Today is Christmas Eve and the end of this China books Christmas calendar. Our collection at the Department of Languages and Literatures in Gothenburg holds many books, and those seen here are merely a random selection. For Christmas Eve we bring out our perhaps rarest book, Étienne Fourmont’s (1683–1745) Lingua Sinarum Mandarinicae Hieroglyphicae Grammatica Duplex, Latine Et Cum Characteribus Sinensium. Item Sinicorum Regiae Bibliothecae Librorum Catalogus from 1742. You can find a full scan at the Bavarian State Library. Fourmont was a French Orientalist, professor of Arabic at Collège de France, and also knowledgable in Hebrew and Chinese.
Fourmont worked with Arcadio Huang 黃嘉略 (1679–1716), a Chinese Catholic convert from Fujian who came to Europe in 1702. They worked together with cataloguing the French royal collection of works in Chinese, and also in compiling a Chinese dictionary. Huang died prematurely in 1716, and it is likely that Fourmont had been copying Huang’s work already in his lifetime. There seems to be reasonable consensus that Fourmont at least did not credit Arcadio Huang enough for his contribution to Fourmont’s publications. There seems to be suspicion that the book of the day is also partially copied from an earlier work by Spanish Dominican China missionary Francisco Varo 萬方濟各 (1627–1687), Arte de la lengua Mandarina from 1703. Fourmont’s main contribution was supposedly the addition of Chinese characters. If you want to know more about Arcadio Huang you can read ”The Paris Years of Arcadio Huang” in Jonathan Spence’s Chinese roundabout: essays in history and culture.
Today we have a ”complete” course in Chinese in the calendar, Count Michel Alexandre Kleczkowski’s (1818-1886) Cours graduel et complet de Chinois parlé et écrit, first edition from 1876. As seen from the title the book is supposedly also progressive, but to what extent it is ”complete” is a little difficult to know. The author might simply have wanted to indicate that it contains a complete course, not that one’s knowledge of Chinese would be complete after finishing the book…Kleczkowski was born in Poland but came to France as a political refugee in 1842 according to research by French sinologist Marianne Bastid-Bruguière. In France he started studying Chinese, and soon was drawn to diplomatic work due to his fluency in English, Polish, German, French and Chinese. When China was forced to open up after the Opium War, Kleczkowski was sent there in 1848 and held various diplomatic posts until 1863. After return to France he competed with none less than Stanislas Julien (1797-1873) about the Chinese chair at l’École des langues orientales (today INALCO), and in 1871 was finally appointed.
Our book is not only interesting as an early example of Chinese teaching in Europe, but also for its previous owner. The author, Kleczkowski, has signed the book for ”Monsieur Naudet, Membre de l’Institut” with an ”enthusiastic and grateful tribute from the author” (please correct, French is not really my language). This ”Monsieur Naudet” ought to be Joseph Naudet (1786–1878), French historian and Latinist who was the ”secrétaire perpétuel” of Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres. But how did Gaudet’s book end up in Gothenburg? It could have been Bernhard Karlgren who got hold of it when he studied for Paul Pelliot (1878-1945) and Édouard Chavannes (1865-1918) in Paris 1912-1914, but it is difficult to know for sure.
Most of you who read my calendar posts probably know what pinyin is, the major current transcription system for Chinese characters (if you don’t know follow the link). But have you heard of 江苏新字母 ”Jiangsu New Letters”? Probably not, I hadn’t. But I found this remarkable little book by Zhu Wenxiong 朱文熊 (1883–1961), famous linguist and language reformer. While studying at University of Tsukuba 筑波大学 in Japan in 1906 he published this little book, bearing the title ”Jiangsu New Letters”. Our copy is a reprint from 1957, published by the 文字改革出版社 ”Character Reform Press”. The first official pinyin draft was published in 1956, approved in 1958, and in-between a whole series of historical material on spelling, transcription and characters was published 拼音文字史料叢書 (Series of Historical Materials on Spelling and Characters).
