29 August 2009

Wordcatcher Tales: Biwa masu, suppin

Our most elegant dining experience during our recent visit to Japan (in fact, one of our best ever) was at a kaiseki (“tasting menu”) restaurant in Nagoya that specializes in Kyoto-style haute cuisine. 京加茂 Kyoukamo is tucked away in a residential neighborhood near Hatta station near the western end of the Nagoya Subway Higashiyama line. Unfortunately I didn't take my camera, but the restaurant has its own blog, which is well illustrated and frequently updated (all in Japanese). So here I'll just introduce some of the vocabulary I learned there.

琵琶鱒 biwa masu ‘Biwa trout’ (Oncorhynchus masou rhodurus) – Our kaiseki meal was ‘meatless’ in the traditional manner—not vegetarian. There were several courses featuring fish associated with Kyoto summertime cuisine. One consisted of two small slabs of delicate flesh from pike eel (hamo, Muraenesox cinereus) and wintermelon (tougan) in a viscous sauce. The next fish was Biwa trout (biwa masu), native to Lake Biwa in Shiga prefecture next to Kyoto. This ‘trout’ is actually a subspecies of the cherry salmon (sakura masu, Oncorhynchus masou). The final fish dish was grilled ayu (‘sweetfish’, Plecoglossus altivelis), served with the customary bluish dipping sauce of tade ‘dyer's knotweed’ (a secondary source for indigo dye).

The rest of the wintermelon appeared later, forming a tureen for a refreshing cold soup with shrimps, whole tomatoes, and small okras in a drinkable aspic of fish stock and wintermelon flesh, well-flavored with dashi.

すっぴん suppin ‘(going out) without make-up’ – I prefer my sake dry, but Kyoukamo serves only pure, seasonal shiboritate (搾立て ‘freshly pressed’) sake, without carbon filtration, pasteurization, or the addition of alcohol, and made from rice grown without any artificial fertilizers (肥料 hiryou). Our first serving of sake was bottled by a female craft-brewer named Rumiko in Mie prefecture under the label Suppin ‘Without make-up’. The next serving was even sweeter, being made from even more highly polished rice. That's when we asked about drier sake and got a pleasant and interesting—but unyielding—lesson about sake purity, followed by a sampling of the same sake served warm, which made it taste a good bit drier but also less flavorful. In any case, none of us wanted warm sake, least of all during a Nagoya (or Kyoto) summer. The final serving of sake was sweeter yet, leaving a lingering tingle in the mouth like a dessert wine.

26 August 2009

Fractured Historiography of the Confederacy

In the latest issue of Civil War History (Project MUSE subscription required), University of Virginia professor Gary W. Gallagher reviews major trends in the historiography of the Confederacy. Here are a few excerpts about some of the key earlier trendsetters. Explaining defeat is always more challenging than explaining victory.
Thirty years have passed since Emory M. Thomas’s The Confederate Nation, 1861–1865 appeared on the historiographical landscape. Some of its themes had been present in his earlier The Confederacy as Revolutionary Experience, and together the two books heralded the emergence of a major figure in the field. Factors weakening the Confederacy loomed larger than evidence of Rebel persistence or strength in the scholarly literature at that time, but Thomas took seriously the idea of national sentiment in the seceding states. When defeat apparently stalked the slaveholding republic in the spring of 1862 and “their national experiment seemed almost a failure, Confederate Southerners began to respond to their circumstances by redefining themselves—or, more precisely, by defining themselves as a national people.”...

David Williams’s Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War traverses much of the same ground as Thomas’s work, offering a convenient point of departure to consider the trajectory of recent scholarship on the Confederacy. The author or editor of four previous books dealing with various aspects of Confederate history, Williams complains that generations of historians have emphasized the war “waged with the North” rather than exploring how the “South was torn apart by a violent inner civil war, a war no less significant to the Confederacy’s fate than its more widely known struggle against the Yankees.” Resolutely focused on that “inner civil war,” Bitterly Divided creates an impression of overwhelming internal fracturing that renders the presence of U.S. armies strangely irrelevant....

Internal fissures serve as the interpretive touchstone of a rich body of older work, a brief review of which reveals that Bitterly Divided plows in deep existing furrows. As early as 1867, editor Edward A. Pollard of Richmond’s Examiner denied that northern manpower and resources had settled the issue. “The great and melancholy fact remains,” Pollard observed in The Lost Cause, “that the Confederates, with an abler Government and more resolute spirit, might have accomplished their independence.”...

In 1937, while Margaret Mitchell’s pro-Confederate epic Gone with the Wind sold in huge numbers, pioneering African American historian Charles H. Wesley challenged the Lost Cause narrative of noble Rebels struggling against impossible odds. “Historians of the Confederacy have based their works mainly upon the military subjugation of the South and the heroic actions of its defenders and have neglected the contributing social factors,” maintained Wesley in The Collapse of the Confederacy....

Twenty-eight years later, Carleton Beals reprised much of Wesley’s argument in War within a War: The Confederacy against Itself. “This book is about those people who resisted, because of their love for the Union, or civil rights, or because they believed the struggle to be a ‘rich man’s war, poor man’s fight,’” wrote Beals, who featured “mountain people,” opponents of conscription, African Americans, and others at odds with the Confederate government....

