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

Famine Relief in Warlord China

Pierre Fuller
Famine Relief in Warlord China is a reexamination of disaster responses during the greatest ecological crisis of the pre-Nationalist Chinese republic. In 1920–1921, drought and ensuing famine devastated more than 300 counties in five northern provinces, leading to some 500,000 deaths. Long credited to international intervention, the relief effort, Pierre Fuller shows, actually began from within Chinese social circles. Indigenous action from the household to the national level, modeled after Qing-era relief protocol, sustained the lives of millions of the destitute in Beijing, in the surrounding districts of Zhili (Hebei) Province, and along the migrant and refugee trail in Manchuria, all before joint foreign–Chinese international relief groups became a force of any significance.Using district gazetteers, stele inscriptions, and the era’s vibrant Chinese press, Fuller reveals how a hybrid civic sphere of military authorities working with the public mobilized aid and coordinated migrant movement within stricken communities and across military domains. Ultimately, the book’s spotlight on disaster governance in northern China in 1920 offers new insights into the social landscape just before the region’s descent, over the next decade, into incessant warfare, political struggle, and finally the normalization of disaster itself.Also available in paperback.

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.

Manga from the Floating World: Comicbook Culture and the Kibyōshi of Edo Japan, Second Edition, With a New Preface

Adam Kern
Manga from the Floating World is the first full-length study in English of the kibyōshi, a genre of woodblock-printed comic book widely read in late-eighteenth-century Japan. By combining analysis of the socioeconomic and historical milieus in which the genre was produced and consumed with three annotated translations of works by major author-artist Santō Kyōden (1761–1816) that closely reproduce the experience of encountering the originals, Adam Kern offers a sustained close reading of the vibrant popular imagination of the mid-Edo period. The kibyōshi, Kern argues, became an influential form of political satire that seemed poised to transform the uniquely Edoesque brand of urban commoner culture into something more, perhaps even a national culture, until the shogunal government intervened. Based on extensive research using primary sources in their original Edo editions, the volume is copiously illustrated with rare prints from Japanese archival collections. It serves as an introduction not only to the kibyōshi but also to the genre’s readers and critics, narratological conventions, modes of visuality, format, and relationship to the modern Japanese manga and to the popular literature and wit of Edo. Filled with graphic puns and caricatures, these entertaining works will appeal to the general reader as well as to the more experienced student of Japanese cultural history—and anyone interested in the global history of comics, graphic novels, and manga.

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.

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.

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.

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

Stephen Owen
“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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