2007 Annual Meeting


[ China & Inner Asia, Table of Contents ]

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Rock, Paper, Scissors: Stone Inscriptions, Local Gazetteers, and the Regional Past in Imperial China

Organizer: Christian de Pee, University of Michigan

Chair: Hiroshi Ihara, Institute of Civilization and Society, Japan

Discussant: Bettine Birge, University of Southern California

Stone inscriptions and local gazetteers are local texts not only in the sense that they were written by local residents with individual, local knowledge, but also in the sense that they are rooted in the local landscape itself, where they configure, reconfigure, and give meaning to their surroundings. Although the placeless conventions of classical Chinese writing ever impinge upon these local sources (subjecting regional difference to literary convention, or stripping mutilated texts from their carved rocks to press them into the generic pages of printed anthologies), critical analysis of stone inscriptions and local gazetteers does yet afford a more detailed understanding of local elites, local society, and local culture in imperial China. The first two papers of this panel examine formal and political aspects of two prominent genres of local writing, while the latter two papers explore the possibility of writing regional history in a manner informed by a knowledge of such generic conventions. Angela Schottenhammer analyzes the important differences between funerary inscriptions found in tombs and their diminished versions transmitted in print above ground. Sue Takashi reconstructs the politics of representing regional culture in Zhu Changwen’s Supplement to the Gazetteer of Wu Prefecture, a Northern Song local gazetteer. Through stele inscriptions and other local texts, Christian de Pee attempts to retrieve discursive juxtapositions in the vanished landscape of Song-dynasty Luoyang. Anne Gerritsen uses temple inscriptions and genealogies to trace changes in the local culture of Jingdezhen as its porcelain industry became integrated into a global economy.

A Buried Past: Tomb Inscriptions (muzhiming) on Stone and on Paper

Angela Schottenhammer, University of Munich, Germany

The study of tomb inscriptions (muzhiming) requires a distinction between archaeological stone inscriptions, which were literally buried with the deceased in their tombs, and literary versions transmitted on paper. Since tomb inscriptions were often composed by famous scholar-officials and literati, many are preserved in collected works (wenji) as well as in anthologies, writing manuals, and other collections. The fame of the authors ensured, above all, that many tomb inscriptions survived in the form of rubbings from the original stone. A comparison between the archaeological and the “paper” versions is of major importance to the historian of China because authors and editors have deleted, added, or otherwise changed historical, biographical, or other information, according to their particular purposes. Although tomb inscriptions often served as the basis for official biographies, a person portrayed in an unflattering light in the official accounts may appear in a more prepossessing guise in a tomb inscription. The authors of official histories might also omit valuable historical information if it was not of their interest. In addition, there are numerous archaeological tomb inscriptions of officials, women, and other persons that were never included in official histories or literary collections, and that describe facts and events otherwise unknown. The comparison of tomb inscriptions on stone and paper, finally, also sheds light on the intentions of the authors of these inscriptions. In my paper I shall analyze some illustrative examples to elucidate these matters.

Revelations of a Missing Paragraph: Zhu Changwen and the Compilation of Local Gazetteers in the Northern Song

Takashi Sue, Nihon University, Japan

Zhu Changwen’s Supplement to the Gazetteer of Wu Prefecture (Wujun tujing xuji) is one of only two Northern Song local gazetteers extant today. Despite its rarity, however, the unique characteristics of this text as an historical document have not received much attention. The preface to the gazetteer and the biography of its author both set forth Zhu Changwen’s basic reasons for undertaking the compilation of this gazetteer, but its particular shape is explained only by a paragraph that was omitted from Zhu’s funerary inscription. From this paragraph we learn that Zhu Changwen opposed the arbitrary administrative boundaries drawn under Wang Anshi’s New Laws (Xinfa) and that he rejected the narrow, standardized format for gazetteers demanded by the imperial government. Instead of providing merely the geographic and strategic information that imperial guidelines required, Zhu chose to record in extensive detail the local culture of Suzhou. Many of his contemporaries shared Zhu’s interest in regional culture, and the civil officials in the imperial government, too, gradually came to prefer more comprehensive gazetteers. The detailed local gazetteers of the Southern Song and later dynasties continued this trend. The paragraph omitted from Zhu Changwen’s funerary inscription, in other words, helps identify his Supplement as a polemic work of regional identity, written in a time when the imperial government and local scholars vied for control over the representation of regional landscapes and cultural geographies in local gazetteers.

A Vanished Landscape: Local Texts and Historical Space in Song-dynasty Luoyang

Christian de Pee, University of Michigan

Luoyang was an historic city, with its ruins of ancient palaces and its tombs of famous men. Luoyang was a Buddhist city, with its venerable White Horse Monastery and its prolific Longmen caves. Luoyang was a cultured city, with its elegant gardens and its community of scholars. Luoyang was a treasured geomantic site, its mountains and rivers forming an auspicious, harmonious pattern. The Song imperial court was eager to muster these resources, choosing Luoyang as its secondary capital, sponsoring the construction of additional caves at Longmen, recruiting members of Luoyang’s scholarly families, and constructing an imperial cemetery in its numinous environs. The founding emperor of Song, in fact, had intended to move his capital to Luoyang, “in order to eliminate warfare by taking advantage of the power of its mountains and rivers, and to follow the precedent of Zhou and Han so as to establish peace in the realm.” Published collections of stele inscriptions and epitaphs, Li Gefei’s Record of Famous Gardens of Luoyang, Shao Bowen’s description of his father’s scholarly community in Record of Things Heard and Seen, and other local texts help re-imagine the intricate historical landscape of Song. Although the conversion of carved rock into printed paper has removed inscriptions from their material form in the landscape, to circulate in a timeless, generic textual space, the historical landscape does at times emerge through the printed landscape of local texts.

Fragments of a Global Past: Local Sources in Jingdezhen

Anne T. Gerritsen, Warwick University, England

For many centuries, ceramics produced in Jingdezhen traveled the globe. Wares from Jingdezhen, manufactured to please East Asian, Indian, Middle-Eastern, and European consumers, traversed oceans and continents, inspiring new technologies and designs at their points of destination. Global historians, art historians, and economic historians have all written extensively on the subject, tracking the travels of Jingdezhen porcelain through sources worldwide. What they do not write about is Jingdezhen. We know far less about how Jingdezhen itself responded and changed as it was drawn into a global economy. In large part this is due to the nature of the local sources; materials from Jingdezhen—tomb inscriptions, temple inscriptions, genealogies, gazetteers—conjure up an image of a county town like any other, obscuring from view any local awareness of global connections. Recent research has provided us with excellent insights into the extent to which the Ming and Qing empires were part of the early modern global economy as South American silver flooded into the country, as ports facilitated trade, and diasporic communities in coastal regions flourished. The extent to which local sources can serve to shed light on global history, however, remains to be explored. This paper seeks to examine the apparent tension between global and local sources by reading the locally produced materials as sources for global history, so as to reveal the ways in which global economic connections transformed cultural practices in the wider Jingdezhen area.