Visual and Textual Portrayals of “Barbarian” Peoples in Late Imperial China

11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Dmitri Maiatckii
  • Nikolay Samoylov, Chair
  • Dmitri Maiatckii, “Qing Ethnographic Albums: Political, Functional, or Commercial Goals?”
  • Joachim Mittag, “Charting the Non-Chinese Peoples in Late Ming: The Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu, 1591) and the Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui, c. 1609)”
  • Hang Lin, “Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands: Knowledge and Imagination of the World in Late Ming China”
  • Martin Hofmann, “Of Giants, Dogs, and Trees with Heads: Accounts of Distant Countries in Late Imperial Visual and Textual Sources”

Under the combined influence of ancient description and increased maritime activities, China from the fifteenth century witnessed a broad range of literary and visual materials which depict non-Han peoples in and outside China. These materials consist of various genres, including ethnographic pictorials, historical and geographical works, maps, and pieces of classical poetry and prose. As sources of the exotic, they provide abundant information, both real and imagined, on “barbarian” peoples, ranging from physical appearance, history, daily life and folkloristic customs as well as of the geographical location and natural conditions of their respective lands. Even though not always factual, these portrayals in some cases offer a glimpse into the lives of peoples about whom we otherwise know very little. At the same time, these sources reflect traditional Chinese spatial and political concepts, in particular the tribute system. Through an examination of several sources that include visual and textual accounts of “barbarian” peoples, this panel aims to analyse how different modes of representation complemented each other in these works and what functions did this combination serve. By making a conversation with these materials, it further explores to what extent the portrayals in specific text genres differed from each other when dealing with peoples within the Chinese realm, those neighbouring China, or those in the far-away distance.

Dmitri Maiatckii, “Qing Ethnographic Albums: Political, Functional, or Commercial Goals?”

During the Qing Dynasty there appeared a variety of ethnographic albums in China. The library of St. Petersburg State University possesses a collection of at least eight handmade and one xylographic ethnographic albums created in the 18th and 19th centuries. They include Diansheng yixi yinan yiren tushuo (滇省迤西迤南夷人圖, 43 pictures), Quanqian miaotu (全黔苗圖, 28 pictures), two albums of Yunnan minorities without a title (72 and 74 pictures), Huang Qing zhi gong tu and four albums by Zhou Peichun (周培春, in total 117 pictures). The illustrative material of the albums portrays physical appearance, everyday life activities of Han and non-Han people, living mainly in Beijing, Yunnan, Guizhou, and some other places.
The aims of drawing the pictures were quite different. Zhou Peichun made pictures on his own initiative for “export” (waixiaohua 外銷畫), to earn money, to introduce foreigners to Chinese everyday life, trade, and culture. The other albums were created for “internal use”, since they were ordered by the Chinese Emperor or officials who wanted to know more about these peoples. All of the illustrations are supplied with titles, some of them go with annotations. In one case they are even accompanied by the maps of the localities in question.
The albums are an invaluable source of information for those who study the activities that disappeared in the Chinese capital and national territories a long time ago.

Joachim Mittag, “Charting the Non-Chinese Peoples in Late Ming: The Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu, 1591) and the Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui, c. 1609)”

Geographic and ethnographic interest in the non-Chinese peoples culminated in the mid-and late Ming 明 (c. 1530–1650). A formidable example of this trend is the work entitled Records of All the Guest Peoples (Xian bin lu 咸賓錄), compiled by Luo Yuejiong 羅曰聚 (dates unknown) in 1591. Using the conventional classification of the “barbarians” according to the four cardinal directions, this work surveys altogether 105 states and peoples which had sent tribute to the Ming court. In the great Visual Collection Presenting the Three Spheres (Sancai tuhui 三才圖會, c. 1609) this number is increased to 171 and an image is added for each people entried, thus being the earliest extant most comprehensive visualisation of non-Chinese peoples. The large increase of entries is mostly accounted for by the inclusion of mythical, legendary, or fantastic peoples from the rich folklore tradition. Leaving the illustrations of these peoples aside, the paper will focus on the encyclopaedic striving after picturing the plenitude of known and actually existing peoples.

Hang Lin, “Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands: Knowledge and Imagination of the World in Late Ming China”

This paper aims to provide a better understanding of Ming China’s complex knowledge and lively fantasies about the cosmos and its inhabitants through an examination of the Illustrated Record of the Exotic Lands (Yiyu tuzhi 異域圖志), an illustrated text that was one of the most comprehensive and popular sources of documentation about exotic lands and peoples. Assembling images and descriptions, it encompasses entries of 190 real and imagined countries and polities across Asia, the Indian Ocean region, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Focusing on the hitherto only known copy of the book in the collection of the Cambridge University Library, it will trace the production and circulation routes of these pictorials, mixed with conventional stereotypes and contemporary information from maritime activities, and then explicate how it fell into neglect but revived as a popular text under its alternative title Rubric of Various Barbarians (Zhuyi men 諸夷門) included in different daily-use encyclopedias. In this way, the illustrations and descriptions of the foreigners and foreign lands gained its firm place in the system of knowledge in the Ming. This analysis shall recover a sense of its specific relevance to the cultural and social world of late-Ming China, as well as to observe how these pictorials and descriptions formed part of a global system of exchange involving not only material objects but also forms of knowledge fashioning.

Martin Hofmann, “Of Giants, Dogs, and Trees with Heads: Accounts of Distant Countries in Late Imperial Visual and Textual Sources”

Various late imperial sources include portrayals of foreign countries and their inhabitants with peculiar mixtures of ethnographic and novelistic accounts. This paper will focus on a small number of distant countries. By analysing how Chinese scholars described them in books, and to which places they spatially assigned them on maps, it will demonstrate that the notions of these countries were not uniform. Chinese scholars drew on different sources, collected the information for distinct purposes, and enlisted diverse visual and textual means to highlight the characteristics of the foreigners. The diversity of descriptions suggests that there was not a single coherent perception of foreign countries at a given time, but that different world-views coexisted. Thus, rather than assuming liner progress from fantastic to factual accounts, this paper attempts explore how different textual and visual accounts mutually informed each other, and what information was genre-specific or used only in particular contexts.

Beyond China

The Long-Distance Transmission of Knowledge and Technology from the Bronze Age to the PRC
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 2

  • Organised by Dongming Wu
  • Yijun Wang, Chair
  • Dongming Wu, “Exchanges beyond the Western Zhou World: Remodeling the Metal Economy in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1045–771 BCE)”
  • Yijun Wang, “Migrant Miners and Global Trade: Transmission of Tin Mining Technology from China to Southeast Asia, 1700–1850s”
  • Yuanxie Shi, “European Lace, China Made: Localisation of Chaoshan Lace Production in the 20th Century China”
  • Dongxin Zou, “Women in Reproduction and Representation: Chinese Obstetric Care in Rural Algeria and Morocco”

From the Bronze Age to PRC China, knowledge and technology travelled across regional and cultural borders with the movement of people and commodities, bringing social, and cultural changes. Concerning the long-distance transmission of the knowledge and technology of mining, textile, and medicine between China, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa, this panel looks at how technology moved across geo-cultural boundaries and how the movement of knowledge transformed social networks, political economy, and cultural perceptions in three millenniums. Dongming Wu discusses the transmission of bronze goods and technology within and beyond the Western Zhou world. He shows how the metal economy contributed to the formation of political-economic networks in the Western Zhou (1045–771 BCE). Yijun Wang follows the transmission of tin mining technology from China to Southeast Asia from 1700 to 1850s. She demonstrates that the social organisation of Chinese miners played a key role in the successful spread of Chinese mining technology. Yuanxie Shi examines the localisation of European lace production in Guangdong province in the Republican period to show how traditional craft skills affected the geographical distribution of labour in the modern textile industry. Through a study of Chinese medical aid in north Africa, Dongxin Zou shows how the cross-cultural experience of Chinese female doctors constructed the nostalgic perception of socialist health care in post-Mao China. Standing at the intersection of the history of technology and medicine, this panel contributes to the understanding between knowledge, culture, society, and power.

