Archive for May, 2012

A quick post?

I have to write something because I didn’t do much work today.* I had every intention yesterday, but then I woke up at 10AM and just didn’t feel like it at any point. Here’s what I DID do:

1) I ran for two hours in Grunewald. It was LOVELY. Very green, lots of flowers, perfect weather for running. And best of all, my feet did not hurt. In fact, I probably could have run a third hour had I needed to; alas, I am doing a half-marathon in two weeks and don’t want to overdo it. Besides, I ran a fast 10K (45 minutes and some change) last Saturday, something I didn’t think I had in me. (Not a PR – that would be 44:45 or so – because of gastrointestinal issues around 6-8KM 😦 ).

2) I had a cup of coffee and then called my parents and talked to them for two hours. We don’t see each other that often, and I don’t talk as frequently to my parents as some people given the distance and time difference, so I make a point of one long phone call every week (or two – but that’s the max) interspersed with perhaps an e-mail or shorter phone calls every now and then.

3) I wasted some time catching up on news bites on the internet. I responded to some non-urgent e-mails.

4) I walked with my husband to am Neuensee biergarten (in Tiergarten) where we had pizza and beer. Now, this is not ordinary pizza and beer: this is wood oven, thin crust, made to order, with fresh tomatoes and basil leaves on top. They had Königs (?) hefeweizen on draft. Seriously, that is my favorite beer: hefe on tap at the biergarten. It’s also the most dangerous because it’s delicious and addictive. (As in, if I’m not careful, I’ll drink too much in a very short period of time.) After that, we walked back towards home and stopped for Pflaumenstreuselkuchen at one of the cafes in Winterfeldtplatz, where we sat outside and watched part of the Chelsea-Bayern game on a big screen. (Note: the church next door had an even bigger screen set up inside, right next to a bar, but since we’d already had beer at the biergarten we decided against it. I think next time we’ll try hanging out in church to drink and watch football/soccer instead.)

To compensate for my laziness, tomorrow I will either work on the dissertation writing or provide thoughts I have over some recent things I’ve been reading related to the dissertation research. For example, I have mounting evidence that (most) early PRC leaders didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Olympics. Or, at the very least, cared about them only to the extent that it could be used as a device to piss off Taiwan and/or claim recognition on a global scale. As far as I can tell, there were no state-sponsored $$$ programs for training competitive, international athletes in 1949-1951. This was not new, however, and was a trend carried over from the wartime period: mass physical exercise was the priority and competitive athletes not so much. More on this sometime in the future perhaps…

*My excuse is that last night I found out (finally) that I will be published in an academic journal. (This in addition to acceptances into two workshops and a conference over the next 3-4 months.) Anyhow, if all works out, and I make the revisions they want, this should actually happen in the first quarter of 2013. Academia requires patience, something I’m not so good at.


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Yesterday I stayed at home and read newspaper articles from Renmin ribao and even wrote a bit (!) until 5pm. Then, I went and ran a fairly fast 10K in Tiergarten, the Frauenlauf. This race is terrific – a few thousand women, good race schwag, location close to home, race course through the woods, and beer at the end (ok, it was alcohol-free, but at least it was beer, right?). My husband cheered me on, then he went to Yellow Sunshine and got me junk food for dinner–veggie burger, french fries, beer, cookies. It was totally fantastic. I’ll be doing that race again!

In other news, today we took a day mostly off and went out to Spandau to see the medieval citadel/castle. The structure and foundations have a history dating back to the 11th century (or so) slavic periods, although most of the remains dating to the 16th-20th centuries. We nerded out and got the audio guides, climbed the tower (keep) to get a nice view and see where the family hid during attacks, then walked around the “Italian courtyard” area to see where political prisoners (including those during the Nazi and post-Nazi eras) were kept. Considering we were pretty much the only visitors there today, it made for a nice and relaxing adventure to the outskirts of former West Berlin (really, this on the edge).