Two historiographical waves established a durable framework within which many advocates of internal failure have examined the Confederacy. Between the mid-1920s and the mid-1940s, a number of scholars joined Wesley to mount a powerful collective assault on Lost Cause mythology. Although they sometimes deployed simplistic class models to support the idea of a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, their findings contributed importantly to topics such as conscription, state rights as a divisive ideology, desertion, persistent unionism, resistance among slaves (what W. E. B. Du Bois called “The General Strike”), class tensions, and corrosive guerrilla warfare. The fact that all major titles by these authors have been reprinted at least once suggests their continuing influence.

A flurry of studies in the 1970s and 1980s, spurred in part by the new social history’s emphasis on people outside the traditional power structure, expanded on the earlier literature. Some of this work can be read as a direct or indirect response to Thomas’s The Confederate Nation, 1861–1865. Authors and editors drove home the point that no one should think of the Confederacy as a society united across boundaries of region, class, race, and gender. In a category by itself was Why the South Lost the Civil War, by Richard E. Berenger, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, and William N. Still—a detailed and thoughtful, if not ultimately persuasive, brief for the centrality of internal causes of Confederate failure. This prize-winning study attributed defeat to the impact of southern religion, an absence of nationalism, and, despite a level of commitment that absorbed the deaths of approximately one-quarter of all military-age white males in the Confederacy [emphasis added], weak popular will....

Drew Gilpin Faust weighed in on the topic of Confederate nationalism at the end of the 1980s. Suggesting that the “creation of Confederate nationalism was the South’s effort to build a consensus at home, to secure a foundation of popular support for a new nation and what quickly became an enormously costly war,” she identifies religion as critical to a conception of nation predicated on defining Confederates as God’s chosen people. Faust also notes the centrality of slavery to the Confederate consciousness and warns against working backward from Appomattox to yoke discussions of nationalism to those about why the Rebels failed. Her conclusions, however, stress the ultimate weakness of nationalistic sentiment in the southern republic....

The more recent “cutting-edge” literature on internal dissent ... has appeared at a steady rate over the past dozen years. A full discussion lies beyond the scope of this essay, but some trends are evident. It has long been a commonplace that the hill country and mountains of the Confederacy functioned as centers of antiwar and anti-Davis administration activity. An array of recent scholarship has examined the war in Appalachia, confirming deep divisions in mountainous regions but also finding evidence of strong support for the Confederacy. Works on North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia create a composite picture affirming John C. Inscoe and Gordon B. McKinney’s observation that “within the southern highlands, the war played out in very different ways for western North Carolinians than it did for East Tennesseans or north Georgians or western Virginians or Eastern Kentuckians.” The authors might have added that within each of these five populations the variety of reactions to the war and its trials also defy easy characterization.

24 August 2009

Outlying Islands of Shrinking Dixie

The latest issue of Southeastern Geographer (Project MUSE subscription required) has an article by Shrinidhi Ambinakudige of Mississippi State University about changes in two “vernacular regions”: “the South” and “Dixie.” (Vernacular regions are those identified from popular usage.) Its abstract and its resumen (!) follow, along with a few excerpts.
Abstract: John Shelton Reed's maps of the South and Dixie in 1970s and 1980s indicated the shrinking boundaries of these two vernacular regions. This study revisits the South and Dixie. Using electronic telephone directories, this study collected all business names with "Southern" and "Dixie" in all the cities in the US. A univariate local indicator of spatial association (LISA) analysis was used to identify the clusters of high and low values of normalized values of the terms. These analyses helped identify the current core regions of Dixie land and the South. The results indicate that "the South" and "Dixie" boundary erosion is noticeable. The study identified a previously unnoticed island of "Dixie" in Utah. Southern and Dixie identities are stronger in non-metropolitan counties compared to metropolitan and micropolitan counties. Southern and Dixie identities are eroding gradually: while the erosion of southern identity is very slow, the erosion of Dixie identity seems to be faster. Overall, it may be more appropriate to refer "Dixieland" as "Dixie islands" today, but the South is still the South.

Resumen: Los mapas del Sur y Dixie en los 70s y 80s de John Shelton Reed indicaron una reducción en los límites de esas dos regiones autóctonas. Este análisis estudia al Sur y Dixie. Usando directorios telefónicos electrónicos, este estudio recopila los nombres de negocios con "Southern" y "Dixie" en todas las ciudades de Los Estados Unidos. Un análisis univariable LISA (Indicador Local de Asociación Espacial) fue usado para identificar los conglomerados de valores altos y bajos de los valores normalizados de los términos. Este análisis ayudó a identificar hoy las regiones de Dixie Land y el Sur. Los resultados indican que la erosión de los límites del "Sur" y "Dixie" es notable. El estudio identificó en Utah una "Isla de Dixie" que no había sido notada anteriormente. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie son más fuertes en los condados no-metropolitanos que en los condados metropolitanos y micropolitanos. Las identidades de Southern y Dixie se están deteriorando gradualmente; mientras que el deterioro de las identidades del sur es bastante lento, el deterioro de Dixie parece ser más rápido. En general, sería mas apropiado referirse hoy a "Dixieland" como "Islas Dixie", pero el Sur todavía es el Sur....

