花崗齋之愚公 (About me)

Jeremiah Jenne grew up in Atkinson, NH and is the Executive Director of The Hutong, Beijing’s premier cultural exchange center. In his spare time, Jeremiah runs the Chinese history site Jottings from the Granite Studio.   He has written for the China Beat, the online edition of the Atlantic Monthly, and The Economist. He has also contributed essays to two books, The Insider’s Guide to Beijing, 2009 Edition and China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance, and has been interviewed by NPR, The Christian Science Monitor, Radio Free Asia, China Radio International, and New Hampshire Public Radio.  He and his wife live in the Dongcheng district of Beijing.

  • http://9527.com 9527

    Good luck!

  • Tan

    :)Interesting comment about our Spring Festival Gala. I really want to know: are you totally understand the whole Gala, especially some language performances like “xiaopin””xiangsheng”. :) Good luck in China.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah


    As a general rule, I understand most of it, but obviously somebody who is learning a language can’t appreciate humor involving word play (whether it’s 马三立 or “Who’s on First?”) the same way a native speaker could.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • jane

    hei,appreciated you watched the China Gala as Chinese ppl.
    Your comments really interested .
    Good luck to you!

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah


    Cheers and thanks for stopping by.

  • Teluoyi_in_SF

    I haven’t got time to read all your blogs. Cross-cultural communication is always interesting in that it, to a certain extent, serves as a mirror, if not without distortions, for natives to see their culture and personality reflected in a non-native’s eye. I’m curious to read your thesis “‘The Right Arm of the Europeans’: Colonialism, Violence, and Identity in Tianjin, 1870.” I bet you will have a different intepretation from what we, being subjected to Western colonialism and forced trade (as made clear through the Sino-British Opium War), learned in our history class. Keep up good work.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah


    Actually, my perspective is probably closer to the one you learned in class than that in previous Western scholarship on the subject, and thanks for the encouraging words. Cheers.

  • http://shulin-zhou.spaces.live.com Franklin

    Hello, I am so lucky to see this website. Your articles are really nice. I collected one of them into my SPACE~~ :-)

  • ss

    hi, just curious, the materials you need for your research, are they in Manchu language or traditional Chinese or both? thanks…

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Most of the materials are in classical Chinese, or the variant that was used in the late Qing. I’m currently studying Manchu as well because I know that do research on the Qing, Manchu language archival materials are absolutely invaluable. It’s a tough language to learn, but I’m making (slow but steady) progress.

    Thanks for asking.

  • ss

    I see… thanks and good luck with everything!

  • Laurie


    I absolutely love your writing. It is characterised by a thorough understanding of Chinese culture, politics and tempered with what Barme has termed “New Sinology”.

    Out of curiosity where are you teaching? I presume you are teaching in Chinese. I have been studying at Tsinghua over the last year and have taken subjects such as 中外文化交流史专题 with the History Department.

    This course covered essentially Sino-Foreign engagement from the Han dynasty onwards and touched on the Macartney Mission and indeed a range of issues pertinent to your interests focusing on both ends of the Opium Wars.

    What’s your opinion on the instruction of this discipline within China? I was rather frustrated at times in terms of the focus on dates, names and places as opposed to a rigorous engagement with historiography.

    To draw an example from our lecture on Buddhism, my lecturer focused entirely on the geographic routes that Buddhism took before it 异军突起’d with a massive following.

    The same for Christianity and Islam: I am fascinated by the debate surrounding issues such as the use of language and discourse from Daosim and Confucianism in the transmission of foreign religions to a Chinese context. Yet this crucial component of the debate was ignored by my lecturer.

    Anyway, that’s my rant done with. Great respect for your work and I look forward to further engaging with your writing in the future.


    Laurie Pearcey

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah

    Dear Laurie,

    Not a rant at all and thanks for your kind words. I teach in English because most of my students are from US-based universities, though since we are in Beijing a fair amount of Chinese is rolled in.

    As to your question about history education at Beijing universities, my sense is that it is much better now than ten or fifteen years ago as more and more professors have had their graduate training abroad and so are more used to an active style of teaching and debate in the classroom and in the curriculum.

    That said, it’s still the PRC and, as you know, history has always had a close relationship with politics. One reason why books/lectures/classes can seem so dry and full of dates and obscure figures (The Forbidden City is 960 meters N-S, and 760 meters E-W…) is because that kind of ‘data’ is safer than casting a critical eye at how certain arguments are constructed and then deployed in the standard narrative.

    This is especially true in primary/secondary education, but–and again this is only a sense and I welcome correction–it doesn’t get a whole lot better at the post-secondary level.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and stopping by. If you ever want to chat about these topics face-to-face drop me an email, I tend to get up to Haidian/Wudaokou at least once a month.

  • richard cant

    I enjoy reading your postings both here and at The Peking Duck. I live in Beijing and have been developing an interest in Qing and 20th century history. I’ve found I have a lot of free time at work and would like to study more online.
    Could you recommend some online resources in English) that I can peruse while the boss isnt watching.

  • The Foreign Expert

    Hi Jeremiah,
    I couldn’t find your email listed anywhere… I think you’ve got a great site. I’m setting up a blog roll today on the front page of my site. Want to exchange links?
    -Steve Cotner,

  • http://solongletty.tripod.com/conger Grant Hayter-Menzies

    Hi Jeremiah,

    I really enjoy your web site. I’ve been studying late Qing history – specifically the court of the Empress Dowager Cixi – for several years now. One result of this study is my biography of Cixi’s most famous (and to some people, infamous) lady in waiting, Princess Der Ling, published in January by Hong Kong University Press. I’m now working on another book for HKUP about the friendship between American diplomat’s wife Sarah Pike Conger and Cixi, before, during and after the Boxer Uprising. Mrs Conger was unusual among foreigners in her sympathy for the Chinese, and tried to educate Americans about them and their country and its history. I’m especially fascinated by the Boxer Uprising and what I see as its connection to the failure of the Hundred Days reforms of the Guangxu emperor, increased missionary activities and the increasing presence of Japan. I’m also fascinated by the foreign/Chinese dynamic toward the end of the Qing dynasty and the nebulous nature of Manchu identity, made the more so after the dynasty fell. Princess Der Ling was not just a proponent of ross-cultural communication but an example of cross-culturalism herself, given the fact she had an American grandfather, an American husband, and was educated in the capital of Europe. Mrs. Conger came to China with no background in the country at all, but soon realized there were many similarities between American and Chinese cultural, familial and religious observances, and reminded foreigners of this as much as the Chinese.

    You’re doing great work – keep it up!

    All best – Grant

  • JB

    Hi Jeremiah,

    What do these characters mean individually ?

    “.. humor involving word play (whether it’s 马三立 or “Who’s on First?”..”

    Is this the translation or merely a similar usage example in English ?

    How do you pronounce the characters? I recognize the second as ‘three’ and the third as ‘standing’ (?) The first seems like ‘horse’, but I know it’s missing some character strokes. I’ve learned a bit of mandarin, but only a few basic characters, having taught ESL in Japan and learned some then. Thanks and Best Wishes on your Research.

  • http://granitestudio.org Jeremiah


    Ma Sanli (1914-2003) was a famous xiangsheng (‘cross-talk’) performer here in China, and that style of humor (two guys exchanging puns, wordplay, and artfully confusing homonyms) is probably best explained in English by referencing the famous Abbott and Costello bit.

    Thanks for stopping by.

A Qing historian reads the newspaper…