Old palaces, new conflicts

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I wrote an article on the destruction of the Yuanmingyuan — the so called “summer palace” of the Chinese emperor — by Anglo-French troops in 1860. Song Nianshen, a student of mine here in London, very kindly and competently translated the article and we sent it off to Tian Ya, a Chinese cultural journal. We didn’t hear anything for a long while and, strangely, they neither rejected nor accepted it.

Today it suddenly dawned on us that they might be reluctant to publish anything on this topic right now. Some three weeks ago, the Publicity Department — the old Propaganda Department — of the People’s Republic closed down the liberal journal Bing Dian for publishing an article on 19th century European imperialism and the Yuanmingyuan. In China history is never dead and this 150 year old event can still make the authorities take fright and make heads roll. The complete story is here. Too bad I couldn’t place the article earlier, I could have contributed to the discussion (or rather the lack there of).

Now I hope Cultural Studies Quarterly in Taiwan will publish it. It’s an ejournal and Google permitting maybe it will reach some scholars on the mainland. Nianshen is excited to see it published in traditional Chinese so at least something good is coming out of this.

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