Re-understanding Japan: Chinese Perspectives, 1895–1945
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360pp. April 2004
Re-understanding Japan: Chinese Perspectives, 1895–1945
Author: Lu Yan;
To many Chinese, the rise and expansion of Japanese power during the years between the two Sino-Japanese wars (1895–1945) presented a paradox: With its successful modernization, Japan became a model to be emulated; yet as the country’s imperial ambitions on the continent grew, it posed an ever-increasing threat. Drawing on an extraordinary array of source materials, Lu Yan shows that this attraction to and apprehension of Japan prompted the Chinese to engage in a variety of long-term relationships with the Japanese.

Re-understanding Japan examines transnational and transcultural interactions between China and Japan during those five dramatic and tragic decades at the intimate level of personal lives and behavior. At the center of Lu’s inquiry are four diverse yet significant case studies: military strategist Jiang Baili, literary critic and essayist Zhou Zuoren, Guomindang leader Dai Jitao, and romantic poet turned Communist Guo Moruo. In their public and private lives, these influential Chinese formed lasting ties with Japan and the Japanese. While their writings reached the Chinese public through the print mass media and served to enhance popular understanding of Japan and its culture, their activities in political, cultural, and diplomatic affairs paralleledsignificant turns in Sino-Japanese relations.

Based on archival documents, personal memoirs, correspondence, interviews, and contemporary literary works, Re-understanding Japan delineates diverse approaches in Chinese efforts to engage Japan in China’s modern reforms.

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Asian Interactions and Comparisons Series
Published jointly with the Association for Asian Studies
"Lu’s study is remarkable, a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in modern Sino-Japanese relations. Nuanced and informed, it is non-judgemental about a topic emotionally laden and usually heavily prejudiced. . . . A marvelous work of scholarship, and a stellar addition to the series on Asian Interactions and Comparisons." —International History Review (27:3, September 2005)

"Well written and absorbing." —China Review International (fall 2004)

"This illuminating study of four leading Chinese intellectuals who studied and lived in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century deepens our understanding of the complex and often turbulent relations between the two countries before World War II. At once attracted and repelled by a Japan that presented a model for China’s future, yet posed a threat to that future, all four men ultimately failed to overcome their ambivalence. Professor Lu tells this story of abandoned hopes and lost opportunities through vivid accounts of their individual experiences." —Peter Duus, Stanford University

"Re-understanding Japan rescues much of what was exciting (for both sides) of the modern encounter between Japan’s cultural progenitor (China) and China’s modern tutor (Japan). It humanizes the cultural, intellectual, political, and military interactions between Asia’s two most powerful states and adds significantly to our understanding of the lives of four very influential Chinese who would be leaders in China’s military, political, or artistic worlds through the middle of the century. It is well conceived, well researched, and very well written. It is, in short, a work of intelligence, imagination, and elegance." —William C. Kirby, Harvard University

Author: Lu Yan;
Lu Yan is associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire.



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