China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Kenneth Hammond, New Mexico State University
Discussant: Marsha S. Weidner, University of Kansas
The polarity between local and empire-wide phenomena is fundamental to understanding later imperial Chinese society and culture. The literati elite, in particular, were both leaders in local life and the dominant strata in the affairs of the empire as a whole. Local social, cultural, and political forces often conflicted with broader interests of the imperial state. Cultural production provided an important arena for articulating local consciousness, expressing pride of place and asserting the special qualities of a particular locality. Yet this local sensibility was also situated in a larger context, and participated in a discourse which transcended its autochthonous limits.
This panel presents four case studies of cultural production expressing local consciousness in the Ming. Kandice Hauf discusses the early development of the Jiangyou group of followers of Wang Yangming as an example of a cultural movement which was local before expanding to the national level. Ken Hammond examines the garden writings of Wang Shizhen to reveal a nested hierarchy of local identity extending from Wangs hometown, Taicang, to the broader Jiangnan region. Kathleen Ryor presents the paintings of Xu Wei as a set of images of specifically local phenomena from his home region of Shaoxing, designed to appeal to either local consumers or to act as visual proxies for patrons absent from the local scene. Catherine Swatek studies a cleavage in the operas of Li Yu between those extant only in manuscript and those in printed form to determine if this reflects different publics for his operas, local or national.
Kandice Hauf, Babson College
This paper examines the early development of the Jiangyou group of followers of Wang Yangming as an example of a cultural movement which was local before, an as, its influence expanded to the national level. Both the Jiangyou men and writers of Jiangxi local gazeteers expressed pride of place by locating this sixteenth century movement within a continuum of literati praxis dating from the Song dynasty.
Through their activities as officials, and especially as members of the local elite (retired officials), the Jiangyou men worked to transform, not merely maintain, the political and social order. Through the organization of academy meetings, the establishment of shrines, advocacy of reform in local society, and in their writings, they offered subtle critiques of political despotism and the social consequences of commercialization.
By analyzing the importance of local consciousness in the development of this cultural movement, and by situating it within the national discourse, this study enriches our understanding of the polarity between local and national phenomena during the later imperial period.
Kenneth J. Hammond, New Mexico State University
Recent studies by Craig Clunas, Joanna Handlin Smith and others have highlighted the crucial role played by gardens in the social and political life of Ming dynasty China. As a mode of display for both economic and cultural capital, and as a quasi public space for carrying on social interaction and negotiation, gardens formed part of the structural landscape of the literati class. In this paper I explore the use of garden narratives, descriptions of gardens, in promoting local consciousness, or pride of place, as a dimension of literati discourse and cultural dominance.
Using a set of essays by Wang Shizhen (152690), a literatus from the Jiangnan town of Taicang, as my primary texts, I argue that Wang describes a nested hierarchy of identity for himself and other literati, extending from his own gardens to gardens in his hometown, in the broader Jiangnan region, and finally to gardens as an empire wide, transdynastic expression of the literatis role as a hegemonic elite.
Kathleen Ryor, Carleton College
Although he significantly influenced many artists of the seventeenth century, the artistic reputation of the eccentric writer, calligrapher and painter Xu Wei (15211593) was primarily limited to the region around his hometown of Shaoxing during his lifetime. Unlike prominent late Ming literati painters, who associated with other artists renowned in their lifetime for their art, Xu Wei had contact with only "minor" painters. Because his family had lost most of their wealth and he failed the juren examination eight times, Xu was forced to engage a variety of careers to support himself. Since his painting practice started relatively late in life, he had only a local reputation as an artist. As a result, the imagery evoked in his paintings relates specifically to local phenomenon in order to appeal to local clients of varying social levels, seeking to partake of the luxury commodities and cultural environment of Jiangnan. As a man whose literary fame was well established, but whose reputation as a painter was not, Xu sought to incorporate his literary skills, his reputation as a non-conformist, and a self-consciously expressive painting style in works of art which could then be marketed as authentic literati products to anonymous buyers who wanted access to elite culture. In works done for intimates, Xu consistently relates his painted flowers and plants to particular local places or phenomenon. In scrolls which were intended for sale in the marketplace, his evocation of the Shaoxing region is more generalized in order to make a broader appeal. Xu Weis paintings thus use local imagery and reputation as a means of promoting his art as well as a way of communicating experiences specific to the region of Shaoxing to both those who are intimate with it and those who desire "the flavors of Jiangnan."
Catherine Swatek, University of British Columbia
Li Yu (c. 1586c. 1667), whose career spans the Ming-Qing transition, identified strongly with his native Suzhou. Many of his operas are set there, and for many of them Li drew on materials of local provenance. He led a group of Suzhou playwrights that gave fresh direction to Kun opera, by 1600 the "hegemonic" style. The subject matter of his operas varied, appealing to a broader public than that for Kun opera heretofore. However, many of the playtexts survive only in manuscript, suggesting that they did not circulate widely, as did Kun playtexts published a generation earlier, many of which were envisioned as models for playwrights from other regions to emulate. Lis career must be understood in a context different from that for earlier Suzhou playwrights who had sought to make the Kun opera a national style.
I will survey Li Yus extant oeuvre to determine, first, whether meaningful distinctions can be made between plays in manuscript and in printed form, and second, whether the respective formats differ in ways which suggest different uses and readership. Do the formats of Lis playtexts differ from those of editions published by earlier Suzhou playwrights who designed them for a national readership? If so, do the differences suggest that Li Yu wrote for a public centered in Suzhou? Rather than concentrate on one opera, I will examine the cleavage in Lis oeuvre between operas with and without a Suzhou focus, asking if this cleavage correlates with variables such as different envisioned publics and different performance histories.