Dongming Wu, “Exchanges beyond the Western Zhou World: Remodeling the Metal Economy in the Western Zhou Dynasty (1045–771 BCE)”

This paper examines how the transmission of bronze goods, casting technology, and the bronze culture of the Zhou dynasty contributed to the formation of the network of the metal economy within and beyond the Western Zhou world. The Western Zhou economy has been regarded as a redistributive model in which strategic resources were regulated by the central court. In discussing new archaeological evidence from southern China, this paper adopts a bottom-up perspective to discuss the limitations of the central court in the borderland and the agents involved in the metal economy. I identify three political-economic powers: the central court, the regional states established by the Zhou, and the local peoples beyond the Zhou world. Although the central court held the authorities in ideological and technological powers, they had to rely on the regional states to secure the long-distance transmission routes, who seized the opportunities to develop themselves and even rebelled against the core. Moreover, the central court relied on local peoples to exploit raw material and used foreign traders to reduce the costs of direct management, who selectively adopted cultural forms rather than waiting to be annexed by the centre. By demonstrating the vital roles of different players in the metal economy, this paper reexamines the redistributive model and argues that the maintenance of the Western Zhou economies results from the negotiation and cooperation of different political-economic powers within and beyond the Zhou world.

Yijun Wang, “Migrant Miners and Global Trade: Transmission of Tin Mining Technology from China to Southeast Asia, 1700–1850s”

This paper examines tin mining technology and its transmission from the east coast of China to Southeast Asia in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Beginning in the 1700s, tin became an international commodity that was as important as silver in the global trade. Following the itinerary of tin and the migration of miners, this paper discusses how Chinese miners transferred their mining technology across regional boundaries. Furthermore, it explores how Chinese intellectuals and European natural philosophers understood Chinese technology of mining. This paper argues that in contrast to our current perception of industrial technology, which emphasises machinery and tools, the social technology of mining was the key for Chinese miners to establish a capital- and labour-intensive industry. The social technology of mining, which was embedded in the social organisation of the Chinese mining community, enabled the long-distance travel of technology from China to Southeast Asia. On the other hand, the close connection between the social organisation and mining technology also limited the spread of large-scale mining operations from Chinese migrant communities to native communities in Southeast Asia.

Yuanxie Shi, “European Lace, China Made: Localisation of Chaoshan Lace Production in the 20th Century China”

The paper concerns the localisation of Western technology in twentieth-century China by examining the export lace industry in Shantou and Chaozhou in Guangdong Province. Often regarded as a quintessential Western craft and technology, lacemaking was first introduced by Western missionary groups to Chinese port cities in the late 19th century.
With the development of the industry throughout the 20th century, lace designers incorporated Chinese taste (e.g. blue-and-white or polychrome colouration) as well as traditional iconographies (e.g. dragons and phoenix) into visual expressions, which expanded Western lace vocabulary at large. Moreover, newspapers and government reports of the Republican Period claimed that rural female artisans applied indigenous Chaozhou-embroidery techniques onto the making of lace products. For instance, padded embroidery (diangao xiu) was used to imitate the raised relief effect of those made in Appenzell, Switzerland or Madeira, Portugal. Yet, such a localisation process is often difficult and ambiguous to identify due to the visual and technical similarities, but the claimed localness uncovers another layer in the process: technology is socially perceived. Locally perceived technology further impacted the social organisation of production. The specialisation of local skills shaped the distribution of orders and labours among cities, suburbs, and villages, which I would call “geo-technicality.”

Dongxin Zou, “Women in Reproduction and Representation: Chinese Obstetric Care in Rural Algeria and Morocco”

This paper examines the obstetric care provided by Chinese women ob-gyns in Algeria and Morocco and their perceptions of local reproductive culture and ideas of the female body. The Chinese government has sent medical teams since 1963 to mostly rural provinces of Algeria and 1975 to Morocco, to offer primary health care for rural and suburban communities. Among a whole range of medical branches in the Chinese service, obstetrics and gynaecology practised by almost all women doctors have been in persistently high demand. This paper explores this little-known history of China’s medical engagement in post-colonial North Africa, and in particular, the experiences of women professionals—not white middle-class women as variables for all women—in health care, and the complexities of their association with their women patients. Drawing on an ever-expanding pool of Chinese medical “mission literature”—medical reports, doctors’ testimonies, and published memoirs, this paper argues that while Chinese women ob-gyns claimed “sisterly” solidarity and sympathy with their patients, they essentialised the North African female patient as ignorant and vulnerable. Furthermore, this paper explores a reversed process of using “peripheral” experiences to reflect upon the medical system and health care culture in China. It argues that the doctors’ experiences in North Africa offered them a comparative venue to construct a nostalgia for a lost golden past—or a past that never was—of socialist medicine as well as a site of criticism about the moral tensions between doctors and patients in China’s for-profit health care system.

Religion in Late Imperial Narrative

11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room B

  • Organised by Andrea Kreuzpointner
  • Vincent Durand-Dastès, Chair
  • Andrea Kreuzpointner, “Xiwangmu References in Ming Novels and their Influence by Ming Theatre as Examples of Popular Religion?”
  • Barbara Witt, “The Late Ming Book Market for Popular Religion”
  • Lucrezia Zanzottera, “Inner Alchemy in Yaohuazhuan: An Example of nüdan?”

In late imperial China, religion and narrative literature were not separate entities, but rather different aspects of a shared cultural landscape. As such, religious themes surfaced in many shapes or forms in vernacular novels. They ranged from crude displays of divine fighting powers, through hagiographical narratives and sermon-like allegories to sophisticated metaphors of advanced practices of Daoist Inner Alchemy or Buddhist philosophy. This panel will highlight three very different embodiments of religious themes in Ming and Qing dynasty narrative literature. Andrea Kreuzpointner will outline depictions of Xiwangmu 西王母 across several popular late Ming novels as well as theatre plays and the traces of Daoist culture found in those. Barbara Witt seeks to uncover the market mechanisms behind the large increase in publications of religious knowledge, popular vernacular narratives, and hagiographical novels in the late Ming and early Qing. Finally, Lucrezia Zanzottera’s paper analyses the hypothesis that the Qing vernacular novel Yaohuazhuan 瑤華傳 (1803) by Ding Bingren 丁秉仁 presents an example of female Inner Alchemy treaty (nüdan 女丹).

Andrea Kreuzpointner, “Xiwangmu References in Ming Novels and their Influence by Ming Theatre as Examples of Popular Religion?”

“The Queen Mother of the West” Xiwangmu 西王母 has been an integral part of Chinese text and art history since the Western Han Dynasty (207 B.C.–7 A.D.). Early sources like the Shanhaijing 山海經, the Lunheng 論衡, or the Zhuangzi 莊子 describe her as a crown wearing beast with tiger teeth and a leopard tail, as a name of a region or as a mythological figure having obtained the Dao 道 respectively. It was not until the Ming Dynasty as a unitary image of Xiwangmu evolved as the famous novels Xiyouji 西遊記, Dongyouji 東遊記 and Xiyangji 西洋記 amongst others depict Xiwangmu as the host of the peach festival pantaohui 蟠桃會, which takes place on the third day of the third month on mount Kunlun 崑崙. Those lucky enough to get invited enjoy a great banquet and get to taste the most desired fruit: the peaches of immortality bestowed by Xiwangmu herself. Guests to her festival have been as illustrious as the Eight Immortals or Buddha Amitabha. The Ming novels not only show Daoist and Buddhist influence but have greatly influenced each other as well as they have been influenced by another popular Ming genre: the theatre, especially the plays written by Zhu Youdun 朱有燉 (1379–1439) like Qunxian qingshou pantaohui  群仙慶壽蟠桃會 or Yaochihui baxian qingshou 瑤池會八仙慶壽. The aim of this talk is to trace down those influences as well as the impact of popular religion on those novels and theatres.

