2004 Minutes

Ming Studies Evening Meeting, 8:00pm., March 4, 2004, AAS Conference, San Diego, CA

The meeting was called to order by President Martin Heijdra.

    1. An attendance list was passed around, including an indication of registry on the Minglist.
    2. Ted Farmer reported that Ming Studies is in fine shape financially and invites applications for projects.
    3. Katie Ryor reported that #47 of the Ming Studies Journal is out and #48 will be out in the spring.
    4. Martin Heijdra reported that the bylaws of the Society of Ming Studies are currently being revised and will be presented for approval at next year’s meeting.
    5. Martin noted that Jack Wills was leaving the Ming Studies board and asked for nominations for a replacement. Jennifer Purtle nominated Sophie Volpp and Katie Ryor seconded the nomination.  The society voted in favor of Sophie’s nomination.
    6. Martin noted that Ming scholars seeking sponsorship by Ming Studies for AAS panels need to email the Ming Studies board.  (There were no Ming Studies-sponsored panels at the AAS this year.)
    7. Martin asked that members submit reports on Ming related conferences to the Minglist.  Ted Farmer reminded everyone of the International Ming Studies Conference in Nanjing on August 20-26. He urged Ming Studies members to attend the conference and report back on its activities.
    8. Last year Martin was asked about the availability of the electronic version of the Ming shilu (Ming veritable records).  He reported that changes at the Academia Sinica have made it easier for US libraries to arrange contracts.  Contracts have already been arranged with University of Washington, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia.  There are persistent copyright issues with the shilu, but the Academia Sinica plans to make it freely available soon.
    9. Martin announced that next years’ meeting may include a discussion of the difficulties of publishing.  PhDs. will be encouraged to present their work and can be matched up with senior scholars.  Martin invited comments and suggestions on topics and formats for upcoming meetings.
    10. The Ming Studies website will be taken over by Kim Besio and will be hosted at Colby College.  Suggestions for the website have included links to interesting sites, discussions of current topics (such as the book 1421) and teaching materials.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.
    11. Martin announced that Ming Studies and the Geiss Foundation had contributed funds for Ina Asim’s CD project on urban life in Ming China.  Martin pointed out that the Geiss Foundation continues to support projects and that applications should be sent to him. Projects may include conferences, publications, individual research or outreach programs. The Geiss Foundation website is at http://www.geissfoundation.org.
    12. Ina Asim, assistant professor at the University of Oregon, presented her project on Ming dynasty scrolls of Nanjing. She has studied two paintings of Nanjing (imitations of the Qing Ming shanghe tu).  Working with Cathleen Leué in the U of O Social Science Instructional Laboratory, she has scanned and cleaned up photographs of these paintings.
      The CD project reproduces the paintings and breaks them up into grids for closer analysis.  There is also a break-down of “layers” to survey the painting according to different categories: social status, antique markets, lanterns, indoor activities, outdoor entertainments, and mercantile activity.  Explanations will be provided in English and Chinese.
    13. Ma Tai-loi, Director of Princeton’s East Asian Studies Library, introduced Yang Tingfu’s (楊廷福) Mingren shiming biecheng zihao suoyin (明人室名別稱字號索引) and Qingren shiming biecheng zihao suoyin (清人室名別稱字號索引). (Shanghai: Guji, 2002 and 2001 respectively).  He introduced the problems of tracking down the variations on names and appellations of Ming and Qing figures.  People are often named by their various personal names, place names (ancestral or official appointment), and official titles. Ma Tai-loi praised Yang’s work as an extremely useful tool in research, but indicated that the work had some shortcomings, including lack of a pinyin index, an unedited bibliography, redundant entries, lack of posthumous titles for officials, some entries that have no source citation, inaccuracies and errors.
      Martin asked that Ma Tai-loi consider publishing his review of Yang’s reference tools on the Minglist, the Ming Studies website, or the Journal of Ming Studies.
    14. A panel discussion followed on the subject of asking three non-Ming scholars about what sort of research they would like to see from scholars of the Ming period.
      1. Johan Elverskog (Southern Methodist University) pointed out that Mongol history has been largely ignored by scholars of the Chinese Ming dynasty (as well as by scholars of Tibetan history). He argued that Ming scholars should think more about the impact of the Mongols on Ming culture and society.  The Mongols occupied a significant place in the Ming social and cultural world and their presence has been under examined.  There has been some work on Ming political relations with the Mongols and Mongol influences on the Ming court. However, much more could be done in examining the Mongol impact on the Ming economy, or Mongol influences on religion, literature and popular culture. How did the Mongols affect the formulation of Han identity?  What do Chinese ethnic stereotypes about the Mongols tell us?
        Johan suggested that the most important scholarship for Ming scholars to read about the Mongols would be the works of Henry Serruys, and Johan noted that this major scholar of Mongol history and culture is rarely cited in Ming scholarship.
      2. Sue Naquin (Princeton) suggested that advancing areas in Qing scholarship might be useful to scholars of Ming China. These areas include:
        1. multi-cultural facets of the Ming, including Ming court relations with the non-Han world in China(such as the Tibetans or Mongols), or Ming court attitudes towards other religions (such as Islam). She suggested that we might reconsider the notion of a native Han Ming contrasted with a “foreign” Qing.
        2. Relations with foreigners, including topics such as knowledge transfer or technology transfer with the Jesuits, foreign Buddhists, Tibetans, and others. Scholars might look more closely at the complex issues of translation from one culture to another. What are the points of cross-cultural exchange? What is the role of Japan,Korea, Chinese travelers, especially travelers from places like Canton or Fujian.
        3. Evolution of the Chinese language.  How has the written language changed?  How do we explain the explosion of the vernacular language?
        4. Material Culture. How do the archaeological record and other sources on material culture reshape our view of what is happening to culture and society in the Ming?
        5. Other topics, including evolution of military technology, food, and eunuchs.
      3. Peter Bol (Harvard) discussed areas of Ming history that deserve examination.
        1. The need to look at the political history and social policy of the beginning of the dynasty in comparative perspective.  Why is the early Ming so focused on the transformation of local society and on religion? To what extent do we see the founder as the locus of this impetus?  And if not the founder, where should we look for it?
        2. The need for more quantitative history, particularly in examining the fourteenth and fifteenth century economic decline.  Liu Guangmin has argued that the 16th century never equaled the economic development of the 12thand 13thcenturies.
        3. Skinner’s macro-region model has not been adequately studied in terms of Ming applications. Yet the Ming is the first period in which we have extensive empire-wide coverage in gazetteers, extensive local histories of the north for the first time. How can this data be used to make systematic and quantitative analysis?  Peter argued for the need for more databases and GIS projects, a need to work on this data with Chinese historians, and a need to make this raw data available to world historians.
        4. The need to examine the Ming developments in Neo-Confucianism further.  How do we account for the demise of Neo-Confucianism as the center of intellectual life by the time of men like Liu Zongzhou and Huang Zongxi?

        Peter then suggested that Ming historians think of the Song as an important basis for comparison.  The Song is founded twice and falls twice.  The division between northern and southern culture that takes place with the fall of the Northern Song is a division that remains until the Ming, when the two cultural legacies are finally brought together.

    There was an extended discussion of the problems of examining the broader processes at work in the Ming period, the problem of “transitional periods,” the utility and drawbacks of the labels “pre-modern” and “early modern,” the need for regional studies, and further studies that examine the Ming in the context of its neighbors.

The meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
Peter Ditmanson, Secretary for the Society of Ming Studies

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