Reading: Justin Tiwald, Bryan W. Van Norden (eds.) — Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century

A much easier one to trace why I’m reading it. Published in September, Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han to the 20th Century edited by Justin Tiwald, Bryan W. Van Norden was on Warp, Weft, and Way: Chinese and Comparative Philosophy 中國哲學與比較哲學, and looked like the kind of thing that would nicely summarise a couple of millennia of Chinese thought, philosophy, and religion.

Besides some Chuang Tzu—I mean Zhuangzi, (and some decidedly awkward teenage messing around with the I Ching) my exposure to Chinese philosophy has been by osmosis. Even communist China in any of its forms is unavoidably aligned with some form of Confucianism. To read the the sources, for all my China reading is something I haven’t done.

I do dislike Confucianism, and everything in the translated selections here only confirms that. The Cosmology section (coming chronologically before Buddhism) alone for me is worth the “Oh why am I paying so much again for a book?” price. Not the least for the notes on that favourite pop-spiritual object of Western culture: Yin and Yang, which can only be understood as unmistakably misogynist and generally hegemonically normative.

For me, the dogmatic aspects of Confucianism in Chinese history and culture seem to be balanced—or at least resisted from achieving complete dominance—by Daoism, Buddhism, and Mohism (this latter I’ve read effectively nothing on). Perhaps experiencing confirmation bias while reading.

It could do with a couple more female translators, especially as it suffers from that “women in the kitchen” problem of them represented in the Women and Gender section but a distinct minority elsewhere. Anyway, it’s my go-to book for the subject.

Reading: Tonio Andrade — Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West

Which is the one I’m ripping through at the expense of Women with Mustaches, Men without Beards, which I heard about on China Rhyming late last year – a blog that has been responsible for quite a bit of my book reading as Paul French’s meandering interests often suit mine.

Tonio Andrade’s Lost Colony is a bit of a gap-filler for me. Much of my reading on China has been mid- to late-Qing Dynasty, mostly in the 19th Century, dealing with the Opium Wars, or Republican Era, and despite knowing a little of the Ming Dynasty, it’s something of a blank – especially when related to Taiwan. Taiwan where I discovered southern Chinese cuisine was curiously laced with Portuguese herbs, and where acquaintances would announce their cultivated bonafides by declaring they were descended from Ming Dynasty migrants rather than the upstart Kuomintang rout.

I’m probably going to finish this book in the next couple of days. It’s one of those popular-scholarly works, nowhere near as dense as Afsaneh Najmabadi, more in keeping with, say, Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, or The Canton Trade, though I think perhaps lighter than either. It suffers too a little from this strange populism that I’ve found in a couple of other authors, where references to specific, usually American, politics or current affairs turn up which might be comprehensible for someone who reads the news obsessively, but for others – particularly english speakers who aren’t American and don’t have an interest in Americocentricism – it comes across as odd and misplaced. I suspect though this has something to do with ‘appealing to the wider market’. It’s also got a quote on the dustcover from Jared Diamond, who has very recently been playing uncomfortably fast and loose with anthropology.

Anyway, another book, and one of several landing on me at the moment. I’ll read this one with a bit of distance, enjoyable as it is.

saturday morning re-blogging

Last night was a rather interesting experience for me that I’m not going to blog about, but certainly has much in common with what I was writing about Felix Ruchert a couple of days ago. So instead I’m saying nothing and forcing my morning’s reading – plus a few favourites from the course of the week – on you.

Switzerland invades Lichtenstein. So much for neutrality and all, but the best line goes to Interior Ministry spokesman Markus Amman who said, “It’s not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something.”

Astrono-porn from STEREO-B, planetary astronomy is making me crazy at the moment. Yes it’s a solar eclipse, but one that has never been seen before and can never be seen from Earth: the moon transiting the sun seen from about 1 million miles from earth, and super-awesome video too.

I always hated how migrant workers in Guangzhou got treated like shit. Not just in their working and living conditions or from obvious exploitation of what is a vast, cheap disposable resource in the eyes of the Communist Party and so all through society. What I hated was how locals would have some really questionable biases against people just trying to drag themselves out of poverty. So, A report by Amnesty International highlights the discrimination and abuse suffered by China’s migrant workers.

Mutant Palm has been posting again and is one of the most erudite writers on Chinese history. His piece on The Art of Chinese Astronomical Technology is a wonder of mathematics, calendars, observatories, oracle bones, a 2000 year old earthquake detector, Muslim astronomers and Jesuit priests.

Danwei gives a rundown on Ming Dynasty books in Booklists: things Ming, under-appreciated gems, and over-rated junk, and Heaven Tree, one of my favourite blogs writes On Rituals, and ends up with, “Make theater, not war, I say.”

This is from the start of the year but I missed it then, we make money not art interviewed Art Orienté Objet, a French duo who do disturbing and beautiful things somewhere between biotechnology, vivisection and art.