Barbara Witt, “The Late Ming Book Market for Popular Religion”

The mid to late Ming saw a rise in book culture and printing activity. Most famously, this led to numerous editions of the Four Masterworks 四大奇書, but also led to an increase in publications related to popular religion. Among these are religious novels of the genre that Lu Xun 魯迅 would go on to call Novels about Gods and Demons 神魔小說. Some of those novels, such as for example Xiyouji 西遊記, Fengshen yanyi 封神演義, Xiyangji 西洋記, and the collection Siyouji 四遊記, have already been studied to varying degrees. Less focus has so far been given to the shared features of these novels and surrounding literature, such as popular historical fiction, religious encyclopedias, or encyclopedias for daily use 日用類書. In fact, quite a number of literati were engaged in the publication of several works as publishers, authors, or editors. Striking examples are Luo Maodeng 羅懋登 (fl.1590s), Yu Xiangdou 余象斗 (1550–1637), and Zhu Dingchen 朱鼎臣 (fl.16thc.) among many others whose publishing effort touched various forms of popular literature. Considering the influence that popular narratives of Chinese history and religion retain to this day, a reevaluation of these works in light of the late imperial book market for popular prints is long overdue.

Lucrezia Zanzottera, “Inner Alchemy in Yaohuazhuan: An Example of nüdan?

Daoism and Buddhism have a great influence upon Ming and Qing novels, especially shenguai xiaoshuo 神怪小說. Since the late Ming period, we can see the emergence of a new literary phenomenon: specific feminine inner alchemy texts (nüdan 女丹). This is as long as feminine literacy increases and it’s linked to the emergence of female literature. The novel I analyze is Yaohuazhuan 瑤華傳 (1803) by Ding Bingren丁秉仁. This is a very peculiar xiaoshuo which relates to the history of a male fox spirit condemned for his sexual crimes to be reincarnated in the granddaughter of emperor Wanli 萬曆, Yaohua 瑤華, expert in poetry, performance, and in martial arts, who temporary defeats the rebels Li Zicheng 李自成 and She Chongming 奢崇明. The book is the story of the progressive refinement of the fox spirit to become immortal under the guide of other two female immortals, Wu’Aizi 無礙子 and Zhou 周. Among the many passages relating the transformation of the fox spirit, we notice one excerpt which in the purification process is particularly devoted to the female nature of the protagonist. Can it be considered as an example of nüdan?

Early Chinese Legal Manuscripts

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room B

  • Organised by Ulrich Lau
  • Ulrich Lau, Chair
  • Alexander Herzog, “A Systematic Comparison of the Statutes on Agriculture (tianlü 田律) from the Qin and Early Han Periods”
  • Ernest Caldwell, “Locating the Law: Evidence of Legislative Cross-Referencing in Qin and Han Excavated Legal Statutes”
  • Xiaomeng He, “The Organisation of Legal Knowledge: Aspects of the Filing System from Qin and Han Local Archives”
  • Chun Fung Tong, “The Reconfiguration of Social Activities and the Construction of Social Order in the Qin Dynasty: Evidence from New Qin Ordinances in the Collection of the Yuelu Academy”
  • Enno Giele, Discussant

The number of legal manuscripts from Qin and early Han times excavated by archaeologists or looted by grave robbers has been constantly increasing.
The panel aims to discuss new insights into the legislation at the beginning of the Chinese empire gained from the analysis of recently discovered legal manuscripts. Four young researchers will present the results of their studies on various aspects of legislation. Two papers deal with legal statutes () from Qin (Shuihudi 11, Yuelu shuyuan edition) and early Han times (Zhangjiashan 247). The first one compares statutes on agriculture from different provenance in order to determine the extent to which the respective Qin statutes have been adopted by the following Han dynasty. The second paper examines the practice of cross-referencing in Qin and Han statutes. The study comes to the conclusion that this practice reflects the development of a corpus-based approach to legislative drafting.
The next papers evaluate ordinances (ling) from Qin times (Yuelu shuyuan edition). The third paper reconstructs the filing system of the authorities at different levels and attempts to identify several stages of the transformation of individual administrative documents into written law. The last paper interprets Qin ordinances stipulating that members of a family or a community shall be rewarded for applying social norms in their mutual relations or are subjected to penal sanctions in case of violating such moral principles. It is the purpose of the interpretation to assess the actual effects of this legislation on the local society.

Alexander Herzog, “A Systematic Comparison of the Statutes on Agriculture (tianlü 田律) from the Qin and Early Han periods”

The Statutes on Agriculture have the oldest documented history of any statute collection in early imperial Chinese law. Besides, they were of special and great interest for the early empire as they laid the economic basis of the state by defining the standard size of agricultural fields and setting the amount of taxes based on those holdings. Although research on bamboo texts has vitally developed during the past years, there are hardly any studies which systematically compare the tianlü fragments found so far. Therefore, this presentation provides such a systematic comparison of tianlü findings from Shuihudi No. 11 睡虎地11号, Qingchuan No. 50 青川秦墓50号, Zhangjiashan No. 247 張家山247号 and the Yuelu-Academy-Texts 嶽麓律令.
The different statutes and articles of these collections will be examined from a legal and linguistic perspective in terms of their language and structure. This comparison shows, that there are some major congruencies between them, as well as numerous congruencies regarding the content of certain statutes and articles. For this reason, it becomes apparent that during the early Han period the tianlü were almost exactly copied from the Qin predecessor, with only minor modifications with regards to penalties and fines. Moreover, the Han tianlü are much more comprehensive and detailed. Therefore, such comparison greatly enhances and transforms our knowledge of Qin and Han statutes.

Ernest Caldwell, “Locating the Law: Evidence of Legislative Cross-Referencing in Qin and Han Excavated Legal Statutes”

How were laws known to those individuals tasked with interpreting and enforcing them? This paper engages one facet of this question by building on previous scholarship related to the practice of cross-referencing in early imperial Chinese legal manuscripts. Legislative cross-referencing is a linguistic practice wherein a law will cite another law either with a direct reference to its title or by specifically quoting segments of the law. Such a practice demonstrates the interconnectedness of separate laws and the development of a corpus-based approach to legislative drafting. That is to say, individual laws were drafted with a consciousness of how the contents of one law should relate to the contents of other existing laws. Furthermore, the use of cross-referencing serves as useful signposts for those individuals required to assess a particular legal situation and to locate and apply the correct legal statute. With the continual discovery of legal manuscripts dated to early imperial China, we now have the means to undertake a comprehensive and diachronic analysis of the development of cross-referencing in early imperial Chinese legal manuscripts. This paper analyses evidence of cross-referencing within excavated legal statutes from the Shuihudi corpus, Yuelu shuyuan Qin manuscript collection, and the Han Zhangjiashan corpus.

