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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local nation, frontier Manchuria : the world of multiple cultural systems and intellectual collaboration in Manchukuo, 1900-1938 Hua, Rui


This thesis examines the cultural context of intellectual collaboration in the Japanese colonial state of Manchukuo (1931-1945). Reconstructing the lives and thoughts of Yuan Jinkai (1871-1947) and Zhao Xinbo (1887-1951), two prominent local Fengtian intellectuals who chose to collaborate with the Japanese in 1931, I argue that intellectual collaboration in early Manchukuo was not just a result of vested interest and moral failure, but also a product of the frontier cultural space in which the local intellectuals operated in the late Qing and Republican years. In the first decades of the twentieth century, southern Manchuria was a temporal-spatial frontier zone where Confucianism, Fengtian localism, Chinese nationalism, and Japanese colonial cultural influence encountered and intermingled with each other. Inspired by Clifford Geertz’s interpretive anthropology, I recognize these ideologies as overlapping cultural systems, which shared such a similar set of affective symbols as “China”, “the Chinese nation” and “modernity”. The purpose of this thesis is to interpret the distinctive meanings each intellectual created for these symbolic concepts in the intersection of the various frontier cultural systems and by so doing better understand their individual values, beliefs and visions: elements of intellectual life that shaped their political choices. In the fluid cultural and political environment, Yuan invented the concept of a local China of manifested Confucian Chinese-ness, while Zhao pursued the ideal of transnational modernity, with the Chinese nation being a transient phase towards East Asian unity. The intellectual habitus each of them constructed for themselves in their mental contact zones not only explains their courses of action in the aftermath of the Mukden incident, but also sheds new light on the intellectual developments in southern Manchuria in the decades before Manchukuo. The competition among the various forms of modern nationalism did not dominate the Manchurian intelligentsia at that time of uncertainty and transformation. Instead, such nationalisms were also co-existing and competing with many other cultural systems, local and imported. The “collaboration” among all these cultural systems created a new frontier cultural space of complexity and hybridity in Republican Manchuria.

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