Blog Archives

10 April China Seminar: Hsueh-Man Shen on Buddhist Art

Wednesday April 10,


Hsueh-man Shen

Replication Makes Authenticity:

A Curious Paradox about the Buddhist Art in China

Vossius Room, University Library

6 March China Seminar: Leonard Blussé on the Chinese Annals of Batavia

The Chinese Annals of Batavia, the Kai Ba Lidai Shiji and Other Stories (1610-1795)
Leonard Blussé (Leiden University)
6 March 2019, 15.15—17.00 HUIZINGA 006

The manuscript collection of the Leiden University Library contains much interesting historical manuscript material about the Chinese presence in Southeast Asia. Koos Kuiper has published a very useful guide to these sources. Catalogue of Chinese and Sino-Western Manuscripts in the central Library of Leiden University (2005). Owing to the inclusion of the libraries of the KITLV and the Sinological Institute, two institutions which sadly enough were decapitated a few years ago, much interesting source material has been added but is waiting to be integrated in a new vastly expanded guide book. For those who are specifically interested in Chinese source materials about Chinese life on Java from the late eighteenth century until the early twentieth century the Kong Koan archives that were acquired in the 1990s are of course of prime interest. In between 2001 and 2017 all the Chinese language Gongan Bu 公案簿or Minutes of the Board Meeting of the Kong Koan have been published by a team of Leiden and Xiamen University in 16 volumes under the direction of Prof. Nie Dening 聂德宁, Dr. Wu Fengbin 吴凤斌 and myself 包乐史. These source materials constitute a treasure trove for historians working on the social and economic history of overseas Chinese communities.
In my talk I should like to focus on another very useful manuscript the so called Annals of Batavia 开吧历代史纪, a Chinese history of the Chinese community of Batavia (1609 – 1800) written by an anonymous author at the end of the eighteenth century. The Sinological Institute already had a copy of this manuscript but quite recently a slightly older and more original version was donated to the Friends of the Kong Koan Association which has given it on loan (or in the meantime may already have given it) to the University Library. Nie Dening and I have recently published with Brill Publishers The Chinese Annals of Batavia an annotated English edition of this history largely based on Chinese oral tradition and some Dutch written source material. In my talk I shall focus on the composition and the contents of this curious hybrid Chinese urban history and suggest who the author may have been.
Leonard Blussé, emeritus chair History of Asian-European relations, Leiden University; extraordinary professor at the Research Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Xiamen University. Some publications:
Een Zwitsers Leven in de Tropen, De lotgevallen van Elie Ripon in dienst van de VOC (1616-1626). Amsterdam: Bert Bakker 2016.
Visible Cities, Batavia, Canton and Nagasaki and the Coming of the Americans, Harvard UP, 2008.
Bitter Bonds, A Colonial Divorce Drama of the Seventeenth Century. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers. 2002.
Strange Company, Leiden: KITLV Press 1986.

27 March HUIZINGA 006 Ann Heirman Ghent University
10 April Vossius, Leiden University Library Hsueh-man Shen New York University
17 April HUIZINGA 006 Sanjukta Sunderason Leiden University
8 May HUIZINGA 006 Doug Berger Leiden University

CHILL (Chinese Linguistics in Leiden) Program Spring 2019

Chinese Linguistics in Leiden

Program Spring 2019

All presentations Wednesdays 15:15-16:30 in PJ Veth 103, unless indicated otherwise

27 February: Chen Weiqiang (Huanan Normal University, Guangzhou):
“Tone Change in Cantonese”

13 March: Shi Menghui (Leiden University)
“Fine phonetic details in phonological typology: Uncommon onset and tone interaction in Chinese dialects”

Special visit and two lectures by Redouane Djamouri
(Centre de recherches linguistiques sur l’Asie orientale CRLAO, Paris)
—19 March 15:30-17:00 (different time! but same place) “Syntactic stability in Chinese: Evidence from early archaic documents”
—20 March 11:15-13:00 (different time! but same place) “Is Tangwang a Northwestern Chinese dialect that underwent a real VO to OV change?”