Xiaomeng He, “The Organisation of Legal Knowledge: Aspects of the Filing System from Qin and Han Local Archives”

The record-keeping and storing of administrative documents has a long tradition in China. However, only little is known about concrete archiving practices on the lower administrative levels in Qin and Han times. At the same time, this knowledge is of utmost importance in order to understand the operating principles of a government that was confronted with a constantly growing number of administrative tasks. Based on findings in legal manuscripts of the Yuelu collection and further archaeological sources, this paper focusses on certain aspects of the processes of filing, copying and (re-)organising written law as well as the purposes behind them. For that reason, the chosen approach combines different methods: a textual comparison of several (nearly) identical legal stipulations in combination with a paleographical analysis allows to identify different transformative stages of copies; an analysis of numerical systems (like the Heavenly Stems and numerical order), as well as different types of titles for legal stipulations, enables to draw conclusions concerning the filing system; and additional archaeological sources (like specific containers and labels) provide further information about the keeping and storing of administrative documents. Finally, this paper argues that the above-mentioned processes played a critical role in the transformation of administrative documents into written law.

Chun Fung Tong, “The Reconfiguration of Social Activities and the Construction of Social Order in the Qin Dynasty: Evidence from New Qin Ordinances in the Collection of the Yuelu Academy”

This paper delves into the efforts made by the Qin rulers to construct a new social order in their new empire on the basis of new evidence provided by newly published legal ordinances. It argues that although the Qin rulers acknowledged the value of morality in forging social stability, the ways which they incorporated these cultural elements to their utopia were under the social engineering framework of Shang Yang and Han Fei, both of whom advocate policy reforms through punishments and reward rather than education or indoctrination. New evidence datable to the imperial Qin period reveals that the Qin rulers exerted an aggressive plan to disseminate sanctioned social values (benevolence, uprightness, filial piety, etc.) to the populace. Specifically, these designed reforms would result in direct interventions on social activities, thereby building the utopia that the Qin rulers envisaged. From this perspective, the Qin empire, unlike the pre-imperial era, mirrored the political system of those modern totalitarian regimes.
Under these new policies, the lives of people were now under the active and direct intervention of government apparatus. While the policies might aim at disseminating positive social values, the strong “Legalist” mentality might offset the effect of lenient policies and, in turn, became a nightmare of the people. In the end, instead of building a utopian society, the First Emperor’s scheme might result in a horrific dystopia that was administered by terror rather than the benevolence, reverence, or righteousness that the Qin rulers envisioned.

Functional and Imaginative Gardens and Landscapes of Hangzhou and the West Lake from Song to Qing

2:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room A

  • Organised by Silvia Ebner von Eschenbach, Antonio José Mezcua López
  • Chaired by Roland Altenburger
  • Silvia Ebner von Eschenbach, “Function and Management of the Imperial Parks of the Southern Song Capital Lin’an”
  • Benjamin Ridgway, “The Emergence of the Geo-Poetic Collection: Dong Sigao’s Hundred Poems of West Lake”
  • Antonio José Mezcua López, “Landscape Culture of the West Lake in the Late Ming Period. Li Liufang 李流芳: Painting, Poetry, and Garden Design”
  • Desmond Cheung, “Hangzhou’s West Lake as Both Cultural and Functional Landscape”
  • Xiaolin Duan, “Fashioning the Chinese Landscape: West Lake Scenery and Garden Design”
  • Roland Altenburger, Discussant

The panel focuses on the development of concepts of gardens and landscape design in relation to its social and political function from the Song to the Qing. The lines of this tradition can be elucidated using the gardens and the landscapes of the city of Hangzhou and its West Lake as an example since they command a large amount of multiple source material, mainly local gazetteers, poems and paintings. The Southern Song imperial parks that were situated in the city and on the lake shore were managed according to political prerogatives and assigned to each other according to function (Ebner von Eschenbach). At that time, the evolving scenery of the West Lake stimulated the emergence of geo-poetics as a new literary form in the poems of Dong Sigao (Ridgway). After a period of decay, efforts were undertaken by mid-Ming prefect Yang Mengying to restore the West Lake to its former function, drawing on Tang and Song models and emphasising its public importance and place in the cultural landscape (Cheung). In the late Ming new individual gardens were built after a concept of landscape culture as the garden of Li Liufang and his activities as poet and painter reveal (Mezcua López). The reification of the garden as an idealised landscape led to the imitation of Southern Song model gardens and the fashioning of the West Lake landscape as such into a public garden during the late Ming and Qing (Duan). The panel will be concluded with a final roundtable discussion.

Silvia Ebner von Eschenbach, “Function and Management of the Imperial Parks of the Southern Song Capital Lin’an”

As Hangzhou underwent a transformation from a commercial city to the new capital of the Southern Song Empire, new villas and palaces with parks were built for the imperial family inside and outside the city wall and on the shores of the West Lake. As time went by, emperors bestowed the parks and villas also on important politicians, some of them related to the empresses’ families. In the case of downgrading or death of politicians, the emperors confiscated the parks and villas and transferred them to others or recovered them for the members of the imperial family.
Apart from their political function, parks were assigned to specific uses, be it for the recreation and amusement of their owners, for the entertainment of guests of honour or for ceremonial purposes. It happened that some parks came to be neglected or rededicated as nurseries for the provision of other parks with plants or timber. Yet most of them were famous not only for their horticultural accessories but also for their rock arrangements and artificial lakes in imitation in miniature of the West Lake scenery, requiring adequate management of their water supply system.
The paper intends to bring to light the interdependency of the imperial parks within a functional and managerial network. Information on the imperial parks is mainly found in the Song local gazetteers and the Yuan and Ming private compilations. Now that some Song building structures and supply facilities are being excavated, textual sources can be complemented by the archaeological findings.

Benjamin Ridgway, “The Emergence of the Geo-Poetic Collection: Dong Sigao’s Hundred Poems of West Lake”

The poetry collection, Hundred Poems of West Lake 西湖百詠, compiled and published in the late 13th century by Dong Sigao 董嗣杲 (fl.1260–1276), represents the emergence of new literary form, the geo-poetic collection, defined by its unique synthesis of tropes and techniques from poetry and local gazetteers. I argue that Dong employed this new genre to define the identity of the new capital of the Southern Song (1127–1279), Hangzhou, as a “city in a garden” and that his work became, in retrospect, the first poetic tour-guide to the city.
On the one hand, Dong borrowed the discourse on “substance” (shi 實) prominent in local gazetteers by adding geographic prose notes before every poem. These resemble place entries in gazetteers and function to spatially situate readers using factual details on locations, distances, and the local lore of urban gardens. On the other hand, Dong rejected the hierarchical organisation and division of space typical of local gazetteers. In contrast to the distanced, elevated, and seemingly omniscient view projected by the editors of local gazetteers, Dong Sigao’s poems take on the perspective of a walking participant in an urban tour, encountering different sites serendipitously in a counter-clockwise movement around the lake.
Methodologically, this paper systematically compares the sites of West Lake Dong found in Dong’s poems to entries on the same sites found in the 1268 Xianchun Reign Gazetteer of Lin’an and in 13th capital journals to clearly define Dong’s borrowings and departures from contemporary geographic genres.

Antonio José Mezcua López, “Landscape Culture of the West Lake in the Late Ming Period. Li Liufang 李流芳: Painting, Poetry, and Garden Design”

The Late Ming Dynasty was a crucial period for the development of the West Lake landscape culture. Following the reforms of Sun Long, the amount of visitors to the area grew considerably, as well as the number of villas and gardens constructed during this period. Among them was the garden of Li Liufang, Nanshan Xiaozhu located on the Nanping Mountain on the south side of the Lake. Li Liufang also owned a boat known as Qiashou hang, in which he sailed across the lake with his friends Cheng Jiasui and Qian Qianyi. Liu Fang painted the West Lake in several occasions, some of these works survived to this day, as well as a collection of colophon paintings of the same subject. The relation of Li Liufang with the West Lake is particularly interesting for this area of study as his work comprises the three main activities that defined the concept of landscape culture in dynastic China: landscape painting, poetry, and garden design.
This paper parts from the compilation and analysis of Li Liufang’s activities in literary and visual records. Since other leading figures of Late Ming West Lake such as Wang Ruqian or Feng Mengzhen have been studied, the aim of this paper is to trace an itinerary of Li Liufang contributions to the West Lake landscape culture and to study the interactions between different areas of his work.

