Open thread, 08/06/2018

In light of the recommendation of F. W. Motte’s Imperial China: 900-1800, I thought it would be useful to reiterate a minimal set of other books that are important in my intellectual development in relation to the history of China.

The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han. You need to start at the beginning, and this is that. To be fair, the Spring and Autumn period were a pretty big deal too, but I think a lot of their insights were distilled into what we see in the Qin-Han era. The Zhou and Shang are so distant that I’m not sure a real history could be written, as opposed to analysis of myth and archaeology (especially for the Shang).

China between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties. The period between the fall of the (Later/Eastern) Han and the rise of the Sui-Tang lasted many centuries. There wasn’t a precedent yet truly for the revival of a unitary Chinese state during this period. So a lot of cultural and political issues got hashed out over these 300+ years. Buddhism became a major cultural force, and the social and political fabric of Tang dynasty was stitched together (the Tang were a Han-Xianbei cultural mix, for example).

There are many histories of the Tang, which has a particular appeal in the modern era, but I like China’s Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty. For the more ambitious, I think S. A. M. Adshead’s T’ang China: The Rise of the East in World History is worth a read (this is expensive, so find a good library!).

The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China. Compared to the Tang the Song seem a bit dull, but a lot that defines modern China has its roots in this period, and not the Tang (which was somewhat atypical). For example, the meritocratic bureaucracy really got ingrained during the Song (though it has roots in the Han).

The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. The title says it all. We’re coming into early modernity here.

And finally, China’s Last Empire: The Great Qing. These are the Manchus.

If you are wary of diving in headfirst, then I suggest John Keay’s book on China, but do not stop there. Keay is more conversant in the history and peoples of South Asia, so it’s not just best work in terms of thoroughness.

Why does any of this matter? First, because China matters to non-Sinologists in the 21st century, like the United States mattered to non-Americans in the 20th. That’s just a plain fact. It matters for the future. Second, if you take an interest in the human past China is a large proportion of that past. If you don’t know Chinese history, don’t talk to me about knowing history (similarly, you should know the history of the Near East and the Classical West, at a minimum, to really express an opinion to me about history in a broad sense and be taken seriously by me).

I would be interested in a recommendation on modern Chinese history, perhaps dating to after 1800. Someone besides Spence. And then also something on the Spring-Autumn period.

For a while I’ve been saying the new Rakhigarhi paper is going to be over-hyped in relation to what the science will tell us. The reason I say this is that The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia really hit the major points in broad-strokes already. But in India Rakhigarhi is going to be a huge deal because:

1) it is a site in the Republic of India
2) it is from the mature Harappan phase

The results will confirm some beliefs, but it’s not a game-changer. A game-changer would be if we found someone who was half Corded-Ware in genetic ancestry from India in 2250 BC. Ultimately a lot of ancient DNA will probably come online in India over the next few years (hopefully?), and then the real action of mapping the details will begin. That’s exciting.

The Genomic Basis of Arthropod Diversity. This is a big preprint and a big deal.

Population size history from short genomic scaffolds: how short is too short?

I’ve started using my Facebook Page (as opposed to Profile). Mostly I’m going to use it push my content.

Workplace Wellness Programs Don’t Work Well. Why Some Studies Show Otherwise. Randomized controlled trials, despite their flaws, remain a powerful tool.

On Sarah Jeong. People need to never forget that NYC-DC elite journalists are a class. Their defense of her is a defense of their class interests. She’s a friend or acquaintance, and her social and political views, and writing style align with their own (or the writing they’d like to do more in public). Of course they are going to have her back and interpret everything she says charitably. She’s “their kind of people.” Someone like Protagoras, eh, I mean Jeet Heer, is inevitably going to tweet-storm about “contextualizing” her offensive statements.

Once you view elite national journalism as the voice of a self-interested class, as opposed to disinterested reportage, then it all makes sense.

Here’s Why It’s So Impossible to Get Reliable Diet Advice From the News. You should know all this. If you don’t, read it closely. It’s pretty obvious.

Mitochondrial genomes reveal an east to west cline of steppe ancestry in Corded Ware populations. No surprise. Men on the move.

The fitness consequences of genetic variation in wild populations of mice. The Hoekstra lab is producing work in evolutionary biology that is always worth keeping track of.

Genetic draft and valley crossing. You had me at draft, but I want to marry you at “valley crossing.”

How Sexually Dimorphic Are Human Mate Preferences? The blogger and twitter named “Yeyo” (the new one is a fake) raised my consciousness to the fact that in terms of upper body muscle mass human males and females are extremely dimorphic.

On Twitter, I joked that people should send me money via Paypal as recompense for my “emotional labor” as a PoC who has to educated people. No one sent me money. #whitePeopleAreRacistForReal! If you are an anti-racist white person who reads my blog, you should send me money, or you are a racist! How do you feel when you read about Cameron Whitten’s shakedowns of white liberals? I think they’re hilarious, and more power to him. He’s a total con artist, but I would appreciate these people going broke.

19 thoughts on “Open thread, 08/06/2018

  1. If you are interested in modern-day China you should read first “China’s Great Wall of Debt: Shadow Banks, Ghost Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle by Dinny McMahon and then “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise” by Carl Walter and Fraser Howie. In both books you will find excellent similarities to the processes and mechanisms which you have probably come across in your study about the history of China.

