Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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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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(1,437 words)

Author(s): Meissner, Werner
The term socialism stands for very different, partially contradictory ideologies and social and political movements. In a larger sense they strive, each with different methodological approaches and strategies, to integrate the individual into the social order, and in a narrower sense they aim at a radical egalitarianism. The latter's goal is an equal distribution of goods, community control over the means of production, and the end of exploitation of people by people. Socialist ideas are found in the thought of nearly all reformers at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Am…

Social-Science Research on China

(1,264 words)

Author(s): Scharping, Thomas
Social-science research on China applies the theories and methods of disciplines such as sociology, political system, psychology, ethnology, economics, and of their derivatives or related fields of knowledge. It is conducted either from the perspective of these subjects, or from within Sinology (Chinese studies in the West). In the latter case, the institutional demarcation has recently increased between Chinese studies with a focus on social science, on the one hand, and classical Sinology with…

Social Security

(3,608 words)

Author(s): Krieg, Renate | Schädler, Monika
1. Social Security before the Founding of the PRC The main burden of social security has always been carried by the family and the clan; they were the most important institutions in this area. Assistance comprised provision for the old and widows, care for the sick, and employment exchange. Public social security existed only to a limited degree. The needy without relatives were supported with small funds, and in case of natural disasters a temporary relief was provided. The prevention of flood catastrop…

Social Structure

(3,216 words)

Author(s): Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
1. Methodological Questions An analysis of the Chinese social structure is complicated by the fact that on the one hand profound breaks have been taken place over the course of historical development, yet on the other hand there are pronounced continuities which survived even these radical changes. In order to manage this problem, the social structure must be analyzed in light of both macro and micro aspects. Macrostructures describe the institutionalized relationships between clearly demarcated so…


(1,301 words)

Author(s): Gransow, Bettina
With regards to terminology, "sociology in China" needs to be distinguished from "sociology of China" and "Chinese sociology". "Sociology of China" refers to sociological approaches (linked to Max Weber, Marcel Granet, Maurice Freedman, Wolfram Eberhard, and others) of Western research on China, which analyze Chinese society with the aid of sociological theories and methods. The sociology that is institutionally embedded in China is called "sociology in China". Finally, "Chinese sociology" refers to approaches that have the goal to make sociology more Chinese ( shehuixue de zh…


(849 words)

Author(s): Weggel, Oskar
In accordance with Confucian beliefs, traditional China's social order was supposed to be based on adherence to a three-fold precept: permanent strive for moral self-improvement of the political leadership; correctly executed rituals; and the application of "correct designations" ( zheng ming). Therefore, the military as a regulating factor was left with a subordinate role. Soldiers did not enjoy high public esteem, as proven by the well-known proverb "from good iron one does not make nails, and good men do not become soldiers" ( hao tie bu da ding, hao nan bu dang bing). Social and ph…

Song Dynasty

(1,017 words)

Author(s): van Ess, Hans
Following a long phase of upheaval, a general by the family name of Zhao managed to bring large parts of China under his control and proclaim the Song dynasty in 960. It became clear from the very beginning that this dynasty would have a different self-image from its great predecessor, the Tang dynasty: as they regarded the exceedingly high authority of the regional military commanders as the main reason for the demise of the previous dynasty, the new rulers decided to officially subordinate the…

Southeast Asia

(1,988 words)

Author(s): Weggel, Oskar
The subcontinent Southeast Asia, on the territory of which ten modern states have been formed since World War II, consisted of only two parts in the traditional perception of the middle kingdom: the continental part (with today's countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar/Burma) and a maritime part, which was simply called nanyang (lit. "Southern Ocean"). While the continental arena became a field of activity for Mandarin policy already under the Han dynasty, maritime Southeast Asia only entered China's focus through three subsequent conditio…

Spatial and Urban Planning

(2,659 words)

Author(s): Taubmann, Wolfgang
Until 1979, economic and planning activities were entirely in the hands of central authorities and ministries in Beijing. The respective state units presumably also followed their own agendas without subjecting themselves to a coordinated plan. Although the State Planning Commission played an important role in the coordination of the different projects, overall control was extremely difficult to achieve, not least owing to the size and heterogeneity of the country. Until the beginning of the opening up policy spatial economic policies were largely connected to th…

Special Economic Zones

(1,450 words)

Author(s): Taubmann, Wolfgang
In 1979 the Chinese government decided to initiate economic reforms in selected areas of the two provinces Fujian and Guangdong , in other words, to establish "capitalist" enclaves there. In 1980 the government designated four Special Economic Zones (SEZ): Xiamen (Fujian province), Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Shantou (Guangdong province). In 1988 the entire island of Hainan was also made a SEZ (see plate VI). The rationale for the establishment of the SEZs was to open selected areas for foreign inves…


