Three and a half years ago, pen and paper in hand, I sat down to watch Disney’s 1998 animated film Mulan for the first time since it was originally released. I came to the task with some uneasiness. I was in the midst of writing Women Warriors. The historical (or perhaps legendary) figure Mulan is…

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I will admit that I approached historian James Carter’s book Champion’s Day: The End of Old Shanghai with seriously mixed feelings. On the one hand, I spent some time last year reading about the International Settlement in Shanghai in the 1930s while I was working on a piece on self-styled “girl reporter” Peggy Hull  I…

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Historical texts sometimes take surprising forms. The earliest Chinese written records for instance are the “oracle bones” that were used in used in the art of “scapulimancy”, or bone divination, in Shang dynasty China (ca. 1600 -1046 BCE). The language used on the oracle bones was rediscovered in 1899 by a Chinese scholar named Wang,…

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