Graduate Studies, Student Voices, History

Travel Report: Songwei He, History

December 13, 2018

From Graduate Studies...

Songwei He, a Master's student in History, received a Graduate International Research Travel Award (GIRTA) to further her research in Chengdu and Chongqing. Her report: 

GIRTA allowed me the terrific chance to take my first step to become a historian. During my whole summer this year, I collected historical documents in southwestern China. I had been working in two cities —Chengdu and Chongqing, and at two counties Xuanhan and Wanyuan in Sichuan Province, China. I started my research with the curiosity on the Temple Destruction Movement in the Qing Dynasty. In this movement, temples and temple property were transformed into modern institutions such as schools. By collecting and analyzing related cases, I wish to explore the following questions: during the late Qing, how and why did local officials promote the Temple Destruction Movement? How did they deal with disputes and adjust their policies? How did religious groups, temple donors and lay religious practitioners engage in the movement? And how did the destruction affect the grassroots life?

With GIRTA, I was able to spend a bulk of fun and productive time at Sichuan Provincial Archives in Chengdu. A relatively complete and abundant collection of county-level documents from the Qing dynasty is located there. GIRTA supported me to stay there for nearly three months, transcribing historical sources and living like a local Chengdunese. The research question I started with was what clergies, temples and temple property meant to people in their daily life before and after Guangxu’s edict of temple destruction. Thus, I looked for sources revealing commoners’ usage of temple space and local regulations on religion. With the bigger picture in mind, I was also able to explore the local implementation and the effect of temple destruction.