Asian Perspectives, 2019 - Volume 58, Number 2 (Fall)

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    Women in Ancient China. Bret Hinsch. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018. 226 pp., 20 figures, glossary, notes, bibliography, index. Hardback US $79, ISBN 978-1-5381-1540-4.
    ( 2019-10-04) Lullo, Sheri A.
    Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority. Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority. Bret Hinsch has made a number of contributions to the history of gender and sexuality in China, primarily for the ancient and premodern eras. His latest book, Women in Ancient China, "details the process of growing sexual inequality as it unfolded" across the Neolithic, Shang, and Western and Eastern Zhou periods (seventh millennium to third century B.C.) (p. x). This work greatly expands upon Hinsch's summary of these periods in a chapter in his other recent book, Women in Imperial China (Hinsch 2016:1–32). It also serves as a welcome and long-awaited companion to his Women in Early Imperial China (2002), which covers the Qin and Han periods (third century B.C.–A.D. third century). Like many of his books, Women in Ancient China takes a chronological approach, which allows Hinsch to examine the various ways that a woman's identity and status were affected by the shifting social, political, and institutional structures of each ruling power. Thus, each chapter is a comparative study that looks both back in time and anticipates future developments or changes. Drawing from multiple disciplinary perspectives, this useful and comprehensive study synthesizes the growing body of secondary scholarship on women's lives in ancient China. Hinsch's central thesis is that "growing institutional complexity affected female rights and privileges" (p. xii). The study details the various ways that gendered hierarchy became standardized with the expansion of a patriarchal governing system, relegating women to roles in which they invariably served to aid or help legitimize men. Interwoven within this narrative, however, are stimulating accounts of instances where women occupied positions of political, moral, and maternal authority.
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    Khao Sam Kaeo: An Early Port-City between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Edited by Bérénice Bellina. Mémoires Archéologiques 28. Paris: École Française D'Extrême-Orient, 2017. 675 pp. Paper EUR €65.00, ISBN 978-2-85539-427-5.
    ( 2019-10-04) Demandt, Michèle H. S.
    The last twenty years have witnessed increased interest in the identification of maritime connections and the reconstruction of transoceanic networks that operated during the late prehistoric and early historical periods. For example, research into Southeast Asia's early contacts with the Indian world and Han China has expanded to incorporate the results of archaeological work in coastal India, the Bay of Bengal, and those lands and islands which border the periphery of the South China Sea. Scholars that once saw India as the main engine driving culture change in Southeast Asia now admit the importance of reciprocal relationships linking the two regions and, more importantly, the autonomy and active involvement of Southeast Asia's inhabitants in local processes (Manguin et al. 2011). Similarly, this edited volume, which focuses on the late prehistoric urban site of Khao Sam Kaeo, reveals that trends towards urbanism, cultural emulation, and long-distance trade were already present by the last centuries B.C. and that these tendencies were themselves deeply rooted in local strategies for expressing social identity.
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    Yungang: Art, History, Archaeology, Liturgy. Joy Lidu Yi. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. 244 pp., 66 plates, 41 figures, bibliography, glossary, character glossary. Hardcover US $155, ISBN-13 978-1138049901.