Desmond Cheung, “Hangzhou’s West Lake as Both Cultural and Functional Landscape”

West Lake is the most famous site in Hangzhou’s landscape and was imagined as a prime destination for refined scholars as early as the Song period. But while the lake was celebrated for its scenic beauty and its rich cultural associations, it was just as important as a source of water for the local people. Bai Juyi and Su Shi, the famous poet-officials who administered Hangzhou during the Tang and Song eras, had carried out major hydrological work at the lake as well as written verses praising its many delights.
This paper will analyse these dual representations of West Lake—as cultural and functional landscape—focusing on the efforts of Hangzhou Prefect Yang Mengying to dredge and restore the lake in 1508. Finding those powerful local families had taken over large parts of the lake and converted them to fields and ponds for their private use, Yang argued that it was vital to preserve the lake as a public good. Invoking the examples of his illustrious predecessors, Yang vowed to restore the lake to its former state and to protect it from future human encroachment, and thereby guarantee the area’s irrigation and agricultural needs. In this way, an activist official employed different images of West Lake to ensure that it benefitted the entire community of Hangzhou.

Xiaolin Duan, “Fashioning the Chinese Landscape: West Lake Scenery and Garden Design”

West Lake has been a cultural landmark since the twelfth century when the capital was relocated to Hangzhou and the lake witnessed an increasing number of visits from elites and commoners alike. Since then, the lake has become an icon for China’s landscape appreciation, literary, and visual creation, and tourism. The scenic beauty of the lake has always been both the result of human enhancement and inspired garden designs. This paper looks into the mutual influence and interaction between the appreciation of natural landscapes around West Lake and the building of gardens that in both cases contributed to the reification of an idealised concept of nature.
Southern Song emperors started to mimic the Cold Spring Pavilion in imperial gardens, extolling the reproduction of nature. Such practice continued into later times, as evidenced by the imitation of the Su Causeway in the Qing dynasty imperial garden and the borrowing of the Ten Views in seventeenth-century Japanese gardens such as Shukkeien. Meanwhile, the aesthetic and fondness of garden design also enhanced the lake scenery. Private gardens owned by noble families on the lakeshore added scenic and entertainment allure. The Ming dynasty municipal government added a garden-like island with pavilions at the centre of the lake, constituting a new scenic dimension and leisure activities for sightseers. The lake itself, therefore, became a public garden. This paper suggests that the idealised conception and rendering of the lake carried a unifying power of cultural geography, embodying the “Chineseness” in the interplay between human and nature.

Roundtable Discussion

After the panellists’ papers, a roundtable discussion will conclude the panel. The roundtable discussion may synergise the diverse disciplinary approaches to the subject that the five contributions take.
This may involve the issue of reverting private gardens to imperial parks as well as the connection between individual gardens and public landscape. Here it may be considered that imitations of the West Lake were reproduced in gardens, that gardens formed integral elements of the West Lake landscape while the West Lake and its landscape as a whole were also perceived as an entity.
In this context, the question of the renaissance of model gardens may arise, particularly discussing the divergent views in Ming and Qing on the Southern Song gardens as the gardens of a failing dynasty. The varying evaluations may be connected to the question of decay and the functional revival of the West Lake and the perspective of idealised imagination of gardens as it emerged in poems and paintings.

Inexpert Elite Outsiders and Lowly Local Specialists

(Re)Constructing Expertise, Technology, and Geography
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Nanny Kim
  • Nanny Kim, “Mining Specialists Introduced as Peasants and Literati Authors as Mining Specialists: Encounters in Research on Qing Period Mining in Southwestern China”
  • Guangrui Zhao, “British Geographical Expeditions and the Production of Knowledge about Tibet, 1899–1947”
  • Hailian Chen, “Discovering Mining Knowledge in the Qing Archival Documents: Reflections on the Surveys by Inexpert Literati and Oral Testimonies by Illiterate Miners”
  • Peifeng Liu, “Communities of Southern Shanxi in Stele Records of the Ming and Qing: Diversity under the Cloak of Rural Villages”

This panel discusses approaches to and insights gained from the modern method of gathering information through fieldwork. The geographic and thematic focus is on areas that are sparsely covered in traditional historic records, such as geographic space, specific local communities, and sites of mining and metal production. In late imperial China, government and elite records were usually content with general outlines, sufficient for administrative and fiscal orientation on the county level. Ming and Qing writings on topics we now define as ethnographic, geographic and technological were produced by elite outsiders for elite outsiders. Free from the need to stoop to concrete detail, the more curious historian is often left unsatisfied. Fieldwork provides highly concrete if often disjointed information. This panel scrutinises possibility of using this source from historic fieldwork undertaken by servants of the British Empire in Tibet since the late nineteenth century to recent fieldwork on sites of historic mining by the authors. The presentations analyse the production of knowledge as well as the distance between received and local narratives, Chinese and British imperial conceptions, and discuss approaches that employ spatial analysis in assessing and interpreting fieldwork findings. The four papers present research results regarding the production of field-based knowledge and the possibilities of gaining insights into past diversities beyond the bland simplicities that received records suggest.

Nanny Kim, “Mining Specialists Introduced as Peasants and Literati Authors as Mining Specialists: Encounters in Research on Qing Period Mining in Southwestern China”

This paper’s starting points are an incongruity and a seeming congruence. The incongruity arises from the fact that the authors of our core texts on the technologies of mining and smelting in late imperial China were erudite scholars but had a limited interest in understanding, how things actually worked. The seeming congruence is between late imperial texts that present mining communities as groups of landless poor who apparently acquired their skills on the job, on the one hand, and informants who present themselves as peasants but gradually demonstrate their expertise that they acquired through practical work of many years, or in continuing a family tradition. Images old and new suggest that Chinese mining was performed with a minimum of technological input and a maximum of cheap labour. The complexities of mining and smelting, however, contradict this suggestion, unless we assume that economics worked differently in China or that Chinese miners had no human aspirations but superhuman skills. The presentation explores possibilities and limitations of analysing a small and limited body of written sources and the differentiation of perspectives and representations that can be found by listening long and carefully enough.

Guangrui Zhao, “British Geographical Expeditions and the Production of Knowledge about Tibet, 1899–1947”

British explorers of the late 19th to mid-20th century are the creators of modern knowledge about Tibet. The majority of the men were in the employ of the colonial government of India, while a few were professional surveyors. In their backgrounds, they shared training in modern schools of the British empire, involving a scientific world outlook as well as an imperialist and racialist perspectives on other peoples and world regions. In their work, they profited from the privilege and protection by the leading world power of the time. Taking part in explorations was a form of the “great game,” usually in the form of peaceful expeditions, but occasionally employing armed force and taking to looting as well. The knowledge that the expeditions produced was diligently recorded, printed and archived by British imperial governments, and much was published in scholarly and popular books and articles. The first producers of modern knowledge about Tibet shaped Western images of this region of the world, perpetuating the precision of scientific information as well as their imperialist romanticism. This paper explores the explorers during their fieldwork. It examines the processes of gathering, interpreting, and creating information and analyses the roles of preconceptions and experience, as well as the processing of the collected information in published records and popular works. The analysis traces the individual experience and the direct observations of the Tibetan Other in relation to collectively held conceptions. It also considers the tensions between scientific impartiality and power politics and their significant influence on the newly created knowledge tradition.

