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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review is a peer-reviewed, quarterly online journal that offers its readers up-to-date research findings, emerging trends, and cutting-edge perspectives concerning East Asian history and culture from scholars in both English-speaking and Asian language-speaking academic communities.


Imagining the New Socialist Child: The Cultural Afterlife of the Child Martyr Wang Erxiao

Recent scholarship in modern Chinese studies has established the centrality of the figure of the child in modern configurations of nationhood. Yet very few studies have focused on the motif of child martyrdom and its place within Chinese socialist culture. By exploring the cultural afterlife of the socialist martyr Wang Erxiao in mid-twentieth-century China, this article shows how the heroic sacrificial death of the boy both powered and imperiled the Communist-led revolution and the construction of a new, socialist society. The author argues that, on the one hand, the figure of the socialist child martyr embodied the desire for the child to play a more active role in the Communist revolution and in the creation of a socialist utopia. On the other hand, in lionizing the heroic death of the child—the so-called revolutionary successor—stories like Wang Erxiao’s also posed an existential threat to the socialist community and brought to the fore tensions intrinsic to politicizing and aestheticizing the death of a child. By examining the relationship between children, violence, and sacrificial death, this article highlights the desires and anxieties embedded within the socialist project to create an image of the “new child.” Keywords: child martyrdom, Wang Erxiao, War of Resistance against Japan, socialist literature, Boy Scouts, Alain Badiou

Distancing All Around: Post-Ming China Realpolitik in Seventeenth-Century Korea

During the Ming-Qing transition period, Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910) tried to articulate geopolitical change on its own terms by prioritizing state security. The way the Chosŏn court and ruling elites responded to the Revolt of Wu Sangui (1673–1681) and its aftereffects offers a snapshot of their accommodationist strategy for survival. This article explores how the court and elites maintained a policy of noninvolvement in association with domestic stability for social integration and self-strengthening for border defense. The author reveals the way the Chosŏn court and ruling elites handled the ongoing unexpected situations caused by Qing China, the anti-Qing force, and the Mongols. This approach helps contextualize the links between the realpolitik of Chosŏn and the longue durée of Pax Manjurica, Pax Mongolica, and Pax Sinica and promotes further inquiry into the international relations of East Asia from a transhistorical perspective. Keywords: Chosŏn-Ming alliance, Ming loyalism, Mongols, realpolitik, Revolt of Wu Sangui, state security, Qing dynasty

Grounding History in Cheju Islanders’ Travel Literature

Cheju kihaeng, a small yet growing genre of academicized travel writing, looks at Cheju Island as existing in a liminal time and space or as a position. Writing amidst as well as against tourism’s dominance on Cheju, kihaeng writers emphasize engagement with localities as vantage points from which one can not only recover long-ignored or suppressed subjectivities but also reject notions of Korean homogeneity. This article examines the books of Cheju historian and high school teacher Yi Yǒngkwǒn, journalist Kim Hyǒnghun, and former Provincial Office of Education director Mun Yǒngt’aek. Although these three authors share the overall objective of writing kihaeng literature from a Cheju islander’s perspective, their scope and interests demonstrate overlapping and sometimes divergent approaches to grounding history in the island’s geography as they respond to or criticize trends in Cheju cultural tourism since the early 2000s. These three authors’ treatment of local history and what it means to identify as a Cheju person reveals multiple complex layers and anxieties about how to begin to define as well as interrogate a notion of the Chejudodaun (Cheju-esque). Keywords: Cheju, Jeju Island, kihaeng, tapsa, travel writing, heritage, cultural tourism, South Korea