    ( 2019-10-04) Leidy,Denise Patry
    Now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Buddhist complex at Yungang (Cloud Pass) near present-day Datong in Shanxi Province remains one of the three most well-known and visited cave-temple sites in China. The other two are the Mogao caves near the city of Dunhuang in Gansu and those at Longmen outside Luoyang in Henan Province. Established around A.D. 460 under the patronage of the powerful Northern Wei dynasty (A.D. 386–534), Yungang consists of 45 major caves, not all of which are completely preserved, and approximately 1000 small niches. Many of the caves and niches contain sculptures that were at one time painted. The human-constructed cave-temples at this site have been the focus of Chinese, Japanese, and Western scholarship since the first decades of the twentieth century, yet the dating of the grottoes and the identification of their patrons remain somewhat controversial. Both topics, as well as a reexamination of Yungang's politico-social and liturgical functions, are the focus of the recent interesting monograph by Joy Lidu Yi. Yi begins with a useful overview of previous studies, in varying languages and from art historical, epigraphic, historical, and archaeological perspectives. She subsequently discusses the impact of recent excavations at the site, focusing on the discovery of a monastery and residence halls above the caves which served as a center for translation and practice. Yi also incorporates new finds from tombs and other sites in Datong (formerly Pingcheng) and the Northern Wei capital from A.D. 386 to 494. Her suggestions regarding similarities between funerary sculptures of figures from tombs in the capital and representations of donors in the secondary imagery at Yungang are useful, but the analysis is marred by a discussion of these people and their clothing as typifying foreigners (hu ren). The clothing [End Page 406] and the physiognomies reflect those of the Xianbei, a formerly nomadic people who established the Northern Wei dynasty. The clothing thus represents court and local styles rather reflecting that of the many foreigners, including Sogdians, who lived in the capital.
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    Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia. Himanshu Prabha Ray. New Delhi: Routledge India, 2018. 140 pp., 12 figures, bibliography, index. Hardback £95, US $150, ISBN 978-1-138-30489-5; eBook £36, US $49, ISBN: 978-0-203-72854-3. With Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia, Himanshu Prabha Ray h
    ( 2019-10-04) Fogelin,Lars
    With Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia, Himanshu Prabha Ray has produced the first modern introduction to the field intended for an audience of non-specialists. Coming in at a brief 140 pages, Ray has provided an excellent primer for anyone who is seeking to gain an understanding of the basic outlines of Buddhist archaeology in South Asia. To accomplish this, Ray jettisoned the traditional ways of presenting Buddhism that have dominated scholarship for the last century. Where earlier works would almost invariably begin with the biography of the Buddha, the archaeological sites he is believed to have visited, and a survey of the role of Buddhism in the development of urbanism from mid- to late first millennium B.C.E., Ray centers her book on the lived practice of Buddhists in the first millennium C.E.—the first period in which abundant archaeological remains are available to understand the growth, transformation, and eventual decline of Buddhism in South Asia. It is difficult to think of a better scholar to write this concise introduction to South Asian Buddhism. Since the publication of Monastery and Guild: Commerce under the Satavahanas (1986), Ray has been among the most important and prolific scholars working in ancient Indian history and archaeology. Through her work at Jawaharlal Nehru University and as Chair of the National Monuments Authority, she has helped shift the focus on Buddhist history and archaeology from one that concentrated on Buddhist theology and philosophy, primarily through close readings of [End Page 404] Buddhist texts, to a perspective on the daily lived practices of Buddhist monks and nuns (collectively known as the sangha) and the elite and non-elite lay people who supported them. This new perspective, one that Ray helped create, permeates the whole of Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia.
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    World Heritage Craze in China: Universal Discourse, National Culture, and Local Memory. Haiming Yan. New York: Berghahn Books, 2018. 242 pp., 20 illustrations, bibliography, index. Hardback US $120.00, ISBN 978-1-78533-804-5; eBook US $35, eISBN 978-1-78533-805-2.
    ( 2019-10-04) Fiskesjö, Magnus
    This aptly titled book takes on the Chinese obsession with World Heritage (capitals required!). It is an obsession rooted in a worldview that is not pluralistic, but rather like the spirit of a competitive Olympic game in which there can be only one gold medal winner. The Chinese pursuit of this gold medal is a riveting and sometimes disturbing story, well presented by the author, Haiming Yan, in a book nicely produced by the publisher. This book brings a wealth of information and spirited discussion to a wide readership and could readily be considered for courses on heritage issues in Asia and globally. Yan traces Chinese struggles to get potential sites onto the official UNESCO World Heritage list in three dimensions, which he calls the universal agenda, national practices, and local responses. This is not a dry book dealing only with government-devised policies and international convention text-making. From time to time, Yan pays attention to the real people involved and notes both the joy, tears, sadness, and frustrations that mark the people actually engaged in these struggles.