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Competing narratives of racial unity in Republican China: From the yellow emperor to Peking man
journal contributionposted on 2020-12-09, 03:53 authored by James LeiboldJames Leibold
Following Prasenjit Duara's strategy for "de-constructing China," this article traces the development of several competing narratives of national unity and origin during the formative Republican era (1911-49) of Chinese history. Faced with the difficult task of incorporating the heterogeneous peoples of the Qing empire into the new Chinese nation-state, Han Chinese intellectuals looked backward into their own history for scientific proof of this unitary national imaginary. The article focuses on the tension between, on the one hand, a racial formulation that placed the source of Chinese unity in the "common origin" (tongyuan) of its people and, on the other hand, a more subjective formulation that located this unity in the gradual, evolutionary "melding" (ronghe) of several distinct cultures and races into a new national consciousness. In the process, it highlights the role played by social scientific discourses - as institutionalized in the disciplines of history, archaeology, and ethnology - in the construction of national identity in twentieth-century China.
© 2006 Sage Publications.