Kyoto Bridge

BICC’s Kyoto Bridge network aims to build connections between scholars of Chinese studies in Japan and the UK, both established and early career researchers, building on the University of Bristol’s strategic partnership with the University of Kyoto.

In early July 2015 Professor Ishikawa Yoshihiro visited Bristol to deliver a keynote address at the 8th Annual China Postgraduate Network Conference on 2-3 July. This interdisciplinary conference was attended by 35 postgraduates and postdoctoral scholars from 16 different institutions across the UK, and from Ireland and the Netherlands, and was sponsored by the BICC, the British Association for Chinese Studies, and the Bristol Institute for Research in the Humanities and Arts.

Professor Ishikawa, Director of the Research Center for Modern and Contemporary China at Kyoto University, delivered a stimulating and well-received address on ‘The Early Global Reception of Images of Mao’, and was an active and generous contributor to formal and informal discussion during the conference suggesting many ways to rethink findings for many of the speakers, and suggesting avenues for further research.

Isabella Jackson, Ishikawa Yoshihiro, Robert Bickers and Toshihiko Kishi at the old Jinbunken building, Kyoto University

Isabella Jackson, Ishikawa Yoshihiro, Robert Bickers and Toshihiko Kishi at the old Jinbunken building, Kyoto University

In August 2015 a team funded by the BICC made its way to Kyoto to participate in a panel co-organised with colleagues at Kyoto University at the 2015 World Economic History Congress, held in the city’s International Conference Center. BICC Co-Director Robert Bickers, BICC alumni Dr Isabella Jackson, and Bristol University postgraduate research student Sabrina Fairchild, took part in a panel on ‘Special Economic Zones: Treaty Ports and Port Cities of Maritime Asia, 1842-1942’, alongside colleagues from Kyoto University, and, amongst others, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Heidelberg, Nottingham and Nihon universities, and UT Austin. The panel first convened on Sunday 2 August at the Humanities Research Institute at Kyoto University (Jinbunken), and then again during the Congress. Dr Jackson explored the business backgrounds of the men who ran the Shanghai International Settlement’s Shanghai Municipal Council, arguing for the need to understand the political infrastructure in the treaty ports, while Sabrina Fairchild looked at Fuzhou’s position within global and imperial shipping infrastructure to better understand change in the treaty port’s maritime networks. Robert Bickers served as chair and discussant.

Discussion explored the need to understand the physical infrastructures that facilitated the growth of the network of treaty ports and port cities, as well as the need to think across borders – treaty ports are usually considered solely within national frameworks – and to understand how Chinese and other Asian communities made use of the infrastructures that evolved. Law and treaties, it was concluded, needed to be better understood and more routinely discussed. The panel was unusual in bringing together historians of Japan, and of China, and we emerged with a clear sense of the need to exchange views more routinely. The discussion in many ways built on the BICC phase 2 ‘Chinese Urban Studies Network’, led by Isabella Jackson, as well as on the pioneering research of co-organisers Kagotani Naoto  from KU, and economic historian of Japan Mark Metzler from UT Austin. It was also one of three panels at the Congress that explored treaty ports in nineteenth and twentieth century Asia, as port cities, ‘logistics clusters’, and as sites of the work of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service.

The BICC team also had meetings with KU colleagues, including Professors Toshihiko Kishi  and Kanazawa Shusaku, to discuss future potential collaborations and exchanges. British ties with colleagues in Japan in modern Chinese studies could be much stronger. Japanese resources for modern Chinese history are strong, and the expertise is deeply rooted, and the Kyoto Bridge activities have, we believe, materially strengthened connections between the research communities in BICC and the Research Center for Modern and Contemporary China KU, one of the network of Centers funded by Japan’s National Institutes for the Humanities.