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Title: Empire Without End: Imperial History Printed, Staged, And Screened In Modern China, 1900-Present
Authors: Qian, Kun
Issue Date: 13-Oct-2009
Abstract: This study deals with the ways that writers and producers in the modern period have represented the pre-modern imperial past. It sets out to pose the question: what role has a historical way of thinking inherited from the pre-modern empire played in China's continuous quest for modernity? In describing what in imperial history has been represented and how that has been represented during the modern period, this study attempts to explain why it was represented this way. It endeavors to theorize the historical continuity between traditional empire and modern nation-state, and address the tension between them. During the long journey of China toward modernity, historical representations have played an essential role in redefining China's self-identity and imagining its place in the world. Throughout the modern period, despite different nominal characterizations about China's social reality, be it a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society, a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist socialist state, or a market-economy-post-socialist country, there is a deeply rooted historical way of thinking that persisted throughout the modern era and determined the way modern China developed itself conceptually. This historical way of thinking constitutes an "imperial-time regime", which deems unification as normal and takes the morality of each polity as the ultimate standard to judge its position in history. Such an imperial-time regime, the normalization of unification and moralization of time, encompasses discursive changes in the modern era. It is manifested in various historical representations, suggesting that China persistently resists being put into the category of modern nation state. Weaving textual and contextual analysis with critical theories, this study participates in the ongoing debate on China's past, present, and future within China and the worldwide discussion on redefining empire.
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