China from Empire to Republic is an ongoing Gale publishing programme aiming to digitise China-related primary source collections from libraries and archives around the world. Two collections have been released in this programme so far: Missionary, Sinology and Literary Periodicals (1817–1949) and the recent Records of the Maritime Customs Service of China (1854–1949). While the dominant topics covered in these two collections are Chinese diplomacy, foreign relations, economy, politics, Christianity, sinology, education, imperialism, and globalisation, we must not overlook another important topic – ‘overseas Chinese’ or the Chinese diaspora.
Richard Horowitz is a Professor of History at California State University. Trained as a historian of modern China, he subsequently developed a second specialization in the emerging field of World History. His research explores the intersection of China and processes of global integration from the 1820s to the 1920s. He teaches courses on China, Japan, World History, and historical methods.
This is an excerpt from an essay by Professor Richard S. Horowitz entitled “The Chinese Maritime Customs Service, 1854–1949: An Introduction”.
For almost a century, the Chinese Maritime Customs Service played a central role in the relationship between China and the global economy. The Customs Service was part of the Chinese Government, but it was led by foreigners. Technically, its role was limited to ensuring the accurate assessment of Customs duties (taxes on imports and exports). However, over time, it became involved in many activities including the maintenance of harbors and lighthouses, the payment of foreign loans, the preparation of a very wide range of published reports, and the provision of technical assistance to the Chinese Government. Customs officials were often involved in diplomatic discussions and served as informal intermediaries between Chinese officials and foreign representatives.
Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙aka. 孫中山 or 孫文; 1866–1925) was a Chinese revolutionary and leader of a series of armed uprisings that led to the downfall of China’s last imperial dynasty (the Qing) in 1911 and the founding of the Republic of China in 1912. November 12 this year marked his 150th birthday.
Searching for his name (“Sun Yat-sen” or “Sun Wen”) in Gale’s China from Empire to Republic: Missionary, Sinology and Literary Periodicals – a unique collection of 17 English-language periodicals published in and about China – offers the researcher a significant quantity of material about this individual. Over two-thirds of the 300-plus search results are from The China Critic and Tienhsia Monthly – periodicals run by Chinese intellectuals. His activities and ideas also attracted the attention of Westerner- or missionary-established periodicals such as The Chinese Recorder, West China Missionary News, and The China Yearbook.