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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(943 words)

Author(s): Klöpsch, Volker
Although there does not seem to be an immediate equivalent of satire in Chinese literature, it is a well-known stylistic means in China and has been employed frequently. In a society with high political and moral aspirations, from which reality differs all too often, satire has presented itself as a particularly suitable form of artistic expression, in which the cool and distanced position of the observer uncovers the chasm between "reality as imperfection" and the "the ideal as the highest idea…

School System

(3,743 words)

Author(s): Thøgersen, Stig | Henze, Jürgen
1. The School System before 1949 In late imperial China, before the first modernizing reforms, basic education was provided by local society rather than by the state. Boys started their training at home under a private tutor, or in a school. Sponsored by their family, lineage, or local community. Students advanced, at their own individual pace, through a standard set of elementary readers such as the Sanzijing (Three Character Classic), the Qianziwen (Thousand Character Text), and the Baijiaxing (Hundred Family Names), and, when they had acquired basic literacy through thes…

Science Policy

(3,147 words)

Author(s): Vogel, Hans Ulrich
With the founding of the PRC in 1949 and the imitation of the Stalinist model, for the first time ever a Chinese government took direct responsibility for the development of technology and the natural sciences. In the wake of extensive Soviet support in the form of advisors, training, and equipment, the Soviet system of scientific and technological organization was adopted. This system clearly tended to centralize research at the academies instead of the universities and to focus on topics relev…


(1,108 words)

Author(s): Borchert, Angelika
In traditional China, sculpture never enjoyed an equally high status as in the West. As the product of strenuous physical work, it was regarded by the culture-bearing scholar-officials as handicraft. Consequently, only a few sculptors are known by name or became famous. Still, the history of sculpture in China dates back to the Neolithic period and fascinating works survive from as early as the Shang period (16th century BCE to ca. 1045 BCE), e.g. the heads, gigantic masks, and life-size bronze …

Secret Societies

(1,871 words)

Author(s): Haar, Barend ter
In contemporary Chinese context, "secret societies" (modern: mimi shehui, traditionally: huidang; Japanese: himitsu shakai) refers above all to the Triads ( sandian hui, sanhe hui)-also known as the Heaven and Earth Society ( tiandi hui) and hongmen and the Society of Brothers and Elders ( gelao hui). It is much less common to use this designation for new religious groups (sects), such as the White Lotus ( bailian jiao). Research into secret societies has always struggled to distinguish between truth and fiction. What is nowadays known to be fiction exerted almo…

Self-Strengthening Movement

(1,707 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
Ziqiang (self-strengthening) was a maxim under which the Qing government subsumed a number of measures between 1861 and 1894 (i. e. between the Second Opium War and the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95). These measures aimed at countering the foreign predominance in China. One strategy of this policy was to adopt from foreign countries those methods and techniques which had the potential of remedying China's weakness. This led to a Western-type modernization of the country. At the time, anything that concerned the relations with foreign countries was referred to as yiwu ("barbarian matt…

Service Sector

(835 words)

Author(s): Schüller, Margot
In general, the term "services" refers to intangibles that cannot be transferred, stored, or transported. Typical services are trade, transport, bank and insurance services, hotel and catering services, cleaning, services rendered by hair dressers and other professionals, by cultural institutions and the mass media, work in research, as well as services rendered in public security, education, and health. During economic growth, the proportion of people employed in the service sector increases in…

Sexual Life

(2,239 words)

Author(s): Dikötter, Frank
What, if anything, can historians tell us of sexual life in China? The few sources which might provide us with insights into sexual life in either the imperial period or the 20th century (sex handbooks, guides to night life, manuals of marital advice, and medical treatises) are by their very nature prescriptive rather than descriptive: they do not so much reflect sexual practices as they expatiate on how sexual practices ought to be. Normative representations of sex should be clearly distinguish…