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  • In The Global in the Local: A Century of War, Commerce, and Technology in China (Harvard UP, 2023), Dr. Xin Zhang tells the story of globalization in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as experienced by ordinary people in the Chinese river town of Zhenjiang.
    On July 21, 1842, numerous women in the southeastern Chinese city of Zhenjiang chose to end their lives rather than succumb to invading British soldiers. These events, occurring during the First Opium War (1839-42), exemplify the various ways in which global changes encroached upon local Chinese communities in the nineteenth century. Previous historical accounts have primarily depicted this encounter as a European challenge to a submissive China, while others sought to uncover the nation's "authentic" history through native sources. In contrast, this book presents a groundbreaking approach to modern Chinese history, focusing on the intricate negotiations between local societies and global transformations.
    This unique "glocal" perspective is developed through three case studies that explore warfare, commerce, and technology in China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By avoiding a narrow European or Chinese standpoint, these case studies meticulously illustrate how wider processes of modern imperialism, economic integration, and technological progress reconfigured the fabric of everyday life. The book vividly portrays the experiences of ordinary Chinese individuals as they grapple with forces that reshaped the entire world. Terrified residents of towns resort to self-destruction to evade British soldiers, unscrupulous brokers exploit prostitutes to facilitate their business dealings, and small-scale merchants embrace steam-powered ships for the first time to transport their goods to market.
    Ultimately, this book reveals how the forces of globalization in the 1800s were filtered through local idiosyncrasies, with no single region of the world serving as an ultimate "core," including Europe. It challenges the notion of a centralized world and proves that not only is the world flat, but it lacks a defined center.
    Huiying Chen is an Assistant Professor in History at Purdue University. She is interested in the circulation of people, goods, and ideas and how societies in history and today cope with the challenges wrought by increased travel in aspects of culture, politics, commerce, law, science, and technology.
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  • Dear Chrysanthemums: A Novel in Stories (Scribner: 2023) jumps from character to character, location to location, time period to time period. Two cooks working for Madame Chiang-Kai Shek. A dancer, exiled to Shanghai’s Wukang Mansion. Three women, gathering in a French cathedral, finding strength in each other decades after the protests in Tiananmen.
    These six interconnected stories make up this debut novel from accomplished poet and translator Fiona Sze-Lorrain, who joins us today, sharing on what guides her when she’s writing, and the importance of the number six in this debut.
    Fiona Sze-Lorrain is a fiction writer, poet, musician, translator, and editor. She writes and translates in English, French, and Chinese. She is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Rain in Plural (Princeton University Press: 2020) and The Ruined Elegance (Princeton University Press: 2016), and fifteen books of translation. A finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Best Translated Book Award among other honors, she was a 2019–20 Abigail R. Cohen Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination and the inaugural writer-in-residence at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Dear Chrysanthemums. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.
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  • Lena Henningsen’s Cultural Revolution Manuscripts: Unofficial Entertainment Fiction from 1970s China (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021) is a study of shouchaoben, or hand-written fiction, that entertained Chinese readers throughout the “long 1970s,” a period spanning the Cultural Revolution and its immediate aftermath in the late 70s and early 1980s. These manuscripts, copies of otherwise unavailable, often foreign, fiction and poetry, as well as original novels and poems, were “texts in motion.” They circulated throughout China together with their copiers and readers, youth sent-down during the Cultural Revolution, and often followed characters who were likewise moving, spies and scientists traveling within and beyond China. 
    Moreover, the text itself was just as unstable as its readers and characters were mobile: frequent copying resulted in the proliferation of multiple versions of any given narrative, thus troubling the clear-cut distinction between readers and authors. Henningsen’s careful survey of shouchaoben and related book forms, including “internal publications,” sketches out a lively and cosmopolitan reading culture. In the book, she shows that despite assumptions of cultural insularity and uniformity, paying attention to “reading acts” during the Cultural Revolution period shows that the “long 1970s” are not an abrupt, anomalous rupture in Chinese literary history, but a period that can be more fruitfully described in terms of continuities. 
