This volume investigates the roles as politician, antiquarian, art dealer, and publisher, of Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866~1940), who, together with his circle of Qing loyalists (遺老), established modern historical and intellectual practices in late dynastic and early Republican China. Luo himself took the lead in defining Chinese culture at a critical moment in history, when an abundance of new materials, such as oracle bones and manuscripts from Dunhuang, were coming to light, and when new techniques could be employed in their publication.
History has portrayed Luo Zhenyu and his loyalist circle as traitors twice over: first as obsolete remnants of an incompetent Qing government, then as collaborators in the Japanese puppet state of Manzhouguo 滿洲國 (1923~1945). Art-historical scholarship has hitherto equated Qing loyalists’ cultural production with outmoded traditions, in direct opposition to modernisation. In contrast, this project considers the engagement with traditional culture by dispossessed loyalists as essential not just to the constitution of modernity in China, but also to the conceptualisation of East Asian art as a whole.
In this edited volume, eight chapters explore tradition as articulated through ethnic and political identifications by figures who engaged in ‘modern’ practices such as publishing, collecting and the burgeoning fields of archaeology, art history and intellectual history. The chapters are organised according to three major themes: New Ways of Looking at The Past, Circulating Objects of Knowledge, and Qing Loyalists: Reviled Pasts and Unstable Present. We believe that one of the strengths of this volume lies in a breadth of inquiry that breaks through conventional disciplinary boundaries. Any historical treatment of Luo Zhenyu, the Qing loyalists and other minority constituencies of early twentieth-century China, inured to the vagaries of collaboration and resistance, must negotiate a thicket of overlapping histories. In this spirit, our examination of Luo Zhenyu and his yilao circle will confront the taboos surrounding their reviled past to reveal a complex but crucial aspect of Chinese cultural history.
Yang Chia-Ling 楊佳玲 and Roderick Whitfield, eds | ISBN 9781872843377
Contributors: Shana J Brown, Robert Culp, Shao Dan, Hong Zaixin, Tamaki Maeda, Pai Shih-ming, Wang Cheng-hua, Roderick Whitfield and Yang Chia-Ling