Zhu Wenxiong was part of the so-called 切音字运动, roughly meaning ”Spelling movement”, but where 切音 qieyin is not really spelling but a method of indicating the pronunciation of a character by two others. This is done by using the initial sound of the first character and the final sound of the second character. Zhu Wenxiong supported using the Latin alphabet, and in 1906 took his native Suzhou dialect 苏州话 (sub group of Wu Chinese 吴语 which includes Shanghai dialect) as example for his spelling proposal. Suzhou is in Jiangsu province, thereby the title of the book. In the 1930s a predecessor of the current pinyin system called ”Latinxua Sin Wenz” 拉丁化新文字 was promoted primarily by the Communist party, but also had supporters as Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 (1868–1940), President of Peking University 北京大学and founder of Academia Sinica 中央研究院, and Lu Xun 鲁迅 (1881-1936), one of the foremost modern Chinese writers.
”Chinese literature” is the theme of this book as it seems, but Alexander Wylie (伟烈亚力 1815–1887) had a rather wide definition of literature. The book of today, Notes on Chinese literature: with introductory remarks on the progressive advancement of the art and a list of translations from the Chinese into various European languages (中国文献录), has four sections, the first dealing with ”Chinese classics” as Yijing 易经 (I-ching), Shijing 诗经 (Odes or Poetry) etc. The second section deals with historical writings, documents, geography, and so on, and the third section is about philosophy, religion, astronomy, but also a text like Sunzi’s Art of War 孙子兵法. Only the fourth section deals with what we would today more clearly define as literature, e.g. the poetry of Li Bai 李白 (701-762), Su Shi 苏轼 (Su Dongpo 苏东坡, 1037–1101) and Xie Lingyun 谢灵运 (385–433), a famous Southern & Northern dynasties 南北朝 (420-589) nature poet, writing in the style of the Six Dynasties 六朝 (220–589). This section also mentions the well-known Neo-Confucian scholar Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵 (象山先生 1139–1192).
Alexander Wylie was a missionary for London Missionary Society (LMS), and from 1846 managed the LMS Press in Shanghai. Wylie had taught himself Chinese to begin with, and was noticed by James Legge who recruited him for the job in Shanghai. Wylie later also became an agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in China, and travelled much around China. He took part in translating Bible parts into Chinese, but also worked with Li Shanlan 李善兰 (1810 – 1882), prominent Chinese mathematician, to translate mathematical works into Chinese. Wylie already in 1853 summarised what he had learned about Chinese science in his work Jottings on the Science of the Chinese.
Whylie’s Chinese literature was first published in 1867 (Shanghai and London) and earned the status of a handbook, being republished in 1901, 1902 and 1922. We have the 1902 edition from Shanghai, and the full text is available online.
We continue with minority languages today, but since it is the Second Sunday of Advent (将临期第二主日 or 降临第二主日) we bring out a major work, Ivan Ilyich Zakharov’s (Иван Ильич Захаров 1816-1885) Complete Manchu-Russian Dictionary (Полный Маньчжурско-Русскій Словарь), originally published 1875 in Saint Petersburg, but our copy is the 1939 Peking edition. Zakharov was a Russian diplomat, working in the Peking Orthodox Mission 1839-1850. He assisted with the 1851 Treaty of Kulja (Ghulja غۇلجا, Yining 伊宁, in Ili Prefecture 伊犁) 中俄伊犁塔爾巴哈臺通商章程 which opened for border trade. Zakharov later became a professor of Manchu studies at Saint Petersburg Imperial University (now Saint Petersburg State University).
Zakharov’s dictionary was one of the first Manchu dictionaries available to a Western audience. Manchu studies declined as its own field after the fall of the Qing dynasty, but has seen a revival in recent years as knowledge of Manchu language is relevant for Qing historical studies. Manchu studies never really developed in Sweden, but thanks to maybe Bernhard Karlgren (although he left Gothenburg in 1939 when this book was published), or more likely one of his students we own a copy. The National Library of Sweden does not have the Complete Manchu-Russian Dictionary, but copies are kept at British Library, Bibliothèque nationale de France and Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin among a handful other libraries in Europe. If you want to learn more about Manchu I suggest to contact the Manchu Studies Group. Manchu is only spoken as first language by a handful of people today, but thousands have been learning it as a second or third language in China in recent years.
