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Nine Nations of China
November 19, 2009 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Patrick Chovanec, associate professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, has written an interesting map of "The Nine Nations of China". It's a little bit "Libya is a land of contrasts", but nonetheless an interesting primer.
posted by smoke (20 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Chonavec adds some more context in this post on his blog, and also defends his choices in his original shout out to the Atlantic piece.. Makes me wish he published his original submission on the blog; it sounds interesting.
posted by smoke at 8:43 PM on November 19, 2009


I found this entertaining and educational. Thanks!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:50 PM on November 19, 2009


I used to think here were five Chinas: One is an island nation. Two are city states. One is a diaspora spread over the Pacific. And one is a continent.

It's worth noting that professor Chovanec would not have been able to hold onto his status at Tsinghua if he hadn't included Taiwan as part of China.
posted by Loudmax at 9:31 PM on November 19, 2009


Interesting breakdown, thanks. I know they're only generalizations of areas and characteristics, but they make things easier to understand than normal country/state units which blur differences.

It's worth noting that professor Chovanec would not have been able to hold onto his status at Tsinghua if he hadn't included Taiwan as part of China.

I understand why that might be true, but it doesn't necessarily mean the opposite: that the idea of a "Strait" nation is useless/baseless for understanding that part of the world. Just because he had to include to doesn't mean he wouldn't have done so anyway. Of course, I don't know which is true, but he does actually give some justification in his blog.
posted by Sova at 9:38 PM on November 19, 2009


I'd probably quibble with some of the specifics (and others would argue with my version) but overall intent of highlighting the diversity and complexity of China for a readership unfamiliar with the history is great and a worthwhile starting-point to a better understanding.
The sheer size of the country, how its history and concerns have specifities that are alien to the Western tradition and so on, leaves even someone with a passing familiarity like myself shaking my head at 99 percent of overseas journalism and commentary produced about China, because there'll be some sweeping claim that just doesn't fit the reality.
posted by Abiezer at 10:09 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yang Tai - she showed me pics of a rocky, sea-swept landscape, very similar to New England, and taught me to say "WAH-shur jeee-rrrAAN", which meant "I am a Giant." And then she was quiet, and gone from my life.

It's devilishly difficult to find any information at all on Yang Tai, never mind its sub-ethnicity or sub-dialect of Mandarin. I sometimes wonder if she was just a dream or delusion or lie.

Then I discover that hakka has more native speakers than Dutch and Danish do combined, and that Han is nowhere near as monolithic a culture as any authority, Chinese or other, claim it is, and I return to daydreaming of windswept, rocky shores, and a woman who taught me to say that I was a giant, and wondering where she went.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:14 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's worth noting that professor Chovanec would not have been able to hold onto his status at Tsinghua if he hadn't included Taiwan as part of China.
I thought your mention of the diaspora was salient and obviously a 'China' not included in the prof's schema, but particularly given he's paired it with Fujian and talked about the historic links his case there stands up fairly well without implying any toeing of the line. It is after all the Republic of China still, for all the recent internal Taiwanese debate.
posted by Abiezer at 10:17 PM on November 19, 2009


and taught me to say "WAH-shur jeee-rrrAAN", which meant "I am a Giant." And then she was quiet, and gone from my life.

It's actually "Wǒ shì jù rén" using pin-yin. Wo = I, Shi = am, Ju = enormous, Ren = person (with ju ren together meaning 'giant', according to zhongwen.com)
posted by delmoi at 10:24 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Real-world pronunciation is almost always a long way from the mandated Mandarin standard though. There's no reason why Slap*Happy's memory won't be a better guide to what was said than the textbooks - more of that diversity I was on about above. I wonder if she meant Yantai (in Shandong, Mandarin but with a strong accent) Slap*Happy? On the coast and I know you often here an officially-absent 'g' sound when two syllables are elided in many dialects.
posted by Abiezer at 10:33 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


For those who, like me, did not get the "land of contrasts" reference, it is a reference to a Simpsons episode, quoted in a comment here.
posted by idiopath at 10:35 PM on November 19, 2009


delmoi: Wud to ya motha, froom dis Voh Dye Landah inna da hahto Nuu Englunt, to you, a 'notha englitch speakin' dewd somwheahs inna da wuld! I suppose it is heartening to hear a phrase pronounced properly in the dominant dialect, though. Still...

