Northeast Asia Interconnections

From July 30 to August 16 Lafayette Students visited various cities in China and Korea as part of an interim course to study political, cultural, migratory, and historical interconnections in Northeast Asia. Luckily, the teachers for the course allowed me to tag along.

These photos are from the bridge that connects Dandong, China to Sinuiju, DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). One of the bridges carries freight and passengers between the two countries, and the other has been left damaged as a reminder of the American bombing campaigns of the war known as the “Korean War” (1950-53) in the United States.

The Ferris Wheel is on the DPRK side of the river

Train bound for China

The two bridges at night

The un-reconstructed bridge was built by the Japanese after the “protectorate” was established in 1905.  This bridge was the subject of many a Japanese publicity photo advertising the modernity of the colonial regime.  This signboard explains this bridge as an “engineering marvel” because of the horizontal revolving beam that allowed a section of the bridge to become perpendicular to the rest of the bridge to allow the passage of tall ships. According to this sign, the bridge was built in 1908.

The gear works of the Dandong-Sinuiju Bridge have been turned into a mini-museum, which seems to be an unwitting tribute to Japanese colonial engineering

Japanese postcard of the Dandong-Sinuiju bridge ca. 1920

Another Japanese postcard of the “swing bridge” over the Yalu. ca. 1930

Asian Studies Japan Conference, Tokyo

Thanks to the organizers and my fellow panelists for an informative conference in Tokyo, and especially thanks to Yamamoto Masashi and Vicky Muehleisen for putting up with me for a whole week!

Session 35: Room 316

The Exhibitionary Complex and the Police State: Imperial Pedagogy in Taiwan under
Japanese Rule

Organizer: Paul Barclay, Lafayette College
Chair: Robert Eskildsen, J.F. Oberlin University

This panel conceptualizes several examples of imperial pedagogy in colonial Taiwan as parts of an “exhibitionary complex.” Japanese visionaries, employing techniques explored in the papers, configured the peoples, places, and built environment of Taiwan as a series of exhibits to be viewed, categorized, and displayed for the purposes of statecraft, economic gain, and discipline. By shifting the focus of culture-studies inspired scholarship to individual “exhibitors,” and the agency of the “exhibited,” these papers also argue that colonial “exhibits” were constructed in a context of intra-governmental conflict and local constraints. Caroline Hui-yu’s paper shows how the 1925 Taipei Police Exhibition, ostensibly staged to instruct Taiwanese subjects in “everyday modernity,” could also serve as an arena of competition between recently arrived Japanese policemen and “Taiwan Hands” for influence in the colonial state. Sōyama Takeshi’s paper analyzes government-sponsored tourism as a mechanism for enforcing spatial boundaries between Japanese and Taiwanese in the realm of leisure, while tourism also sought to erase boundaries in the realm of political identity. During the post-1937 period, Taiwanese subverted this pedagogical enterprise by disguising trips to Chinese folk temples as visits to Shinto shrines. Paul Barclay’s paper argues that model villages in Taiwan’s “indigenous territories” failed as commercialized tourism “exhibits.” Nonetheless, they provided image-hungry foreigners with photo-ops that played upon shared Japanese and Western assumptions about the place of indigenes in the international order. These journalists portrayed Japan’s polices favorably abroad, thus vindicating a security apparatus often at odds with the tourism industry.

1) Hui-yu Caroline Ts’ai, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica
Everyday Coloniality, Social Networking, and Knowledge Production: The 1925 Taipei Police

The interwar years serve as an intriguing period for the analysis of “everyday coloniality.” Following current academic interest in questions of “vision,” this “new” turn of colonial studies tends to rest on a rich ground of “things visible” and “tangible.” The problem, however, is that history is more often than not being abridged or curtailed, and the attempt to seek historical facts is sometimes muted in the process. This case study of the 1925 Taipei Police exhibition illustrates just this need to bring history back to textual analysis. Since the 1925 Taipei exhibition was unique in the way that it seems to have been the only recorded hygienic exhibition initiated by the police in colonial Taiwan, the questions I will ask include arts and culture of the Taishō period (such as music, movies, radio, advertisements, and leisure entertainment), the supporting groups which helped or donated the displayed items, and the makeup of the “old Taiwan hands” (mainly, the police staff and the range of the social networking). Ultimately, I am interested in how Imperial Japan managed to produce its colonial knowledge about Taiwan.