Of course, this means I didn’t write today. I made up for that by spending the last three hours (or so) scanning through Renmin ribao for articles related to specific items I’m researching at the moment. Last week I finally decided on a structure for my first chapter and I’ve been working on filling it in – mostly with a few lines here and there, and choosing which sources I’ll use to make my arguments. In some cases, this required me to go back and find evidence in newspaper articles (to confirm my suspicions about important dates and when political campaigns explicitly intersected with tiyu and such). Here’s my current structure, broadly speaking:

Chapter 1 (Tentative title): New Ideas and Old Models: “New” Tiyu* 

Part 1. “New” (Xin) tiyu, tiyu, and Chinese nationalism
– Tiyu and the “sick man”: nationalism and humiliation – background to the rise of tiyu alongside nationalism, and the victim (Republican period) versus victor (Maoist period) narrative. Delineating why leaders called it “New” Tiyu in the early PRC and the relationship to New Democracy. Why this delineation has caused problems in assessing continuity across the supposed 1949 divide.

Part 2: What was “new” tiyu in the minds of early PRC leaders?
– Discussion of tiyu discourse, which was central in so many early PRC meetings and publications. I hope to talk about connections and differences with previous conceptions of tiyu, including the relationship to Soviet models and discussions at the time, and what was criticized about the “old” tiyu. This will be a place for me to work out the ways in which specific Soviet and socialist discourses of tiyu came to influence early PRC leaders.

Part 3: Continuity and change: Planning and Organizing Tiyu during the Korean War
 This is where I’ll talk about the actual organization and planning that took place immediately after the establishment of the PRC, largely using archival documents of various sorts. In the second part I’ll get into the ways in which tiyu was co-opted for nationalistic purposes during the Korean War (“resist America, aid Korea”) as part of patriotic campaigns and national defense, and I’ll argue this was similar to the ways in which tiyu activities were used during campaigns found in the anti-Japanese war. I hope to end the section by also looking at the beginnings of sports exchanges with the Soviet Union that occurred around the same time as guangbo ticao (calisthenics with music/radio broadcast exercises) began to take off. These activities highlight the mass nature of early tiyu (which continued from the earlier period) and the interest in Soviet models and guidance for building these programs. (Elite international sport was definitely not a priority at this time.) This section of the chapter is still under heavy development and will include a lot of archival sources.

Anyways, this is quite a lot for one chapter, and I imagine I might have to cut out some things from the background/first section and put them in the introduction. The rest I more or less decided on only over the past week.

Let me know your thoughts, if you have any!


*I can’t remember if I explained this before, but “tiyu” is a word that is difficult to translate, and that’s part of what I’ll discuss in this section and/or the introduction of the dissertation. Tiyu is usually translated as either “sport” or “physical culture” (or both) but I believe it is much more than that – it is a discourse that involves bodily practices including exercise, sports, and physical culture related to cultivation of a healthy and strong body, and it also includes (often) physical education. In the time period I’m looking at, 1949-1966, it serves a central place in socialist construction and socialist citizenship, helping train/transform people into socialist citizens in “new China.” Tiyu comes to include many different activities – everything from typical ball sports and Olympic sports, to national defense sports (like parachuting, model airplane competitions, and wireless transmitter contests), mass exercises set to music, tug-of-war, and taiqi. Most importantly, because of its connection to work units (danwei) and the school system, it was extremely difficult in urban areas to totally avoid participation in all tiyu activities.

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New policy people. I’m disgusted with myself. I watched an entire SEASON of Downton Abbey this week in order to avoid typing. I’ve been having major writer’s block. I come up with stuff and dump it on the page… as bullet points and side notes. I can’t actually produce coherent-sounding sentences with logical argumentation. So the new policy is that for every day I don’t write actual sentences and produce some dissertation work, I must blog about issues I’ve having or something else, just to get myself to write SOMETHING.

So here goes.

