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Racial Identities in China: Context and Meaning

  • Frank Dikötter


This yellow river, it so happens, bred a nation identified by its yellow skin pigment. Moreover, this nation also refers to its earliest ancestor as the Yellow Emperor. Today, on the face of the earth, of every five human beings there is one that is a descendant of the Yellow Emperor.



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1. Xiaokang, Su, “Introduction,” “River Elegy,” Chinese Sociology and Anthropology, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Winter 1991–92), p. 9.

2. For instance Ho, David Y. F., “Prejudice, colonialism, and interethnic relations: An EastWest dialogue,” Journal of Asian and African Studies, No. 20 (1985), pp. 224–25.

3. Stafford, Charles, “The discourse of race in modern China,” Man: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 28, No. 3 (September 1993), p. 609.

4. Youwei, Kang, Datongshu (One World) (Beijing: Guji chubanshe, 1956), pp. 118122.

5. Stafford, “The discourse of race in modem China,” p. 609.

6. Banton, Michael, Racial Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

7. Wen, Sun (Sun Yat-sen), Sanminzhuyi (The Three People's Principles) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1927), pp. 45.

8. For a more detailed discussion of essentialism in explanations of racism, see Cohen's, Philip excellent article, “‘It's racism what dunnit’: Hidden narratives in theories of racism” in Donald, James and Rattansi, Ali (eds.), “Race,” Culture and Difference (London: Sage, 1992), pp. 83–84.

9. On the interplay between discourses of gender, sexuality and race, see Dikötter, Frank, Sex, Culture and Modernity in China: Medical Science and the Construction of Sexual Identities in the Early Republic Period (London: Hurst; and Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 1994 (in press)).

10. Caichang, Tang, Juedianmingzhai neiyan (Essays on Political and Historical Matters) (Taipei: Wenhai chubanshe, 1968), p. 468.

11. Shipei, Liu, “Huangdi jinian shuo” (“About a calendar based on the Yellow Emperor”), Huangdi hurt (The Soul of the Yellow Emperor), 1904 (Taipei: Zhonghua minguo shiliao congbian, 1968 reprint), p. 1.

12. Tianhua, Chen, Chen Tianhua ji (Collected Works of Chen Tianhua) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1982), p. 81.

13. Yucang, Chen, Renti de yanjiu (Research on the Human Body) (Shanghai: Zhengzhong shuju, 1937), p. 180.

14. Boqiang, Liang, “Yixueshang Zhongguo minzu zhi yanjiu” (“Medical research on the Chinese race”), Dongfang zazhi (Eastern Miscellanea), No. 13 (July 1926), pp. 87100.

15. Yutang, Lin, My Country and My People (New York: John Ray, 1935), p. 26.

16. Yaquan, Duet al. (eds.), Dongwuxue da cidian (Great Dictionary of Zoology) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1927 (1st ed. 1923), p. 15.

17. Yunsen, Fu, Renwen dili (Human Geography) (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1914), pp. 915.

18. Wieger, L., Moralismeofficieldesecoles, en 1920(Hien-hien, 1921, p. 180, original Chinese text).

19. For a detailed discusson, see Dikotter, Frank, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (London: C. Hurst; Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1992).

20. Dirlik, Arif, “The discourse of race in modern China: review article,” China Information, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Spring 1993), pp. 6871.

21. For instance Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (London: ZED, 1986) and Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communi-ties: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991), pp. 152–53.

22. Cohen, Paul, Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984).

23. Jan Nieuhof, Hetgezantschap derNeerlandtsche Oost-Indische Compagnie aan den Grdoten Tartarischen Cham den tegenwoordigen Keizer van China (Amsterdam: Jacob van Meurs, 1665), p. 173.

24. Huard, Pierre, “Depuis quand avons-nous la notion d'une race jaune?Institut Indochinois pour I'Etude de I'Homme, No. 4 (1942), pp. 4041.

25. Vierheller, E., Nation und Elite im Denken von Wang Fu-chih (1619–1692) (Hamburg: Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens, 1968), pp. 30, 124.

26. Taiping yulan (Song Encyclopaedia), quoting the Later Han work “Fengsutong” (Taipei: Xinxing shuju, 1959), p. 1693 (360:5a). See also Jianren, Zhou, “Renzhong qiyuan shuo” (“Legends about the origins of human races”), Dongfang zazhi, Vol. 16, No. 11 (June 1919), pp. 93100.

27. Kamachi, Noriko, Reform in China: Huang Tsun-hsien and the Japanese Model (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), pp. 15, 141.

28. Lewis, Charles M., Prologue to the Chinese Revolution: The Transformation of Ideas and Institutions in Hunan Province, 1891–1907 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University East Asian Research Center, 1976), pp. 6465.

29. Hao, Chang, Chinese Intellectuals in Crisis: Search for Order and Meaning 1890–1911 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

30. Yang, Bo, “Zhongzu qishi” (“Racial discrimination”), Choulou de Zhongguoren (The Ugly Chinese) (Taipei: Linbai chubanshe, 1985), pp. 212–14.

31. Jenner, W. J. F., “Past and present political futures for China,” paper presented to the 19th National Conference of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Sydney, 9 October 1993, p. 13.

32. “Gansu tongguo difang fagui jinzhi chidai sharen shengyu” (“Gansu province promulgates a law prohibiting mentally retarded people to bear children”), Renmin ribao, 25 November 1988.

33. Dikotter, Frank, “Eugenics in Republican China,” Republican China, Vol. 15, No. 1 (November 1989), pp. 117.

34. Survey of World Broadcasts, 22 December 1993, pp. G/2–3.

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Racial Identities in China: Context and Meaning

  • Frank Dikötter


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