Finally! That must have been the word on many Chinese lips this evening as the Swedish Academy (瑞典学院) announced that Mo Yan (莫言, real name Guan Moye 管谟业) would be given the Nobel prize in literature 2012. Almost instantaneously some Chinese voices got overexcited, and professor Zhang Yiwu (张颐武) from Peking University claimed that ”Mo Yan getting the prize is really an outcome of China’s rise and development, and Chinese civilization can no more be neglected” (莫言的得奖其实是中国的崛起和发展带来的结果，中国文明已经不能被忽视). Zhang is a professor at the Chinese Department and Vice Director of Peking University Centre for Research on Cultural Resources (北京大学文化资源研究中心). Is Mo Yan now a ”cultural resource”?
Apparently people still read – and like – his books. This evening I was giving a lecture on ”Sinology, literature and translation”. As the prize announcement coincided with the start of my lecture I put on the webcast from Stockholm, and to all our surprise ”Mo Yan” were the words pronounced. The students, all except two Mainland Chinese in their 20s, were laughing and clapping hands, and they had all read Red Sorghum (红高粱) – or at least seen the film, some has also read Big Breasts and Wide Hips (丰乳肥臀) and Frog (蛙).
Despite the Nobel Prize, this year has not only been positive for Mo Yan. Earlier this year he was severely criticized for taking part in copying by hand a part of Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum for Literature and Art (在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话). 99 other writers and artists did the same. One wonders why. One can also wonder if his choice of pen name may have gone too far – Mo Yan means ”no words” or ”no speech”. He has claimed that it was taken to remind himself not to speak too much, as he was earlier known for his outspokenness. Being a Nobel laureate will give him time and space to reconsider and maybe start speaking again. He could start by mentioning the other Chinese citizen who has won the Nobel prize, Liu Xiaobo.
Today is a special day, 9 September. Here in Hong Kong elections are under way, and the government yesterday backed down from the idea of introducing compulsory ”moral and national education” (德育及國民教育科). Massive demonstrations and today’s elections were probably the main factors behind this decision. Perhaps also concerns from Beijing about possible unrest in Hong Kong so close in time to the upcoming Communist party congress in October? It will be interesting to see election results.
Today is also the anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death. People’s Daily (人民日报) does not promote it at all, but interestingly a People’s Daily affiliated blog yesterday had a post about ”Mao Zedong’s six most beautiful dance partners” (毛泽东一生中最漂亮的六个舞伴) ! Ironic and strange, and not quite a ”harmonious” topic on the anniversary of Mao’s death.
It is also a little strange that Weibo, the Chinese micro blog, seems to be very picky with words today. Probably not because of Mao Zedong, but more likely because of Hong Kong and the elections. This morning I wrote a short Weibo on the somewhat tragic but fascinating story of artist Sun Guojuan (Son Kok Gyon 孙国娟), and how she was denied visa to exhibit in Sweden, most likely because she has North Korean citizenship.
When I published, it came out as of above, ”limited to private viewing” (仅自己可见)! I have had Weibo post censored before, but then they were published first and then erased. I immediately republished, but this time without the words ”citizenship” (国籍) and ”political” (政治) and it came out normal (as you can see in the Weibo feed on the right). Do they censor the words ”political” or ”politics”? The ways of Weibo and Chinese Internet censorship are truly mysterious.
Arriving in Hong Kong to work a year at City University of Hong Kong (香港城市大學), it is definitely time to start blogging again. The first week has been full of practical things, but also many thoughts on Hong Kong society as I and my family face the various bureaucratic and other obstacles to overcome before a more ordinary life can start.
One major event these days is the election to the Legislative Council (香港立法會) taking place on 9 September.