Hailian Chen, “Discovering Mining Knowledge in the Qing Archival Documents: Reflections on the Surveys by Inexpert Literati and Oral Testimonies by Illiterate Miners

Mining in China’s traditional agrarian society has been linked with the images of impoverished landless drifters and “primitive” techniques. In fact, technologies (broadly defined, including managerial skills) were crucial to operate mines. Previous historical studies on preindustrial Chinese mining have largely relied on interpreting the few surviving printed texts on mining and metallurgy. My recent study on Chinese zinc mining in the eighteenth century has broadened our understanding of traditional mining by investigating a diverse array of primary sources. Among them, the Qing archival documents deserve more attention than they have hitherto received from historians of technology. Focusing on selected case studies of capital crimes and administrative problems recorded in the imperial archive, this paper examines the production of mining knowledge from the perspectives of both elites and illiterate miners in the Qing period. Authored by the inexpert literati-officials without hands-on experience, these materials on mining nevertheless represent an important dimension of constructing mining knowledge about the sites among the educated elites. Equally important are the oral testimonies in the legal cases on the southwestern mining societies that reflect/produce the miners’ world with their self-perception. The presentation deepens our knowledge about an under-represented social group in Qing China and demonstrates the potential of tapping new primary sources for research on the history of technology.

Peifeng Liu, “Communities of Southern Shanxi in Stele Records of the Ming and Qing: Diversity under the Cloak of Rural Villages”

Local gazetteers of southern Shanxi present the region as rural, with some peasants pursuing mining and iron smelting as a sideline occupation. Richthofen’s field trip of 1870 is an eye-opener on the region’s technologies, the specialisations, and the importance that the iron industry still possessed after decades of civil war. A long-term fieldwork project involved the collection of several dozen stele inscriptions that record temple donations. These provide often isolated, but highly specific records on communities, the economic weight of the mining sector, of social structures and safety nets organised by local societies. This presentation assesses the mining sector on the basis of these new sources and attempts an interpretation of the socio-economic structures in the mining communities that gazetteers represented as rural villages.


Writing Things as the History of Imperial China
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Fan Zhang
  • Yanlong Guo, Chair
  • Fan Zhang, “Transcultural Entanglement: Ceramic Pilgrim Flasks with Central Asian Musicians and Dancers in Early Medieval China”
  • Yongshan He, “What Can Miniature Artefacts Do? Granary Models in Han Tombs”
  • Fei Deng, “Constructing a Gendered Space: Scissors and Irons in Song Dynasty Burials”
  • Chen Shen, Discussant

Things entail complex relationships. In ancient China, the interplay between highly crafted objects and their beholders created entangled layers of meaning and forged social relations. Informed by this understanding, the papers in this panel evoke a historical web where different types of objects interacted with their artisans and elite owners in various periods of imperial China. Yongshan He, reflecting on the granary models in Han tombs, interrogates how miniatured architectural models empowered their living spectators by altering the beholders’ spatial perception of the world. Fan Zhang considers early-medieval ceramic pilgrim flasks decorated with Central Asian musicians and dancers in order to explore human-object relationships in a transcultural setting. Fei Deng’s paper interrogates the role two motifs, scissors and irons, play in defining gendered space in Song tombs. Ning Yao examines the incense burner in the Ming ritual context, particularly highlighting the significance of visualising smoke. Each of these papers contextualises objects in order to reconstruct their cultural biographies and make clear the interdependence of objects, their makers, and their users. We probe into questions of how small and portable things may shape individual behaviours and collective mindsets. As these studies elucidate the interactive nature of objects’ utilitarian functions and semantic meanings, they disclose the unique significance of seemingly trivial things as sites of historical and artistic knowledge of imperial China.

Fan Zhang, “Transcultural Entanglement: Ceramic Pilgrim Flasks with Central Asian Musicians and Dancers in Early Medieval China

Ceramic pilgrim flasks decorated with Central Asian musicians and dancers have fascinated scholars for decades. Objects of this type are excavated from tombs dated to the 6th century in northern China and are now collected in museums around the globe. Recent scholarship has centred on the iconographical study of the musical scene, using these artefacts to illustrate cultural interactions between China and Central Asia. This paper instead of revisits ceramic pilgrim flasks through the theoretical lens of entanglement between human and thing. It incorporates archaeological evidence of burial sites and pottery kilns, transmitted, and excavated texts, and related visual materials to shed new light on the multiplicity of human-object relationships among the ceramic vessels, their elite owners, depicted foreign performers, and local artisans working at production sites. A key aim is reconstructing the historical context to understand how the ceramic flasks were used to represent exotic performances from Central Asia and how they helped negotiate the relationship between the living and the dead. A further contribution of this paper is the identification of two groups of pilgrim flasks taken from dozens of museum collections. Comparison of the two groups reveals localised modifications of the music and dance images in different regions of China, thus illuminating processes of cross-cultural transmission.

Yongshan He, “What Can Miniature Artifacts Do? Granary Models in Han Tombs

One significant change in the mortuary practice of the Han dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE) was the increasing popularity of miniaturised architectural models in burials. Previous scholarship has generally ascribed this phenomenon to the Confucian belief of “serving the dead as if they still were alive,” thus treating these ceramic buildings as mere passive reflections of real architecture. Following this line of logic, some orthodox Marxist historians have interpreted the emergence of funerary granary models as an indicator of the transformation of the Han social structure from large clans to individual households with private properties. This paper challenges assumptions by situating the granary models in the long-standing tradition of mingqi pottery production and comparing these tectonic objects to the Han funerary vessels. I consider that the emergence of the miniature granaries in Han tombs hinged upon the existing matrix of the material, technology, and style that first developed through the production of the mingqi earthenware utensils. Through the theoretical lens of miniaturism, this paper further investigates the relationship between the granary models and their beholders. I argue that these models transformed the unmovable structures of storehouses aboveground into portable artefacts underground, whose diminished scale was able to empower their living spectators, altering the beholder’s spatial perceptions of the world. By handling and placing the miniature architectural models in tombs, the living was able to create an alternative universe for the deceased.

Fei Deng, “Constructing a Gendered Space: Scissors and Irons in Song Dynasty Burials”

Images of daily objects frequently adorned tomb murals in northern China during the tenth and eleventh centuries. In present-day Hebei and Henan provinces, a remarkable number of Northern Song (960–1127) tombs are embellished with motifs of scissors and irons. These motifs consistently appear in the same position within burial spaces, thus signalling that they play a coherent role in pictorial programs. Scholars have tended to treat these seemingly trivial motifs as stereotypical representations of family scenes and thus see no need to address their sociocultural meanings. From a sociocultural perspective incorporating gender, this paper reexamines the representations of scissors and irons in murals in conjunction with actual implements found in burials from the Song period. Situating these images and objects in their original mortuary contexts draws out the spatial and pictorial relations between the assemblage of scissors and irons and other types of everyday images and objects in tombs. This demonstrates that the objects in question were historically associated with feminine activities. As visual and material representations, scissors and irons served multiple purposes, the most significant of which was their interaction with the tomb occupants to create a symbolic gendered space in burials. Establishing this argument, the paper shows why scissors and irons were incorporated in funerary decoration, explores the ways in which they were visually composed, and reconstructs important aspects of social relations entangled with such objects in Song China.