  2. Jeong: Times like Slate as of a sudden, gone full Brooklyn posture. And I had just started paying to establish an anchor–now open to suggestion for balanced aggregator(s).

    i sub to WSJ and NY Times. tbh i would be willing to pay for both if they excluded all political coverage.


    “If it was in China, even when they say the services are free, the instructors would indicate that you give them an under-the-table ‘thank you’ tip.”

    But it didn’t take long for Yu to realize that government inspectors also stick to the rules as firmly as the instructors. Right after Tang’s Noodle opened, Department of Health employees arrived at the store to do the inspection and issue a letter grade. “If it was in China, if you have ‘guanxi’ (a connection), you can just talk to someone over the phone for this kind of inspection. They’d give you a satisfactory grade without coming to your restaurant,” said Yu. “But the inspectors worked here for two hours. They didn’t take a free meal here, not even a cup of tea.” Finally, Tang’s Noodle passed the inspection and got an “A.”


  4. Would you include India in your basic overview of history, Razib?

    indians don’t have same historical tradition, so a lot of what we know is through other eyes.

    india is important mostly for buddhism imo.

    the reason it’s important to study china and ‘the west’ (greece onward) is to get a sense of cross-comparisons. most people lose me when they say “i’ve never read something so ethically oriented as the gospels in the ancient world….” or something stupid like that. because they haven’t read much, being tunnel-visioned barbarians.

  5. @Both Camps Enemy – It’s not an aggregator, but might be good for spot checks on issues?

    For the hyper brain, hyper body hypothesis, it seems to be at odds with the sources in this post –

    Also, IIRC trait Neuroticism and intelligence has shown a weak, usually negative correlation.

    Maybe sampling Mensa for the high IQ group introduced some sampling bias? They talk about that a bit in the Limitations section. Hopefully future studies on the topic will take a large random sample and compare within it to rule that out.

  6. “Mitochondrial genomes reveal an east to west cline of steppe ancestry in Corded Ware populations. No surprise. Men on the move.”

    With so few mitogenome samples the conclusion by that study should be taken with a grain of salt. Nothing conclusive can be determined with so little mtDNA.

  7. “On Sarah Jeong. People need to never forget that NYC-DC elite journalists are a class.”

    More like a tribe or a clan.

  8. Sarah Jeong appears to be either 1) a loathsome racist or 2) a craven opportunist playing a character.

    On the other hand, apparently she also wrote some unkind words about “elite journalist” or editorialists… so I am inclined to think she is 2).

  9. “People need to never forget that NYC-DC elite journalists are a class. Their defense of her is a defense of their class interests.”

    What exactly are these interests? Do you mean maintaining the myth of exaggerated white privilege and racism to drum up outrage that will sell more papers make them money?

  10. What exactly are these interests? Do you mean maintaining the myth of exaggerated white privilege and racism to drum up outrage that will sell more papers make them money?

    having jobs, controlling jobs.

    i think at some point the plutocrats who control these media entities will get tired of the media class behavior, but for now, it is tolerated.

  11. I’ve started reading Lewis’s book on the Qin and Han dynasties. The comparison between Qin and Macedonia are very interesting, namely the rise of a militarized frontier state that views itself as part of a core culture (while still viewed as practically barbaric by those within the core.) Nonetheless, their militarization and internal reforms, justified by intellectuals like Shang Yang and Aristotle. allowed them to dominate the core and lay the foundations for expansionary states of such a scale as to claim the status of universal empires.

  12. Keegan, in his “A History of Warfare,” makes a similar case for the pre-gun powder domination of settled states/empire by semi-nomads from “the intermediate zone” – that area between the settled and the truly nomadic. The latter are simply not resource-rich enough to have a large population and further lack a unifying, empire-building ideology. Meanwhile the settled states have low military mobilization rates due to poor nutrition and specialization of work.

    The semi-nomads who are exposed to both cultures have the best of both worlds – the exposure to the technology, grains, and ideologies of the settle states as well as the excellent, hardy warrior material of the nomads.

  13. Re: Jeong, the fact that she’s a liberal journalist with a posh educational pedigree may be why all these Whites are defending her, but I don’t think that background is why she made a bunch of racist statements on Twitter. Frankly, she’s a Korean-American raised in (I think) Southern California. The stuff she’s saying is . . . not unfamiliar to me. It’s not all that surprising to hear that kind of stuff from someone with her background because, well, I occasionally heard similar sentiments (expressed in somewhat less profane terms) when I was a child growing up in Southern California, around the same time.

    I think she’s just an common-or-garden unapologetic racist who thinks of Whites as generally inferior, and has discovered that she’s allowed to express that racism freely in English. And not just excused for it — celebrated for it!

  14. protagoras on the prairies!

    he might be less of an asshole than you ikram, but he’s way more well-practiced of a sophist. your double-standards were so obvious that you didn’t even bother to hide them.

  15. here’s classic jeet heer,
    protagoras on the prairie: classical liberals were racists, js mill said that nonwhites couldn’t do liberal democracy

    cathy young: huh, that quote applie to russians. and he was talking about cultural differences

    protagoras on the prairie: well, back then russians weren’t considered white to my knowledge. so that’s what i was trying to say….

    guy is either a fool, or a conscious liar who throws bullshit at people to wear them out. he knew very that unless a russian person (cathy young) recognized what he was saying his followers would assume that mill was talking about ‘visible minorities’ as canadian communists would say.

    from everything i hear, he’s definitely the latter. smart. but a total sophist.

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