China History Podcast

The Tang of Philosophy

Part seven in the History of Chinese Philosophy podcast series

In the late Han Dynasty, philosophy was a lot more complex than in Confucius's time. The focus in this episode is on philosophical thought in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). From the fall of the Han dynasty in 220, all the way through the Six Dynasties, Buddhism had spread quickly throughout the disunited kingdoms of China. By the time the father and son team of Yang Jian and Yang Guang stabilized and united China into a new empire in 589, Buddhism had taken root and appealed to the weary masses and the aristocrats. Later in the Tang Dynasty, Confucianism reasserted itself, and after the brilliant work of Han Yu, Li Ao and Liu Zongyuan, it set the stage for the third epoch in Confucianism during the Song dynasty. Laszlo also briefly introduces three of the founding fathers of Neo Confucianism:

Essay

A Fellow Traveller’s Tale

How Mao Cost a Cambridge Economist the Nobel Prize - by Julian Gewirtz

In the autumn of 1975, there was one name “on everyone’s list for this year’s Nobel Prize in Economics,” Business Week magazine trumpeted: the Cambridge economist Joan Robinson. The week before the prize announcement, the magazine predicted that Robinson would be the first woman to win the prize. A major interpreter of John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx, she was one of the most prominent economists of her generation.

But when the names of the winners were read out at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Robinson’s name was not among them. What went wrong? More than perhaps any other factor, one man was to blame: Mao Zedong.

Chinese Corner

All Stick and No Carrot

How the ancients wrote (and enforced) “learning” – by Ash Henson

In the late 90s, there was a band out of Beijing called Cold-Blooded Animals that played a type of grunge music with Chinese characteristics. One of my favorite lyrics of theirs was, “No matter where you go, you can’t escape your own mind.” How true. In the same way, Chinese characters are also a product of a given cultural environment and a given mindset – an ancient Chinese hive-mind, if you will. As such, we can expect to see this reflected in the products of this culture. To put it more plainly, we can learn something about how the early Chinese viewed their world by studying the characters that they created.

 

Review

Hong Kong on the Brain

Christopher Rea reviews Hon Lai-chu’s The Kite Family

‘Spoiled Brains,’ the first story in Hong Lai-chu’s collection The Kite Family, expertly translated by Andrea Lingenfelter, reminds me of Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film, Chungking Express. When I taught a course on the history of Chinese cinema in Vancouver last spring, students voted Chungking Express their favorite film. In one of its iconic sequences, a cop commemorates his lost love by buying and consuming tins of pineapple stamped with a date that has already passed. He hopes that she’ll return before his 25th birthday, but she doesn’t, and he gorges on rancid fruit, only to throw it up again. “When,” he muses in a voiceover, “did everything start having an expiration date?”

Staff Picks

Christmas Staff Picks

Your holiday shopping sorted – by the China Channel editors

That time of year is rolling around again, like an old yule log. ‘Tis the season to shop, and however you celebrate the festivities or don’t, it’s a good moment for another round of recommendations with a China twist. So here they are, from the China Channel extended family with warm wishes for a happy holidays and speedy Amazon delivery:

Alec AshChinese Philosophy comic strips

Ancient Chinese philosophy is one of those inviting mysteries that is both inscrutable and gives the illusion of simplicity. So I was delighted to discover a series of Taiwanese comic books that make it easy to follow the thought of the old masters, plus with funny pictures to boot.