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2005 Minutes

Ming Studies Evening Meeting, 7:00pm., April 1, 2005, AAS Conference, Chicago, IL

The meeting was called to order by President Sarah Schneewind.

Part I: Society Business

  1. An attendance list was passed around, including an indication of registry on the Minglist.
  2. Judith Zeitlin and Ken Hammond were nominated and elected as new members of the Ming Studies board. Jennifer Purtle was nominated and elected as future president of Ming Studies, to follow the current president, Sarah Schneewind, who has just begun her term (succeeding Martin Heijdra). Carla Nappi was nominated and elected as graduate student representative to the board, succeeding Joe Dennis, who is no longer a graduate student.
  3. Ted Farmer reported that the treasury of the Society of Ming Studies was in healthy condition and enjoyed a temporary surplus due to the recent over-billing for the journal.
  4. Katie Ryor reported that volume # 49 of the journal Ming Studies will be coming out in about three weeks and that the next two volumes are in the pipeline. (Update: as of May 13, #49 has been published and #50 will follow in a few weeks).
  5. Peter Ditmanson announced on behalf of Kim Besio, webmaster, that the Ming Studies website is now up and running at www.colby.edu/ming/. Peter encouraged members of Ming Studies to visit the website and to submit feedback, information or links to kabesio@colby.edu or pbditman@colby.edu. Sarah also mentioned that Ming Studies members had previously indicated an interest in preparing small modules on various current Ming Studies topics (such as the book 1421, and other issues) to put on the website. Anyone interested in this should contact Sarah, Kim or Peter.
  6. Martin Heijdra presented the revised Ming Studies by-laws that he had drafted, making changes to bring the by-laws into agreement with the current practices of the society. He distributed copies, after which society members voted to approve the revised by-laws.

Part II: Graduate Student Presentations

Jennifer Eichman, “Spiritual seekers in a fluid landscape : a Chinese Buddhist network in the Wanli period (1573-1620)”

Jennifer teaches at Seton Hall University and is finishing her Ph.D. at Princeton, presented her work on literati Buddhist communities and practices in the late Ming. She examines the approaches to self-cultivation, intellectual justifications, and techniques within these communities. Her study explores the issues of religious identities, which are multiple, fluid and not clear-cut. She examines the discourse on seeking a common ground between Buddhist and Confucian practices and the various approaches to the cultivation of the mind. Jennifer also explores the formation of community networks such as lay temple organizations and lay benevolent societies.

Questions from the audience included the comparison of these networks with other networks of the time, and whether or not these networks interacted with the emergent Christian groups as well.

Carla Nappi, “The Monkey of the Inkpot: Natural History and its Transformations in Early Modern China.”

Carla, who is finishing her 5th year in the History of Science Program at Princeton, presented her study of natural history in early modern China. She seeks to bring the study of Chinese history into a closer dialogue with the study of the history of science.

The focus of Carla’s work is the 16th century Bencao gangmu of Li Shizhen. She examines this work both in terms of its medical reading audience and in terms of its place in the lineage of natural history texts, ranging back to the Shijing and the Erya. She examines the epistemological mechanics of the Bencao gangmu to consider the process by which controversial points are resolved and the conceptions of evidence and proof within this text. She also considered the processes of classification and comparison and the perceptions of metamorphosis in the Bencao gangmu.

Questions from the audience raised issues of the overlap between the Bencao gangmu and other sources, qualitative changes taking place in the Ming, the juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane in the text, and comparisons with early modern Europe.

Zhang Jie, “Past Time as Pastime: Parody, Persona Creations, and Pleasure Seeking in Li Yu’s (1611-1680) Short Vernacular Fiction.”

Jie, who is finishing her Ph.D. at Washington University in Saint Louis, discussed her work on Li Yu’s short vernacular fiction from the 1650s. Her study focuses on issues of narrative and on gender and sexuality in Li’s writings. She examines his parodies that deliberately play with stereotypes and the readers’ expectations. She also explores the ways in which Li self-consciously engaged the conventions of the 17th century.

Through close readings, Jie’s study locates these writings in the context of 17th century Hangzhou and Nanjing, exploring the ways in which Li’s writings reflect the crisis of the fall of the Ming. Her work also explores Li’s circle of friends and readers who engaged themselves in his parodies and often deliberately misread his stories to broaden the parody.

Questions from the audience included the issues of whether Li was traumatized by the fall of the Ming, Li’s poetry as an under-explored topic, the difficulty of pinning down Li’s positions and the nature of literary criticism by and about Li.