    Please join me for a conversation with Lena Henningsen in exploring the rich archive of shouchaoben. Make sure to also visit ReadChina, to learn more about Henningsen's European Research Council grant funded research on Reading Acts in China and discover the resources her team has compiled here.
    Julia Keblinska is a member of the Global Arts and Humanities Society of Fellows at the Ohio State University specializing in Chinese media history and comparative socialisms.
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  • The host of this episode, Adina Zemanek, interviewed Chee-Hann Wu, who obtained her PhD in Drama and Theatre from the University of California, Irvine and UC San Diego. They talked about the following themes: horror videogames in Taiwan and historical trauma; the potential roles of such games for local and international audiences, and thus for Taiwan's cultural diplomacy; traditional puppetry and avatars; and recent state support for local game production.
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  • In Imperial China, the idea of filial piety not only shaped family relations but was also the official ideology by which Qing China was governed. In State and Family in China (Cambridge UP, 2021), Yue Du examines the relationship between politics and intergenerational family relations in China from the Qing period to 1949, focusing on changes in family law, parent-child relationships, and the changing nature of the Chinese state during this period. 
    This book highlights how the Qing dynasty treated the state-sponsored parent-child hierarchy as the axis around which Chinese family and political power relations were constructed and maintained. It shows how following the fall of the Qing in 1911, reform of filial piety law in the Republic of China became the basis of state-directed family reform, playing a central role in China's transition from empire to nation-state.
    Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University at Buffalo. As a digital and disability historian, he serves in the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio. On Twitter: @slissw.
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  • Eighty years on, Lin Poyer's book War at the Margins: Indigenous Experiences in World War II (U Hawaii Press, 2022) offers a global and comparative view of the impact of World War II on Indigenous societies. Indigenous peoples, Poyer shows, had a distinct experience of WWII, as those on the margins of Allied and Axis empires and nation-states were drawn in as soldiers, scouts, guides, laborers, and victims. Using historical and ethnographic sources, Poyer examines how Indigenous communities emerged from the trauma of the wartime era with social forms and cultural ideas that laid the foundations for their twenty-first-century emergence as players on the world’s political stage.
    This book is available open access here.
    Lin Poyer is a cultural anthropologist and professor emerita at the University of Wyoming.
    Holger Droessler is an Assistant Professor of History at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on the intersection of empire and labor in the Pacific.
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  • Yoshiko Okuyama's book Tōjisha Manga: Japan’s Graphic Memoirs of Brain and Mental Health (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) defines tōjisha manga as Japan’s autobiographical comics in which the author recounts the experience of a mental or neurological condition in a unique medium of text and image. Yoshiko Okuyama argues that tōjisha manga illuminate otherwise “faceless” individuals and humanize their invisible tribulations because the first-person narrative makes their lived experience more authentic and relatable to the reader. Part I introduces the evolution of the term tōjisha, the tōjisha movements, and other relevant social phenomena and concepts. Part II analyzes five representative titles to demonstrate the humanizing power of tōjisha manga, drawing on interviews with the authors of these manga and examining how psychological or brain-related symptoms are artistically depicted in approximately 40 drawings. This book is highly recommended to not only scholars of disability studies and comic studies but also global fans of manga who are interested in the graphic memoirs of serious social issues.
    Shu Wan is currently matriculated as a doctoral student in history at the University at Buffalo. As a digital and disability historian, he serves in the editorial team of Digital Humanities Quarterly and Nursing Clio. On Twitter: @slissw.
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  • Opium is an awkward commodity. For the West, it’s a reminder of some of the shadier and best forgotten parts of its history. For China (and a few other countries), it’s a symbol of national humiliation, left to the past–unless it needs to shame a foreign country.
    But the opium trade survived for decades, through to the end of the Second World War. How did that trade actually work? How was it possible to trade a good that was, at best, tolerated in the strange gap between legal and illegal. This trade is what Peter Thilly covers in his book The Opium Business: A History of Crime and Capitalism in Maritime China (Stanford University Press, 2022).