I’ve spent most of today trying to write sentences and I ended up writing a few words here and there and reading part of a document for, oh, 5 minutes. Then I read almost anything I could find online (through my reader or bbc, etc) that explicitly wasn’t related to the dissertation. Oh, I read lots about China – an exciting time when the Bo Xilai case has been followed by the Chen Guangcheng crisis followed by Al Jazeera English getting kicked out of China. Really makes me wonder if I was lucky to get in and get my sources when I did? Or should I have begun a year or two earlier? Controls over archives and similar materials seems to have tightened back up again after a few looser years. Luckily, I can still buy stuff on kongfz.com and have it shipped or brought back for me by friends (the sellers only ship to China).

Which brings up an interesting topic. I’ve been searching through kongfz.com on and off for about a year and a half now — since I first discovered its existence and how to use it in December 2010. I have numerous “searches” when I look for potential materials and sources, but one of my favorite ones is 体育日记 (tiyu riji, or “sport diaries”). When I first discovered these I had two reactions:

1) cool! Maybe I can use these to gather information about peoples’ sports training schedules and such

2) interesting that so many people kept diaries at times when things like self-criticism and counterrevolutionary campaigns were so rampant. I wonder if anyone’s written about this diary-keeping culture that existed.

The average going price of one of these diaries on kongfz.com is 20-60 kuai, although some are cheaper and some way too expensive. I did what anyone in my position would do and I ordered a few of them… but, unfortunately, I found it difficult to read 2 out of the 3 I ordered. Handwriting (especially in the form of diary scribble and half-baked thoughts) is not always easy — not to mention it’s not in my native language, or even an alphabetic script. So before I left Beijing I advertised and – by luck – ended up with a transcriptionist about my age whose parents happened to be handwriting specialists (or so she told me – she comes from a Shanghai/Hangzhou family of scholars and she was much nicer than most people I had dealt with, so I tended to believe her). Point is, she worked fast and furiously for dirt cheap, and was even sweet enough to inform me that one of the diaries, if not all three, seemed completely irrelevant to tiyu. Nonsense, I told her, just type them up.

Well, I finally got around to reading these diaries recently and can reflect a bit on what they so far seem to be about. Of the two that had a lot of writing, one is mostly a student writing down revolutionary slogans and poems in the diary. It’s not terribly interesting (yet, at least), but I haven’t read close enough. It certainly doesn’t have a lot to do with tiyu.

The other diary is infinitely fascinating. It covers roughly 1960-1965(or 6?) of a person who seems to have gone through military training as a student and then becomes a parachuter. This person (who I don’t really know much about) talks about things like daily life, emotions, and changing China (in the terms they are familiar with as a student). For example, there’s a clear change in language in comparing 1962 with 1965/6. The later entries definitely accredit Chairman Mao a lot more than the earlier ones. Practically every sentence, in fact.

Of course, the most difficult thing to prove about the diaries is authorship and authenticity. I don’t know anything about these authors beyond what they have written down, and since they aren’t famous, it would be nearly impossible to locate personal information about them.

But that doesn’t mean the diaries are useless. In fact, what I am surprised about, is that the contemporary use of these tiyu diaries seems to be more about their roles as consumer or pop culture items — the diaries themselves have published images and photographs in them that highlight athletic achievements and specific events of the early PRC. For example, the 1959 National Games and the GANEFO of 1963, with images of famous athletes. (Kongfz also has stamps and bookmarks that commemorate these events and specific athletes.) At a time when people owned so little and, furthermore, had restricted access (movies and cultural items from abroad), these diaries must have served multiple purposes — encouraging people to spend leisure time writing in them as an appropriate hobby, and highlighting national sports events could foster patriotism or a sports hobby by focusing on specific “model” athletes.

My only small wish about these diaries is that I could at least partially read the contents in advance before ordering them on kongfz.com. If you search on “体育日记” you’ll see what I’m talking about — there are literally dozens I could order, but few sellers provide details beyond things like “no markings, completely blank” (which I would likely not be interested in purchasing). The rest are fair game.

Has anyone else used Chinese diaries in their work?

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