People's sense of place creates a vernacular region. According to Jackson (1984), the sense of place is a permanent position in the social and topographical sense that gives people their identities. The sense of place can be perceived in both physical and cultural landscapes: it is embodied in folklore, personal narratives and oral histories—but very rarely do these descriptions appear in "official" documents, so locating the boundaries of these senses of places is difficult....

In this study, to delineate the boundaries of the South and Dixie, occurrences of the terms "South or Southern," "American," and "Dixie" in business names will be used. To ascertain the relative frequency of the terms "southern," "south," "American," and "Dixie" appearing in the names of businesses, business names including any of these terms were used....

Only southern hot-spots, which include Alabama, Arkansas, Northern and Central Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, most of North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, part of California, the eastern part of Texas, are shown in Figure 1. Oklahoma also indicated a Southern identity. The Southern identity is still strong in most of these traditional Southern states; however, a gradual shrinkage is apparent, especially in North Carolina and Oklahoma. As Reed (1990) observed, many people in North Carolina now identify themselves as Easterners rather than Southerners. Southern Florida continues non-southern.

The top ten counties having the highest score of Southern to American ratio are listed in Table 3. Dixie County in Florida had the highest score, followed by Hall County in Georgia. Washington County in Utah also showed a significant Southern identity and ranked 6th among all counties in the US.

The top ten states that scored the highest Southern to American ratio are listed in Table 4; Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina are the top five States.

The LISA analysis redefined the boundaries of "Dixie". The zip codes with high concentration of Dixie identity and high values of Dixie to American ratios are clustered (Figure 2). Unlike the results reflecting the Southern identity, Dixie seems to be eroding into "islands." The results also identified two interesting Dixie core areas—one on the Utah/Arizona border, the other in Ohio (Figure 2). Washington County, Utah has historically maintained Southern and Dixie identities—it is known as Utah's Dixie. According to Cahoon and Cahoon (1996), in 1857 a group of people from the South migrated to Utah, before the bitter fighting of the U.S. Civil War. These immigrants were asked to move to Southern Utah as it was reportedly a more fertile land to grow cotton. Another group consisting of Robert D. Covington and 28 Southern families joined the first group. These two groups formed Washington City. They built dams to provide water to irrigate their crops. To keep their Southern identity, they decided to name their land "Dixie;" later this became "Utah's Dixie." The actual reason for a strong Dixie identity in Ohio is unknown. It may be related to the fact that Ohio is the birthplace of Dan Emmett, writer of the famous song "Dixie."

23 August 2009

Hawai‘i Turns 50, Theroux Stays Misanthropic

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Hawai‘i becoming the 50th state, Paul Theroux in the New York Times expresses his fondness for its natural attractions and misanthropy toward its people—just as he does when he writes about anywhere else.
Back then, as the newest star on the flag, Hawaii was a thinly populated place, with most of the people living in Honolulu and predominantly young — the state’s average age was among the youngest in the nation. Its soul was Polynesian, but its popular culture and its institutions were Small Town U.S.A., with drive-in eateries, carhops and a passion for Elvis (a frequent visitor) and for high school sports; on every island the social highlight of the year was the senior prom....

Other plantation lands have become bungaloid subdivisions or luxury housing or golf courses. Some children of the plantation workers have become doctors and lawyers, or construction workers and caddies. And an immense number have become politicians — each island has its own local government — which may account for its reputation for political buffoonery and philistinism. Public intellectuals do not exist; public debate is rare, except on issues that transgress religious dogma. Hawaii is noted for its multitude of contentious God-botherers....

Some of this seems either dysfunctional or annoying, and yet there are compensations. All my life I have thought, Give me sunshine. Hawaii has the balmiest weather in the world, and its balance of wind and water gives it perfect feng shui. No beach is private: all of the shoreline must be accessible to the casual beachgoer or fisherman or opihi-picker. And since people’s faults are often their virtues when looked at a different way, the aversion to self-promotion is often a welcome humility; the lack of confrontation or hustle is a rare thing in a hyperactive world. Islanders are instinctively territorial, but bound by rules, so privacy matters and so does politeness and good will.

Although many of its birds and flora have been wiped out by humans or alien species, Hawaii’s other Edenic attributes are just about indestructible. I keep telling myself that no one can taint the orchidaceous air, or flatten the gigantic sea cliffs, or still the great waves, or obliterate the rainbows.
The comment thread offers fewer mahalos than auwes.

21 August 2009

Religious Warfare in Japan, 1400–1600

From Japan to 1600: A Social and Economic History, by William Wayne Farris (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 184-186:
For the clergy, the Warring States Era was a time of intense competition for believers and confrontation with the military authorities. In general, the older sects in Nara and Kyoto lost out; Rinzai Zen became weaker with the collapse of the Muromachi bakufu. On the other hand, believers in Sōtō Zen, the Pure Land, and the Lotus Sutra increased greatly. Jesuits brought Roman Catholicism to Japan and they succeeded in making many converts. The emerging thought system, Shinto, chose its sacred texts and drew pilgrims to shrines at Ise and Mount Yoshida in Kyoto.