(965 words)

Author(s): Jones, Robin
Among the sports that have been popular in China since time immemorial are soccer (cuju), polo (maqiu), a type of hockey (daqiu), various martial arts ( wushu), Chinese boxing (quanshu), sword exercises, archery, and shadow boxing (taijiquan), rowing contests (jingdu), and many more. Traditionally, these sports were played only by a small elite. The introduction of Western sports to China since the second half of the 19th century occurred through the influx of missionaries, Western traders, diplomats, and officials, especially in the…

State, concepts of the

(2,479 words)

Author(s): Schmidt-Glintzer, Helwig
1. Early Legitimization of the Authority of the State Concepts of statehood in China date back to early relations between ruler and ruled which can be traced from archaeological findings and, since the late 2nd millennium BCE, from written documents. In this regard, state and society (including Chinese culture) were equated. The idea of state sovereignty developed during the period of competition among various smaller states, but was revised after the unification of the empire. From early on, with respec…

State, cult of the

(1,358 words)

Author(s): Kern, Martin
From its earliest manifestations under the Shang to the fall of the Chinese Empire, the Chinese state was always a structure based on religion and providing meaning and order by integrating cosmos and society. The ruler functioned as high priest and as an intermediary who communicated with the dynastical ancestors and cosmic powers. During the Shang dynasty, the kings secured political legitimacy, longevity, and dynastic continuity with sacrifices to the mighty ancestors, who in turn were able to influence the paramount deity Di. During the Zhou period, ancestor worship was c…

State Enterprises

(1,310 words)

Author(s): Hebel, Jutta
Since the founding of the PRC, the state sector developed into the most important instrument for directing and controlling the economy, the state apparatus, and the population. The development of the USSR and experiences in the CCP-controlled areas had served as political models for this process. In the early years between 1949 and 1952 the economic significance of the socialist economy was at about one-fourth of the production value and still small in comparison with its strategic role (electri…


(2,516 words)

Author(s): Scharping, Thomas
1. Historical Overview Ancient China created impressive foundations of economic and social statistics in the service of tax levies and state administration. There is evidence of this fact from before the Common Era. Population numbers and data on the area of arable land are available for many years following the year 2 and became more detailed over subsequent centuries. First tax rates and information on the number of state-owned granaries are available from the year 749 onwards. From ca. 960 there…

Stock Corporations

(1,006 words)

Author(s): Comberg, Philip
Stock corporations, which had been unknown in traditional Chinese law, were first made known in China in the 19th century through European trading companies and initially introduced by way of customary law. After an imperial decree issued a first, very elementary codification in 1904, it was primarily the intensive reform efforts during the Republican period which led to the new codification of stock corporation law in China in 1914, 1931, and 1946. However, the legal form of the stock corporation never achieved a similar importance in China to Europe and the United States of America. Wit…

Stock Markets

(1,860 words)

Author(s): Fischer, Doris | Soong, Eric Sandy | Schüller, Margot
1. People's Republic of China When it seized power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) outlawed trading in securities in Shanghai. The smaller stock markets in Beijing and Tianjin were allowed to continue their operations, although with interruptions, until 1952. Despite ideological reservations, the new government issued government bonds in order to improve its budgetary situation until 1959, but then halted all securities transactions. A gradual rebuilding of the securities markets, initiate…

Student Protest

(2,460 words)

Author(s): Heilmann, Sebastian
Student protests have a long tradition in China, which goes back to the era preceding the founding of the People's Republic. Starting with the May Fourth Movement of 1919, the Republic of China repeatedly witnessed such protests - in particular in 1925, 1931, and 1947- which mobilized broader sections of the population against the foreign powers or against the policy of the Guomindang. The self-perception of Chinese students as an avant-garde whose task it is to "arouse the masses" ( huanqi minzhong), which prevailed also under Communist rule until well into the 1980s, hails…

Students Abroad

(1,001 words)

Author(s): Harnisch, Thomas
The first Chinese students abroad were mission students who were sent to Europe and America beginning in the 18th century. One of these students, Rong Hong (Yung Wing), who had been educated in the United States of America, provided the impetus for the first official dispatch of young Chinese to the USA in 1872. In 1881, however, the 120 students who were sent to the USA were recalled early because in the opinion of the Chinese government they had insufficient knowledge of Chinese customs. Simil…