2) Takeshi Soyama, Kyushu Sangyo University
Tourism under Japan’s Colonial Rule in Taiwan: From the Perspectives of Privilege,
Exclusion, Assimilation and Resistance

Japan’s colonial rule in Taiwan caused Japanese cultural concessions in Taiwan. For the Japanese who lived in Taiwan, Taiwan was an extension of the Japanese mainland, and of course, this was also true for the Taiwanese and native Taiwanese. This concept of an extension of the Japanese mainland was categorized into two types. One type was privileged spaces for Japanese people, such as Japanese-style hot springs and inns. The general Taiwanese population tended to be excluded from these attractions that had Japanese cultural characteristics. Elementary school excursions were the only opportunity for access to such places. At the time, elementary schools for Taiwanese children were to assimilate children into Japanese culture. These facilities for assimilation, such as elementary schools and shrines, constituted the second type of extension of the Japanese mainland. In 1937, when the Sino-Japanese War broke out, the Governor-General of Taiwan began to force the Taiwanese to visit and worship at Japanese shrines. In the meantime, the Taiwanese urged the Governor-General Railroad Section to conspiratorially conceal their “joss house” (Chinese folk temple) tours under the disguise of Japanese shrine tours. This situation shows that assimilation and compulsion were cleverly transformed into resistance in the context of colonialism and tourism.

3) Paul Barclay, Lafayette College
Ethnic Tourism, Wartime Surveillance and Public Relations: The Taiwan Photography of
Harrison Forman

On April 1, 1938, the photo journalist Harrison Forman began a tour of Taiwan. Forman’s visit came at a nadir in U.S.-Japanese relations, just after the Nanjing massacres. Although only a few photographs from Forman’s excursion were published, they provide, in conjunction with his unpublished diary and over sixty archived photographic negatives, a telling example of how Japanese officials and merchants utilized the infrastructure of tourism to manage the image of Japanese empire abroad. The great majority of Forman’s images depicted Taiwan Indigenous Peoples, who constituted less that 2% of Taiwan’s population. In general, cameras were tightly regulated and photography discouraged on the home islands and in Taiwan. Nonetheless, the colonial state encouraged the production and dissemination of photographs of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples. Pamphlets, postcards, and illustrated books were readily available at train stations, small shops, and the tourist bureau and freely distributed to foreign guests. This paper asks why Taiwan Indigenous Peoples were treated as the privileged face of Taiwan in the 1930s, while previously they had symbolized the failure of the government general to govern the island. I argue that image-conscious officials and thrill-seeking Westerners found common ground on guided tours to model villages in the “Aborigine Territory.” There, visitors recorded impressions of an orderly yet exotic colony while police officers monitored their movements on easily patrolled interior routes. In the bargain, visitors were diverted from Taiwan’s military installations and other vistas deemed embarrassing or sensitive by the colonial government.

Discussant: Robert Eskildsen, J.F. Oberlin University

Visualizing Asia in the Modern World

I participated in a wonderful conference held at Harvard under the auspices of the Visualizing Cultures project hosted by MIT.  From the conference website:

“The Visualizing Cultures project at M.I.T. and the following programs at Harvard: Asia Center, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Korea Institute, and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies are pleased to announce an academic conference focused on the relationship between visual imagery and social change in modern Asia entitled, “Visualizing Asia in the Modern World.” This will be the second in a series of academic conferences devoted to “image-driven scholarship” and teaching about Asia in the modern world.

We have selected scholars of history, art history, history of photography, and history of technology specializing in China, Korea, Japan, United States, and Europe to discuss how to integrate visual and textual media in research and teaching, using to the fullest the opportunities presented by the new technologies and the use of the internet as a publishing platform.”

The conference program has an outstanding list of participants with a fascinating diversity of projects that utilize original and revealing but hitherto largely inaccessible visual resources some of which may be suitable for further development as Visualizing Cultures units.”

Joint Conference of the Association for Asian Studies & International Convention of Asia Scholars

March 31-April 3, 2011, Honolulu Hawai’i (Hawai’i Convention Center)

Statue in front of the Convention Center

This was a great conference not only for the weather and beautiful surroundings, but also for the experience of participating on a panel with so many learned scholars, who are also wonderful colleagues. Here’s our panel:

Session 300: Behind and Beyond the Lens: Photography in Imperial Japan, 1896-1945

