July 2, 2012

Stele of the Army of Inspired Strategy

This rubbing of a stone stele records the inspection of the Army of Inspired Strategy by the Tang emperor Wuzong (Li Yan). The text was composed by Cui Xuan and written by Liu Gongquan, both of the Tang dynasty. The stele was erected in the third year of the Huichang era (843 A.D.), but within a century was damaged by soldiers and soon disappeared. Because the stele was erected within the Imperial Palace, rubbings were not easily taken, even when it was still intact. These Song dynasty rubbings, also bound in the Song dynasty, are the only copy in existence. Of the original two volumes, only the first still exists. The provenance of this item is as follows: Jia Sidao (Southern Song); National Institute of History of the Hanlin Academy (Yuan dynasty); the Ming dynasty Palace Treasury; Zhu Gang, Prince of Jin (Ming dynasty); Sun Chengze, Liang Qingbiao, An Qi, and Zhang Rongfang (all of the Qing dynasty).

Secret Edition of the Northern Western Wing Corrected by Mr. Zhang Shenzhi

The Yuan dynasty drama, Story of the Western Wing, by Wang Shifu, is the finest dramatic work of traditional China. It ranks with Tang Xianzu’s Peony Pavilion, Kong Shangren’s Peach Blossom Fan, and Hong Sheng’s Palace of Everlasting Life as one of the four great classical dramas of pre-modern China, and has had a far-reaching influence on the literature and theatrical history of China. The plot of the drama is a reworking of the short work, The Story of Yingying (also titled Encounter with an Immortal) by Yuan Zhen of the Tang dynasty. The famous line from the play, “I hope that all under heaven who know love will be able to unite as husband and wife,” subsequently became the ultimate wish for pure love. There have been many editions of Story of the Western Wing over the centuries. The Ming dynasty Secret Edition of the Northern Western Wing, Corrected by Mr. Zhang Shenzhi, published in the Chongzhen reign, is especially celebrated for its woodblock illustrations. The artist was the famous late-Ming painter Hong Shou. The compositions are superb and show extraordinary creativity, making this unique among the many illustrations of the tale. The illustration "Stealing a Look at the Letter" is very faithful to the plot and conveys the spirit of the situation perfectly; it is a masterpiece of ancient woodblock illustration.

July 3, 2012

Learning Portuguese (Aboard the Seattle-Maru in June 1917)

This photograph shows Japanese emigrants to Brazil learning Portuguese aboard the Japanese emigrant ship Seattle-Maru in 1917. The ship took about 80 days to sail from the port of Kobe, Japan, to Santos, Brazil. Japanese emigration to Brazil began in 1908, and reached its peak in 1926–35. Following the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888, the government of Brazil looked to immigrants to address a labor shortage in the increasingly important coffee industry. European immigrants, particularly Italians, filled the gap at first, but were later joined by immigrants from Japan, where rural poverty was widespread and the economy was struggling to modernize and to reabsorb soldiers returning after the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5).

July 5, 2012

Illustrated Guide of Tilling and Weaving: Rural Life in China

This book is comprised of 23 illustrations of tilling and 23 illustrations of weaving, each of which is accompanied by a poem. According to the "Preface to the imperially commissioned illustrations of tilling and weaving" and the formal memorandum of presentation by Yan Yudun, the poems were inscribed by the Kangxi Emperor. The painter, Jiao Bingzhen, for the most part draws on the “Tilling and Weaving Illustrations" by the early Southern Song painter Lou Shou, making adjustments to produce these pictures, which are masterpieces of art, notable for their vivacity and skillful execution.

July 6, 2012

Mulberry Street, New York City

This photolithograph from the Detroit Publishing Company documents the busy street life of New York City’s Lower East Side at the start of the 20th century. Between 1870 and 1915, New York’s population more than tripled, from 1.5 million to 5 million. In 1900, when this photo was taken, foreign-born immigrants and their children constituted a staggering 76 percent of the city’s population. Often described as the Main Street of Little Italy, Mulberry Street was dominated from the 1890s by immigrants from Italy. These immigrants jostled for space and economic opportunity with other recent arrivals to the city, including Jewish, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian immigrants, as well as native-born and older immigrant groups such as the Dutch, English, Irish, and Germans.

July 10, 2012

History of the Revolution in New Spain

Fray Servando Teresa de Mier was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1763. He entered the Dominican order at age 16, studied philosophy and theology, and obtained a doctorate at age 27. Sentenced to exile in Spain after a sermon deemed provocative, Mier was imprisoned and escaped several times. He worked with Simón Rodríguez, a future mentor to Simón Bolívar, in France where he was later involved in hostilities against Napoleon. Historia de la Revolución de Nueva España (History of the revolution in New Spain), published in London in 1813 under the pseudonym José Guerra, is his most representative work and reflects the liberal ideals he had absorbed in France and Britain. Mier gained a reputation as an outstanding scholar, an independent and progressive thinker, and an excellent orator. The revolutionary movement for independence of 1810 inspired Mier to develop this comprehensive defense of Mexican independence. He argued that the legal and juridical basis of New Spain’s independence was the “social pact” established between the king of Spain and his subjects in the Americas shortly after the Spanish arrived on the continent. The Spanish lands in the New World had a constitution and fundamental laws based on this social pact, which meant that these territories were not colonies, but separate realms federated with Spain through the person of the king. The fact that the Spanish crown had not in practice complied with these fundamental laws did not negate their legal validity or historical importance. The relationship between Spain and its subjects in the Americas was based on this social pact, which could not be modified without the consent of those subjects. Mier further argued that God had separated America and Europe by an ocean and that the native peoples of the Americas had different interests from the people of Spain, which negated any Spanish right to direct rule over the Americas.