14 episodes

A semi-serious deep dive into Chinese history and culture broadcast from Beijing and hosted by rogue historian Jeremiah Jenne and writer James Palmer. We’ll pick a topic and then explore that subject over four episodes released every other Tuesday.

Barbarians at the Gate Barbarians at the Gate

    • History
    • 4.7, 11 Ratings

A semi-serious deep dive into Chinese history and culture broadcast from Beijing and hosted by rogue historian Jeremiah Jenne and writer James Palmer. We’ll pick a topic and then explore that subject over four episodes released every other Tuesday.

    Are We Welcome Here, Part II

    Are We Welcome Here, Part II

    In this episode Jeremiah and David are pleased to talk with veteran New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Ian Johnson (http://www.ian-johnson.com/).  Ian is one of our most prolific and wide-ranging China writers, over the last decades amassing a vast catalogue of articles covering Chinese politics, religion, language, history and media.  His most recent book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao (In this episode Jeremiah and David are pleased to talk with veteran New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner Ian Johnson.  Ian is one of our most prolific and wide-ranging China writers, over the last decades amassing a vast catalogue of articles covering Chinese politics, religion, language, history and media.  His most recent book, The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao is a fascinating in-depth account of the resurgence of religious activity in the PRC.  Ian is one of several veteran Bejing-based journalists who were expelled from China on March 17 of this year, a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration cancelling the visas for dozens of Chinese journalists working in the US.  On the podcast we discuss the challenges faced by China scholars and reporters in continuing to carry out research and reporting in the PRC under the new quasi-Cold War environment.  We also catch up with events in Ian’s own private life, including the arrival of his new-born son, and his future writing projects.) is a fascinating in-depth account of the resurgence of religious activity in the PRC.  Ian is one of several veteran Beijing-based journalists who were expelled from China on March 17 of this year, a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration cancelling the visas for dozens of Chinese journalists working in the US.  On the podcast we discuss the challenges faced by China scholars and reporters in continuing to carry out research and reporting in the PRC under the new quasi-Cold War environment.  We also catch up with events in Ian’s life, including the arrival of his new-born son (https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2020/06/04/a-difficult-birth-in-britains-stressed-health-service/), and his future writing projects.
    8.0.1

    • 33 min
    Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai

    Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai

    Champions Day in the city of Shanghai, November 1941. The world was at war but the clubhouse at the Shanghai Race Club (now People's Park) was packed with owners and punters cheering on the pony. The funeral of Shanghai's richest widow, Liza Hardoon, was a spectacle which filled the streets of the International Settlement. Japanese occupiers and their Chinese collaborators came together in a bizarre ritual celebrated the birthday of revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen. The opening of a new movie featuring, of all subjects, Charlie Chan, had folks lining up at the box office of the local cinema. The world had changed but the "Lone Island" of Shanghai persisted, as it had since becoming a treaty port a century earlier.
    Historian James Carter's fascinating new book Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai (https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393635942) brings to life the vivid tableau of an era coming to an end. By the end of the year, Japanese authorities would take control of Shanghai and the city would never again be the same. What did the end of the colonial era mean for Shanghai and its residents? Why were race tracks such powerful symbols?
    Professor Carter joins us as we discuss the history of horse racing, colonialism, and the last days of Old Shanghai.
    7.0.3

    • 34 min
    Mandarin Mayhem, Part II: Dialect and Nationalism in China

    Mandarin Mayhem, Part II: Dialect and Nationalism in China

    Barbarians at the Gate returns to that ever-relevant and contentious topic, language reform in China and the fate of fangyan, the various local speech forms referred to as “dialects.”
    Joining us on the podcast is Gina Anne Tam (https://www.ginaannetam.com/home.html), Assistant Professor in History at Trinity University, and the author of the recent book Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960 (https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/dialect-and-nationalism-in-china-18601960/9786AE3748A7FED2032D024251CC8A8F).  Picking up the threads of the recent podcast “Mandarin Mayhem”, we explore with Gina issues such as the central role of language unification in the task of nation building; the tension between the goal of national unity and preserving China’s rich cultural diversity as manifested in fangyan; the future survival of the many local speech forms in the face of China’s ongoing national Putonghua promotion policy; and even a brief discussion of Chengdu rappers and the sociological implications of Sichuan dialect rap.

    7.0.3

    • 38 min
    Neither boxers nor a rebellion...Discuss!

    Neither boxers nor a rebellion...Discuss!

