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A College Student’s Rural Journey: Early Sociology and Anthropology in China Seen through Fieldwork on Sichuan’s Secret Society

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This paper focuses on the investigators of rural society in the Republican period, specifically research made through fieldwork on the Gowned Brothers (or, Paoge) in 1940s Sichuan. It takes up one such investigator, Shen Baoyuan—a student at Yenching University; her youthful work never became published or recognized. The present study reveals how the pioneers of Chinese sociology and anthropology, who called themselves “rural activists,” tried to understand rural China. It argues that the developments in those fields in China of the 1920s and 1940s made it possible for us today to have a better understanding of the contemporary rural problems. The investigators played an important role in the Rural Construction and Rural Education Movements in Republican China. They show us how Western sociology and anthropology were localized in order to answer “Chinese questions” and to solve “Chinese problems.” As source material, these investigations have given us rich records, which in turn have become precious sources and historical memories of rural China’s past.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, University of Macau


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