Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

Get access Subject: Asian Studies
Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese

Brill’s Encyclopedia of China Online is based on the originally a thousand-page reference work on China with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. Written by the world’s top scholars, Brill’s Encyclopedia of China is the first place to look for reliable information on the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China.

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Chemical Industry

(2,023 words)

Author(s): Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
1. Historical and Structural Conditions Even though chemistry has a long-standing history in China, its modern development only set in after the reforms of 1978. If we define chemical industry as the utilization of scientific knowledge concerning the molecular transformation of substances, then this late development is explained primarily by the low relevance that the demand side had for the industrial dynamics of the Maoist planned economy. The modern chemical industry's diversity of products and me…


(1,228 words)

Author(s): Iannaccone, Isaia
When the first pieces of information on modern chemistry reached China during the late 18th century, Chinese scientists and linguists were forced to deal with the problem of how to translate the new scientific vocabulary into Chinese. The first text which focused on chemistry was called Bowu xin ( New Natural Philosophy and Natural History). It was published in 1855 by Benjamin Hobson, an English physician who worked for the missionary hospitals in Shanghai and Guangzhou. This text does not only treat chemistry but also other pure sciences. A total…


(457 words)

Author(s): Yiyan, Wang
Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province. Chengdu consists of the eight urban districts Chenghua, Jinjiang, Jinniu, Qingyang, Wuhou, Gaoxin, Longquan, and Qingbaijiang, as well as of a broad hinterland in which the four cities Pengzhou, Chongzhou, Qionglai, and Dujiangyan are located. It addition, eight counties belong to Chengdu: Jintang, Shuangliu, Pixian, Xindu, Dayi, Pujiang, Xinjin, and Wenjiang. The total area of Chengdu is 128,390 km² and that of the city proper 1382 km². Total popul…

Childhood and Youth

(1,005 words)

Author(s): Frick, Heike
Childhood and youth are socially and culturally formed constructs. Different factors, such as region, local custom, gender, the affiliation with social groups, and concepts of child and childhood, influence the way in which children live and experience the world. Three fundamental changes in the ideas about childhood have been apparent in modern China. The first set in during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when Confucian ethics lost its normative character. A second change occurred in 19…

Children's Literature

(1,390 words)

Author(s): Farquhar, Mary
Children's literature in China has a long history. The dual foundation of modern children's literature is born of the traditional emphasis on education and the modern struggle for nationhood. Traditional children's books belong to the Confucian heritage. They are primarily educational. Modern children's literature, based on Western models, was created by China's great reformers early in the 20th century in order to displace Confucian books and modernize China through the minds of its children. C…

China, images of

(2,533 words)

Author(s): Pigulla, Andreas
1. Early Contacts Vague notions of the Far East existed already in antiquity. These were closely linked to the silk products which constituted very important trade goods at the time. In the Greek-speaking world, there was speculation about a people called the Seres. Yet the different names for East Asian peoples (Sina, Taugast, Kitai) could not be brought together to form a coherent image. In medieval times, ideas of a fairytale-like Orient which lacked any empirical basis dominated. With the 13th-century expansion of the Mongols, the r…

China in World History

(1,508 words)

Author(s): Pigulla, Andreas
The Chinese Empire was the longest-lasting civilization in world history and has the longest tradition of historical documentation (historiography, pre-modern). In addition, China is a highly developed and complex world civilization. This makes it an ideal benchmark for the West to compare itself with. Leibniz already referred to China as the "Europe of the East". The first studies on Chinese history in the scholarly Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries were the numerous Jesuit publications. At the height of their mission to China, some of these Je…

Chinese Communist Party

(3,970 words)

Author(s): Kampen, Thomas
1. History The Chinese Communist Party (CCP, Zhongguo gongchandang) was founded in 1921 and has been the ruling party of China since October 1, 1949. Accordingly the party's history is usually divided into two periods. A sudden revolution, like that of Russia or France, did not take place in China in October 1949. The Communist conquest dragged on for more than five years (1945-1950) after the end of World War II and in some regions, such as Tibet , it took place even later. Hong Kong and Macau only returned to Chinese control in 1997 and 1999 respectively. According to the CCP Resolution on Par…