Organizer: Paul D. Barclay, Lafayette College, USA

Chair: Laura Hein, Northwestern University, USA

Discussant: Laura Hein, Northwestern University, USA

This panel examines photography in its multiple roles as instrument, beneficiary, and victim of empire. Specifically, the papers consider conquest photography in Taiwan (1890s), commercial photography in Korea (1910s-1930s), a newsreel photographer in China and Taiwan (1930s), and art photography during the Fifteen Year War (1930s and 1940s). As these case studies demonstrate, photography surely aestheticized violence, obfuscated power relations, and pandered to voyeurism to make empire emotionally plausible, even attractive. At the same time, we argue that the relationship between the gun and the camera in imperial Japan could be quite oblique, if not troubled. By considering imperial photography as a dynamic enterprise, engaged in by amateurs, professionals, and artists under varied technological and political constraints, we draw attention to discontinuities and dead ends. Though camp followers in 1890s Taiwan were urged to push the medium’s limits as an instrument of mobilization, for example, the state thwarted photographic engagement with war in the 1940s. Moreover, we argue that specific material forms were suited to different kinds of ideological work. While photographs of carnage in Nanjing and Wuhan filled commemorative albums, postcards and glossy brochures retailed images of exotic and contented fellow Asians. For all of its diversity, however, Japanese imperial photography produced a singular cumulative effect. Decades of variation upon a limited number of themes, the incessant reproduction of a pool of stock images, and the wavering support of an overweening state overdetermined imperial Japanese photography’s exhaustion as a vital force by the end of its 50-year career.

Colonial Itineraries: Japanese “Conquest Photography” in Taiwan, 1896-1899
Joseph R. Allen, University of Minnesota, USA

My paper explores early photographic production by the Japanese colonists in Taiwan as manifested in two halftone printed albums (shashinchō), dating from 1896 and 1899. I argue that the first of these albums, that documenting the military campaign to conquer the island in 1895, established a general structural and thematic shape for later albums, including for the travel guide seen in the second album. In part, this was in the photographic trope of “encampment.” Not only did this early “conquest narrative” inform later albums, it also offered a general heuristic model by which the island came to be known to both the colonizing power and the colonized subject. The island was construed as an entity to be known as an itinerary, not as a residence. Those early models continued to inform photographic constructions of Taiwan throughout the colonial and even into the postcolonial period, contributing to the island’s ongoing state of conditionality—that is, its social reality always being construed as dependent on another cultural agent.

Romancing the “Conquered Other” in the Korean Peninsula: Travel Myths, Images, and the Imperial Tourist Gaze
Hyung I Pai, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Visages of dancing courtesans and white-robed peasants framed by decaying ruins of pagodas, temples, and palaces are the most recognized tourist images representing the time-less beauty of Korea’s cultural landscape. This study traces the colonial origins of travel photography, postcards, and guidebooks mass produced by Imperial Japan’s travel industry when they expanded into the newly acquired colonies in Korea and Manchuria in the early twentieth century. Following decisive military victories in the Sino-Japanese (1895) and Russo-Japanese War ( 1905), both public and private, large and small operators from international steamship liners, Japan Tourist Bureau (JTB), the Korea Branch of the Japan Imperial Government Railways Co., South Manchuria Railways Co. and local Japanese settlers’ owned businesses (trams, taxi cos. station hotels, hot springs inns, photographic studios, newspapers, department stores, geisha houses) in colonized cities and towns worked together to lure the growing numbers of colonialists, leisure tourists, students, soldiers, and businessmen to purchase round-trip packaged tours via Japan, Korea and Manchuria (Naichi). This paper analyzes how geo-political factors, aesthetic preferences as well as commercial agendas have determined the selections process of a handful of highly romanticized and exoticized ‘stock images’ representing ‘Koreana’ targeting a world audience for more than century.

When a Thousand Words aren’t Worth a Single Picture: Harrison Forman, The China War and Propaganda by Misdirection
Paul D. Barclay, Lafayette College, USA

This paper analyzes the uniquely detailed documentation left behind by newsreel photographer Harrison Forman regarding conditions for photographers in 1938 Taiwan. It attempts to explain how an otherwise enterprising investigative reporter became an unwitting mouthpiece for Japanese imperialists. For despite the damning observations recorded in his diary, Forman published a sympathetic account of the Government General’s work in Taiwan. Photography as a medium, I argue, tipped the balance. At the height of the second Sino-Japanese War, police restrictions on the movement of photographers operated in tandem with profligate image distribution. By shunting foreigners off to model villages in the interior and providing lavish hospitality in resorts, as well as numerous photo-opportunities, ever-present police minders helped recast Japanese colonial rule as a civilizing mission vis-à-vis Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples. Forman returned to America in possession of an ostensibly eye-witness photographic record of Indigenous Taiwanese customs and manners, buttressed by officially distributed photographs of Japan’s struggles to stamp out headhunting in the recent past. This thematically consistent visual record simply overpowered the doubt-ridden scribbles in Forman’s notebook. Not only was Taiwan’s role in the war on China thus obscured, but repressive policies in urban Taiwan were pushed to the background.