27 March: Cheng Hang (Leiden University)
“When settled, we need nothing more: Mandarin bare clauses as simple predicates”

10 April (most likely different room): Joanna Sio (Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic)
(title to be announced)

24 April: Yuan Dan (Huadong Normal University, Shanghai)
“The lenition of voiced initials of Middle Chinese in Maolin Wannan Wu Chinese. A discussion on the lenition of aspirated initials in Chinese dialects”

8 May: Xie Yuan (Utrecht University)
“How do Mandarin speaking children build bridges: a syntax-discourse interface study”

22 May: Fang Hongmei (University of Amsterdam)
“Sentence-final particles in Mandarin”

—There will be a small symposium on Chinese writing on May 20. Details to follow

—There are also four courses in Chinese linguistics in the Leiden Summer School in Languages and Linguistics 2019 (22/7-2/8):
1. Diachronic Syntax of Chinese: From Late Archaic to Middle Chinese (Barbara Meisterernst/National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan)
2. Comparative Chinese syntax: the verbal domain (Rint Sybesma/Leiden)
3. Introduction to Cantonese (Joanna Sio/ Palacký University Olomouc)
4. The sociolinguistics of Sinophone communities: Historical and contemporary perspectives (Henning Klöter/Humboldt)
registration opens in February:

China Seminar 13 Feb: Naomi Standen – Taking China out of Premodern Global History

Taking China out of Premodern Global History (Part 2)
By Naomi Standen (University of Birmingham)

13 February, 15:15-17:00 HUIZINGA 006

‘China’ is a problematical concept for the premodern period because the name unavoidably invokes the fixity of a modern nation-state that maps poorly onto the various and ever changing political formations of earlier centuries. Global history (in contrast to World History) may offer solutions for how to address the premodern era without reliance on anachronistic national frames. The concept of technologies, broadly understood, invites us to trace the use of practices and ideas regardless of political or ‘ethnic’ boundaries, which in turn necessitates reconfiguration of the region under consideration, in this case as Eastern Eurasia. This paper takes technologies of movement – specifically oceangoing ships active in the South China Seas – as cases through which to reframe our understanding of premodern Eastern Eurasia with interactions and relationships at the core of a non-sinocentric analysis.
Naomi Standen is the first non-Europeanist appointed as a Professor of Medieval History in the UK. Her research started from a fascination with the ground-level functioning of borderlands, especially in the Liao (907-1125), and from there has expanded in both time and space. She works with texts, with archaeologists and with medievalists studying all parts of the globe. Publications include Unbounded loyalty: frontier crossings in Liao China (Hawai’i, 2007), and The Global Middle Ages (ed. with Catherine Holmes, the Past and Present supplement for 2018). She is writing a global history of eastern Eurasia between the 7th and the 14th centuries.

China Seminar 31 October: Paul Vierthaler

Dr. Paul Vierthaler, Leiden University

Experiments in tracing the origin of quotes through late imperial Chinese corpora

In this talk, Paul Vierthaler will present his current attempts to develop machine learning algorithms that accurately predict the source text for quotes found in late imperial Chinese documents. It is possible, even easy, to identify when two texts share information. It is often more difficult to assess which text is relying on which (or if there is a third, unknown text involved). Paul is in the process of developing a method that will aid scholars in evaluating the directionality of such intertextuality and will present the current state of this work at the China seminar.
Paul Vierthaler is a University Lecturer of the Digital Humanities at Leiden University. In his current monograph project, he analyzes how historical events are represented in “quasi-histories” written in late imperial China. In this work, he studies how information transforms in genre- and time-dependent ways across thousands of semi- to un-trustworthy texts. In order to facilitate rapid and rigorous research, Paul is interested in developing and adapting computational methods to analyze and visualize large natural language corpora. Additionally, as a continuation of past work on quantitative bibliographic analysis, Paul is developing an extensible and mineable bibliographic database on public domain Chinese texts. Paul has held postdoctoral fellowships at Boston College and Harvard University and in 2014 was awarded a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Literatures from Yale University.

