27 Nov China Seminar: Maghiel van Crevel, Marc Gilbert: Launch of the Unofficial Poetry Journals from China online collection


Launch of the Unofficial Poetry Journals from China online collection

All are welcome. The event will be followed by drinks. Please register here.

The Leiden University library holds a unique collection of “unofficial” poetry journals from China. Just about everybody who is anybody in Chinese poetry today made their debut in such journals (Bei Dao, China’s best-known poet, is a case in point) and their emergence in the late 1970s marked the end of the state’s monopoly on cultural production. Comparable to Soviet-Russian samizdat publications and to the “little magazines” associated with modernism in the West, they have been hugely influential.

The Leiden collection has been built by Maghiel van Crevel during research trips since the early 1990s and continues to grow today. Different from similar collections elsewhere, it is unique in that the goods have been extensively documented online and are accessible to visitors from all over the world (click here or here if you have the time and here if you don’t). Now, seed funding from the library has made it possible to digitize an outpost of twelve famous items, as a first step toward making the journals full-text available online for use by students, scholars, translators, and other readers everywhere. None of this could have happened without the unstinting support of Chinese poets and poetry activists, and the slogan “From China with Love” is an (admittedly corny) attempt to convey something of the passion and energy that drive the Chinese poetry scene.

At the launch of the online collection, Maghiel will speak on key moments in the history of the journals and their significance over time, including a recent surge in interest on the part of libraries in China. Marc Gilbert, subject librarian for Chinese and curator of the Chinese Special Collections, will curate a pop-up exhibition of some of the most important items held in Leiden: Today (今天), the ur-journal triggered by the advent of the Reform Era in China in 1978, Wings (翼), a key channel for women’s poetry and feminist writing established in 1997, Workers Poetry (工人诗歌), published in 2009 as part of the new subaltern stream in Chinese poetry, and two dozen others.


Date: Wednesday 27 November 2019

Time: 16:15 – 17:15  hrs

Explanation followed by drinks

Series China Seminar


University Library
Witte Singel 26-27
2311 BG Leiden

Room: Vossius and Heinsius rooms

14 Nov China Seminar: Sarah E. Fraser: Chinese, Russian and German 20th c. Expeditions in Central Asia

Chinese, Russian, and German 20th c. Expeditions in Central Asia: Politics, War, and Archaeology

Sarah E. Fraser (Heidelberg University)

14 November, Thursday, 15.15-17.00       Venue: Lipsius 228


 Abstract: In 1899 an International Congress of European and British explorers convened in Rome to discuss plans for Central Asian expeditions to the vast territory between Russia, western China, Tibet, and British-ruled India. Colonial archaeological aspirations were intertwined with political agendas; acquisition of geographic and cartographic knowledge was mission critical in German, Russian, British, and French expeditions. What remains unexplored, and will be the subject of this paper, are the links between archaeological goals, copying activities at Buddhist monuments, the cultural nationalism that engendered the projects, and the ways these issues impacted similar Chinese efforts in the late 1930s and 1940s. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), a period of retreat to the Inner Asian frontier, the location of Han-Tang ruins was as fundamental in determining their appeal as the antiquity of the sites. Government teams and private artists descended on archaeological sites throughout western China; I will argue that, in effect, albeit somewhat unwittingly, Chinese urban artists used Russian and German methods for archaeological site analysis developed in the late nineteenth century.


Perceived as untouched by American, European, and Japanese modernization on the coast, the north- and southwest frontiers were largely unknown (to the Chinese public) and newly unearthed artistic finds discovered in these remote regions were thought to preserve critical features of a long-lost Han civilization.  As western multicultural, former imperial frontier zones were fashioned into new provinces by the Republican Government, traditions were claimed and invented for the Han.



Bio: Prof. Dr. Sarah E. Fraser is chair professor of Chinese Art History and director of the Institute for East Asian Art History at Heidelberg University, Germany. Her current book project on Buddhist archaeology concerns national identity formation through archaeological and ethnographic projects during the Republican period (1912-1949). Her other studies include Performing the Visual (2004); Merit, Opulence, and the Buddhist Network of Wealth, ed. (2003); Women Cross Media, ed. (2019, forthcoming); Xu Bing: Beyond the Book from the Sky, ed. (2019, forthcoming).




