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Revisiting China’s Modernity

Ethnicity, Religion, and Nation

Jiang Sun

Investigating the nature of Chinese modernity from the perspectives of social and intellectual history and inspired by Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, this book reveals the ambiguity of nation as a modern concept and opens up a new possibility for the turn of China’s national narratives. The definitions of nation as either an imagined community or an entity with a substantive cultural origin are both partially wrong in the Chinese context, since China had its distinctive socio-cultural system in pre-modern times and the binary mode of nationality is inadequate to interpret the complexity of Chinese society. In light of this complexity, this work explores the relationship between the Manchus and the Han Chinese throughout the Qing dynasty, examines the transmission and reproduction of modern knowledge, particularly that of race and nation, on the ground of China’s reactions to the Western influence, and discusses how the supra-nationalist discourse of various religions succumbed to the homogenizing nature of nation state in modern China. To depict a general picture of "Chinese modernity" and avoid the risk of oversimplification, the author combines the methodology of social history with that of intellectual history, abandoning the East-West binary opposition and grouping all ten chapters into three parts that respectively approach Chinese modernity from a specific perspective. On this basis, it can be concluded that Chinese modernity, as a form of new knowledge, is produced out of the combination of a forward-thinking viewpoint and a fantasy about the modern age, which constitutes an inevitable path to China’s "national liberation" from the entanglement of ethnicity and cultural traditions.

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9 A Salvationist Religion’s Journey of Disaster Relief: Ōmotokyō and the Visit of the Red Swastika Society’s Delegation to Japan in 1923

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On September 1, 1923 the Great Kantō Earthquake struck Japan, shocking the world. The next day, the Shanghai-based Shenbao 申报 (Shun Pao) immediately reported the news of the earthquake (1923h). By the third day, the news that this earthquake made devastating effects had spread widely. Public attitude in China towards the misfortune of disaster victims in Japan was full of sympathy. The earthquake brought a positive turn to continually worsening Sino-Japanese relations temporarily. On September 3, the cabinet of the Beijing government made a resolution to donate two hundred thousand yuan for disaster relief and send the Red Cross Society of China to Japan (1923r). On September 6, opposing political factions and warlords also assembled together to establish a “Society of Emergency Relief” and discussed issues on disaster aid (1923b). The last Qing emperor Puyi made multiple visits to the Japanese Embassy in China to donate belongings. The famous Peking opera artist Mei Lanfang made several charity performances in Shanghai, which also attracted attention.

Of the various disaster relief movements that took place at the time, one that has received little attention until recently is that of the Chinese Red Swastika Society. The China’s Head Office of the World Red Swastika Society donated two ←251 | 252→thousand bushels of rice and five thousand U.S. dollars for the sake of disaster relief. In November of the same year, it sent three society members including Hou Yanshuang to Japan to investigate the situation. Though this story is often recounted in self-written...

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