    In this interview, Peter and I talk about opium, how people traded this quasi-legal good, and the changing opium trade–including a surprising source of illicit drugs in the region.
    Peter Thilly is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Mississippi. He is currently working on a global microhistory of the 1853 Small Sword Uprising.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The Opium Business. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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  • Nationalism is pervasive in China today. Yet nationalism is not entrenched in China's intellectual tradition. Over the course of the twentieth century, the combined forces of cultural, social, and political transformations nourished its development, but resistance to it has persisted. 
    In World History and National Identity in China: The Twentieth Century (Cambridge UP, 2021),  Xin Fan examines the ways in which historians working on the world beyond China from within China have attempted to construct narratives that challenge nationalist readings of the Chinese past and the influence that these historians have had on the formation of Chinese identity. He traces the ways in which generations of historians, from the late Qing through the Republican period, through the Mao period to the relative moment of 'opening' in the 1980s, have attempted to break cross-cultural boundaries in writing an alternative to the national narrative.
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  • Xiaomei Chen's book Performing the Socialist State: Modern Chinese Theater and Film Culture (Columbia UP, 2023) looks at three "founding fathers" of Chinese spoken drama: Tian Han, Hong Shen, and Ouyang Yuqian. Dr. Chen argues that these three theatre artists laid the groundwork for Mao-era Chinese drama during the earlier Republic period, and that there is more continuity between the two periods than has typically been supposed. She also argues that these artists were not mere victims of heavy-handed political ideologues, but were passionate and sophisticated political thinkers in their own right. By telling the stories of these three figures and their effect on later Chinese drama, Dr. Chen helps us understand why the performing arts have such notable political consequence in the history of 20th century China.
    Note: our interview with Dr. Chen on her 2016 book Staging Chinese Revolution can be found here.
    Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.
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  • In this podcast, the host, Lara Momesso, interviews Dr Stefano Pelaggi, Adjunct Professor at Sapienza University in Rome. The two discuss Dr Pelaggi’s most recent book, L’Isola Sospesa. Taiwan e Gli Equilibri del Mondo (The Suspended Island: Taiwan and the Balance of the World) published by LUISS University Press in 2022. In this engaging chat, Dr Pelaggi shares with the audience how he decided to write a book on Taiwan in Italian language, how we selected the main themes of the chapters, and his views on the future of Taiwan. This podcast is for anyone interested in publications on Taiwan in other languages than English and in familiarising with the specificity of the debate on Taiwan in Italy.
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  • The Pacific Rim of Asia – Pacific Asia – is now the world's largest and most cohesive economic region, and China has returned to its center. In this conversation, Julie Yu-Wen Chen, Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Helsinki discusses with Brantly Womack from the University of Virginia about his new book Recentering Pacific Asia: Regional China and World Order (Cambridge University Press, 2023).
    China's global outlook is shaped by its regional experience, first as a pre-modern Asian center, then displaced by Western-oriented modernization, and now returning as a central producer and market in a globalized region. Developments since 2008 have been so rapid that future directions are uncertain, but China's presence, population, and production guarantee it a key role. As a global competitor, China has awakened American anxieties and the US-China rivalry has become a major concern for the rest of the world. However, rather than facing a power transition between hegemons, the US and China are primary nodes in a multi-layered, interconnected global matrix that neither can control. Brantly Womack argues that Pacific Asia is now the key venue for working out a new world order.
    Recentering Pacific Asia: Regional China and World Order is written by Brantly Womack. The book contains commentaries from Wang Gungwu (National University of Singapore), Wu Yu-shan (Academia Sinica), Qin Yaqing (China Foreign Affairs University), and Evelyn Goh (Australian National University).
    Julie Yu-Wen Chen is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Department of Cultures at the University of Helsinki (Finland). From 2023-2025, Julie Yu-Wen Chen is in the EU twinning project The EU in the Volatile Indo-Pacific Region (EUVIP) where she leads the preparatory research and provides supervision and counselling to junior researchers. Brantly Womack is on the international advisory board of EUVIP.