    Jeremiah and David welcome historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom to the show. Jeff is Chancellor's Professor of History at the UC Irvine, and is not only a prolific academic scholar, but also one of the most sought after China analysts appearing on mainstream news media outlets such as BBC and NPR.  His most recent book, Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink, documents the recent political unrest in Hong Kong, putting the movement into historical context. On today’s show, we delve into Jeff’s current project, which is a reevaluation of the Boxer War of 1899-1901. The conversation draws parallels between the xenophobia and anti-foreign sentiment in China during the Boxer incident and thenationalistic and racial divisions between China and the West engendered by the Coronavirus crisis.
    -----
    Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Maura Cunningham, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know (https://www.amazon.com/China-21st-Century-Everyone-Needs-ebook/dp/B079S3WBF5/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1589782536&sr=8-2)
    Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn, Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn (https://music.apple.com/us/album/wu-fei-abigail-washburn/1495885892?ign-gact=3&ls=1)
    Zi Zhongyun, "Viral Alarm" (http://chinaheritage.net/journal/1900-2020-an-old-anxiety-in-a-new-era/) (translated by Geremie R. Barmé)
    7.0.1

    Politics, Patio Furniture, and China History Pods

    Politics, Patio Furniture, and China History Pods

    Jeremiah and David catch up with China hand and old friend Laszlo Montgomery, who is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the China History Podcast.  Laszlo describes the evolution of the podcast, how he chooses and researches the topics, and his current project on the history of Xinjiang. The trio also retrace the course of the US-China trade relation via Laszlo's first-hand experience with the "Made in China" supply chains, the Chinese manufacturers of the cheap products that have lined the shelves of the big box retailers such as Wal-mart for the past 30 years.  The discussion concludes with a diagnosis and prognosis of Covid-19's impact on the US-China relation, some lamenting and gnashing of teeth about the recent deterioration of the bilateral relationship, but also some cause for optimism with the rise of a new generation of dedicated China hands.
    6.9.1

    Mandarin Mayhem

    Mandarin Mayhem

    In this episode, we look at Putonghua, the spoken language most people refer to as Mandarin. David wrote a book in 2016 on the evolution of Putonghua in China and we discuss his research and the recent controversy over the app Douyin penalizing users who post videos in other Chinese languages, especially Cantonese. What's the point of Putonghua? What is a dialect and what is a language in China? And what's the difference between Mandarin in the Qing Dynasty, Guoyu in the Republican Period, and Putonghua in the PRC? We also get an assist from Zhang Yajun, host of the Wo Men Podcast on Radii China, who talks with David about the differences between the spoken language of Northern China, especially around Beijing, and "Standard" Putonghua.
    It's not just for Chinese speakers or students as we also tackle some tricky questions of competing national and regional identities in Chinese history.
    Recommendations:
    Gina Anne Tam, Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860–1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2020)
    David Moser, A Billion Voices: China's Search for a Common Language (Penguin, 2016)
    6.9.0

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
11 Ratings

11 Ratings

SoloPocono ,

Characters talking about characters

I, personally, think it’s much ado about nothing. Of course, as a 58yr old former medical professional, now severely disabled and house-bound for the most part; I may not be your average non-native student. My Son is currently finishing his MBA and preparing to move to China. Although he began learning Chinese about 11 years ago, he feels that new learners today are “spoiled” with the wide, free and inexpensive, resources for both learning and actually using characters.
About 13 years ago, I spent 3 years studying Sanskrit-still an alphabetical system, setting the Devanagari apart from Simplified or Traditional Chinese characters. However, by integrating calligraphy and art into my studies, I found it much easier to remember the characters. I’m doing the same thing with Chinese characters. My Son is much too busy and the distance between us makes it impossible for him to help me much. Instead, he connected me with some of his Chinese friends in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, who run companies and distribution centers that deal directly with American and European, English-speaking consumers. Over the past 6 months, I’ve put together my own self-study program with their assistance. My kids now joke that “Moms kids in China”, have “reverse-adopted” me, sending me books, calligraphy supplies and many little Knick-knacks, scrolls and even free products. I’ve helped them out by writing and re-writing their sales copy to make it more legible and attractive to English speakers. Eventually, I am going to start translating instruction booklets for some new products as well as re-write instructions for current products with those “impossible to follow” google-translated instructions people often complain about.
The best part about this new journey I find myself on, is realizing how and why my Son fell in love with China, its people and culture. I’ve not only gotten to know these incredible kids; but I have also gotten to know some of their families. Last month, some of the kids took me along, by live video, to their Spring Festival and New Years celebrations. I was able to virtually experience everything from the State’s official concert and fireworks in Beijing, to a traditional Opera in Shanghai, to family feasts and small village celebrations. I’ve become friends with Grandma Lili, who recently retired from teaching English at a major university, and who has made my education in Chinese and calligraphy her personal project.
My personal physician and long-time friend says he hasn’t seen me this excited about anything since medical school. Unfortunately, I may never make it over to China physically; but I can honestly say this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
As an aside; I tried out several online platforms and well-known instructors before I got to know the kids. Almost every one of them strongly advised that I completely ignore the characters for at least a year. They insisted that with today’s technology, even doing direct translations doesn’t require you to be able to read the characters. I have grown to strongly disagree. I’ve even convinced some of the kids to do calligraphy with me, as, like you all mentioned, they have forgotten many of the characters from disuse.
I guess my son is right, we ARE “spoiled” with the resources available today! 谢谢!

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