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The Formation of Modern ChinaCooperate with Humanities Research Center
This project is co-directed by NCCUs Chair Professor Cho-Yun Hsu (許倬雲院士) and Chair Professor Guangda Zhang (張廣達院士) who have organized colleagues from NCCU and domestic academic circles around the central topic of The Formation of Modern China. Based at the Humanities Research Center, the project explores China’s development and formation over the past 100 years and – with the support from the National Science Council’s “ROC development history” integrated project – looks back on various developments over ROC’s 100 year history, including Taiwan’s experience over the last 60 years compared to the one of the PRC. This serves as a historical basis and provides a much clearer historical perspective for other related topics.
The Formation of Modern China” intends to integrate various disciplines and provide scholars with the possibility to work on new cross-disciplinary methods and theories. With this project, the team wishes to set up a data-bank to provide scholars with materials for their further research. Therefore, Cheng-chi University will be the meeting point of scholars on contemporary China.
The project’s line of inquiry will become a historical and cultural foundation for other projects under the Top University Program, not only providing an important background for Chinese historical evolution, but also assisting in providing historical depth for China studies and for comparisons with topics related to Taiwan’s current development.
Key Topics
  1. Modern historiography and Chinese history texts:Focusing on transformations under the Tang and Song dynasties, the aim of this topic is to freshly examine the main lines of thought in discussions of the past 100 years of Chinese history. First Tang and Song dynastic changes and the “flourishing crises” of the Ming and Qing dynasties will be examined as the foundation for thorough comparative cases to analyze the start of the formation of modern China. By combining Japanese scholars’ approaches with Chinese scholars’ unique understanding a macro-perspective of the changes under the Tang and Song dynasties will be constructed. Moreover, using international scholarly work as a foundation, researchers will work towards a unique interpretation of Chinese history. Researchers have already entered the second phase of the project and are working to develop a “theory of status under the Tang and Song” by proposing different concepts, investigating historical information and integrating researchers’ various specialties.
  1. Ethnic groups and the formation of modern China: This topic examines the formation of modern China from an “ethnic group” perspective. In addition to historical competition for land and power, social interaction and cultural exchange contribute to individuals’ concepts of identity, which include both ethnic and national dimensions. Most research into the formation of modern China is limited by its focus on the majority Han Chinese perspective and neglects the viewpoint of China’s ethnic groups. In order to understand modern national development, whether in China or Taiwan, the perspective of ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples cannot be ignored. The construction of the concept and connotations of “Chinese ethnicity” will be examined from both “conceptual” and “practical” dimensions, along with influences generated during China’s modernization and political, economic, societal, and cultural development processes. This research also expects to introduce a possible blueprint for national policy development in accordance with contemporary multicultural principles.
  1. China’s identity and the formation of a modern nation: The symbols, media and other recurring topics characteristic of the formation of modern China will be examined under this research focus. Building on the research of other domestic and international scholars, this sub-project aims to deepen dialogue and research among the disciplines of history, literature, iconography, psychology, sociology, political science, and other fields of humanities and social science. By focusing on the history of ideas and database research, this project attempts to trace the evolution of the nation-state concept and its linkage to the identity of modern China and societal change. This will help to lay bare the relationship between China’s development into a modern nation-state and major social incidents, and it will highlight transformations that have taken place during the formation of China’s identity and the evolution of China as a modern nation.
  1. Social life and culture: China after 1911 not only established new national political systems, but also induced many lifestyle changes for its people, including the rise of modern cities, cultural changes, the shaping of popular culture, changes to clothing and diet, and so on. These topics are somewhat related to “new cultural history” research where new research orientations are emerging. They could also be linked to rapid urbanization and the effects on new consumer behavior, illustrating the scope of many academic discussions on this topic.
  1. The shaping of modern Chinese religious concepts: In the face of changing political and social structures, influences from the West and improving technology, Chinese religious behavior has undergone major alternations. This topic compares changes in religious attitudes in Taiwan and in Chinese communities in Southeast Asia with attitudes in China from the end of the Qing Dynasty to present. Researchers will use Chinese history as the foundation for their dialogue, identify local variety, and expose the effects of globalization on modern Chinese religious concepts.
  1. The modernization and expansion of Literature and Arts: This theme builds on past research in the field of Taiwanese literature to open up a new line of inquiry. In detail, the following main themes will be explored: the development and limits of Chinese vernacular prose during Taiwan’s modernization movement; the major twists and turns in the transformation from classical to modern literature; the dissemination of knowledge in Taiwanese literature through the lens of diaries; Taiwanese literature and literary research; the dissemination of modernism during Taiwan’s development; the rise and fall of leftist thoughts and the spirit of criticism in Taiwanese literature; and the effect of feminism on Taiwanese literature. These seven lines of inquiry may overlap which is why dialogue and mutual exchange between them is expected to broaden the field of vision in Taiwanese literary research.
  1. Social change during Ming-Qing China and its contemporary legacyThis topic analyzes economic, social, cultural, philosophical and ecological changes in China as well as shifts in China’s relations with the outside world.
  1. Twentieth century China in pictures: Research conducted under this topic will focus on the construction of modern China’s history using information from film and other media. The team wishes to develop a certain methodology to connect historiography and photography, to conduct fresh investigation into recent developments in writing history, and to elaborate on the formation of Modern China from a new perspective, that of “film and television history”.
  1. Chiang Kai-Shek and the formation of modern China: After 1920, Chiang Kai-Shek became China’s leading political figure. As such, the impact of his thoughts, words and deeds on historical developments is without question. Yet, his defeat in 1949 following the Chinese civil war and the ridicule he endured because of it should also not be ignored. Although Chiang had an “extraordinary image” in Taiwan, before 1980 scholars from around the world studying modern Chinese history focused on the Chinese Communist Revolution. In this context, Chiang Kai-Shek is portrayed as “the man who lost China” due to weakness of character, lack of control over the central government, and neglect of the masses. However, this Western body of research presupposes the Communist party’s victory and paints a negative picture of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Nanjing Nationalist party as “militarists”. This research trend has gradually begun to change over the past twenty years. After 1980 due to Taiwan’s democratization and China’s reform and opening up policy, previously untouchable topics have been researched and praise for the influence of the Communist party during the revolution is diminishing. With the emergence of new material about Chiang Kai-Shek, he is again becoming the focus of research internationally. Taiwan is undoubtedly an advantageous center to develop research about Chiang Kai-Shek.
  1. ROC materials and archival project:All research must have the support of materials and archives, and this research team plans to establish a contemporary and modern China materials and archives center at NCCU, collecting relevant materials and records for the archives. This project will cooperate with organizations like the KMT’s party history foundation. During this project, focusing on files related to the post-1949 ROC government’s move to Taiwan, the research team will organize, digitalize, and construct a database from the KMT’s party history foundation materials, as important literature for research groups studying modern China.