolutionary/Communist China, it reveals the implications of these “modern” operatic experiences and the changing features of Chinese operas throughout the past five centuries. Although the different genres of opera were watched by audiences from all walks of life, the foundations for opera’s omnipresence completely changed over time.

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