The fate of Enryakuji, headquarters to the Tendai faith, symbolized the hard times faced by older sects. Already in the 1400s, Enryakuji had begun to lose its lands to warriors and to lose revenues to Kyoto moneylenders. The Muromachi bakufu generally ignored the frequent demonstrations so frightening to the court in the twelfth century. Finally, in 1571 after the warlord Nobunaga had taken control of Kyoto, he had his troops surround Mount Hiei where the temple complex was situated and, shockingly, ordered them to burn the mountain, ending Enryakuji's pretensions to independent political and economic power. One of the most venerable institutions in Japanese history had been reduced to cinders.

By contrast, Sōtō Zen expanded rapidly into the countryside between 1450 and 1590, primarily because of warrior patronage. Along the Japan Sea littoral, local "men of the province" founded new temples, even as prelates promised them salvation and worldly benefits. The population in Sōtō Zen monasteries and temples grew exponentially in the 1500s, partly because Buddhist monks ignored their behavioral precepts and served potential warrior patrons rice wine in elaborate rituals.

True Pure Land Buddhism benefited from the enlightened rule of its eighth head, Rennyo (1415–1499), who had five wives and twenty-seven children. He proselytized far and wide, writing hymns and pastoral letters to guide his followers. He was especially successful around his home temple Honganji near Kyoto, in eastern Honshu, and along the Japan Sea littoral. The families that became his followers formed congregations as grassroots units, and soon they were known for their cohesion. For example, during a famine, farm families would reserve grain for like-minded artisans and merchants. These congregations numbered between twenty and a thousand and met monthly for religious discussion and worship. They also received rules checking wild behavior, such as slandering other sects or attacking political leaders. By the early 1500s, True Pure Land Buddhism had emerged as a powerful religious organization.

Eventually, this sect came to be known as the "Single-minded" (Ikkō) school because of its adherents' devotion to Amida Buddha. The cohesion of believers made them difficult for daimyo to control, and in 1488 between 100,000 and 200,000 of the faithful drove a warlord from his domain in Kaga located along the central Japan Sea. The Kaga devotees established an "estate of the Buddha," resisting local warrior rents and labor dues. Like-minded local samurai willing to accept the new regime soon joined, sharing power with the Ikkō sectarians. Warrior armies failed to suppress the wayward province until 1580, slaughtering thirty to forty thousand religious soldiers in fierce battles.

Meanwhile, the focus moved to the Ikkō sect's headquarters in the Kinai. When Honganji was burned in Kyoto in 1532, the tenth patriarch had it rebuilt as a fortification in Osaka and recruited an army of twenty thousand. Soon the Single-minded sect became a rallying point for all those opposing warrior rule. During the 1570s, the warlord Oda Nobunaga launched an all-out war against Honganji, using armored ships brimming with cannon to blockade the fortress. In the face of such overwhelming military power, the sect sued for peace on Nobunaga's terms in 1580. Warrior power had triumphed over the religious network of the Single-minded sect.

The Lotus Sect was no less militant, espousing an ideology of "succeeding in this world." Kyoto merchants and moneylenders joined in droves, because they felt that the Lotus Leagues, as they were known, helped to protect their profits. These radicals were also popular because they rejected the rents and labor dues imposed by warriors and clamored for the abrogation of urban taxes. Thousands of adherents chanting "Hail to the Lotus Sutra" demonstrated in the streets in long, circular processions, frightening commoners and aristocrats alike. Eventually they came to occupy twenty-one temples protected by moats and earthen walls.

Finally, between 1532 and 1536, the Lotus Leagues in Kyoto revolted against a powerful warrior in the region. Taking over the administration of the city, they kidnapped aristocrats, decided lawsuits, apprehended arsonists, and blocked rent payments. A type of "popular justice" meted out by the Lotus sectarians reigned in the city. In 1536, however, the tide turned against them, as Enryakuji, supported by samurai and the older Buddhist sects, counterattacked. Enryakuji and its allies burned many Lotus temples over a period of thirty-six hours. Survivors fled to the imperial grounds but were nevertheless killed there. Like the Single-minded believers, devotees of this urban religious movement succumbed to the forces of order.

20 August 2009

Wordcatcher Tales: Shiridako, Dani

After arriving at Chubu International Airport and overnighting in a business hotel near Nagoya Station, we initiated our Japan Rail Passes and headed straight for Hiroshima, eating mini ekiben for breakfast. We arrived on the Hikari around 10 am, stashed our bags in a coin locker, and hopped the next local for Miyajimaguchi, where we caught the JR ferry to Itsukushima. After wandering along the waterfront a bit, we took the Miyajima Ropeway up to its terminus, where a sign warned us "Now, monkeys are around here"! And so they were. Most seemed to be on siesta, but that didn't keep us from indulging in a few linguistic monkeyshines.

Japanese macaque body chart, Mt. Misen, Miyajima尻胼胝 shiridako ‘ischial callosities, butt callus’ – The "Japanese monkey body" chart (at right) taught me yet another homonym for tako, in addition to 蛸 ‘octopus’ and 凧 ‘kite’. The term shiridako ‘ischial callosities’ is written in katakana on the chart, but tako ‘callus’ or ‘callosities’ can also be written with kanji: 胼胝 (Sino-Japanese) hen + chi, each of which means ‘callus, corn’. (When I was a kid, I thought chirigami ‘scrap paper [塵紙], toilet paper’ was shirigami [尻紙] ‘ass paper’.) How many of my readers (apart from Matt of No-sword) knew how to translate ‘ischial callosities’ into Japanese?