Great Men and State Formation in Medieval China

11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Masha Kobzeva
  • Masha Kobzeva, Chair
  • Christine Welch, “Calligrapher, Poet, and Statesman: Yu Shinan and the Founding of the Tang Dynasty”
  • Masha Kobzeva, “Post scriptum to Tang Taizong’s Rule: Comments of the Officials on the Jin shu
  • Xin Zou, “Building Legacy Through Stories: A Case Study of Anecdotes on Great Ministers of the Tang Dynasty”
  • Anthony DeBlasi, Discussant

The interactions between the ruler and his officials played an important role in state formation and policy implementation. The positive political changes and harmonious rule contributed to the creation of a particular image of the emperor with the ideal ruler-minister relationship. Humble and attentive ruler listened to his advisors and encouraged remonstration. However, the extent of ministers’ involvement in a decision-making process and their status in relation to the ruler were frequently contested in a discussion on their influence on the regime’s stability and its success. The panel provides an overview of the role and function of the high-ranking officials during the Tang dynasty. Christine Welch focuses on the role of a famous calligrapher, Yu Shinan 虞世南, as an influential advisor to Tang Taizong, second emperor of Tang. Masha Kobzeva analyzes the postfaces to the Jin shu 晉書 chapters written by Tang Taizong’s ministers exploring their views on early Tang imperial policies. Finally, Xin Zou provides a comparative perspective of the ministerial function from the mid-late Tang by examining anecdotes on outstanding officials written by Li Deyu 李德裕.The papers provide an alternative reading of the dynamics of interactions between ministers and rulers and its role in state formation, challenging the uniformity of an idealized picture of ruler-minister relationship.

Christine Welch, “Calligrapher, Poet, and Statesman: Yu Shinan and the Founding of the Tang Dynasty

Although best known today as compiler of the Beitang shuchao, a valuable encyclopedic compendium of pre-Tang texts, or perhaps as an important transmitter of the Wang Xizhi calligraphic style and one of the Four Masters of the Early Tang,” Yu Shinan (558–638) was most influential as advisor to and confidant of Li Shimin (598–649) posthumously known as Taizong, second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. In his Diwang luelun, a short text which outlined the rise and fall of ancient kings and emperors, Yu proscribes correct activities and lambasts morally reprehensible behavior, constructing a handbook for the continued Heavenly Mandate, written for Li Shimin’s personal perusal. Yu’s memorials recorded in the Tang histories warn the throne against certain activities, like the composition of lavish poetry reminiscent of the style popular during the politically chaotic Southern Dynasties and the construction of an overly elaborate mausoleum for Taizong’s father, Gaozu. Though these warnings appear to have been met with varying levels of acquiescence, it was Yu’s appointment to the influential Hongwen guan, Taizong’s high praise of Yu’s character, and the emperor’s extended mourning after Yu’s death and subsequent revealing dream of the return of Yu’s spirit which together betray the deep political influence Yu had on the incipient Tang government and especially the second Tang emperor.

Masha Kobzeva, “Post scriptum to Tang Taizong’s Rule: Comments of the Officials on the Jin shu

The second emperor of Tang, Tang Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626–649), initiated a massive compilation project of the earlier dynastic histories during his rule. For one of them, the Jin shu 晉書, he personally wrote critical evaluations in the end of several chapters. The Jin shu, ordered separately from the first group of the dynastic histories, was the first historical compilation done by a group of scholars. The scholars were also part of Taizong’s coterie and responsible for advising the emperor on a majority of political decisions. Most of the chapters in the Jin shu each had a summarizing comment written by one of the editorial staff in the end. According to some scholars, Taizong ordered the compilation to use the examples in the Jin shu to warn and educate his ministers and future rulers. As Taizong was personally invested in writing the four commentarial essays in the JS, his ministers similarly used “Official Historian remarks” 史臣曰 as a safe space to remonstrate with Taizong on his policies and views. Despite Taizong’s encouraging criticism of his decisions, his officials were still rather reluctant to directly voice their opinion and use of the dynastic histories was one of the indirect ways to do so. The paper explores how the closest ministers of Taizong and, concurrently, Jin shu editorial staff made use of the compilation to express more freely their views on the regime through their reading of and comparison to the Jin history.

Xin Zou, “Building Legacy Through Stories: A Case Study of Anecdotes on Great Ministers of the Tang Dynasty

This paper takes the case of Li Deyu 李德裕 (787–850), an important statesman poet of the mid-late Tang, as a window in exploring the theme of “Great Men in State-Formation.” Li served as a Grand Councilor during Emperor Wenzong 文宗 (r. 827–840) and Emperor Wuzong’s (r. 840–846) reigns, the latter of which witnessed Li’s personal rise to the summit of his imperial service as well as a brief revival of the great Tang prosperity. The focus of this paper is a close reading of a set of anecdotes on ministers of the high Tang as seen in Li Deyu’s Ci liushijiu wen 次柳氏舊聞 (Sequenced old stories from the Lius), a collection of stories concerning the great Tang monarch Emperor Xuanzong’s reign (r. 712-756). This collection was first presented to Emperor Wenzong in 834 and was later incorporated into official histories after the fall of the Tang dynasty. The trajectory of these accounts enables us to study the lives and careers of these outstanding ministers and their key roles in state-formation. More importantly, we can see how these anecdotes, as a literary genre, created and shaped a legacy of these great ministers in official and unofficial histories. In other words, this paper does not regard the accounts of these ministers as a wholly faithful record of their lives, careers, and achievements. Rather, I suggest that we interpret these Tang texts as a product of their immediate social, political and cultural conditions.

New Forms of Textuality and Metadata

Producing and Analysing Digital Objects in Sinology
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 2

  • Organised by Martina Siebert
  • Martina Siebert, “Digital Perspectives on pulu 譜錄—Reading pulu from a Distance”
  • Hou Ieong (Brent) Ho, “New Forms of Metadata and Non-Consumptive Computational Services with CrossAsia-ITR”
  • Hilde De Weerdt, “What Are and What Do We Do with Meso or Macro-Scale Historical Datasets?”
  • Shih-Pei Chen, “What One has to Know about a Locality: Analysing Knowledge Organisations of 4,000 Chinese Local Gazetteers”

Starting in late 1990 the availability of electronic full texts of historical Chinese sources has grown steadily. This has been triggered mainly by two conditions: first, the enormous size (and sometimes rarity) of the text corpus academics need to investigate in their research, and second, the presence of cheap labour force for typing (and of course a growing financial power of Chinese universities to buy these e-products). More recently the interest in full-text databases has become supplemented with a curiosity about what more might be done by means of Digital Humanities (DH) methods and tools. Whereas in the view of many academics DH seems to only be a more elaborate version of full-text searches aiming at answering questions faster or on a larger scale, this panel will step outside this pure instrumentalist view to explore the digital objects produced by DH tools and methods in their own right. We conjecture that the various forms of statistics, network analysis, text enhancements etc. and their interactive visualisations produce alternative, non-linear, or meta versions of a text and thereby allow—from a library’s viewpoint—for additional means for orientation within a corpus or—from an academic perspective—for an aggregation/analysis of data that supplements the characterisation of the resources used and the research problematic. The panel brings together a group of scholars with historical, digital humanity and library expertise to approach the various aspects of this notion.

