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Welcome to my Userpage.

I am a long time student, teacher, and scholar of China who has published books and articles in the field, as well as articles in some half dozen encyclopedias, including Encylopedia Britannica. I have lived in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan and traveled widely in mainland China and Asia. My graduate school training was in Modern China, but I have taught at universities in the United States and East Asia on topics covering the whole range of East Asian history, including Chinese and Japanese film.

The experience which inspires me the most, however, is teaching undergraduates, working with secondary school teachers, and giving talks to the public. When I look at a Wikipedia article, I try to make it useful to them, rather than express my own views or research interests.

The excitement of Wikipedia is the number of smart and dedicated editors. I am constantly impressed with the care and energy they spend. Often, however, I draw on my experience as a teacher more than on my scholarly work. The challenge is to be helpful to actual readers rather than expand an article with names, event, and references. Fortunately, Wikipedia policies are a great help. Often there is a challenging discussion in which I try to make my views known and convince people. If I can't, it's probably because: 1) I'm wrong. 2) I haven't thought through my points clearly enough to explain them convincingly, or 3) I need to give my fellow editors a little more time.

I enthusiastically endorse the Wikipedia spirit that gives no precedence to "authorities" On the Internet, Nobody Knows That I'm a Dog -- or a PhD. You have to prove your case. On the other hand, editors do not always seem ready to listen even to well grounded arguments.

Unfortunately, many of my academic colleagues do not respect or trust Wikipedia, and I have to sympathize with them. As a college teacher, I do not assign articles. Too many are long, unruly, or poorly sourced. At this stage in the development of Wikipedia, we need a consensus to raise all the China articles to the standards of the best of them.

Although I have started a number of articles, most of my work has been to edit and develop existing articles One set of articles and edits deals with Americans who lived in China [1], scholars who wrote about China [2], and books about China. Another interest is Chinese literature, which intrigues me more and more.

Here are a couple of observations which I'm working on now:

  1. No Original Research is neglected when we use online resources such as Google Search to find newspaper or magazine articles from the time of the original event rather than using up-to-date and verifiable English language secondary sources. I have the impression that too often an editor finds a striking piece of information or an out of the way source, and then looks for a home for it rather than looking at an article and trying to see what it needs. On the other hand, the Internet has rich resources which we would be foolish to neglect. We do not want to limit our pool of editors to people who can use university libraries.
  2. Why We Can't Use Primary Sources: Wikipedia: No original research is a policy article which says "rely mainly on published reliable secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. The article on identifying reliable source is an excellent short explanation. I wish I had written it. I especially admire the section Reliable source, which says "Articles should rely on secondary sources whenever possible."All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary-source material by Wikipedia editors." Wikipedia:Identifying reliable sources#Primary, secondary, and tertiary sources explains the differences, but in a nutshell, a Primary Source is an eye-witness account or document from the time. It is frustrating but entirely justifiable that Wikipedia policy does not allow us to use eye-witness missionaries or diplomats.
  3. Why is this a good policy? Some will say that using eye-witnesses or Primary Sources is common sense -- isn't an eyewitness or a report from the time the event took place more reliable than something written years or even centuries later? Well, no, or at least not reliably. Eye witnesses often conflict, have a built in bias, misrepresent what they saw, or are recorded after the fact. Primary sources often are incomplete, scattered, hidden, or difficult to interpret.
  4. Why It's a Good Policy to Avoid Relying on Tertiary Sources: "Tertiary Sources" means general textbooks, encyclopedias, and books which rely on secondary sources. Tertiary sources can be good if the author is familiar with the primary sources in the field. The principle is to get the source which is based on an expert's evaluation and synthesis of primary sources. A reliable source will also be one which is published in a place where it is aimed at specialists who will tear it to pieces if it's wrong. No source is infallible, but some are less fallible than others.
  5. How do we find good secondary sources? In a a field like Chinese history or culture, as opposed to science or popular music, for instance, it's going to be some work. Wikipedia:Identifying_reliable_sources#Scholarship talks about what they are. I'm afraid the bad news is that we can't just search Google Books, though this is a terrific resource which we should all take advantage of. But the place to begin is a good public or college library. Locate solid works from reputable academic or scholarly presses. Another wonderful tool is WorldCat, which often will give a link to a Google book. The best source may not have a Preview, and in that case it might be possible to get the book from a local library, perhaps through inter-library loan. In many cases if you are going to work on a particular set of topics, you can buy good sources in paperback. They may be available second hand from a local store or online at AbeBooks, Alibris, or Bookfinder.
  6. A trickier challenge is to preserve NPOV, proportion, and balance. Our writing does not need to be bland or evasive: NPOV does not mean "No Point of View." The state of the field must be represented, including minority and dissenting views, but we do not have to give equal representation to Flat Earthers or outliers. The topics I am interested in are controversial and have conflicting points of view, many but not all of which are valid, and some of which are fringe.

I will add further comments here as time allows.


Selected articles (ten or more substantive edits)[edit]

Sandbox and User Pages[edit]

Sub-pages [3]]

Boxer Drafts [4]