A War Without Pictures: Photography’s Curious Position in Wartime Japan
Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame, USA

Between 1937 and 1945, Japan’s government and the military used almost every imaginable means to mobilize the nation behind the conquest of Asia. Technologically capable and aesthetically astute, Japanese photographers also sought to inspire public support for imperialism, and yet, as I will argue, photography never galvanized the nation. This paper raises two questions. First, why did photography not play a bigger role in the Japanese war effort, especially given the culture’s sophisticated understanding of the visual arts? In comparison with America and Europe, there are few canonical pictures of Japan’s struggle, sacrifice, victories and defeats during the years of fighting. The magazines produced for the domestic market were drab compared with the glossy, glorifying publications produced for the non-Japanese market. Aesthetic experimentation, rather than being harnessed to energize the war effort, was discouraged. In short, what does it tell us that Japan’s war was, in essence, a modern war where photography played a surprisingly limited role? My second question follows on from the first. Is photography the same the world over as many photography theorists insist? If photographs in wartime Japan played a different role than they did in other militarized nations, it shows, I argue, that this “universal technology” is far from universal. I will demonstrate how social and ideological conditions in Japan constructed a distinct place for the photographic image in the 1940s.

I also made my first visit to the Pearl Harbor historic sites run by the national park service. I visited the history museums attached to the USS Arizona memorial, also known as the “WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument.”

The historic sites include the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Of particular interest to me was the historical framing of the attack at the exhibit. The “sneak attack” idea has been considerably tempered by a much broader analysis of twentieth century history. In essence, as the gateway plaque below indicates, the attacks were prefaced by a century of Pacific expansion by the U.S. and Japan (1853-1941). This longer view is more consonant with that put forth by serious scholars of Japanese history, who try to understand how a more-or-less “normal” industrialized power (for the time) would embark on such a seemingly self-destructive course. Interestingly, I bumped into a historian on the shuttle boat to the memorial who had consulted for the museum as a Japanese expert. This historian suggested that the initial drafts of the textual component of the museum were in dire need of such expertise. On the whole, I think the park service did a creditable job on this museum.

“A Gathering Storm” is different than a “Day that will live in Infamy”

But the story of Yoshikawa Takeo, the spy who sent photographic information about Oahu (where Pearl Harbor is located) to Japan still gets pride of place.

U.S. pop culture from the 1930s. Perhaps a “clever” people, Japanese were not considered by many to be capable of standing toe-to-toe with a the U.S. Navy in a real war. A classic case of misunderestimation.

On this poster, European activities in the Pacific are aggrandizing, while the American presence is characterized as a “search for markets.”  And yet, a picture from the Philippines 1898, site of a bloodily aggressive U.S. territorial conquest, is affixed below the ambiguous captioning. Certainly an example of exhibit by committee. On the one hand, the United States is not the same kind of imperialist aggressor as the Europeans and Japanese, but at the same time, it is in global competition for resources, markets and territories. And so it goes.

North Korean Art

At a joint Conference of the International Convention of Asia Scholars and the Association of Asian Studies in Honolulu, Hawai’i (March 31-April 3 2011),  I attended a well organized and researched panel (session 600) titled “Picturing National Narratives of North Korea”. From a talk by Professor Koen De Ceuster of Leiden University, I composed this list of websites for North Korean art, which should be of use to members of the Lafayette course “Interconnections in Northeast Asia.” If you see this list and take it as an endorsement of the government of North Korea, please keep surfing and send your comments to someone else, thanks.

Mansudae Art Studio (North Korea)

Nord Korean Hidden Treasures Revealed (Lithuania)

Fine Art from DPR Korea (London)

Koryo Studio (Beijing)

Pyongyang (Commercial)

Gallery Pyongyang (Germany)

Some issues raised during the panel:

North Korean art is not studied or collected in the same way that art by South Koreans, or from most other parts of the world, might be. It is clearly branded “North Korean” instead of by individual artist. Access issues, politics, and the expectations of viewers/collectors have resulted in an international exhibition complex that is marked by a lack of clearly defined collection criteria–i.e., collections in even the best museums are built opportunistically and have a patchy quality about them.

