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Continuity and Discontinuity: Narratives of the Yellow Emperor in Early Twentieth-Century History Textbooks

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image of Frontiers of History in China

In the study of the origin of Chinese civilization, there has been considerable debate about the identity of the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi). There have been two main approaches: One proposes that the memory of the Yellow Emperor was altered under the influence of nationalism in the twentieth century. The other argues that the memory has been passed down in a continuous, unaltered stream since ancient times. By examining the narratives about and images of Huangdi in history textbooks published during the early twentieth century, this article shifts the focus from Huangdi as a symbolic figure in the political world to one in which we examine his reception in the everyday world. Thus we will explore different Huangdis, taking up aspects of memory, continuity, and discontinuity.


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