Chinese Identity

(2,237 words)

Author(s): van Ess, Hans
In many ways, the construct of a Chinese identity rests upon assumptions which few Chinese would have shared a mere 150 years ago. Alleged traditions in fact were often introduced only in the more recent identity-creating processes. In 20th-century China, as well as in Western Chinese studies, the thesis of the existence of a cradle of Chinese civilization in the bend of the Yellow River , from where Chinese civilization slowly spread out, has been advanced again and again. However, according t…

Chinese Literature outside China

(1,965 words)

Author(s): Draeger, Caroline
It was only during the 1980s that the phenomenon of literature written by Chinese authors living outside China became a field of research - both in China itself and abroad. The history of Chinese literature outside China, however, goes back as far as Chinese settlement abroad (Chinese overseas). Especially the existence of another China, Taiwan , helped the development of an awareness of Chinese-language literature which is produced outside of the People's Republic. Hong Kong literature and Tai…

Chinese Overseas

(4,258 words)

Author(s): Gungwu, Wang
The term "Chinese overseas" (huaqiao) denotes sojourners, meaning Chinese nationals who are aliens living temporarily in foreign countries. For those who are ethnically Chinese, but are foreign citizens or nationals of countries over which China has no claim, the word is now (haiwai) huaren (Chinese overseas) or huayi (descendants of Chinese). None of these terms include Hong Kong or Macau Chinese, least of all Taiwan Chinese. In November 1992, The Economist spoke of over 50 million "Chinese overseas" building their networks of business, and included among them th…

Chinese Studies in the West

(3,083 words)

Author(s): Schütte, Hans-Wilm
1. Definition and Methods Chinese Studies, or Sinology in European parlance, is generally defined as the "scholarly exploration of China." Although this explanation might point to the core of Sinological work, it must be considered imprecise and inadequate in light of today's academic standards. Rather, Sinology ought to be viewed as an umbrella term for scholarly research on the basis of Chinese source material. Typically, but not exclusively, these sources are written sources, but there are also m…

Chinese Word Processing

(911 words)

Author(s): Winkler, Roland
Since all computers work with numbers codified through successions of zeros and ones (bits), there is, in principle, no difference between Western and Chinese word processing, as there has to be previous agreement as to which sequence of bits corresponds to which character. In short, there has to be a form of coding. One of the best-known codes, also based on the binary number system, is the Morse code alphabet with sequences of short and long tones. SOS, for example, is coded as "short-short-sh…


(819 words)

Author(s): Lijian, Hong
Yu 40 counties, 4 cities 28.08 million inhabitants 82,400 km² 341 inhabitants per km2 On June 18, 1997, the city of Chongqing and its surroundings were removed from Sichuan province and elevated to the status of a directly-controlled municipality, of which the actual city only occupies a small part. Among China's cities with the status of a directly-level municipality Chongqing is number one in terms of land area and population. The region shares borders with the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hubei, Hunan,…


(4,237 words)

Author(s): Malek, Roman
Ever since the first encounter between Christianity and China in the 7th century, there have been different views about the possibility of positive interaction between this "Western religion" and the specific culture of the "Middle Kingdom". Four times in the course of history, Christianity has tried to gain ground in China so as to establish itself institutionally in the forms of different Christian churches (Nestorian: jingjiao, Catholic: tianzhujiao, Protestant: jidujiao) and communities (religious orders, denominations). Each time, however, these efforts suff…


(175 words)

