More About This Website

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While teaching at Sophia University during the 1980s and early 1990s, Neil Burton (for bio, click here) developed two courses on China's external relations, principally for the Qing dynasty and People's Republic of China (PRC) periods. Many of the materials included on this website were used in the teaching of those courses.

The self-generated textual tools and aids were the result of years of direct research by Burton. But it is apropos here to point out that the English word “research”—from the French recherche—simply means to search again, even though today its usage often implies grander things. To quote Isaac Newton, that great polymath of the 17th century, writing in a letter to another great scientist, Robert Hooke, in 1676: “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” We, it should be pointed out, are not claiming to have seen further, but only maybe to have seen a few things from new angles, principally from a Chinese perspective. We firmly believe that the accumulation of knowledge has never been anything other than the result of collective research by many minds over time, punctuated by new—and in some cases idiosyncratic—individual perspectives and insights.

While working on this website, Burton, the site’s “content man”, has been educated by Brian Smallshaw, the site’s “technical [and aesthetics] whiz” (for bio, click here) , about the revolutionary differences between the Paper and Internet/Web eras. Anybody whose adult life has straddled something of both eras may have sensed that they were viewing and somehow being swept along, willingly or not, by radical changes in “the way things are done.” Some, like Smallshaw, may have understood the significance of it for the mind (Burton didn’t until Smallshaw enlightened him): Ideas and words on paper, so long as the paper lasts, are fixed in order by their authors; most of us read words, sentences, paragraphs, and the pages they appear on, in sequence, i.e., in an order meaningful to, and imposed by, their authors. Sequence involves prioritization; prioritization implies values and hierarchy. Years of writing and reading words on paper work their effects on the mind—such as Burton’s mind.

The Internet changes these things radically, and at a pace that is breathtaking when looked at from an historical perspective. It seems to represent a great leap in “freeing” individuals from sequences and hierarchies imposed by old authorities. Yet that freedom, Burton will still argue, doesn’t necessarily lead, through what sometimes appears to him to be random data or "factoid" acquisition, to what he has long thought of as (hierarchically ordered) knowledge.

The syllabi for the two courses adapted here for the new Internet era all started on paper, and those are included, unedited, just as students received them in 1996 and 1997. If you wish to confirm for yourself the philosophical ideas in the paragraph above, have a look at the syllabi before entering the site at any sub-topic of your choice. You can even try the final exam!

All supportive materials for the two courses: extra readings, chronologies, bibliographies, etc., were also handed out on paper, their words or entries fixed in position, first by Burton and then by the medium itself. Graphics were somewhat different, as they were generally presented in the classroom as 35mm slides or overhead projections. But the sequence was still predetermined by the teacher.

At the time, textual and graphics were taken from existing sources, their sources (the “giants”) acknowledged, but they were also sometimes modified to accord with more contemporary romanization schemes, or to correct the odd mistaken date or historical detail.

Which brings us to another issue of historical change: In the 1970s and '80s, when Burton was developing and offering the two courses, "intellectual property" issues were not of much concern in educational establishments, at least in the countries in which he was teaching. Today we all live in a very different environment in which "owning" intellectual property is high on the list of priorities of almost all educational and academic activity. Both Burton and Smallshaw believe that this stifles the pursuit of knowledge. Universities have always, of course, been gathering places for specialists, but today the focus on ownership and control makes it all but impossible for those not attached to large research universities, and with well-funded projects, to conduct their own inquiries on topics not deemed sufficiently "useful" (by whom?) to be funded. The Internet today makes research by any interested party at least a possibility.

Beyond the philosophical position stated above, there is no intent on the part of the compilers of this website to control or turn a profit on any of the content. The materials presented here are offered free of charge in hopes of advancing knowledge concerning the particular topics explored. We fully acknowledge the contributions of those “giants” on whose shoulders we stand; we simply don't believe that the pursuit of monetary gain or control should result in curbing access to knowledge by any interested audience or individual.

Wherever possible we explicitly acknowledge the sources of materials used.

Images that appear are screened especially carefully. Those that are known to be copyrighted or source-stamped, appear here as thumbnails only, accompanied, whenever possible, by links to their owners’ homepages. Those known to be non-copyrighted appear first as thumbnails, but are zoomable to the viewing and printing size of your choice.

If any individual, agency or institution finds the use of their materials objectionable, they only need contact us to seek a solution.


虽然这个网站来源于在日本用英语教学的两门课程的教材,中国的研究人员应该对此同样感兴趣。这两门课程的所有材料用有“汉字”, 因为班上大部分是日本学生。

本网站的许多材料来源于Neil Burton教授(简历)于上世纪八十年代和九十年代初在日本上智大学所教授的两门关于中国对外关系史课程(清朝和中华人民共和国时期为主)所形成的讲义和教案。这些讲义和教案是Burton教授多年来研究所得。谈到“研究”,虽然英文中的research一词(源于法语recherche)往往给人以宏大意向,但究其本源,仅仅是“再一次探究”的意思。17世纪的博学家艾萨克·牛顿在1676年的一封信中对另一位伟大的科学家罗伯特·胡克所言:“如果我比别人看得更远,那是因为我站在巨人的肩上”。我们建构本网站,并非如牛顿所言,希望看得比别人更远,而仅仅希望从更多不同的角度,尤其从中国的角度,来审视中国的对外关系史。我们坚信,知识,必须由一位位不同学者,从一个个特异角度,经一次次不断探究,而结晶。
对于本网站而言,如果说Burton教授是其“实质与内容”,那么Brian Smallshaw先生(简历)就是其“外观与形式”。是Smallshaw先生引领Burton教授领略了信息革命和互联网的魅力:就像所有未曾体会信息革命的人们,Burton教授为互联网所能带来的处事方式的变化而惊叹;就像所有体会信息革命的人们,Smallshaw先生充分理解互联网对思维方式的改变和解放。在书本时代,思想和语言都被作者有序地排列在有页码的纸上。读者们在阅读时,往往会不由自主地受到作者对信息编排时所产生主观价值偏好的影响。正如Burton教授,长期的书本阅读在一定程度上会将人们的思维禁锢。是互联网时代的来临,将这一切改变(尤其是我们的历史观),将这禁锢和那偏好一起打破,将读者们从作者们所强加的等级和次序中解放出来。然而,Burton教授依然认为:如此的自由并不必然引领人们走向他一直以来所认为的知识的结晶。这大约是本网站的成因之一吧。





The most important thing to understand about China is its guiding ideology or world view.

Click on the button below to learn more about the ideology behind China's foreign relations and to continue into the site.


Our Masthead

Our masthead is a collage of personalities, institutions, and events. From the left, these include Hiram Maxim, inventor of the "Maxim" machine gun, demonstrating its effectiveness to the last Qing dynasty "Prime Minister", Li Hongzhang, at Eynsford, England in 1896; Sir Robert Hart; Soong Ching-ling (Song Qingling; Mme. Sun Yat-sen); two views of deliberations between top officials of the Zongli Geguo Shiwu Yamen—a Qing proto-"foreign ministry"; a portrait of Bin Qun, the Qing's first semi-official emissary abroad; and a portion of a painting depicting the "Boxer" uprising of 1900.