Collective Identity, Experiences of Crisis and Traumata

Rüsen, Jörn, Achim Mittag and Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer (eds.)

Deutsche Ostasienstudien 16
Paperback (23,0 x 15,0 cm)
Geplant füe 2017.

Vertrieb: CHINA Buchservice / Vormerken





Introductory Section: Theoretical Considerations and General Perspectives

Crisis, trauma, and identity in historical thinking: A conceptual approach for comparative purposes (Jörn Rüsen)

Crises as turning points in traditional societies (Klaus E. Müller)

Trauma, mourning, and history (Werner Bohleber)

Traumatization in the Chinese past, Mao Zedong, and the shaping of Chinese identity in the process of modernization (Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer)


Manipulation of memory: Fatalism, victor's truth and epistemological optimism in Chinese historiography (Thomas H. C. Lee)

Part I:
The Shaping and Transformation of Chinese Historical Identities

History and identity: The challenge of the Axial Age (Heiner Roetz)

Buddhism and aristocratic identity in early medieval China:Preliminary observations on an exemplary case of the pattern of exclusion and inclusion (Thomas Jansen)

Local historiography and historical identity in late Imperial China as reflected in the Hangzhou Prefectural Gazetteers (Christine Moll-Murata)

The importance of provenance: A preliminary essay on migration narratives (Barend ter Haar)

Historical vicissitudes of the Taiwanese nostalgia for cultural China (1895–1950) (Huang Chun-chieh)

Bridging the gap: Attempts at constructing a "new" historical-cultural identity in the PRC (Axel Schneider)


Cultural identity and the doctrine of the Dao in imperial China (Chang-tze Hu)

Part II:
Historical Memory in the Face of Crises and Humiliations

Between private and political crisis. China's first standard history: The Records of the Historian (Hans van Ess)

The loss of Chinese national unity in the early fourth century: How to come to grips with it in contemporary historiography (Martin Hanke)

Eastbound and frustrated: Regional identity in Southeast China during the late Tang and early Five Dynasties period of crisis (Jan A. M. De Meyer)

Commemorating a shameful past: “National humiliation days” in twentieth-century China (Paul A. Cohen)


Wang Gen's concept of “With all the people in the realm creating order in the realm” (yi tianxia zhi tianxia): An excursion into a life-threatening challenge to mainstream Confucian identity (Monika Übelhör)

Part III:
The Fractal Structures of Historical Consciousness: Traumata and Forgetfulness

The identity and trauma of dynastic rule: Sima Qian's delineation of the kingdom of Nan Yue (203–110 B.C.) (Hermann-Josef Röllicke)

“Disorder” (luan) as trauma:A case study of reactions to the Mongol conquest (Hoyt Cleveland Tillman)

Collective memory and the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864) :An exemplary case of a traumatic past? (Achim Mittag)

Taking the “heat” out of a problem: Party historiography and traumatic experiences in modern Chinese history (Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik)


Secondary traumatization: How history may come to terms with senselessness (Jörn Rüsen)


Some remarks on comparative historiography (Georg G. Iggers)







“Asunder breaks the country, only hills and streams remain” (Du Fu, 712–770). Crises, catastrophes, cataclysms – China’s long history, exceptionally well documented for over three thousand years, has witnessed such ruptures in abundance. How were these ruptures dealt with in Chinese historiography? What remedies did Chinese historical thought provide to cope with such catastrophic events and fundamental experiences of crisis and disorder? How were these experiences integrated into society’s collective identity? And how have these traditional modes of Chinese historical thinking fared in the face of the traumatic experiences of modernity, in the face of the Taiping Rebellion (1851–1864), the Nanjing Massacre, or the catastrophic famine caused by the Great Leap Forward in 1960–1963? Such are the questions discussed in the present volume. It presents a wide variety of studies, including theoretical approaches, essays which adopt a general perspective, detailed case studies, and short articles addressing several questions raised in discussion. Besides sinologists, there are historians, ethnologists, and sociologists among the contributors.

The multifaceted contributions are the products of individual research as well as the fruits of refreshingly lively discussions during a conference held at the Institute for Advanced (?) Study in the Humanities, Essen, Germany, in 1998. The conference took place within the framework of the International Project on Chinese and Comparative Historiography. Closely related to the contemporary discourse centering around history and memory, this project aims first and foremost to reassess Chinese historiography and historical culture in the wider context of cross-cultural research on history-writing, historical thought, and commemorative practices.

The volume is divided into five parts. Following an introductory section t, the articles in Parts I and II, “The Shaping and Transformation of Chinese Historical Identities” and “History, Identity, and the Dynamics of Exclusion and Inclusion” explore the complex issue of identity and identity-building as a vital function of historical memory from two different angles. The remaining two major themes pursued during the conference – experiences of crisis and traumata – are treated in Part III, “Historical Memory in the Face of Crises and Humiliations”, and Part IV, “The Fractal Structures of Historical Consciousness: Traumata and Forgetfulness”, respectively.

In the introductory section, the conceptual framework is laid out by Jörn Rüsen (Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen). Rüsen undertakes to show how the three guiding notions of identity, crisis and trauma are related to each other and how they can be effectively utilized for an intercultural comparison in the field of historiography and historical thought. Rüsen’s metahistorical argument is underscored from an ethnological and a psychoanalytic perspective. In his essay, “Crises as turning points in traditional societies”, Klaus E. Müller (Frankfurt/M. and Essen) outlines a typology of reaction to crises in traditional horticultural village societies, always with an eye to the question of how a particular type of crisis experience sparked the generation of historical narratives. Next comes an essay by Werner Bohleber (Frankfurt/M.). Taking his cue from two basic texts of psychoanalytic theory by Freud and Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, Bohleber widens our understanding of historical consciousness by exploring the remembrance and mourning of individual persons, or groups of persons, who have undergone traumatic and post-traumatic experiences. There follows an essay by Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer (Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel), with which the focus shifts to China. Schmidt-Glintzer charts the shaping of modern Chinese national identity against the backdrop of Chinese self-understanding in the past, which was to a large extent shaped by China’s many confrontations with other cultures. In traditional Chinese historiography, these confrontations are generally not configured as “trauma”, however. As Thomas H. C. Lee (The City College of New York) asserts in a shorter paper, with which the introductory section closes, the reason for this is the existence of a persistent belief in the ultimate supremacy of Chinese culture, which fostered a fatalistic attitude towards historical change.

The bulk of the research articles are found in the four main parts. A rich array of topics is covered, from the deep moral-spiritual crisis in the Chinese Axial Age to the “national humiliation days” in twentieth century China, from the loss of the cultural heartland after the collapse during most of China’s Medieval period (fourth through sixth centuries) to the Mongol conquest, from the failed and frustrated examination candidates in the late Tang dynasty (ninth century) to the merchants in prospering Huizhou (Anhui) from during the late imperial period, from the prefectural gazetteers of Hangzhou o the migration narratives of the Hakka and other ethnic groups of non-Han Chinese origin, from Sima Qian (c. 145–90 B.C.), known as the founding father of Chinese historiography, to the Neo-Confucian eccentric Wang Gen (1483–1541), and the prominent modern historian Chen Yinke (1890–1969).

The present volume is rounded off by short pieces, which, under the heading of “Opinion”, appear at the end of each part. In these brief articles, authors have taken up, or commented on, some of the stimulating questions raised during the conference. Inevitably, there are many other important issues which are not sufficiently dealt with, or not dealt with at all. But it is hoped that our volume will enrich the scope of future research topics and is a further step towards establishing an intercultural approach to studying Chinese historiography and Chinese historical culture from a comparative perspective.