31 October 2018, 15.15-17.00
WIJKPL 2-006, Leiden University

17 October China Seminar: Peter Lorge

China Seminar:

Journey to the West: Gunpowder’s Odyssey from China to Europe and Back

Peter Lorge (Vanderbilt University)

17 October, 15:15-17:00, VRIESHOF 1-006 (Leiden University, Witte Singel)

Gunpowder was one of the most consequential inventions to emerge from China.  While an earlier generation of scholars sought to prove the Chinese origin of gunpowder, the transmission of gunpowder across Eurasia has seldom received much attention.  The history of how gunpowder and gun technology traveled west across Eurasia in the late 13th and early 14thcenturies, and then returned east in the 16thcentury tells us a lot about the global medieval world and the roots of the modern world.  Perhaps just as critically, tracking the movement of gunpowder technology across Eurasia provides a better picture of the development of gunpowder technology in China, explains why it stagnated in the 14thcentury, and highlights the differences between the invention, production, and effects of technology on societies.

Peter Lorge is Associate Professor of Pre-Modern Chinese and military history at Vanderbilt University.  He is the author of four books, most recently The Reunification of China: Peace Through War Under the Song Dynasty (Cambridge 2015).  He is currently working on a book detailing the cultural use of Sunzi’s Art of War in the West. (


19 Sept China Seminar: Ting-Fai Yu: Reconfiguring Queer Chineseness

Please, mark your calendars for the next semester’s talks in the China Seminar series.

The first talk of the academic year 2018-2019 is by dr. Ting-Fai Yu and it is titled “Reconfiguring Queer Chineseness: Hong Kong as Method”. You can find the abstract and bio by following this link: Everyone is welcome to attend.


19 September, 15:15-17:00 LIPSIUS 130 Ting-Fai Yu IIAS
18 October, 15:15-17:00 VRIESH 1-006 Peter Lodge Vanderbilt University
31 October, 15:15-17:00 WIJKPL 2-006 Paul Vierthaler Leiden University
21 November, 15:15-17:00 WIJKPL 2-006 Jiyan Qiao Leiden University
12 December, 15:15-17:00 WIJKPL 2-006 Huei-Lan Xiong Leiden University




In response to the transnational turn of queer studies, the last two decades saw the emergence of queer Chinese studies as a burgeoning field that has actively situated Chinese-speaking communities outside the People’s Republic of China (e.g. Hong Kong, Taiwan) within the transnational frames of what have been described as queer Chinese roots and queer Chinese routes (Martin 2015). Departing from the existing scholarship emphasising either the continuity of Chinese ethnicity or the multiplicity of Chinese identities, this lecture sets up its context by highlighting how the framing of queer Chineseness has perpetuated the assumption that Hong Kong is incapable of producing knowledge to understand itself or generating theories to inform other queer formations outside China. Consequently, it not only subordinates Hong Kong to a peripheral position whose representations always depend on the presence of China, but also prevents the cultivation of local critical efforts towards meaningful understandings of local queer struggles.



Based on an ethnographic study of the influences of class on the subjective production of Hong Kong gay men, this lecture provides a perspective highlighting the ways in which inequalities are reproduced in local queer culture amid proliferating sexual progress. Anchored in a specific set of compressed economic transformations affecting postwar Hong Kong, the study understands class as a relatively recent formation that is linked to an unprecedented condition of rapid upward mobility and the emergence of Hong Kong identity since the 1970s. Although class was not commonly spoken about by the informants, their understandings of class were nevertheless displaced into other categories of social difference (i.e. age, generation, race and culture) which have come to inform their struggles and aspirations as queer subjects. By examining the inarticulability and displacements of class as symptoms of compressed economic modernisation, this study reveals the locally specific cultural logics that not only safeguarded the reproduction of inequalities but also rendered any resistance impossible.

Arguing for the revitalisation of class as a useful analytic category in enabling a fresh perspective of Hong Kong queer culture beyond the framing of queer Chineseness, this lecture concludes by exploring how Hong Kong can serve as a method towards localising queer studies in other East Asian societies which went through similar trajectories of economic development.


Ting-Fai Yu received his PhD in gender studies (anthropology) from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2017. He is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden University. His work has focused on the intersection of sexuality, social inequality and critical methodologies in Asian studies.