Monkey grooming deer, Miyajimaダニ dani ‘tick, mite’ – We saw a monkey extracting a tick from a deer's ear, and a nearby park employee explained that the monkeys rarely get ticks because they groom each so often (he used the word グルーミング guruumingu), but that the deer can't keep the ticks off so well. Fortunately, the monkeys are willing to help. We saw the monkey in the photo roll the tick between its palms after extracting it, as if it was cleaning it to eat, but the employee said the monkeys don't eat the ticks. The word he used for ‘tick’ was dani, which actually covers both ticks and mites (the Acari subclass of Arachnids). It can be written with several different kanji: 蜱, 螕, 壁蝨. The literal meaning of the last combination is ‘wall-lice’ kabe-shirami and the only compound listed under the last kanji in my New Nelson character dictionary is 蝨潰し shiramitsubushi ni (lit. ‘lice-crushingly’) ‘one by one, individually’.

The park employee had been sitting next to a whiteboard on which tourists from various places had written "Do not feed the monkeys" (or some variation thereof) in a score of languages. I asked him whether I could add another couple of languages to the signboard. He said I would first have to write them down in his notebook first, so that he could recreate the corresponding text if it got wiped off the sign. So I wrote two new entries in his notebook, providing rough glosses for each significant morpheme. He said the Romanian should go with the other European languages in the right column, and the Tok Pisin should go with the Asian and other languages on the left column. Here's what the sign looked like after I finished.

"Don't feed the monkeys" in two dozen languages, Mt. Misen, Miyajima

15 August 2009

Rising Patriarchy in Japan, 1280-1450

From Japan to 1600: A Social and Economic History, by William Wayne Farris (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 158-161:
Family and gender relations among almost all classes saw the growing power of men and a consequent decline for women. Warriors of exalted status lived in households dominated by a male head. His wife (and concubines) came to live in his house. The wife frequently attained her status as a result of a political alliance with another samurai family. Prospective wives were expected to present their mates with a dowry. By 1450, most samurai practiced unigeniture. sometimes there was also a primary daughter who could inherit property in perpetuity. Eventually, however, all siblings except the male heir lost out. Daughters were married out to other families or took the tonsure. Secondary sons tried to build their own territorial bases and frequently quarreled with the heir over property. As was true earlier, most families included servants and vassals bound by fictive kinship ties. Each main family had cadet lines on which they counted for support but which were often sources of political and economic competition....

Before 1280, commoner kinship had been bilateral, the status of women had been high, families were unstable, and divorce and remarriage were usual. The decrease in the death rate and improvements in the economy during 1280–1450 encouraged the formation of more stable farming families settled in the same village for several generations. Instead of extended lineages based on ancient surnames, nuclear families took last names based on the place where they lived, such as Mizoguchi ("mouth of the ditch") or Fujino ("wisteria moor"). The greater wealth of individual commoner families meant not only geographical stability, but also a patrimony to pass along to an heir.

These new units were called stem families, or ie, and were fairly common in central and western Japan by 1450. Stem families placed great value on the lineage and passed along property and the family's occupation to a male heir. They also cared for their elders and kept ancestral tablets to commemorate the dead. The head of the ie was responsible for taxes and often served as a member of the village shrine association. In these stem families, there was a new emphasis on the conjugal pair, with the male now more dominant. He was almost always the head of the ie and named one of his sons as heir, ordinarily the eldest son. The adoption of a male from another family was also common. Depending on their wealth, these households might include unrelated people such as servants....

Literature and religious doctrine reveal the decline of women's status during this epoch. For example, Tomoe, the heroic woman warrior of 1180, became a cross-dressing shaman in fourteenth-century theater. In Buddhism, women were more closely associated with death, decay, and pollution, and one picture scroll depicts women as "evil, lascivious, and furious when rejected." Stories written in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries explained the proper behavior for women and made them obedient to their fathers and mates. One monk wrote A Mirror for Women in 1300, listing the seven serious faults of women and prescribing ways to overcome them. Even a separate spoken and written language evolved exclusively for females.

The slow decline in women's status beginning in the late thirteenth century was too much for some. Sixty percent of all nunneries in Japan were established between 1270 and 1470. When women took the tonsure and resided exclusively with other women, many may have found that they could manage property, create a business, and run their own lives, options not available to a woman living in an ie. During this era, these women came to be known as "those who did not form a family." Religion also provided other comforts to females. For instance, Murōji ... became known as "the Mount Kōya for women." Females went on pilgrimages there and placed votive offerings in the shape of breasts on the walls....

Some single women reacted by finding other outlets for their talents. Wandering performers, including the ones based at Kumano, journeyed from village to village providing entertainment by juggling, dancing, doing acrobatics, or acting out or vocalizing popular stories and Buddhist sermons. They told tales guiding their listeners past fierce animals, hungry ghosts, never-ending battles, and the other realms of hell on the way to Amida's Paradise. They thrilled their audience with accounts of famous warriors such as Yoritomo and his brother Yoshitsune. Using various props such as flowers, picture scrolls, and musical instruments, they helped to link persons of diverse stations in a more unified culture of storytelling. They also raised donations for local Buddhist temples.

