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Tag: Qing Dynasty

Reflections on Palace Plays in the Digital Age

        During the past academic year (2014-2015), I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy at Academia Sinica. Academia Sinica is a tremendous place to do research—it is such a vibrant intellectual community, with near-constant talks, symposia, conferences, and exhibitions. I was particularly excited to make use of their extensive library collections, which contain many rare manuscripts that cannot be found elsewhere.         In the last couple months of my fellowship, I began preliminary research on a new project that emerged from my dissertation research. In my dissertation, I discuss the plays attributed to what is often referred to as the Suzhou School. This circle of playwrights—many of whom were friends or acquaintances and frequently engaged in co-writing and co-editing practices—was active in the late Ming and early Qing periods, and their plays were widely performed throughout the Jiangnan region. The surviving texts attributed to this circle are generally of two kinds.  Most common are undated manuscripts, copied in a hand that is utilitarian at best and downright sloppy at worst. The overall appearance of these texts—the frequent homonymic errors, the inclusion of stage directions, etc.—indicates that these were probably used in some sort of performance context,

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Late-Imperial Bibliographic Studies and Digital Quantitative Analysis

       Modern scholars of late-Imperial Chinese literature benefit from collected texts printed during the Ming and Qing dynasties that are supplemented with bibliographic information on both extant and non-extant books. Cataloging old texts was traditionally an important part of late-Imperial Chinese scholarship. Scholars closely researched important works by exploring their textual histories, identifying forgeries, and tracing their provenance. Some of this information was eventually preserved in large annotated indexes.        Publishing houses also printed compilations of popular texts and sometimes reprinted entire libraries. Though some were commercial products, other endeavors aimed to preserve (particularly those sponsored by the government). Many examples of this exist, the most famous being the 18th century The Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Si ku quan shu 四庫全書), compiled under the Qianlong (乾隆) emperor.  This was accompanied by An Index of Summaries of the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries (Si ku quan shu zong mu ti yao 四庫全書總目提要), a bibliographic index that provided short descriptions of the titles within, as well as many that were not included in the Si ku quan shu.  This tendency to publish collections of older books was common and likely lead to the preservation of

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Taiwan: An Ideal Place to Conduct Research on the Qing Dynasty

     As a PhD candidate in late imperial Chinese history, already four months into a ten-month Fulbright grant period in Taiwan, I have two goals for this brief essay. First, I want to set forth the reasons why Fulbright Taiwan has provided an ideal environment for my research. Second, I want to suggest that Taiwan is an excellent place to do in-country research on the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). Given the vast trove of archives now open to scholars in mainland China and given that various Taiwanese institutions have digitized many of Taiwan’s archival collections and generously placed them on-line (in some cases, accessible from anywhere), some scholars may no longer consider Taiwan a worthwhile destination for in-country research on Chinese history. To the contrary, my experience has been that the combination of nearly unrestricted access to superbly curated archives, a vibrant and welcoming intellectual community, an incredible system of libraries and research centers, close proximity to mainland China, the concentration of excellent scholars and academic institutions in one place, a clean and modern environment, and Taiwan’s own history as a Qing frontier combine to make Taiwan an ideal location for in-country research on the Qing. After four months, I

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