25 May China Seminar: Bian He

Title: “Not a Local Product Here”: Materia Medica and the Spatial Politics of Material Resources (wuliao) in Ming China

Speaker: Bian He (Princeton University / MPIWG)

Time and location: Friday 25 May, 15.00-17.00 WIJKPL2/001

Abstract: Pharmaceutical ingredients constituted a major category of local products (tuchan) in Chinese historiography. The institution of local tribute (tugong) in turn mediated the relationship between the central regime and local administrations, deriving its legitimacy from the correct identification of noteworthy products with their places of origin. It has been widely assumed that during the Ming dynasty the imperial state’s collection of materia medica, along with other tribute items, became converted into a surtax paid with silver, yet few has looked into the particular process of this change with a wide geographical coverage. Nor were the political, economic, and cultural consequences of this change fully explored. In this talk, I seek to address these questions with my work on the documentation of materia medica as “material resources (wuliao)” in Ming local gazetteers, and present some preliminary results drawn from the digital research platform on Local Gazetteers at MPIWG Berlin. Overall, I hope to demonstrate the distinct regional character of fiscal reform starting from the fifteenth century, and discuss the dynamic relationship between policy, commerce, and culture as seen through the example of pharmacy.

16 May China Seminar: Limin Teh

Title: Mining the Dragon Vein: Coal Extraction and Secular Power in Northeast China, 1895-1912

Speaker: Limin Teh (Leiden University)

Time: 16 May, 15:15-17:00

Location: Lipsius 235

Abstract: Coal mining in late Qing and early Republican China ushered in new forms of mobilities (rail transport), production (industrial manufacture), governance (mining laws), knowledge production (geology), and political mobilization (unionization). These new forms, in one way or another, contributed to the dissolution of the late imperial state. In this paper, I take this claim a step further to assert that mining secularized political power when mining extended into formerly sacred landscape. This paper examines changes in the landscape of the area that the Qing court termed the “dragon vein longmai” and “the place where the dragon arose longxing zhi di,” which encompassed three mausoleums in the Greater Mukden (or Shenyang) vicinity and the Changbai mountains. To protect this area that was considered the birthplace of the Manchu people, the Qing court in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries instituted controls over the landscape, ranging from ritual visits to restricted land ownership. The dragon vein also happened to possess a wealth of coal deposits, which were opened in the late nineteenth century to foreign and Chinese mining interests following exponential rise in coal demand resulting from the construction of the Russian-owned Chinese Eastern Railroad. What global and local factors brought about this change? How did the imperial throne and local Qing officials negotiate this change? What were the implications of this change on the imperial throne? These questions guide the paper’s investigation of the introduction of mining in the Manchu ancestral homeland, using maps, travelogues, and official documents.

18 April China Seminar: Lai Yu-chi: “Manchu Roots”

Lai Yu-chih (Academia Sinica, Taiwan), “Manchu Roots: Imperial Politics, Image Discourse, and European Botanical Studies at the Qianlong Court”


Abstract: Changbai Mountain was deemed by the Manchu rulers of the Qing as the birthplace for the ancestors of the dynasty and, therefore, a sacred mountain. The trees growing there were often connected with the fate of the Qing Empire. The Qianlong emperor himself composed at least two rhymes on two different auspicious trees growing there and related these two trees to the fate of his empire, one of which is the focus of this paper. For picturing and recording this tree, Qianlong ordered an expedition equipped with a professional court painter to be organized to investigate this tree firsthand. At least four sets of images were made after this expedition, within which actual specimens were also included. Therefore, this talk will take this series of images on this auspicious tree on the Manchu’s sacred mount as an example to explore why Qianlong insisted on the “first-hand” investigation of this actual tree? Why is this tree so important to Qianlong? What role did images play in dealing with the critical issues regarding the existence of the tree? Most importantly, how would this function, if any, of images affect the style and the making of them?

This talk is sponsored by the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Foundation.


Upcoming Talks:

Dates Venue Presenter Affiliation
18 April 2018 Vossius (University library) Yu-chih Lai Academia Sinica
2 May 2018 LIPSIUS 235 Lin Fan Leiden University
16 May 2018 TBA Limin Teh Leiden University
25 May WIJKPL2/001 Bian He Princeton University