By Tong Lam
During this path-breaking publication, Tong Lam examines the emergence of the "culture of truth" in sleek China, displaying how elites and intellectuals sought to remodel the dynastic empire right into a countryside, thereby making sure its survival. Lam argues that an epistemological break free from conventional modes of knowing the observable global all started round the flip of the 20th century. Tracing the Neo-Confucian institution of evidentiary study and the fashionable departure from it, Lam exhibits how, throughout the upward thrust of the social survey, "the truth" turned a simple conceptual medium and resource of fact. In targeting China's social survey move, a fondness for proof analyzes how details generated by means of a variety of examine practices--census, sociological research, and ethnography--was mobilized through competing political factions to visualize, deal with, and remake the kingdom.
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Additional resources for A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation-State, 1900-1949 (Asia Pacific Modern)
Trained social investigator Li Jinghan, for instance, launched a vehement attack on the catchphrase “four hundred million” in a university textbook that he wrote especially for students of social survey research: When I went to elementary school at six, the Chinese population was said to be four hundred million. And the expression “four hundred million compatriots” could be heard everywhere. By the time I graduated from elementary school, the Chinese population was still four hundred million. When I graduated from middle school, I read my younger brother’s geography textbook.
Why, moreover, when elements of the indigenous knowledge system resurfaced in the new context, did they have to be refashioned as modern science in order to remain relevant? It is indeed hard to imagine today how we could possibly study human, social, or natural sciences without respecting facts by collecting, classifying, and analyzing them. Yet, as common as empirical facts appear to be in modern societies, recent works by cultural historians demonstrate that our pre- Lam, A Passion for Facts 8/18/11 12:58 PM Page 23 The Rise of the Fact / 23 occupation with the fact as the conceptual medium for understanding the world has specific or even peculiar cultural and historical origins.
29 Samuel Wells Williams, for instance, who considered himself sympathetic to the Chinese people and rejected the notion that the Chinese were “the apes of Europeans,” called the Chinese “disregard of truth” the most deplorable aspect of their character. ” First published in 1894, Smith’s Chinese Characteristics, supposedly the culmination of his years of close observation of the Chinese people when he worked as a missionary in south China, postulated that the manners and customs of a people were the moral dimension of geography and history.