Two Afghan Candidate Profiles

In the Wall Street Journal of 13 August 2009, Ann Marlowe profiles two of the leading candidates campaigning to replace Karzai as president.
It was midnight this past Sunday when I left the house of Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai's leading challenger for the presidency of Afghanistan. Twenty or so men were still waiting to see the candidate, some sitting cross-legged in the grassy courtyard.

When I arrived at 10:30 p.m., one dignitary after another filed into the meeting room: a finance executive, a counter-narcotics official, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and a female professor at Kabul University. Lesser notables spilled out into the courtyard of the concrete villa, some in Western garb, some in traditional dress. Earlier, the diplomat brother of the slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud came to pay his respects.

These Afghans don't believe the line the foreign press is pushing—that Mr. Karzai has the election sewn up. With 10 days until the vote, they've come to offer help or cut deals, believing that they're backing the winner.

Dr. Abdullah, 49 years old, is an ophthalmologist and a former foreign minister of Afghanistan who entered politics by organizing medical care for the Afghan resistance after the Soviet invasion in 1979. He's running on a platform of overhauling the 2002 Afghan Constitution. He advocates a parliamentary system, political parties, and direct elections of mayors and provincial governors. (They're currently appointed by the president.)

Dr. Abdullah has single-handedly turned this election into a much-needed referendum on governance. How much direct democracy is enough? When is a people "mature" enough to elect its leaders? Is legitimacy derived from an election, from performance, or from the power of the gun? These are questions that resonate in Afghanistan as much as they do for Americans considering the merits of democracy promotion overseas....

Mr. Ghani, 60 years old, has focused his campaign on bread-and-butter issues. As finance minister, he started the much-lauded National Solidarity Program for rural development, which introduced economic policies like privatization, a flat tax and a rational tariff system. He is an expert on development economics, and is renowned for his incorruptibility.

But it isn't clear that Mr. Ghani's solutions match Afghanistan's most pressing problems. Foreign journalists tend to focus on rural Afghan poverty. Yet the standard of living for those in towns and cities (about one-third of the population) has improved greatly after nearly a decade of 5%-10% annual GDP growth.

Afghanistan expects 8.5% GDP growth in the fiscal year ending March 2010, up from 3.5% last year, according to Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal. Afghans are natural capitalists, and, thanks in part to Mr. Ghani, they have laws that allow them to prosper. What they lack is laws that allow them to govern themselves effectively.

Mr. Ghani told me in an interview on Aug. 5 that he believes the problem isn't with the constitution but with corruption. Dr. Abdullah told me he disagrees. He points to the single nontransferable vote electoral system, in which requirements for candidates are so low that dozens compete for one slot. This system has produced members of parliament with only a few percent of the vote. There's also the lack of accountability of governors and mayors.

Dr. Abdullah's fundamental point is that good institutions are more important than goodwill. "Even if a person does not want to abuse power," Dr. Abdullah tells me, "others around him will." This is a not-so-veiled reference to Mr. Karzai's brothers. One is an alleged drug dealer and another allegedly demands kickbacks. Then there's Mr. Ghani's brother Hashmat Ghani Ahmadzai, the wealthy chief of the Ahmadzai tribe and an MP notorious for his belligerence.
Is a relatively peaceful (by Afghan standards) transition after a democratic election too much to hope for?

10 August 2009

A Eurasian Crossroads Now in China

The latest issue (a year late!) of China Review International (Project MUSE subscription required) contains a review by Thomas Barfield of a book that sounds interesting: James A. Millward's Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). Here are a few excerpts from the review.
As befits a key link in the international Silk Route in premodern times, the region's people proved historically open to new ideas and opportunities. Some of these opportunities were thrust upon them. The territory constituting today's Xinjiang appears never to have been unified politically except under the rule of outsiders. These outsiders were strikingly diverse, coming as they did at different times from every surrounding territory. From the east, the Han and Tang dynasties vied with the northern Mongolian steppe-based Xiongnu, Turk, and Uighur nomad empires for influence and political control. The Tibetan Empire on its southern flank also extended its rule over the region at various times during the seventh through the ninth centuries. The west was not entirely absent in these struggles either. The Sogdian city-states of Central Asia had great influence over their eastern cousins in the Tang dynasty, and during the eleventh century the Turkish Qara Khanids, based in Bukhara, became the dominant regional power. They were displaced at the beginning of the twelfth century by royal Manchurian refugees of the Liao dynasty from North China who reestablished themselves there as the Qara Khitai. Although neither Turks nor Muslims, the Qara Khitai proved successful rulers until they were finally ousted by the Mongols in 1218. Chinese influence (even if by way of a Manchurian people) was then notably absent from the region for the next five hundred years. The oases and neighboring steppe zones fell under different post-Mongol successor states until the Qing dynasty captured the area in 1757....

Despite local complaints about unfair taxation, the court bureaucrats in Beijing were well aware that the Qing colonial administration and military garrisons in Xinjiang constituted a money pit that swallowed up revenue from other parts of China.

