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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Tongzhi Restoration

(1,611 words)

Author(s): Bastid-Bruguière, Marianne
When the Xianfeng Emperor died in Rehe on August 22, 1861, the empire seemed close to its demise because of the domestic revolution and of China's surrender to the foreign armies. Eight aristocratic Manchus, favorites of the emperor, formed a regency council for the emperor's only son, who succeeded to his father's throne at the age of five. Prince Gong, a brother of the deceased, helped the two empress dowagers Ci'an (the widow) and Cixi (the emperor's concubine and mother of the new ruler) to …


(1,455 words)

Author(s): Gang, Xu
When China introduced its general open-door policy in the late 1970s, international tourism was also expanded considerably. The Chinese leadership hoped that this economic branch would generate significant foreign currency profits. And indeed, this policy has been very successful. The number of inbound travelers has risen from 1.8 million in 1978 to 72.8 million in 1999. During the same period of time, the profits generated by this business sector grew from $0.26 billion to $14.1 billion. China has become one of the world's leading tourist destinations. International tourist dema…

Township and Village Enterprises

(1,590 words)

Author(s): Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, Susanne
The development of township and village enterprises is both a part and a result of the modernization process that started during the late 1970s, although it had already been anticipated in the Maoist developmental model and practiced in some communes. It is the local governments' answer to the problems that were caused by de-collectivization as well as to the opportunities that arose from the reform policies. The Law of the PRC on Township Enterprises from October 29, 1996, includes all enterprises that are rural collective economic organizations, as well as companie…

Trade Unions

(2,622 words)

Author(s): Gransow, Bettina
The development of trade unions took place in close connection with the evolution and politics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Guomindang (GMD), both parties seeking to exert influence over the movement. While in the 1920s the CCP strived to gain a foothold among skilled workers eager for economic and political change, the GMD concentrated on unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Also important were their respective relations to traditional organizations such as guilds, farmer's assoc…


(1,544 words)

Author(s): Comtois, Claude
The development of the transport system in China is closely related to the topographic conditions. Railway, road, and water traffic are developed to differing degrees, depending on the region. In Ningxia nearly all transportation takes place via railways, while the mountainous character of Tibet only allows for transportation of goods on the roads; and for Zhejiang, as for vast parts of southern China, water traffic is indispensable. Before 1949, there was a clear contrast between the few perman…


(1,422 words)

Author(s): Kaden, Klaus
The Chinese writing system (script) denotes meaning. Those accustomed to letters that represent sounds or syllables require a help system in order to learn and use the Chinese language. Such a system is necessary in order to express Chinese pronunciations with letters from the learners' respective mother language. The transfer of sounds from one writing system to another is called phonetic transcription. Transliterations (i.e. exact letter-to-letter correlations) are impossible in the Chinese language. 1. The Most Relevant European Systems Throughout their history, the Chi…

Treaty Ports

(1,692 words)

Author(s): Osterhammel, Jürgen
1. Origin and Concept During the approximately eight centuries preceding the First Opium War of 1840-42 (Opium Wars), European trade with China was only allowed in two forms: as Russian caravan trade in Beijing, and as maritime trade in Guangzhou (with Macau as an additional base). The countryside remained closed to Western merchants. However, in the Sino-British Treaty of Nanjing from 1842, the Qing dynasty allowed "British citizens and their families and households" to live in (at first) five Ch…

Tributary System

(2,411 words)

Author(s): Aubin, Françoise
One of the most spectacular and exciting re-evaluations of Chinese history has been the questioning of the theory according to which the tributary system shaped all the foreign relations of the Chinese Empire. 1. The Tribute Theory The tribute theory was first presented in detail by John K. Fairbank (1907-1991) in the 1940s. During the 1960s he revised it, although it had already become a commonplace of all analyses of the diplomatic and economic relations of the Chinese Empire with its neighbors, and although it had already influe…