Areas of Excellence

The Historical Anthropology of Chinese Society

The Historical Anthropology of Chinese Society

Total Funding Approved

  • HK$23.447M
    (1st Phase: HK$14.865M (2010-2013) + 2nd Phase: HK$8.582M (2014-2017))

Indicative Project Time-Frame

  • 2010-2017

Coordinating Institution

  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Prof. David Faure)

This project follows the approach of anthropologists Maurice Freedman and G. William Skinner to Chinese history, which combines field and documentary research, but attempts another explanation for variations in Chinese local society. Focusing on the past millennium of Chinese history, it recognizes that while the Chinese state had grown both in geographic extent and influence, many social and cultural changes had evolved locally and independently. Yet, different parts of China had been incorporated into the state at different times, and consequently, had come under the unifying influence of the state under different administrative arrangements. Local society, therefore, varies from one part of China to another, but many of its similarities may be related to the history of its incorporation into the Chinese state and the administrative arrangement by which it was incorporated.

This project will study 15 geographic areas in China to recover the history of both how local society identified with its own characteristics, and incorporated into the broad expanse of a unified culture. It will document objectively observable indications of local ritual traditions and reconstruct the history of the local institutions in which they were employed. By comparing the time frame of separate local histories, this project will construct a history of China from the bottom up. It will demonstrate the very significance of historical anthropology as an approach to understanding China's history.