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  • In Reproductive Realities in Modern China: Birth Control and Abortion, 1911-2021 (Cambridge UP, 2022), assistant professor of history at Missouri State University, Sarah Mellors Rodriguez explores the longue durée history of birth control and abortion in China from the Republican period to the present day. Drawing from a rich array of archival materials, oral histories, posters, films, novels, and other media, she delves into the diverse attitudes, policies, and practices of birth control and abortion from 1911 to 2021.
    In this episode, Rodriguez shares how she first became interested in birth control in China and her research process and decisions. She then walks listeners through her book, paying special attention to the lived experiences of women whose decisions about birth control were often mediated by geography, class, and shifting regional and national policies and enforcement. By tracing birth control and abortion in China over a long period, she is able to identify persistent trends and specific features of each period covered–the Republican period, the early People’s Republic of China, the Cultural Revolution and Sent-Down Student Movement, and the era of the One Child Policy. Sarah Mellors Rodriguez has crafted her book in a thorough, thoughtful manner, not only contributing new details and insights about birth control and abortion in China before, during, and after the One Child Policy but also commenting on the larger themes of sexuality and the law, gender, medicine, and modern China.
    Laurie Dickmeyer is an Assistant Professor of History at Angelo State University, where she teaches courses in Asian and US history. Her research concerns nineteenth century US-China relations. She can be reached at [email protected].
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  • Hello, world! This is the Global Media & Communication podcast series.In this episode, our host Ignatius Suglo discusses the book Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film (Columbia University Press, 2022) by Thomas Chen.You’ll hear about:Author’s intellectual and professional trajectory that led him to the book;How to study Tiananmen Movement as a media event through a careful selection of literature and film materials;How to think of the productivity of silence and absence;The use of “positive energy” in mobilizing censorship;Human labor and the idea of “workshop” in the work of censorship;How iconic images such as “Tank Man” have been interpreted and appropriated;The role played by women in social movements and their representations in post-1989 China;The emergence of Internet in the 1990s and the paradoxical nature of “Internet sovereignty”;Author’s positionality and reflection on writing the book.About the bookThe violent suppression of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations is thought to be contemporary China’s most taboo subject. Yet despite sweeping censorship, Chinese culture continues to engage with the history, meaning, and memory of the Tiananmen movement. Made in Censorship examines the surprisingly rich corpus of Tiananmen literature and film produced in mainland China since 1989, both officially sanctioned and unauthorized, contending that censorship does not simply forbid—it also shapes what is created. You can find more about the book here by Columbia University Press.Author: Thomas Chen graduated with a B.A. in Comparative Literature and English from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA. With a focus on modern Chinese literature and cinema, his research interests include world literature/cinema, translation studies, and historiography. His book Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film is available from Columbia University Press.Host: Ignatius Suglo is Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication. He completed his Ph.D. in China Studies at the University of Hong Kong. He also has a secondary specialization in African Studies. His research interestsLearn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoicesSupport our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/east-asian-studies

  • Buddhist cosmological history of the universe, history of Chinggis Khan, history of China, and history of the Mongols — The Precious Summary, written in 1662 by Sagang Sechen, is many things. As a whole, it is the most important work of Mongolian history on the period before the rise of the Manchu Qing dynasty.
    The Precious Summary: A History of the Mongols from Chinggis Khan to the Qing Dynasty (Columbia University Press 2023), translated by Johan Elverskog, is not only a fluid and lucid translation, but by adding extensive annotations and helpful introductions, Elverskog has made this epic history approachable to readers today. Whether you are well-versed in the Mongol-Oirat wars or if the name Altan Khan doesn’t (yet) mean anything to you, this is a fabulous introduction to Mongolian historiography that should be of interest to anyone looking to learn more about Mongolian sources, Inner Asian history, and the history of Buddhism in Asia.
