China was afflicted by a brutal succession of conflicts through much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet there has never been clear understanding of how wartime suffering defined the nation and shaped its people.
In Beyond Suffering, a distinguished group of historians of modern China look beyond the geopolitical aspects of war to explore its social, institutional, and cultural dimensions, from child rearing and education to massacres and warlord mutinies. Though accounts of war-inflicted suffering are often fragmented or politically motivated, the authors show that they are crucial to understanding the multiple fronts on which wars are fought, experienced, and remembered. The chapters in Part 1, “Society at War,” reveal how war and militarization can both structure and destabilize society, while those in Part 2, “Institutional Engagement,” show how institutions and the people they represent can become pawns in larger power struggles. Lastly, Part 3, “Memory and Representation,” examines the various media, monuments, and social controls by which war has been memorialized.
Although many of the conflicts described in Beyond Suffering barely registered against the sweeping backdrop of Chinese history, such conflicts bring us closer to understanding war, militarism, and suffering in modern China.
This is a very powerful volume, which sheds light on a variety of topics that scholarship, particularly in English, does not sufficiently cover – the wartime bombing of China, Russian imperialism in northeastern China, and the makeup of the Nationalist army during wartime. With its focus on the social history of warfare in China, Beyond Suffering makes a major contribution to the field.
Uniformly well-researched and written, Beyond Suffering is a book that I would use in my graduate seminars. This important work covers a wide range of topics and issues and, since few studies deal with the impact of warfare and militarization on modern China, it should find a receptive audience.
James Flath is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Western Ontario and author of The Cult of Happiness: Nianhua, Art, and History in Rural North China. Norman Smith is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Guelph and author of Resisting Manchukuo: Chinese Women Writers and the Japanese Occupation.
Contributors: Timothy Brook, Blaine Chiasson, James Flath, Colin Green, Chang Jui-te, Diana Lary, Bernard Hung-kay Luk, Edward A. McCord, M. Colette Plum, Norman Smith, Michael Szonyi, Alexander Woodside, and Victor Zatsepine.
Introduction / James Flath and Norman Smith
Part 1: Society at War
1 Writing and Remembering the Battle against Opiates in Manchukuo / Norman Smith
2 War, Schools, China, Hong Kong: 1937-49 / Bernard Hung-kay Luk
3 Bombs Don’t Discriminate? Class, Gender, and Ethnicity in the Air-Raid-Shelter Experiences of the Wartime Chongqing Population / Chang Jui-te
4 Militarization and Jinmen (Quemoy) Society, 1949-92 / Michael Szonyi
Part 2: Institutional Engagement
5 The Blagoveshchensk Massacre of 1900: The Sino-Russian War and Global Imperialism / Victor Zatsepine
6 Victims and Victimizers: Warlord Soldiers and Mutinies in Republican China / Edward A. McCord
7 Turning Bad Iron into Polished Steel: Whampoa and the Rehabilitation of the Chinese Soldier / Colin Green
8 Orphans in the Family: Family Reform and Children’s Citizenship during the Anti-Japanese War, 1937-45 / M. Colette Plum
Part 3: Memory and Representation
9 Controlling Soldiers: The Memory Scars of Late Imperial China / Alexander Woodside
10 Chinese Savages and Chinese Saints: Russians and Chinese Remember and Forget the Boxer Uprising in 1920s China / Blaine Chiasson
11 Setting Moon and Rising Nationalism: Lugou Bridge as Monument and Memory / James Flath
12 War and Remembering: Memories of China at War / Diana Lary
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