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In Session: Locality and Temporality between Qing China and Northeast Asia
3: Legitimacy, Literacy, and Modernity: The Dissemination of Knowledge through Nationalist, Communist, and Manchukuo Calendars, 1912-1945
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Delaware, United States
The imperial calendar of the Qing Dynasty, widely disseminated in China from 1645 to 1911, played a key role in the state-building of the Eurasian empire in the temporal sense. Different from its European and American calendars and almanacs, the Qing calendar only contained calendrical and very limited astrological information, completely separating itself from the ongoing events of the Chinese society and making little contribution to the literacy of the people in daily life. The situation sharply changed after the Qing fell apart and the Republic of China was founded in early 1912. The nationalist calendars contained historical, cultural, geographical, political, and social information, sharing a striking similarities with the Central European calendars in the early nineteenth century following the French Revolution. The history of reading and the history of literacy saw a remarkable development in New China in the 1910s and 1930s, when the Chinese intellectuals embarked for modernization. The communist calendar also reflected this trend and served the interest of the red regime. Japanese-oriented calendars in Manchukuo presented a further modern versions by propagating ideas on state, citizenship, community, and social control. Wang argues that the calendars issued by nationalists, communists, and Manchukuo in the first half of the twentieth century served as the vehicle for consolidating the legitimacy of the very regimes, propelling the process of literacy among the public in daily life, and contributing to the modernity of the Chinese society before the triumph of the Communist revolution.