She made me say it for =hours= until she decided it was right... "WAH-shur jeee-rrrAAN!"

I supposed it's better than knowing how to ask where the library is. (Ah-DON-day esss-TAH ooon biblio-tech-ahhh!")
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:48 PM on November 19, 2009


Also, Abiezer wins the coveted My-Favorite-Person-Ever-For-Today Prize. It wasn't that pic, more rural, but the rocks were the same color.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:05 PM on November 19, 2009


Don't know what possessed me to link to a load of pictures of generic high-rises in a fog as a supposed aid to your memory, but glad it worked despite that bit of stupidity.
posted by Abiezer at 11:19 PM on November 19, 2009


it doesn't necessarily mean the opposite: that the idea of a "Strait" nation is useless/baseless for understanding that part of the world

You're right. You can't understand Taiwan without understanding it's relation to the mainland. Since the divisions are cultural, it makes sense to include Taiwan since Taiwan is culturally Chinese... mostly. There are a lot of Taiwanese people, especially young people, who don't think of themselves as Chinese any more than Chinese-Americans do. Taiwan would likely have declared independence already if it weren't afraid of aggression from Beijing. So I'm not arguing that there isn't a good case for including Taiwan in the cultural map of China, but by the same token, there's also a reasonably good case for including Singapore, or even Vancouver, CA. So you could also make a reasonable case for not including Taiwan on the map, but inside China you aren't given that choice.

I lived in Taiwan for two years, so my sympathies aren't unbiased.
posted by Loudmax at 12:23 AM on November 20, 2009


Wouldn't the most obvious thing to include "Taiwan" as a separate "nation" inside China? It seems like he was worried about doing even that. He said "The Strait" is the richest area in China, is that really true of Fujian? Are Fujianese actually wealthier then most other chinese? I kind of doubt it. According to this:
Now, Fujian's overall economic strength and per-capita income has risen from 22nd and 23rd position in the country at the beginning of reform and opening up to 11th and seventh place respectively. Annual per-capita disposal income of urban residents reached 6,486 yuan, and the per-capita net income of rural residents, 2,946 yuan, up 15.6 and 20.4 times compared with 1978, ranking sixth and seventh in the country.
So Fujian provence has a per capita income that ranks six or seventh in the nation, with a disposable income that equals about $950/year for city dwellers. and $430 for rural individuals. In comparison, Taiwans per Per-capita GDP is about $30k (That's purchasing power parity, Nominal is $16k, according to Wikipedia)
posted by delmoi at 4:01 AM on November 20, 2009


Fujian is actually wealthier than the GDP per capita would imply. This is province where most of the Chinese diaspora came from. Most of the mom and pop Chinese restaurants in US are opened by Fujianese. Obviously, the remittance they send back is probably not included in the GDP per capita.
posted by Carius at 4:23 AM on November 20, 2009


This is province where most of the Chinese diaspora came from.

Did they originate in Fujian, or exit through it? The FPP implies both, coming from other provinces.
posted by stbalbach at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2009


New ports, highways, and pipelines are connecting Sichuan to a wider marketplace, giving rise to promising new industries like natural gas, snack foods, and motorcycles, but also posing new challenges to the region’s sheltered way of life.

This reads like a bad high school book report not something written by an associate professor.
posted by euphorb at 8:13 AM on November 20, 2009


Did they originate in Fujian, or exit through it? The FPP implies both, coming from other provinces.

They are from Fujian.

Read This and This
posted by Carius at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2009


56 awesome ethnicities of China
posted by Wolof at 11:17 PM on November 20, 2009


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