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Making Borders in Modern East Asia
The Tumen River Demarcation, 1881–1919


  • Date Published: May 2018
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107173958

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About the Authors
  • Until the late nineteenth century, the Chinese-Korean Tumen River border was one of the oldest, and perhaps most stable, state boundaries in the world. Spurred by severe food scarcity following a succession of natural disasters, from the 1860s, countless Korean refugees crossed the Tumen River border into Qing-China's Manchuria, triggering a decades-long territorial dispute between China, Korea, and Japan. This major new study of a multilateral and multiethnic frontier highlights the competing state- and nation-building projects in the fraught period that witnessed the Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the First World War. The power-plays over land and people simultaneously promoted China's frontier-building endeavours, motivated Korea's nationalist imagination, and stimulated Japan's colonialist enterprise, setting East Asia on an intricate trajectory from the late-imperial to a situation that, Song argues, we call modern.

    • Examines the making of modern China, Korea, and Japan through trans-regional, local, and competitive perspectives
    • Rethinks the meaning territorial, ethnic, racial, and national boundaries
    • Provides a historical perspective on international relations in twentieth-century East Asia
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The author deftly presents a convoluted tale of frontier settlement on the Sino-Korean border, where Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Japanese states and activists contended for influence. This skillful multilingual study told from multiple perspectives is a model for new imperial histories of Asia.' Peter C. Perdue, Yale University, Connecticut

    'A precise and often beautifully written analysis. Through deep engagement with multiple archives Nianshen Song reveals how competing political and economic forces vied for control over the Tumen River's place in modern East Asia. The study, moreover, urges the need for connection - not division - in the areas of China, Russia, and North Korea that surround this river's course.' Alexis Dudden, University of Connecticut

    'This is a truly groundbreaking book in both theoretical and empirical senses. Extensive multi-archival and multilingual research provides original, provocative, yet still accessible perspectives on such complicated issues as border-making, nation-building, and identity-searching in modern East Asia in general and the 'local space' of the Chinese-Korean frontiers in particular. A historical study of the very best.' Chen Jian, New York University. Shanghai and Cornell University, New York

    'How did a remote frontier in North East Asia become a source of friction and hostility between China, Korea, and Japan for the first half of the twentieth century? In this fascinating local history, Nianshen Song shows how China and Korea - two adjacent, centralized states with a centuries long history of frontier relations - re-negotiated the modern meanings of place and citizenship under the shadow of an imperialist Japan, eager to use the ambiguities of territorial meanings for its own purposes. Using a multi-lingual, multi-national archive, Song recounts the topsy-turvy changes marking China's conversion from a multi-ethnic empire to a nation-state in which Koreans become newly defined as national minorities. This is transnational history that captures both the excitement and tragedies of early twentieth-century East Asian history while offering a rigorous analysis of the shifting spatial conceptions of nation-states. In Song's adept hands, a small corner of Manchuria reveals itself as at the core of the intellectual, political, economic, and social struggles of East Asia's global modernity.' Andre Schmid, University of Toronto

    '… this is an extraordinary book, a real tonic to assertions that what is fixed is fixed and what is settled is settled in bordering and nation state construction, the reviewer challenges the reader not to become engrossed in every twist and turn of its extremely articulate pages.' Robert Winstanley-Chesters, European Journal of Korean Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107173958
    • length: 318 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 156 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures and tables
    Abbreviation of some sources, measures
    A note on romanization
    Introduction: a lost stele and a multivocal river
    1. Crossing the boundary: socioecology of the Tumen River region
    2. Dynastic geography: demarcation as rhetoric
    3. Making 'Kando': the mobility of a cross-border society
    4. Taming the frontier: statecraft and international law
    5. Boundary redefined: a multilayered competition
    6. People redefined: identity politics in Yanbian
    Conclusion: our land, our people
    Epilogue: Tumen River, the film
    Selected bibliography

  • Author

    Nianshen Song, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    Nianshen Song is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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