Part III: Meetings, Conferences and Projects

    Joseph Lam announced a Ming music conference that he is co-chairing with Judith Zeitlin. The international and interdisciplinary conference, “Musiking Late Ming China,” will be held on May 4-7, 2006, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Graduate students and others are invited to submit proposals. The conference explores the questions of what is late Ming music and what does the music tell us about late Ming culture. The conference will include a concert on May 5th. More details can be found at the “Events” link of the Ming Studies Website.

  1. Martin Heijdra reported on the Geiss Foundation which sponsored the Ming court culture conference in Princeton in June of 2003 and will sponsor the conference on Zhu Yuanzhang in Hong Kong in the spring of 2006. The Geiss Foundation is also sponsoring a classical Chinese seminar for one month in the summer of 2006. The seminar will be geared for both beginners and advanced readers. More information on the seminar is available at http://www.geissfoundation.org/geiss_foundation_projects/ming_reading_seminar/ming_overview.htm(Note that the date on the website is NOT correct.)
  2. Martin also noted the passing of Frederick Mote, who passed away this last winter. His biography and bibliography will be published in an upcoming volume of Ming Studies and the Journal of Asian Studies. Memorial programs and panels are planned for Princeton in the fall and Taiwan next year. Martin also noted the passing of Albert Chan and indicated that plans to commemorate him are also in the works.
  3. Geoff Wade of the National University of Singapore presented a database that he has been working on since 1984, in which he has compiled and translated all the entries in the Ming shilu (Veritable Records) that pertain to southeast Asia. The database includes over 4000 entries and comprises over 3000 pages. The database is searchable by name, time, place name and term. Geoff noted that the Veritable Records are a useful reference for comparison with southeast Asian annals and chronicles.
    The database includes records of envoys, military activity, invasions, the voyages of Zheng He, and commercial activities. The indices are in Pinyin, followed by the characters. The database is currently available to the public at www.epress.nus.edu.sg/msl. Geoff asks that visitors make use of the section for comments, in which readers can leave comments, suggestions, corrections and complaints that will aid in the further development of the database.
  4. Wingkai To gave a brief report on the 18th conference of the International Association of Historians of Asia (IAHA), which he attended last December in a panel he organized with Sarah Schneewind, Katie Ryor, Katy Carlitz and Peter Ditmanson. The conference was hosted by the Academia Sinica. At the conference, Lü Miaw-fen of the Institute of Modern History organized a meeting of Ming scholars to discuss work in the United States and Taiwan. Miaw-fen and her colleagues presented an exciting picture of recent scholarship on the Ming in Taiwan. Wingkai noted that much of the work in Taiwan is structured into three-year projects on various topics. He listed five areas in which Taiwanese scholars have been particularly active: a) history of science, b) history of material culture and daily life (clothing, food, housing, transportation), c) history of gender and women (including such topics as infanticide and clothing trends), d) intellectual history, particularly late Ming thought, and e) art history. Miaw-fen’s summary of her report on scholarship in Taiwan will be posted at the Ming Studies Website.
  5. Sarah Schneewind reiterated that Ming Studies members are encouraged to report on meetings and conferences that they have attended.

    Part IV: The Robert Hartwell Song Database

    Peter Bol gave a presentation on Robert Hartwell’s database of 30,000 officials from the 8th to the 14th centuries. The database is bi-lingual and includes information about these officials and their titles, families, mourning circles, matrilines, patrilines, friends, biographies, teachers and students, activities, writings and geographic affiliation. The database is geo-referenced down to the county level, allowing data to be examined by region and plotted onto GIS maps of Song China. Peter noted that this is one of the largest databases of one of the largest populations for one of the longest time spans in history.

    Peter noted that the database has lacunae and is not quite complete, but that entries include drop-down lists of sources for the information. The database can be used either as a tool for reference on specific historical figures, or it can be used to make quantitative assessments about historical trends.

    Peter answered several questions from the audience and then asked the audience about whether or not the Society of Ming Studies was interested and/or willing to participate in expanding the database to include Ming data. He noted that continuing to expand the database will necessitate fund raising and continued negotiation between major research centers in the U.S., China, Taiwan and elsewhere, as well as government agencies in each of these countries. Peter observed that western scholars have a vested interest in this project and particularly in keeping it bilingual. He noted that there are already projects in the works to digitalize Chinese gazetteers (difangzhi) and that it will be important to work towards the coordination and integration of such projects.

    One more important issue with database will be the question of access and usage fees. Peter indicated that it will be necessary to determine the cost and nature of site licenses for larger institutions and/or determining the cost for individuals to buy the database.

    The Ming Studies audience was deeply impressed with the database and interested in expanding it to include the Ming period. Many members expressed a willingness to purchase personal copies of the database if it became available. No formal votes or action was taken at the meeting.

    Sarah Schneewind concluded the meeting with a call for suggestions for the program of next year’s meeting.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Peter Ditmanson, Secretary for the Society of Ming Studies

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