Quotidian Concerns: Everyday Knowledge and the Rise of the Common Reader in China, 1860-1940

Principal Investigator: Joan Judge, Department of History, York University

The project examines an issue of current relevance – the ways information and knowledge differ and how they travel in the context of modern China. Its focus is on the habits of mind and the everyday knowledge that underlay a crucial era in Chinese history, the eight decades between the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) and the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). This period, which encompassed the protracted transition from Imperial to Republican rule, also witnessed an explosion of print arguably comparable in its social impact to the current Internet age. The project examines the texts, institutions, and practices that created and disseminated daily knowledge in this critical period. These include two radically different genres of texts that have not been studied in relation to one another to date but which were both prime vehicles for quotidian knowledge: encyclopedias for everyday life, which were revised and expanded editions of compendia published from the sixteenth century on; and the periodical press, a new global form of print that first emerged in China the late 19th century. The study analyzes the history, organizing principles, and visual and discursive overlap between these materials, focusing on three of the most prominent areas of quotidian concern in this period: life-cycle rituals, family medicine, and vocational skills. It further investigates the relative share of these two genres of texts in the print market, the sites where they were disseminated, and the reading and viewing practices through which readers processed the information they contained into practicable daily knowledge.

Joan Judge is Professor in the Department of History at York University in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of Republican Lens: Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press (University of California Press, 2015), The Precious Raft of History: The Past, the West, and the Woman Question in China (Stanford University Press, 2008), Print and Politics: ‘Shibao’ and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China (Stanford University Press, 1996), and co-editor of Women and the Periodical Press in China’s Global Twentieth Century: A Space of Their Own? (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), and Beyond Exemplar Tales: Women’s Biography in Chinese History (Berkeley: Global, Area, and International Archive/University of California Press, 2011). She is currently engaged in an SSHRC-funded project with the working title “Quotidian Concerns: Everyday Knowledge and the Rise of the Common Reader in China, 1870-1949).

Project Activities
Republican Lens: Gender, Visuality, and Experience in the Early Chinese Periodical Press Roundtable and Launch
Eugenia Lean (Columbia University), Ann (Rusty) Shteir (York University), Bernard Lightman (York University), Yi (Evie) Gu (University of Toronto, Scarborough), Doris Sung (York University)
Thursday, 3 March 2016

Human Kinds, Animals and Global Geography in Early Modern China
Yuming He (University of California, Davis)
Thursday, 3 November 2016

Constructing Citizens: Textbooks, c. 1900-1937
Peter Zarrow (University of Connecticut)
Thursday, 13 November 2014

How did Chinese Gynecology become Korean? A Comparative Case Study of “Women’s Diseases” in Heo Jun’s Precious Mirror of Eastern Medicine (Dongui bogam, 1613)
Yi-Li Wu (EASTmedicine Research Cluster, University of Westminster)
Thursday, 12 February 2014

Book Culture in Late Imperial China 
Cynthia Brokaw (Brown University)
Thursday, 14 November 2013