Interestingly, my new colleagues and other local friends have yet to mention the elections in our conversations. Newspapers and other media, however, are full of interesting stories. Just a few days ago several people were sentenced for election fraud, in regard to district elections in 2011. Reports specially pointed out one woman as having a PRC background, and speculated that she was ”brainwashed” as a child in mainland China. She described herself as a ”Post-80 refusing to be brainwashed” (拒絕被洗腦的80後), but acknowledging her father’s ”patriotism and love of the party” (愛國愛黨).
”Brainwashing” has become an issue after the government proposal for revision of the compulsory ”moral, civic and national education” course (德育及國民教育科) for primary and middle schools. One proposed teaching material is called The China Model: Handbook for Teaching National Conditions [Sentiments] (《中國模式》國情專題教學手冊), which, among other things, describes the Communist Party of China (CPC) in very positive terms.
This led to huge demonstrations in July, and recently – ahead of term start – protests outside the government buildings. A couple of middle school students even started a hunger strike (絕食). The Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (香港教育專業人員協會) has also been especially outspoken on this issue, which has led to very harsh, but revealing comments from Beijing, voiced through Ta Kung Pao (大公報) and relayed by China Daily. It will be interesting to follow developments on-the-spot!
Idag skriver socialförsäkringsminister Ulf Kristersson på DN Debatt om hur det ska bli ”enklare för oss att bo och arbeta i Asien”. Det är bra. Fler behöver åka till Kina, Korea, Indien och andra asiatiska länder, lära sig språk och gärna arbeta en period. Men hur tänker regeringen när man ger sig in i förhandlingar med Kina om avtal inom socialförsäkringar? Vet man vad man förhandlar om? 2009 tog Kina beslut om en långsiktig satsning på ett sammanhållet system till 2020. Detaljerna och genomförandet är långt ifrån färdiga och genomförande av centrala beslut på lokal nivå är ett av Kinas stora problem. Läs mera t.ex. i Constructing a Social Welfare System for All in China, skriven av en kinesisk statlig think-tank men publicerad av Routledge.
Kina införde 2003 ”Nya kooperativa vårdsystemet för landsbygden” (新型农村合作医疗制度) vilket idag, nio år senare, täcker de flesta på landsbygden. Detta system innebär att kostnaderna för sjukvård täcks till mellan 30 och 70%, den högre andelen vid enklare sjukvård på en mindre klinik, den lägre andelen vid dyr sjukvård på ett stort sjukhus. För stadsbor infördes redan 1998 ett separat system. Fortfarande drabbas dock många av att vård bara ges om man kan betala. Onödiga och dyra mediciner skrivs ut för att ge extra inkomster till läkare. Fortfarande finns tiotals miljoner fattiga som är utanför systemen.
När det gäller pensioner är läget också oklart. Under Zhu Rongjis (朱镕基) tid som premiärminister på 1990-talet påbörjades pensionsreformer i städerna och här finns ett rudimentärt system. På landsbygden har pilotprojekt genomförts i vissa provinser men på alltför låga nivåer. Det rör sig ibland om något hundratal yuan per år (lika mycket i kronor) och det är svårt att leva på. Andelen som deltar i systemet har också minskat de senaste åren.
Enligt officiella uppgifter behöver Kina 5,7 biljoner yuan för att genomföra satsningen till 2020. Ett samlat och enhetligt socialförsäkringssystem för hela Kina framstår som en utopisk tanke inom överskådlig tid. Förmodligen kommer system på provinsiell nivå och samarbete mellan stat, NGOs och privata aktörer att vara nödvändigt. I Kina är pensionsåldern 60 för män, 55 för kvinnliga tjänstemän och 50 för kvinnliga arbetare, men tankar finns nu på att höja gränsen. Ulf Kristersson och de svenska förhandlarna borde dela erfarenheter, ta upp frågor om pensionsålder och systemens uppbyggnad och inte diskutera förmåner för ett fåtal svenskar som jobbar i Kina.
Some thoughts on welfare systems in China (and Sweden), what is possible and what we prioritize.