The structural fragility of China's position in Central Asia became clear in 1864, when a series of successful local rebellions spread from one oasis to another so rapidly that Qing control vanished entirely in a matter of months. Yaqub Beg, an adventurer from Kokand (recently annexed by Czarist Russia) took advantage of the situation to establish an independent emirate and opened diplomatic ties with British India, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire. The Qing court was divided about whether Xinjiang merited the huge expense required to recover it. There was established precedent in China for writing off the remote western region a dead loss: both the Han and Tang dynasties had done so when their power waned and the Ming dynasty never went there in the first place. There were also other demands on the treasury made by officials who saw the modernization of China's military as a higher priority than funding a risky colonial war. Millward's analysis of how the Qing dynasty's preoccupation with maintaining its inner Asian frontier intact demonstrates that Xinjiang loomed far larger in importance for them than for dynasties of Han Chinese origin. In the event, after deciding to fund a military campaign, the Qing struck it lucky. Yaqub Beg died unexpectedly in 1877, and his emirate collapsed. Qing forces quickly reoccupied Xinjiang without facing a serious battle.

It is at this point that the Qing incorporated Xinjiang directly into China as a province. Millward shows that the resulting reorganization of the local government along Chinese lines, plus the cost of garrison troops, made its continued occupation of the region even more costly, asserting it to be an underestimated factor in China's failure to compete effectively with the Western powers and Japan at the turn of the century. The reorganization also placed ethnic Han Chinese influenced by anti-Manchu nationalism in provincial leadership positions. This had negative consequences for the Qing since they fomented rebellion against the dynasty, but a long-term positive consequences for China. Such officials, small minorities in a distant land, were keen to ensure that the province remained a part of China after the Qing was replaced by a republic in 1911. These Chinese governors (“warlords,” more pejoratively) gave lip service to the Republic of China in Nanking and did as they pleased in Xinjiang. Millward's descriptions of their political machinations and murders show them as strikingly ruthless and practical, unhindered by any set of Confucian values. What the republic got in return was the continued right to claim Xinjiang as a Chinese province—no small prize since other inner-Asian territories eventually broke their ties with China: Mongolia under Russian protection, Manchuria by Japanese annexation, and Tibet through de facto self-rule.

03 August 2009

Foreign Policy on Indonesia vs. Burma

In Foreign Policy's Shadow Government, Dan Twining compares recent positive developments in Indonesia with negative developments in Burma.
Indonesia's political revolution was also spurred by a regional wave of democratization that spread from the Philippines in 1986 to South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Mongolia, and beyond over the following decade. After free parliamentary elections, Indonesia held its first direct elections for president in 2004, followed by those which have just given President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a decisive mandate for a second term.

The popular and performance legitimacy required by a system of democratic accountability has led SBY, as he is popularly known, to aspire to lead Indonesia to new heights. With the country's respected former central bank governor as his new vice president, the leadership team has set a target of matching China's economic growth rate and attacking entrenched corruption, a corrosive legacy of Suharto's clientelistic rule. Democratic Indonesia is finally beginning to punch its weight geopolitically: international newspaper headlines celebrate "Indonesia Rising" and suggest Indonesia as "Another ‘I' in the BRIC Story." The U.S. National Intelligence Council predicts that Indonesia will have an economy larger than those of most European nations by the 2020s. Leading Indonesian public intellectuals like Rizal Sukma ambitiously propose "a post-ASEAN foreign policy" of "strategic partnerships with global powers" grounded in Indonesia's values as a democracy. Yudhoyono speaks proudly of Indonesia's democracy as a source of soft power in the world and wants to leverage it to expand respect for human dignity and government accountability as sources of regional security, including through new institutions like the Bali Democracy Forum.

Burma is a different story. Its widespread poverty and brutal autocracy are a cancer in the heart of ASEAN, the club led by Asia's "tiger" economies that inducted Burma in 1997 in the hope that doing so would spur the kind of opening of Burma's economic and political system that has transformed the fortunes of its neighbors. It hasn't. Leaders in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and elsewhere are embarrassed by the Burmese junta's misrule and have been increasingly outspoken in saying so -- including during the debate over ASEAN's new charter, which creates a regional human rights body and is grounded in a framework of political and economic modernity that is anathema to the generals in Naypyidaw (Burma's new capital, built deep in the jungle and featuring plush underground bunkers for the country's paranoid leadership).

Since the junta rejected the results of the country's last elections in 1990, Burma's people have grown poorer as its ruling elite have grown richer from trade in gems, timber, narcotics, and other commodities, as well as the development of offshore natural gas fields that will deliver billions of dollars in revenues to Burma's governing elite over the coming decade. Civil conflict stemming from the junta's rule has produced millions of internally displaced people and refugees. Forced and child labor are rampant. The regime's security forces fired on peacefully demonstrating monks and rounded up large numbers of innocent civilians following non-violent protests in 2007. The country's political opposition has been eviscerated. The junta may be cooperating with North Korea to develop nuclear weapons.