Author(s): Leese, Daniel
Xia? c. 2000-1600 BCE Shang/Yin c. 1500-1045 BCE Zhou c. 1045-256 BCE Western Zhou c. 1045-771 BCE Eastern Zhou 770-256 BCE Spring and Autumn (Chunqiu) 770-481 BCE Warring States (Zhanguo) 480-222 BCE Qin 221-207 BCE Han 206 BCE-220 Western Han 206 BCE-8CE Xin (Wang Mang Period) 9-23 Eastern Han 25-220 Three Kingdoms (Sanguo) 220-265 Jin 265-420 Western Jin 265-316 Eastern Jin 317-420 Southern and Northern Dynasties (Nan Bei Chao) 420-581 (589) Sui 581 (589)-618 Tang 618-907 Five Dynasties (Wu Dai) 907-960 Song 960-1279 Northern Song 960-1127 Southern Song 1127-1279 Liao (Qitan) 947-1…

Cities and Urbanization

(2,607 words)

Author(s): Taubmann, Wolfgang
1. The Historical Point of Departure The development of cities and the current urban system in China reflect, of course, different stages of economic and social development. Already at the beginning of the 17th century China had a quite differentiated urban system, which was based not only on the administrative hierarchy, but also on sustained growth in agricultural production, the development of handicrafts and domestic trade, as well as a spatial expansion of the periodic markets. At the end of the …

Civil Law

(3,691 words)

Author(s): Jian, Mi
In pre-modern times, China's civil law differed substantially from that of Western countries. It had been created on the basis of other sources, forms, and principles, and regulated property and personal relations. At the turn of the 20th century, the term "civil law" was introduced into modern China's legal system through the Japanese translation of a Dutch word. Although historical literature contains the word minfa (civil law), this term does not directly correspond with the civil law of the modern Chinese legal system. Civil law according to the Chinese legal tradition is …

Civil Society

(1,295 words)

Author(s): Chamberlain, Heath B.
"Civil society" is a new and quite fashionable concept in the study of Chinese politics. Rarely mentioned before the late 1980s, by the mid-1990s it had become the centerpiece of many books and articles. What brought about the change, of course, were events inside China and out (the pro-democracy ferment among Chinese intellectuals and students in 1986-87, the leadership's promise of genuine political reform at the Chinese Communist Party's 13th Congress, the massive demonstrations in the street…

Civil War of 1945-49

(887 words)

Author(s): Merker, Peter
After the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45, the Guomindang (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) faced each other again directly as unappeasable enemies in the struggle for power. At the end of the war and during the following Soviet occupation of many regions in Manchuria , which caught the GMD by far greater surprise than its domestic enemies, the CCP leadership relied on the far-reaching sphere of influence that it had already established behind the front lines in many areas by the time of the Japanese capitulation. Owing to its inter…


(1,048 words)

Author(s): ter Haar, Barend J.
The term "clergy" is not as self-evident in the Chinese context as it may seem. First of all, there are formally initiated (ordained) monks and (very few) nuns of the Buddhist and Daoist monastic traditions, monks of the Tibetan tradition, and ritual specialists with Christian or Islamic backgrounds. In addition, there are also initiated ritual specialists of the Buddhist and Daoist traditions who, however, are not committed to celibacy. To the general population, ordination of the ritual specia…


(3,118 words)

Author(s): Domrös, Manfred
China is a country of great climatic contrasts. Reasons for this are its vastness and its mountainous nature, as well as its peripheral location in the east of the Eurasian continent, bordering on the Pacific Ocean and its peripheral seas on one side, and on inner Asia on the other. The interaction between these factors as well as the atmospheric conditions results in the highly fluctuating regional and temporal climatic environment which is characteristic for China. In addition, reoccurring temporary weather changes and unsettled weather conditions are typical for China. The phenome…


(1,417 words)

Author(s): Kuhn, Dieter
For officials and nobles in imperial China, clothing (yifu) not only served as protection "from cold and heat", but primarily as a display of social status while also having official functions. Clothing of the common people did not receive any literary attention. Tradition was only handed down with regard to matrimonial clothing, burial clothing, and the traditional costumes of the national minorities. At the time of the 4th millennium BCE, all the requirements had been fulfilled for manufacturing clothing out of textile resources and particularly silk. Du…
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