Barbarians at the Gate

The An Lushan Rebellion

The emperor, the concubine and the general who defied a dynasty

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

Having syndicated four recent episodes of the show’s revival (subscribe for new episodes on iTunes here), we’re going back to the origins of Barbarians at the Gate and running another four from its original run back in 2016, when the focus was more squarely on barbarians and uprisings. The inaugural episode – cohosted by Jeremiah Jenne and James Palmer – looks at An Lushan, the Göktürk general who charmed his way into the court of the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century, then almost succeeded in bringing down the empire from 755-763. It’s a story made for imperial slash fiction: the aging emperor Xuanzong, his concubine Yang Guifei, and the outsider who came between them. The audio quality is not so crisp, but the sharp insights make up for it:

Barbarians at the Gate

The Common Tongue (Part 2)

Dialect and nationalism in China, with guest Gina Anne Tam

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

In this episode, Barbarians at the Gate returns to the contentious topic of language reform in China and the fate of fangyan, the various local speech forms referred to as “dialects.” Joining Jeremiah and David on the podcast is Gina Anne Tam, Assistant Professor in History at Trinity University, and the author of the recent book Dialect and Nationalism in China, 1860-1960.  Picking up the threads of the earlier podcast on putonghua, they explore 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 a brief discussion of Chengdu rappers and the sociological implications of Sichuan dialect rap:

Barbarians at the Gate

Neither Boxers Nor A Rebellion

A discussion of the Boxer Rebellion, with guest Jeffrey Wasserstrom

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

In this episode, Jeremiah and David welcome historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom to the show. Jeff is Chancellor's Professor of History at UC Irvine (and founder of the China Channel), 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 the show, Jeremiah and David delve into Jeff’s current project, a historical  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 the nationalistic and racial divisions between China and the West engendered by the coronavirus crisis:

Barbarians at the Gate

The Common Tongue

How putonghua, standard spoken Chinese, remains controversial

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

In this episode, Jeremiah Jenne and David Moser examine putonghua, the spoken Chinese language most people refer to as Mandarin. What is its history, and what does that say about competing national and regional identities in Chinese history? What’s the difference between a dialect and a language? And how do we differentiate between Mandarin in the Qing Dynasty, guoyu in the Republican Period, and putonghua in the PRC? The hosts discuss David’s research for his 2016 book A Billion Voices on the evolution of Putonghua in China, as well as the recent controversy over the app Douyin penalizing users who post videos in other Chinese languages, especially Cantonese. They also get an assist from Zhang Yajun, host of the Wo Men Podcast on Radii China, who talks with David about the differences between Beijing or Northern-Chinese “dialect” and "standard" putonghua. If you enjoy this, also listen to the recently released follow-up episode with guest Gina Anne Tam.

Barbarians at the Gate

China’s Public Heath Revolutions

How China’s history with health factors into pandemic reactions

An episode of Barbarians at the Gate

We’re delighted to begin a run of selected syndicated episodes of Barbarians at the Gate – a new podcast from historian Jeremiah Jenne and academic David Moser, two veteran China hands and friends of the site. The show is actually a revival of Jeremiah’s 2016 podcast of the same name, and we will also be re-running some of those early episodes to connect the thread. For now, here is the first episode of the new series, first published in late March, in which Jeremiah and David tackle the historical and revolutionary context of public health and hygiene in China, in context of the Covid crisis. Show notes and links are at the the original podcast here (and it is worth noting that since the expulsion of WSJ journalists mentioned at the outset, Beijing expelled all US journalists working for three major papers). More episodes to follow biweekly.