Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese

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Brill’s Encyclopedia of China Online is based on the originally a thousand-page reference work on China with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. Written by the world’s top scholars, Brill’s Encyclopedia of China is the first place to look for reliable information on the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China.

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(2,119 words)

Author(s): Hebel, Jutta
In traditional China the issue of labor was characterized by a high concentration of property owing to the agrarian character of the country. The marginal non-agrarian sector consisted of handicrafts, trade and a largely underdeveloped industry. There were exceptions to this rule in the coastal regions where since the end of the 19th century large areas were in foreign hands. Industrial jobs were generally scarce in the face of a surplus of labor. Immediately after the founding of the People's Republic an agrarian reform was launched, which was aimed at overcoming th…

Landscape Conservation

(1,232 words)

Author(s): Küchler, Johannes
Not unlike its rich history of urban culture, China has a long tradition of the contemplative appreciation of nature. This is aptly proven by gardens (literati gardens or private gardens, imperial gardens), landscape paintings, and poetry with naturalistic themes. Geomancy ( fengshui ) provided the form to reflect on the qualities of local nature when construction projects were concerned. Otherwise, criticism of civilization and of large cities did not play a similarly important role in modern China's history as it did in Western indus…


(4,199 words)

Author(s): Kupfer, Peter
Hardly any other language in the world is characterized by such a terminological variance as the "Chinese language". As a consequence persistently ambiguous and one-sided concepts of the term are common, as is a range of similar or related terms, not only in German and in other Western languages, but also within Chinese itself. This has time and time again led to misunderstandings. It is therefore necessary to first of all dispose of the occidental cliché of the "Chinese language" as a homogenou…

Language Policy

(2,291 words)

Author(s): Kaden, Klaus
Language policy (or language planning) refers to the conscious exertion of influence by the state or other social agencies on the development of language and the writing system (script) through administrative measures, particularly through norms, with the aim of securing an effective oral and written form of communication that satisfies the current technical demands (letterpress, mass media, information transmittance, computer processing, etc.) and facilitates international exchange. The interes…

Latin America

(1,372 words)

Author(s): Jackson, Steven
Latin America is a region that is very distant from China both in geographical and strategic terms. The relationship between the two areas, however, has become more important in the 1990s, and Central America and the Caribbean in particular is an area of intense rivalry between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China on Taiwan for diplomatic recognition (Taiwan Question). During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, about 300,000 Chinese emigrated to various countries throughout Latin America, but have had relatively little political infl…

Law of the Sea

(971 words)

Author(s): Strupp, Michael
After overseas exploration had experienced its heyday in China during the 15th century, China fell into continental isolation for centuries as a result of "Sinocentrism". China did not rediscover the "ocean sphere" until the first half of the 19th century, when the Chinese world order was lethally threatened by colonial imperialism - from the sea, of all things, and with opium ships as a vanguard. During one of the first conflicts with the Western powers, the Qing dynasty already came to appreci…

Leased Territories

(1,907 words)

Author(s): Osterhammel, Jürgen
By international comparison, it was a peculiarity of China that the great powers secured territorial control mainly in the legal form of a limited-period lease. The unlimited and unconditional cessions of Hong Kong (in the Treaty of Nanjing 1842) and of Taiwan (in the Treaty of Shimonoseki 1895) remained exceptions. The main reasons for this restraint - at least by international law - were, on the one hand, the attempt by the powers to avoid the appearance of a definitive colonial division of Ch…


(1,036 words)

Author(s): Vandermeersch, Léon
Legalism is a school of political thought directed against Confucianism and originating in the period of the Warring States. It advocates a system of government based solely on law (fa). This system can be understood as the codification of a catalog of rewards and punishments (i.e. the government's two main methods of exerting power), which are mandated by the ruler so as to discipline all social activities within the state and to promote the development of wealth and military strength. Precursors to this school emerged during the late Spring and Autumn period, when a numbe…

Legal System

(2,932 words)

Author(s): von Senger, Harro
According to contemporary mainland Chinese terminology, the "legal system" ( sifa, often translated as "judiciary") encompasses, in its more narrow interpretation of the word, merely the judiciary, whereas its broader meaning also includes the activities of the procuratorate and the justice departments, the agencies responsible for public and state security as well as numerous arbitration and mediation agencies, and finally the attorney and notary system. China distinguishes between criminal, civil, comme…

Legal Tradition

(3,444 words)

Author(s): Heuser, Robert
For approximately one century, the Chinese legal tradition, i.e. the sum of all moral concepts, norms, institutions, procedural rules, and behavioral patterns in Chinese society, has been in transition from a "traditional" existence that as been developed and maintained for over 2000 years towards a "modern" existence. The current "specifically Chinese socialist legal system", as it is officially called, is presently undergoing a rapid and complex evolution. It is characterized (1) by tradition,…


(2,533 words)

Author(s): Heuser, Robert
1. Historical Development Legislation as a legal regulatory tool of the state has emerged in China early on. According to the Zuozhuan (4th century BCE), legislative clauses were engraved in bronze vessels in the state of Zheng in 535 BCE. The annals of the Jin dynasty, which were compiled roughly 1000 years after that period during the early Tang dynasty, state that in 400 BCE the legal work of Li Kui (Fajing) followed; however, only chapter titles of this book are still extant. Since approximately 350 BCE, when Shang Yang introduced reforms in the state of Qin wh…


(673 words)

Author(s): Yeh, Catherine V.
The invention of leisure and with it the concept of leisure time in China took place during the late 19th century. It was established culturally by being set off against another innovation, "work time." Leisure as a time free from urgent and purposeful work has been a core ingredient of a traditional cultivated life-style; it could be filled by a wide range of activities. Although all classes had their particular leisure activities, the notion is mostly associated with the life-style of the educated and wealthy classes. The new …


(656 words)

Author(s): Kaderas, Christoph
Most of the lexicographic works of ancient China which codified and explained Chinese vocabulary only contained entries for specific topics or were aimed at certain readerships. The earliest works merely list a limited segment of available terms for certain periods, often without any ordering aid: a character is explained by juxtaposing it with various synonyms without comment. Although early dictionaries contain alternative calligraphic forms of writing for individual characters, these variants…