In short, the pathologies that afflict Burma's failing state, all either derived or exacerbated by political misrule, make its regime a threat to its people, its neighbors, and the wider world. Burma's descent is in many respects a mirror-image of the success of Indonesia's vibrant democracy next door.
via Oxblog

01 August 2009

Wordcatcher Tales: Nisshoku, Shironiji, Tatsumaki

I've just returned from Japan, still jet-lagged, with a harvest of about 600 photos to sort through and dozens of new words. The weather was terrible almost the whole time, and so I'll start with a few of the meteorological terms I gleaned on this trip.

Solar eclipse photographer, Kokura, Kita-Kyushu, Japan日食 (or 日蝕; see below) nisshoku 'solar eclipse' (lit. 'sun eating') – We arrived at Kokura station in Kita-Kyushu to find many bystanders glancing up at the solar eclipse in progress, in a cloudy sky between rainstorms (the previous day and the following day). We had arrived there by rail pass via bullet train on a diversionary quest en route from Hiroshima back to Nagoya. Flooding had closed train lines between Hiroshima and Kokura the previous day.

Our quest was first to find the site of my hilltop home and kindergarten 55 years earlier, where my father began his first job after Japanese language school in Tokyo as a missionary chaplain of Seinan Jo Gakuin. His Japanese teacher there was the head of the English Dept., who used to translate my father's sermon drafts into flowery, archaic Japanese using vocabulary that students would sometimes later ask him to explain. That prompted my father to begin writing his own drafts in Japanese, using a more down-to-earth style that he still employs in both Japanese and English, whether preaching or conversing.

We finally found both sites after talking with a teacher in the current Mt. Zion Kindergarten, which now stands on the site of a once-separate kindergarten for burakumin children in the neighborhood, along the road to Tobata. The kindergarten I attended was for school employees, and has since been replaced by a swimming pool. The teacher's husband had attended the same kindergarten during the 1950s, and she was the only person I queried who knew anything about the history of the school going that far back.

Statue of boys harvesting wakame, Moji Port train station, Kita-Kyushu白虹 hakkou, shironiji 'corona, fog bow' (lit. 'white rainbow') – We spent the rest of the afternoon sightseeing in quaint old Mojikō ('Moji Port'), which advertises its Retro attractions. (On the way there, we mistakenly got off at Moji Station, home of the equally retro Beer Masonry Museum.)

In front of well-preserved Mojikō Station is an unusual statue of three boys at work harvesting wakame, with a poem on the pedestal by a writer whose pen name is (横山)白虹 Yokoyama Hakkou (1899–1983). The poem reads 和布刈る / 神の五百段 / ぬれてくらし (wakame karu / kami no ihodan / nurete kurashi), which I suppose one could translate as 'The 500 steps to the gods of the wakame harvest lead a wet life'. Better suggestions are welcome.

竜巻 tatsumaki 'waterspout, whirlwind, tornado' (lit. 'dragon roll') – In addition to all the news reports of rainstorms and flooding, we saw one report about a rare tornado cutting a swath through Tatebayashi, a city in the panhandle of Gunma Prefecture just south of where we lived in 2005–2006 in Ashikaga, on the edge of the Kanto Plain outside Tokyo.

UPDATE: Reader Doc Rock notes that the character for 'eat' (or 'food') that appears in 'eclipse' has another possible shape in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean: 蝕 'eclipse, occultation', with the phonetic element (Sino-Jp. shoku) on the left and the semantic element (虫, 'bug') on the right. (The 'bug' radical usually occurs on the left or the bottom of characters containing it.) In native Japanese, the same kanji can be read mushiba(mu) 'to be wormy, bug-eaten; to gnaw into, undermine'. In Sino-Korean, 日蝕 'sun eclipse' means 'solar eclipse', while 日食 '[land of the rising] sun food' means 'Japanese food' (Jp. 和食 washoku).

Note that the Chinese character for 'rainbow', 虹, also has a 'bug' radical. Why would early Chinese scribes have associated such magical meteorological phenomena as eclipses and rainbows with creepy-crawly creatures? (And barbarians: 蛮 Ch. man, Sino-Jp. ban!) Weather phenomena are more typically written with radicals associating them with 'sun', 'rain', 'water', and so on.

I am not at all sure, but there are striking parallels in many Austronesian languages, where certain unusual "prodigies of nature" tend to be marked by prefixes that often have shapes derivable from *qali- or *kali- (although there is much variation and irregularity). Compare three words for 'butterfly': Brunei Malay kulimpapat, Tagalog alibangbang, and Gedaged (PNG) kilibob. The same prefix tends not to be found on words for much more common and familiar creatures, such as 'flies' (Mal. langau), 'lice' (Mal. kutu), or 'mosquitoes' (Mal. nyamuk).

Now compare three Austronesian words for 'whirlwind': Malay kelembubu, Tagalog alimpuyo, and Lakalai (PNG) kalivuru. The same prefix tends not to be found on words for normal phenomena like 'fire' (Mal. api), 'rain' (Mal. hujan), or 'wind' (Mal. angin).

The Austronesian patterns have been analyzed rather comprehensively by University of Hawai‘i Professor Robert Blust in his (2001) "Historical morphology and the spirit world: the *qali/kali- prefixes in Austronesian languages" in Issues in Austronesian Morphology: A Focusschrift for Byron W. Bender, ed. by J. Bradshaw and K. Rehg, pp. 15-73 (Canberra: Pacific Linguistics).