    Johan Elverskog is Dedman Family Distinguished Professor, Professor of Religious Studies, and, by courtesy, Professor of History at Southern Methodist University. This is his second time on New Books, and you can hear a conversation about one of his other books, The Buddha’s Footprint: An Environmental History of Asia (University of Pennsylvania Press 2020) here.
    Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at [email protected]
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  • If there’s a starting point to the relationship between Russia and China, it’s likely the 1650s—when Manchu and Cossack forces clash near Khabarovsk, and when Russia sends its first, and unsuccessful, embassy to China.
    It’s an inopportune start to four centuries of trade, diplomacy, imperialism, ideology–and a lot of personal griping between different Russian and Chinese leaders, as charted by Philip Snow’s China and Russia: Four Centuries of Conflict and Concord (Yale University Press, 2023)
    Snow writes of Russian territorial grabs, China’s reliance on its northern neighbor for diplomatic support and training, Russia’s confused attitude towards Asia—and then the rapid reversal of power and status with the death of Stalin.
    In this interview, Philip and I talk about the China-Russia relationship, spanning four centuries–and what that history tells us about China and Russia’s relations today.
    Philip Snow has traveled extensively in Russia and China since the 1960s and has lived in Hong Kong since 1994. An expert in China’s international relations, he is the author of The Star Raft: China’s Encounter with Africa (Cornell University Press: 1989) and The Fall of Hong Kong: Britain, China, and the Japanese Occupation (Yale University Press: 2003)
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of China and Russia. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.
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  • I am not now nor at any time have ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Yet I serve as dean of a large faculty of political science in a Chinese university that trains students and provincial cadres to serve the country as Communist Party officials: It’s typically a post reserved for members of the CCP, given the political sensitivity of the work. That’s part of the surprise. The other part is that I’m a Canadian citizen, born and bred in Montreal, without any Chinese ancestry.
    – Daniel A. Bell, The Dean of Shandong: Confessions of a Minor Bureaucrat in China (2023)
    On January 1, 2017, Daniel Bell was appointed dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University―the first foreign dean of a political science faculty in mainland China’s history. In The Dean of Shandong, Bell chronicles his experiences as what he calls “a minor bureaucrat,” offering an inside account of the workings of Chinese academia and what they reveal about China’s political system. It wasn’t all smooth sailing―Bell wryly recounts sporadic bungles and misunderstandings―but Bell’s post as dean provides a unique vantage point on China today.

    Bell, neither a Chinese citizen nor a member of the Chinese Communist Party, was appointed as dean because of his scholarly work on Confucianism―but soon found himself coping with a variety of issues having little to do with scholarship or Confucius. These include the importance of hair color and the prevalence of hair-dyeing among university administrators, both male and female; Shandong’s drinking culture, with endless toasts at every shared meal; and some unintended consequences of an intensely competitive academic meritocracy. As dean, he also confronts weightier matters: the role at the university of the Party secretary, the national anticorruption campaign and its effect on academia (Bell asks provocatively, “What’s wrong with corruption?”), and formal and informal modes of censorship. Considering both the revival of Confucianism in China over the last three decades and what he calls “the Communist comeback” since 2008, Bell predicts that China’s political future is likely to be determined by both Confucianism and Communism.
    Professor Bell’s other writings mentioned in this episode include:
    Communitarianism and its Critics (Oxford, 1993)


    China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (Princeton, 2008)


    The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in the Global Age (coauthored Princeton 2011)


    Ancient Chinese Thought - Modern Chinese Power (Trans. series: Xuetong; co-edited Princeton 2013)


    The China Model: Political Meritocracy and Limits of Democracy (Princeton, 2015)


    In this interview two book reviews were discussed: 1) "Confessions of a Sinophile" by James Crabtree in the Financial Times, and 2) "Confessions of a China Apologist" by Gordon G. Chang in The New Criterion. Professor Bell graciously responded to a question about them and adds this post-interview thought for The New Criterion reviewer: ‘since my book is banned in China I wish Mr. Chang would inform the relevant authorities that I'm an apologist for China – it might help to unban the book!’
