China & Inner Asia: Table of Contents
Organizer and Chair: Kathryn Lowry, University of California, Santa Barbara
Discussant: Judith T. Zeitlin, University of Chicago
The great cities of the Jiangnan region in the seventeenth century: Suzhou, Yangzhou and Nanjing are described in travel writings, minor essays and gazetteers as well as in painting and belles lettres. Other specialized publications such as letter collections, albums about courtesans, and local lore and songs play expressly on interest in the metropolis and its inhabitants. Numerous writers describe the distinct nature of urban experience, noting printing, commerce, and leisure activities made urban centers a vital source of inspiration. The image of the city was shaped through the activities of elite who consecrated the sites they frequented, thus building the citys reputation. This aspect of writing about cities is particularly important to seventeenth-century elite self representation.
All of the papers take up a common issue: urban culture almost overrides the physical space of the city in importance. We know that elite were mobile and corresponded with elite in other cities. To what extent did allegiance to a particularor generalizedurban milieu shape late imperial culture? How did this change across the Ming Qing divide? Each panelist will examine how different literary and visual forms describe the cultural space of the cities of Jiangnan, relating those forms to the context of their production.
By taking an interdisciplinary approach to the study of seventeenth-century culture and the human and spatial networks that shaped it, we hope to create a forum for scholars to examine change and continuity in these cities. Presentations will consist of summary comments to be followed by open, seminar-style discussion with those in attendance.
Kathryn Lowry, University of California, Santa Barbara
The damaging tax policies of the founding Ming emperor dampened Suzhous cultural life, but by mid-Ming the city had been restored to its former position as a cultural center and city of commerce. It was without question the jewel of Jiangnan, a place for literary gatherings, renowned for its gardens and monuments, collectors and painters. The city set fashions for the empire, particularly its arts, as seen in the national popularity of the regional form of Kun opera (from Suzhous satellite city).
The Suzhou dialect was long celebrated for its gentle and sinuous qualities. Yet in the early seventeenth century, when the writers Feng Menglong and Xu Fuzuo anthologized materials about Suzhou dialect and local customs they opened up a new subject matter. Xu Fuzuos random notes on Suzhou neglect literati activities in favor of local festivals and lore. Fengs anthology of Shange (Mountain songs) meticulously records features of the dialect and local customs. The content of these songs in dialect, however, largely concerns the world of the pleasure quarters, as did two other works he had a hand in, the Beauties of Suzhou (Wuji baimei) and the Anatomy of Love (Qing shi lei lue) that celebrate the talented courtesans and flamboyant personalities of Suzhou.
I consider the appearance of dialect literature and new forms of description of the city as a symptom of change in the cultural milieu of Suzhou in late Ming. The writings represent the city in its particularity, using language and a format accessible to less educated people. I shall try to explain what makes these writers and their associates Suzhou writers, and explore the intersection between romanticism and a search for authenticity, on the one hand, and growing commercialization of literature, on the other.
Nancy Norton Tomasko, Bryn Mawr College
Literati in seventeenth-century China saw the city as a vital station on the road to the future, specifically their individual futures as scholars, creative writers, artists and officials. The city was essential to the development of the aspects that allowed a man of aspiration to call himself a man-of-letters. This panel posits that in seventeenth-century China, both before and after the dynastic cataclysm, man-made urban spaces, rather than pristine, natural settings, were the locus of literati life and inspiration. Cities drew literati, and the activity of literati, in turn, enhanced and redefined the city.
My paper will look at what Zhong Xing ΔΑi (15741625) wrote about his interaction with the increasingly varied and advanced elements of material culture available in cities. From 1600 to the end of his life in 1625, Zhong Xing lived in three major metropolitan areas far from his home in northern Jingling (30 3® variously 0 3®), Huguang. In the cities of Beijing, Nanjing, and Suzhou, this often-reviled man-of-letters actively and self-consciously participated in and devised occasions for cultural interaction. His many invitations to his brothers and friends to travel to these urban places to join him in these experiences read as promotional literature for urban development. The cities provided access, all in one place, to patrons, teachers, friends, books and publishing, art, entertainment, leisure, education, ideas, writing, and scholarshipprecisely the things that defined a man-of-letters in traditional Chinese culture. I will try to show that the renown of cities in seventeenth-century Ming China was built on the cultural access sites available in those cities, access through which the individual might establish his own name.
Tobie Meyer-Fong, Stanford University
The prominence of particular scenic sites in the literati imagination was linked to the fortunes of the cities in which they were located. Scenic sites and their celebrators were both source and symptom of a citys reputation and position in the cultural hierarchy of place in Late Imperial China. Yangzhou reached its economic zenith only in the eighteenth century, but the city emerged as a cultural contender during the late seventeenth century, when a cohort of officials and literati endowed the city with new meaning. In this paper, I will examine the consecration of one site, Red Bridge, that acquired new significance as a place for elite gatherings. I also will demonstrate that representations of urban space were simultaneously born of a transregional elite culture and situated in their local urban context.
During the 1660s, Red Bridge acquired legitimacy through its connection to the young Qing official and poet Wang Shizhen, who sponsored several parties there. The poetry composed at these parties was published and also was transmitted orally. The bridge subsequently was incorporated into the lineage of cultural conventions that marked elite leisure and the locations in which leisure was engaged. Indeed, subsequent officials associated themselves with Wang Shizhen by gathering at the Bridge, and visitors familiar with Wangs poetry also visited the site as tourists. By studying the processes through which Red Bridge became a destination in Yangzhou, I will explore the ways in which an individuals actions shaped the representation of the site and of the city.