Future Events:


Speaker Affiliation Date Venue
Maghiel van Crevel


Leiden University 27 November, Wednesday, 16.00 onwards Vossius Room, University Library
Wilt Idema Harvard University and Leiden University 10 December, Tuesday, 15.15-17.00 + drinks Vossius Room, University Library



China Seminar 18 Sept: Christiaan de Pee (Univ. of Michigan): Losing the Way in the City

Dear all,

The China Seminar kicks off this week with a presentation by Christian de Pee on 18 September, 15.15-17.00, Venue: Lipsius 208

“Losing the Way in the City: Cities and Intellectual Crisis in Eleventh-Century China.”

Abstract: During the eleventh century, literati endeavored for the first time to write the commercial streetscape. Literati of previous centuries had written the city in the past tense, in tales of dissolute youth and in memoirs about capitals destroyed, but had otherwise hidden urban streets behind a generic blur of dust and traffic. Literati in the eleventh century, in contrast, deemed the living streetscape a topic suitable for literary composition, and they changed the topography of literary genres in order to make a place for the city in writing. As a new literary subject, the urban streetscape afforded scope for original effects, but literati also wrote the city for ideological reasons. On the written page, they could set themselves apart—as individuals in the anonymous crowd, as connoisseurs among spendthrift nobles—as they could not in the streets and markets of the dense metropolis. On the written page, moreover, they could conform the confusing movement of people, goods, and money to a moral economy of perfect circulation and equitable distribution. By the end of the eleventh century, however, both these ideological projects had failed. Literati found themselves encompassed by the relative values that they had tried to contain, and debates about economic reform exposed the lack of objective criteria for the application of classical learning to practical policy.

Bio: Christian de Pee is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of The Writing of Weddings in Middle-Period China: Text and Ritual Practice in the Eighth through Fourteenth Centuries (2007) and co-editor of Senses of the City: Perceptions of Hangzhou and the Southern Song, 1127-1279 (2017). He is currently a fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, where he is completing an intellectual history of the city from 800 to 1100 CE and preparing to write a general history of eleventh-century China.


Speaker Affiliation Date Venue
Christian de Pee University of Michigan 18 September, Wednesday, 15.15-17.00 Lipsius 208
Man-houng Lin Academia Sinica 9 October, Wednesday, 15.00-17.30 Vossius Room, University Library
Li Ang 10 October, Thursday, 15.15-17.00 Gravensteen 011


Stephen Whiteman The Courtauld Institute of Art 31 October, Thursday, 15.15-17.00 Vossius Room, University Library
Sarah Fraser Heidelberg University 14 November, Thursday, 15.15-17.00 Lipsius 228
Maghiel van Crevel


Leiden University 27 November, Wednesday, 16.00 onwards Vossius Room, University Library
Wilt Idema Harvard University and Leiden University 10 December, Tuesday, 15.15-17.00 + drinks Vossius Room, University Library



17 April China Seminar: Sanjukta Sunderason on Mao and Visuality in Twentieth-Century India

China Seminar:  Framing Margins: Mao and Visuality in Twentieth-century India

Sanjukta Sunderason (Leiden University)

HUIZINGA 006, 17 April, 15:15-17:00

Abstract: The talk will discuss how Mao Zedong and Maoism have appeared time and again in the cultural imaginaries in India through the mid-twentieth century, continuing into the fraught domains of Maoist resistance in contemporary India. Rather than following reflections of Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism as a consistent and/or defined idiom in visual art, it will pursue the plural and often contradictory historical currents within which such resonances appear, and how they activate an aesthetics of margins and marginality. Exploring multiple imageries and cultural rhetoric that have invoked Mao – in image, polemic, text and political method – the discussion will put in dialogue the question of twentieth-century Maoist aesthetics with one of the most persisting and nuanced drives in Indian aesthetics during the long decolonization – the idea of taking art to the people. Such dialogue can be seen to develop in three particular vectors, both in explicit and implicit manners: first, the formations of a left-wing cultural movement in India in the 1940s and its mutations in the 1950s; second, a visceral political milieu that marked postcolonial Calcutta in the 1960s and 1970s where Maoist resistance in the Naxalite class war inscribed urban space and its visualities; and third, artistic interfaces with grassroots Maoist resistance through the 1970s and 1980s, where art sought to interact with various forms of counter-hegemonic cultural imagination.

The talk is based on a larger article that is appearing in a volume on Maoism and Global Aesthetics.

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. (https://as.vanderbilt.edu/history/bio/peter-lorge)