2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Trials and Tributions of Joining Global Capitalism:
The Dixue zazhi (Journal of Earth Studies) in Early Twentieth Century China

Tze-ki Hon

History Department, State University of New York at Geneseo, USA

In current accounts, the founding of modern Chinese historical geography is often associated with the iconoclastic historian Gu Jiegang and his journal Yugong Bimonthy. As a discipline marking temporal and spatial boundaries, modern Chinese historical geography is widely understood as a “narrative of unfolding” to arouse Chinese nationalism in the midst of foreign invasion. Although accurate in describing Chinese sentiment during the 1930s and 1940s, current scholarship ignores other groups of historical geographers who held a different view of the discipline. In this article, I focus on the historical geographers of Dixue zazhi (1910-1937), who were unique in two aspects. First, they defined historical geographical broadly to include geology, meteorology, mining technology, economics, and political science. By historical geography, they literally meant the study of the earth (dixue). Second, despite the threat of foreign invasion, they were not interested in mobilizing the Chinese people to defend their nation. Instead, they focused on defining China’s role in the global system of capital. Accepting global capitalism as a Eurocentric world order, they stressed fairness and openness in competition for labor, markets, national power, raw materials, and trade routes. Popular before 1919, their view of the world was drastically different from views that dominated the 1930s and 1940s. As such, they represent a moment in modern Chinese history when nationalism and globalism were equally stressed.


Keywords: Chinese nationalism, global capitalism, high imperialism, historical geography, Sino-Babylonianism