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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Railway Policy

(1,885 words)

Author(s): Huenemann, Ralph W.
1. Political Relevance of Railways The question of railroads lay at the very heart of China's political difficulties, both external and internal, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Externally, the political pressures had started with the British, culminating in the Opium Wars and the "unequal treaties", but later in the 19th century, the pressure for colonial concessions came from other European powers (not to mention the Japanese, who were avid students of imperialist behavior). Internally, China…


(1,238 words)

Author(s): Comtois, Claude
In few countries railways play as important a role for the economy as in China. From the very beginning, railway construction was an ideological issue in China. The demise of the Qing dynasty prompted Chinese officials to use railways as a means of modernization, defense, and territorial organization. For the colonial powers the railways have been a means for expanding their sphere of influence and for further commercial and territorial expansion into the hinterland (railway policy). In light of…

Real Estate

(838 words)

Author(s): Kittlaus, Martin
In April 1990, Deng Xiaoping declared that the creation of a real-estate market would be a crucial aspect of the policy and openness. By the end of the 1990s however, there was still no uniform allocation of real estate according to the mechanism of free competition and prices in the People's Republic (housing, allocation of). Instead, local authorities operate as quasi-monopolies, controlling the market through opaque permit procedures and tariff and price controls. According to Art. 10 of the …

Rebellions and Social Protest

(1,741 words)

Author(s): Wasserstrom, Jeffrey N.
The Chinese historical record is filled with accounts of acts of collective and individual dissent. These have taken a dizzying array of forms, occurred in every period, broken out in all parts of the country, and involved people from each conceivable walk of life. The sheer variety of the ways that rebellious sentiments have been expressed is striking; from individual acts of suicide to uprisings involving millions of participants, from non-violent sit-ins to violent feuds, from local riots to …

Rectification Campaigns

(1,279 words)

Author(s): Teiwes, Frederick C.
Rectification campaigns represent a distinctive approach of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to party discipline, one emphasizing persuasion and education under the slogan "cure the illness in order to save the patient". This approach developed in Yan'an under the leadership of Mao Zedong as part of a larger effort to create predictable organizational norms and party unity. As the initial Yan'an rectification of 1942-44 coincided with the waxing of CCP fortunes, it was regarded as an essential …

Reform Movement of 1898

(1,805 words)

Author(s): Felber, Roland
1. Political Development of the Reform Movement The political reform movement that evolved from the Yangwu movement during the 1890s is primarily associated with the name Kang Youwei. In a memorandum from December 1888 (which, however, never reached the throne), the young scholar and examination candidate had demanded that the government change its methods in light of the impotence it had demonstrated in its war against France. On May 2, 1895, after the humiliating defeat of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, h…


(1,714 words)

Author(s): Goodman, David S.G.
Regionalism has always been part of China. Leaving aside considerations of the non-Han Chinese (the 54 national minorities), there is and has always been considerable social and economic variation throughout different parts of China, as it would be reasonable to expect given the large land mass and size of population. The Chinese are divided socially by language; food and styles of cooking (food and drinking culture); domestic customs of birth, death, and marriage; folk beliefs, music, and dance…


(1,385 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
Traditional Western concepts and classifications of religion are of little use when seeking to describe and explain Chinese religious phenomena, given, for instance, that it is common practice in China to consult a Daoist priest when medicine fails to cure an ailment, then to sacrifice to one's ancestors at home (possibly in accord with a ritual devised by the Confucian Zhu Xi), and, in the event of a death, to employ the services of a Buddhist monk for the funeral rites. For example, Daoism and…

Religious Literature

(2,049 words)

Author(s): Goldfuss, Gabriele | Durand-Dastès, Vincent
The topic of "religious literature" opens up not only the field of esthetic works been influenced by religion (formally or in terms of content), but also such works within the religious traditions which function as written documentation of the respective religion's concerns and transitions over the centuries. In the Chinese world, these are in particular the works of the three schools or religions (san jiao): Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. They have been complemented by Islam and Christianity. Aside from these "official" religions (i.e. the religions hi…

Religious Policy

(832 words)

Author(s): Wenzel-Teuber, Katharina
With regard to religious policy there has been marked continuity between the traditional Chinese state and the PRC. In imperial times (until 1911), the state already attempted to limit the influence of religion if it threatened to question its authority. Religions were only tolerated if they conformed to the Confucian state orthodoxy. Deviant, heterodox religions were regarded as subversive. This goal of state-control over religion continued during Republican times (1912-49) even though religious freedom was formally assured in Art. 12 of the Constitution of 1912. In the PRC, re…

Reportage Literature

(1,294 words)

Author(s): Müller, Eva
Reportage literature ( baogao wenxue) developed in China from the 1920s in the course of the development of a modern print media (press) and modern Chinese literature. The influence of Western reportage literature was decisive for this new genre of non-fictional prose ( sanwen, essay), which was initially considered a journalistic genre. The travel reports of Qu Qiubai (1899-1935) are considered early examples exhibiting characteristics of literary design exceeding a purely journalistic report. The literary reportage experienced its firs…

Republic (1912-49)

(1,777 words)

Author(s): Merker, Peter
After its demise on the Chinese mainland, the Chinese Republic is referred to as a distinct historical period. It was not a unified, thoroughly organized state structure anchored in time and space, but rather the political and state legislative framework for Chinese governments which emerged in a variety of forms and worked with different degrees of efficiency. In scholarship this period is often regarded as a period of transition during which China's transformation in the direction of a modern …

Research Funding

(880 words)

Author(s): Schnell, Welf-Heinrich
Research funding in the People's Republic of China is embedded in a system of state-sponsored growth and development programs, including so-called "perspective plans" which typically span a period of eight to 15 years. In the wake of the new policy of reform and opening-up, further plans have evolved and passed into law, some of which are modeled after the five-year plans for economic development, while others give special attention to more specific areas. The First Development Plan for Science and Technology (1956-67) was unveiled in 1956. It contained 582 research …

Revolution of 1911

(2,289 words)

Author(s): Felber, Roland
The first political associations striving from the removal of the Manchu Qing dynasty in the light of the powerlessness of the ossified regime in the face of the growing threat to national sovereignty from foreign powers formed as early as the mid-1880s. The Revive China Society ( Xing Zhong hui), founded by Sun Yatsen in Honolulu in November 1894 as a kind of secret society and which in early 1895 had established a branch in Hong Kong, demanded: (1) the expulsion of the Manchu, (2) the rebirth of China, and (3) the establishment of a democrat…