The emphasis on North Korean art as Propaganda or as socialist-realist kitsch has obscured the fact that North Korea does have artists who are not only highly skilled, but who delight in their craft. In North Korea, the craft entails celebrations of the regime and its history, but at the same time portraiture, landscapes and other genres give rein to other artistic intentions. And it is the view of the art from the artists’ perspective that is missing in international scholarship and exhibitions about North Korean art. It may well be that the sharp distinction many make between propaganda and art is not made at all by these artists, and thus may not be the best optic through which to view such art.  In sum, the state of scholarly knowledge regarding North Korean art is still rudimentary, largely for political reasons beyond the control of curators, scholars and collectors, but also for ideological reasons having to do with what outsiders “need” from North Korea to shore up their own notions of normalcy, freedom, and individualism (this last point shades into my own gloss on the panel: please don’t hold panelists listed in the link responsible for this statement).

A short discussion and slide show with Nick Bonner, and highly regarded (by scholars) art collector, author and exhibitor.

Interconnections in Northeast Asia

Imperial Calendar(s)

Postcards commemorating milestones in Japanese imperial rule in China. These images and captions reveal that almost any action that aggrandized Japanese empire in the early twentieth century was deemed worthy of serial commemoration by postcard manufacturers and Japanese consumers. What was/is the significance of this proclivity, and the form it took?   Coming soon from the East Asia Image Collections at Skillman Library, Special Collections

“The First New Year after the Conquest of Germany.” (Qingdao)

“Year 3 of the outbreak of the “Manchurian Incident” September 18th [1931]

The Manchu Emperor’s Imperial Visit to Tokyo April 6, 1935

“3d Year of the China Incident Poster: July 7 [1937]”

“The Fall of Hankou Commemoration October 27th, 1938”

Situation in Japan

Dear Lafayette Campus Community:

On March 11, Japan’s northeast coast was devastated by a tsunami accompanied by a series of earthquakes. Over a thousand are presumed dead and many more homeless. Reconstruction and rescue efforts, as well as the work of restoring Japan’s transportation, communication, and power grids, are going to be expensive and difficult. If members of the campus community would like to make contributions to help the Japanese, we know that such generosity would be greatly appreciated.

The Red Cross

the Japan Society


are all reputable organizations that will deliver aid where it is needed.

Thanks for your time and attention,

The Lafayette College Asian Studies Advisory Committee and Teaching Faculty

Allison Alexy
Paul Barclay
Ingrid Furniss
Naoko Ikegami
Seo-hyun Park
Robin Rinehart
Asma Sayeed
David Stifel
Larry Stockton
Li Yang

Brave New World: Manchuria under Japanese Rule

To expand our holdings in Japanese-period postcards of colonized East Asia, we have been acquiring various types of images and texts from China’s three northeast provinces, called “Manchukuo” by the Japanese who installed a government there from 1932-1945. The snapshots below were taken by U.S. Vice-Consul Gerald Warner in 1934. The postcards were purchased in Tokyo and Osaka in the summer of 2010. The juxtaposition of snapshot and postcard shows how the commercial imagery of Manchuria predisposed tourists and visiting officials like Warner to see the colony. At the same time, Warner captured images that appear to have been honest attempts to capture something of life in colonized Manchuria beyond that depicted in the familiar genre shots of postcards.

The first card lays bare the power relations that buttressed all of the other scenery presented in Japanese imagery of their frontier empire.  It proudly boasts:

“The Kwanto Army Headquarters which is one of our Nippon representatives. The building, somewhere castle-like style, is very imposing and has dignity that anyone can not violate.”

Consul Warner was probably given a tour of the memorialized battlefields of the 1931 conquest. Here is one of his snapshots from the Beidaying barracks, which were emptied of Chinese troops right after the Japanese attack on Shenyang/Mukden on September 18, 1931:

This postcard, issued sometime just prior to Warner’s tour, presents a similar scene with a terse description:

〔奉天 北大営) 第一中隊長小野大尉奮戦の地 機關銃槍連兵舎の一部

[Trans.:] “The site of 1st Army Commander Captain Ono’s desperate battle. A section of the machine-gun damaged barracks.”

As with other colonies, Japanese postcard producers issued numerous sets of “Customs and Manners” series to depict either the unique folkways of the empire’s many peoples, or perhaps to give a glimpse of the peaceful uninterrupted lives of imperial Japan’s contented subjects.

満州風俗 路傍で公演中の街の手品師

“A street juggler playing tricks at the road side Manchuoukuo”

Warner’s own snapshot of popular entertainment from the streets of Shenyang:

One of the most common themes of Japanese colonial postcards is that of “old” versus “new.”  Below is a government-issue card depicting the modern Japanese constructed port of Dalian in contrast to the traditional donkey and cart form of transportation that prevailed in Northeast China at the time:

Lastly, a snapshot from Consul Warner’s camera showing a street scene in the sleepy border town of Manzhouli, near the Mongolian and Russian borders: