Boxers: Mystical peasant movement originating in Shandong province in the late 1890s. Members believed that they were immune to Western weapons because of special chants and talismans. Opposed to Christian missionaries and the power of the Western nations over China.
Cohong system: System developed in the 18lh century to regulate and control trade with Western merchants. Trade was restricted to the port of Canton (Guangzhou) in the far south. Western traders had to work with Chinese brokers and could not trade directly with Chinese merchants.
Confucianism: Based on the teaching of Confucius and Mencius, this became the official ideology of the imperial state from the Han dynasty on. Confucian doctrine emphasized social relationships, ritual, and learning.
Dao: Literally, a path or road and, by extension, “the Way.” The ideal of a well- ordered society, whether by human design or by natural pattern. Also used in Buddhism to signify the spiritual path.
Daoisrn: The philosophy based on the teachings of Laozi and Zhuangzi, emphasizing skeptical views about knowledge and action and promoting harmony with natural order. Later became a more religious movement with a strong mystical dimension focused on the quest for immortality.
Daoxue: Literally, the “Learning of the Way.” The metaphysical interpretation of Confucianism that developed during the Song dynasty and was given its mature form by Zhu Xi.
Dynasty: A period of time during which a single family controlled the throne and the succession of rulership.
Gang of Four: Radical followers of Mao Zedong in the 1970s who pushed an anti-bureaucratic vision for the Chinese Communist Party. Led by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, it also included Yao Wenyuan, Zhang Chunqiao, and Wang Hongwen.
Great Leap Forward: Mass mobilization campaign in 1958-1959 aiming to dramatically increase China’s agricultural and industrial output. The People’s Communes were the main organizational form, in which tens of thousands of farming households were joined into single accounting and decision-making units. The Great Leap collapsed when misreporting of harvests led to overconsumption of grain; faulty planning and bad weather also greatly reduced yields and led to widespread food shortages.
Guwen: Literally, “old-style writing.” A literary refonn movement in the later Tang dynasty, largely led by Han Yu (768-824). It was part of a revival of Confucian values and a critical reevaluation of the place of Buddhism in China.
Land reform: The seizure and redistribution of land between 1948 and 1952 designed to eliminate the old system of land tenure, in which a small elite held much of the land while many farming families had none at all. Land was distributed to all peasants, male and female. These actions combined to break the power of the landlord class over rural society and created the basis for expanding agricultural production.
Legalism: A philosophical system closely associated with the state of Qin during the Warring States period. Legalism was based on a system of rewards and punishments. Laws and regulations were established by the state, and anyone who violated them, whether high official or lowly peasant, would be punished equally.
Li (“pattern/principle”): A fundamental concept in Neo-Confucian thought. By observing natural patterns, one can discern the underlying principles of the operation of the universe. Good or proper actions are those that are in harmony with natural patterns, while evil consists in transgressing or violating them.
Li (“ritual”): Ritual is the system of gestures and roles that structures and facilitates social interactions. It can be as simple as bowing or shaking hands when meeting someone or as elaborate as an imperial sacrifice or the recognition of successful examination candidates, involving thousands of participants in complex performances.
Literati: The educated elite, from which came the officials who staffed the imperial bureaucracy. Membership in the literati was based on educational accomplishment, but because this required certain economic resources to achieve, the literati tended to be an economic elite, as well.
Long March: The epic journey of the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army from Jiangxi in the southeast to Shaanxi in the northwest between October 1934 and October 1935. Of the 115,000 people who set out, only about 15,000 survived the journey. They were regarded as heroes of the revolution ever after.
Mandate of Heaven: The central concept of legitimacy in the traditional political culture. Heaven, which is something like an organic operating system, bestows the Mandate on a particular individual and his descendants, as long as they rule in the general interests of society. If the rulers become cruel and abusive, Heaven will withdraw the Mandate, the dynasty will be overthrown, and a new dynasty will be established by whoever receives the Mandate.
May 4th Movement: Student demonstrations in Beijing in 1919 to protest the perceived betrayal of China by the Versailles Peace Conference after World War I, which allowed Japan to keep the former German territorial concessions in Shandong. The movement spread to anti-Japanese boycotts and strikes across China and helped galvanize a new age of revolutionary activity.
Moism: The teachings of the Warring States thinker Mozi. Mozi emphasized a doctrine of “universal love,” in contrast to what he saw as the family-centered teachings of Confucius. Mozi also sought to render the aggressive warfare of the Warring States period unprofitable by developing and sharing techniques of defense.
Neo-Confucianism: The English term generally used for the ideas of Daoxne. In English, the emphasis is on the new and innovative aspects of Daoxne, while the Chinese have seen it as a more retrospective doctrine, in line with traditional Confucian concepts of reverence for the past.
New Culture Movement: Cultural movement of the 1910s and 1920s that rejected the “dead weight” of traditional culture, especially Confucianism and the imperial state. Its members promoted the use of vernacular language in writing and began the process of simplifying the writing of Chinese characters.
Quriltav: The grand assembly of the Mongol tribes that could elect a Great Khan. It did not meet regularly but could be convened by anyone with sufficient following among the Mongols. Temujin convened a quriltai in 1206, at which he had himself proclaimed Chinggis Khan, which means “Oceanic Ruler.”
Shi: The administrative elite that emerged during the Zhou dynasty. Initially made up of men appointed to work at the many local courts, the shi changed over time into a landholding semi-aristocratic elite during Han-Tang times and into the educationally based elite of the late imperial age from the Song on.
Single Whip reforms: A set of changes to the fiscal and revenue policies of the Ming dynasty in the 1580s. The main result was that taxes were paid in silver rather than in grain or cloth, as had been the case. This benefited the commercially advanced coastal and riverine provinces but set the stage for problems in the arid northwest and the rugged hills of the southwest.
Spring and Autumn period: The period, from the mid-8Ul through the early 5th centuries B.C.E., when the central authority of the Zhou kings began to decline. Named for the historical records of the state of Lu, which were later believed to have been edited by Confucius.
Taiping: Literally, “Great Peace,” this term is also shorthand for the Taiping Tianguo, or the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace. This was the rebel state created by Hong Xiuquan between 1850 and 1864, which controlled much of central and south China and ruled over, perhaps, 100 million people.
Warring States period: A prolonged period of chronic warfare and insecurity from the 5th through the late 3rd centuries B.C.E. Stronger states slowly conquered weaker ones until only a few remained in the 3rd century. Finally, the state of Qin defeated the last of its rivals, destroying the southern kingdom of Chu in 221 B.C.E.