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Whose Tianxia? Imagining the Great Qing in Post-Imperial China

Monday, October 16, 2023 at 4:45pm to 6:15pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, GSH64 Kaufman Auditorium
232 East Ave, Central Campus

Whose Tianxia? Imagining the Great Qing in Post-Imperial China

Fei-Hsien Wang, History, Indiana University Bloomington

Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI) lecture series

How should the geographical and ethnic boundary of “China” be defined after the fall of the Qing Empire? Did China become just a nation among nations, or should it retain the vision of being the overseer of “all under Heaven”? How should the modern (Han) Chinese states and society come to terms with the Manchu imperial glory? Wang explores cases ranging from the popular history in the early Republic period, martial art novels and cinema from the Cold War Hong Kong, and twenty-first-century internet novels and TV drama, to demonstrate how  (Han) Chinese authors, audiences, and the state confront, negotiate, and reconcile with the tension between their uncomfortable longing for greatness, the modern Han-centered Chinese nationalism, and the imperial legacy of a Manchu/non-Han “prosperous age.”

China: The Central State and All Under Heaven is the theme of this semester's CCCI lecture series directed by Professor Yue (Mara) Du, History, Cornell.  At the core of the “China Dream” and China’s rise in power on the global stage is the Chinese Communist Party’s proclaimed role in the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation”—a restoration of China’s historical glory and its rightful place as a “Central State” of “All under Heaven.” To achieve this goal, China’s current leader Xi Jinping requires the party “not to forget the original intention,” which could be interpreted as either a return to Marxist-Leninist fundamentalism, to Mao’s integration of “Marx” and Legalism of China's first imperial dynasty, to Republican ethnonationalism, or to state Confucianism combined with territorial expansion in imperial China. As China’s past looms large in its present, understanding the historical relationship between the "Central State" and "All under Heaven" is critical for our analysis of China’s economy, society, politics, and international engagement at the present and in the future. 

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative lecture series is co-sponsored by The Levinson China and Asia-Pacific Studies Program, Cornell Society for the Humanities, and the Department of History.


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Asian Studies, History, Government, East Asia Program, China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Cornell China Center, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies


history, East Asia program, Einaudi, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Einaudi Center, govtcal, cashum



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Professor Yue (Mara) Du


Fei-hsien Wang

Speaker Affiliation

History, Indiana University, Bloomington

Speaker Web Site

Dept. Web Site

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