    Professor Daniel A. Bell is a Canadian political theorist and currently Chair of Political Theory at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law. He was previously Dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University and professor at Tsinghua University (Schwarzman College and Department of Philosophy). He has authored eight books and edited and/or coedited as many while serving as a series editor for Princeton University Press.
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  • Garrett Washington’s Church Space and the Capital in Prewar Japan (Hawai’i 2022) brings a fresh perspective to the question of Protestant Christianity’s outsized influence in modernizing Japan from almost the moment the centuries-long ban was lifted in the 1870s. Washington roots his research in the physical space of Protestant houses of worship in Tokyo, exploring the ways that the churches became distinctively Japanese spaces and institutions that nurtured discourses and practices that affected the social, intellectual, and political development of Japan during the four decades of 1880-1920 that are the focus of the book. 
    Church Space begins with the creation of churches in the treaty ports and their migration into the centers of the new imperial capital, and examines the ways in which Western-style buildings commissioned by Japanese pastors came to house congregations with many elite and influential members who together wrestled with the role of Protestant Christianity in the development of modern Japan. Washington shows that both pastoral and lay discourses―especially in the spaces of women’s and youth groups―were linked robustly to the public lives of the congregants and the ways in which urban Japanese Protestantism impacted the course of Japan for decades.
    Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.
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  • Taiwan Literature in the 21st Century: A Critical Reader (Springer, 2023) is an anthology of research co-edited by Dr. Chia-rong Wu (University of Canterbury) and Professor Ming-ju Fan (National Chengchi University). This collection of original essays integrates and expands research on Taiwan literature because it includes both established and young writers. It not only engages with the evolving trends of literary Taiwan, but also promotes the translocal consciousness and cultural diversity of the island state and beyond. Focusing on the new directions and trends of Taiwan literature, this edited book fits into Taiwan studies, Sinophone studies, and Asian studies.
    Chia-rong Wu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Global, Cultural and Language Studies at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Dr. Wu received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. He specializes in Sinophone literature and film through the lens of postcolonial theories, indigenous studies, diaspora, and ecocriticism. Dr. Wu is the author of Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond (Cambria Press, 2016) and Remapping the Contested Sinosphere: The Cross-cultural Landscape and Ethnoscape of Taiwan (Cambria Press, 2020) and has published in such academic journals as the British Journal of Chinese Studies, Sun Yat-sen Journal of Humanities, Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and American Journal of Chinese Studies.
    Ming-ju Fan is a Distinguished Professor of Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan. She is the author of Spatial/Textual/Politics, Literary Geography: Spatial Reading of Taiwanese Fiction, Chronological Searches of Taiwanese Women’s Fiction and Critic Artisan, Like a Box of Chocolate: Criticism on Contemporary Literature and Culture; Co-Editor of The Columbia Sourcebook of Literary Taiwan.
    Li-Ping Chen is Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include literary translingualism, diaspora, and nativism in Sinophone, inter-Asian, and transpacific contexts.
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  • The Opium Business: A History of Crime and Capitalism in Maritime China (Stanford UP, 2022) explores the opium trade — but not through the relatively well-trodden history of the ‘Opium Wars.’ Instead, in this wonderfully rich book Peter Thilly investigates the little known social history of the opium trade in coastal southern Fujian province. The Opium Business focuses on the relationship between the state and local businesses, charting how it changed as opium went from contraband to tax staple in the late nineteenth century, and then from tax staple to prohibited commodity in the early twentieth century. 
    While this book is sure to interest anyone keen to learn more about modern Chinese history, the history of capitalism, and the history of global narcotics, this book should also be of interest to anyone looking to read about some truly fascinating individuals who made the 'opium business' happen. By uncovering the history of the tax farmers, roving gangs, smugglers, and 'opium kings' who moved, sold, and hid opium, Thilly's book reminds us that it was people — with competing motivations, complicated backgrounds, and networks of friends — who made the opium trade happen.
    Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in History and East Asian Languages at Harvard. She works on Manchu language books and is interested in anything with a kesike. She can be reached at [email protected].
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