Martina Siebert, “Digital Perspectives on Pulu 譜錄—Reading Pulu from a Distance

My dissertation explored the types of knowledge and modes of presentation that characterises the genre of pulu and the changing classification pulu texts experienced within Chinese bibliographical schemes. Almost twenty years ago this was still based on hand-copying texts in Chinese libraries and an Access database to store and analyse data on the content and various classificatory allocation of the identified titles. In my later research, I have benefited to a large extent from the growing availability and searchability of electronic texts. In this talk, I want to zoom out and look at pulu from a distance, showing how they present themselves against the backdrop of different types of digital meta-objects. The bibliographical class of pulu will serve as a test case for service developments in the context of the CrossAsia Integrated Text Repository (ITR). Concrete examples are a statistical text similarity analysis (PCA) of the canonically structured corpus Xuxiu Siku quanshu and a bigram explorer allowing an analysis of how the terms pu (treatise) and tu (illustration) correlate with other terms/bigrams in this corpus. I will also look at language models, i.e. semantic units according to probability distribution and what is the most probable environment of these units, leading to a comparison of models calculated on the basis of ‘four classes’ corpora to that calculated on the basis of individual time or genre segments.

Hou Ieong (Brent) Ho, “New Forms of Metadata and Non-Consumptive Computational Services with CrossAsia-ITR”

CrossAsia is a service of the Berlin State Library that provides, among other things, access to licenced digital resources on Asia for scholars affiliated with a German academic institution. In the past five years, CrossAsia has been developing an infrastructure called the CrossAsia Integrated Textrepository (ITR) that aims at preserving the growing amount of stored digital texts but also provides the basis for developments and experiments with non-consumptive computational services that do not violate copyright restrictions of the full texts. The talk will introduce these additional approaches to the collection that supplement the ones offered by the original databases or traditional cataloguing techniques, and show how they open the road to further digital meta-objects accessible to all. The ITR Fulltext Search enables scholars all over the world to get search results with relevant snippets from over 50 million indexed pages from 325,000 titles, mainly in Chinese, English and Japanese. The ITR Explorer in addition enables users to investigate and visualise the statistical relations of keywords in the ITR collection in a number of titles and over time. Besides these pre-defined tools, we also processed the licensed texts into n-grams (consecutive one to three Chinese characters and their frequencies within a title) and released them together with their metadata as open data for interested scholars to download and perform their own analyses. This data can be used for various digital humanities methods and thus may produce further open data sets and digital meta-objects.

Hilde De Weerdt, “What Are and What Do We Do with Meso or Macro-Scale Historical Datasets?”

In an attempt to compare how contemporaries viewed relationships amongst the dozens and, in one case, hundreds of people who were put on political blacklists I and a small group of colleagues extracted relational datasets of the co-occurrence of their names in tens of thousands of documents written in a period covering the late eleventh through the early thirteenth centuries. We performed a variety of network and probabilistic analyses on these datasets which produced further datasets, spreadsheets, and interactive graphs. We produced sample datasets to compare the behaviour of those on the list to those of their contemporaries with similar backgrounds. In this presentation, we will not only present some of the conclusions of this work but also focus on the question of how these digital research outputs (and similar ones such as spatial analyses of other Chinese historical datasets) compare to analogue historical source materials and why and how they could be leveraged to discover and read primary sources at micro-scales in new ways.

Shih-Pei Chen, “What One has to Know about a Locality: Analysing Knowledge Organisations of 4,000 Chinese Local Gazetteers”

Since at least the 12th century, local gentry and officials had been recording local knowledge in local gazetteers (difangzhi). Through 800+ years of development, the genre surprisingly maintained a relatively consistent structure of roughly 20 to 100 sections that reappeared in many gazetteers across this long period of time and vast space of China. While there were indeed top-down guidelines issued by the central or provincial governments for editors to follow when compiling local gazetteers, it is not easy to grasp what the thousands of individual editors actually decided to keep, to add, and to leave out. In this presentation, we will report on our experiment of analysing the section headings of a set of 4,000 local gazetteers from the Song Dynasty to the Republican period. By employing computational techniques to look at the actual section headings used in each gazetteer and how they are similar or different, this bottom-up approach helps historians to see global patterns in the knowledge organisation of difangzhi as a genre and helps us to understand the negotiation process between the centre and the local compilers about what categories of knowledge should be recorded. Using simple statistics and a visualisation tool we analysed the 12,000 (normalised) distinct section headings from the 4,000 gazetteers. Our preliminary result shows that there are temporal as well as geographical patterns in the section headings used, which require closer examinations together with historians.

Problematic Text Material

Analysing Early Chinese Inscriptions and Manuscripts
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 2

  • Organised by Susanne Adamski
  • Joachim Gentz, Chair
  • Susanne Adamski, “‘Drowning’ (chén 沈) Victims during the Late Shāng Dynasty (ca. 13th–11th cc. B.C.): Inscriptional Contexts and Problems”
  • Joern Peter Grundmann, “Virtue in Bronze and Stone: The Early Conceptual History of de 德”
  • Yunxiao Xiao, “Textual Heterogeneity in Multi-Text Manuscripts: Reconstructing the *Zichan 子產 and *Xin shi wei zhong 心是謂中 Manuscript Scroll”
  • Kun You, “Paratext and Textual Coherence: The Case of the Mawangdui Silk Manuscript Text Shiliu jing

Unearthed texts inscribed into bones, cast into bronze or written on bamboo or silk have become essentially important sources for the researcher of early China, reaching from the Shāng (ca. 1600–1045 B.C.) through Western (1045–771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhōu (771–221 B.C.) to the early imperial periods (from 221 B.C.). Problematically, they all pose specific difficulties.
These texts not only represent different stages of palaeographic, linguistic as well as technological development that leave room for further exploration of their form, structure and content, but they can often be understood in more than one way, or sometimes not at all, due to fragmentation, errors in manufacture, or partial destruction or loss of their carriers.
Although these are serious problems for reading (or even deciphering) and analysing the texts and corpora with regard to certain related social or historical phenomena, research is often based on edited transcriptions and versions of text corpora. While these have justly become standard reference works, they are certainly not infallible in every single case. Nevertheless, even specialists of early Chinese inscriptions or manuscripts often need to consult more than one type of textual source for diachronic research.
Due to these standing issues, the panel intends to discuss novel approaches in analysing inscriptions and manuscripts having regard to material problems. Panellists are invited to present new methodological considerations in extracting information from textual corpora or single texts while looking into specific social or historical phenomena of early China.

Susanne Adamski, “’Drowning’ (chén 沈) Victims during the Late Shāng Dynasty (ca. 13th–11th cc. B.C.): Inscriptional Contexts and Problems”

While late Shāng sacrificial practice has been studied in several ways, it is rather seldom treated in detail, and still not really understood. So far, no comprehensive analysis of the oracle-bone inscriptional (OBI) material has been done regarding the practice of “drowning” (chén 沈) victims, which is rather unlikely to yield archaeological remains. Whereas the custom of “wedding” young women to the river god is known from early imperial texts (Shǐjì, Shuǐ jīng zhù), OBI records of drowning animal and sometimes human victims as part of the elite Shāng sacrificial system do not really support current interpretations as an early predecessor.
Following Liú Yuán’s 刘源 (2004) criticism of interpreting OBI verbs as sacrificial names, the present paper explores the question whether chén 沈 should be regarded as a distinct category of sacrifice, determinable as a sacrifice by immersion (Versenkungsopfer), or as the specific killing method used on a variety of sacrificial occasions. In a systematic philological approach, all verbal phrases referring to the practice of “drowning” (chén) in archaeologically excavated OBI corpora will be analysed, focusing on kinds and numbers of victims, different recipients, occasions, as well as other combined methods of killing and/or sacrifice mentioned. Facing fragmentation and other material problems, current transcriptions in standard reference works shall be re-evaluated, and problematic OBI evidence excluded. The aim is to gain further insight into the complex practice of Shāng animal and human sacrifice.

Joern Peter Grundmann, “Virtue in Bronze and Stone: The Early Conceptual History of de 德”

This paper explores a new approach towards understanding the term de 德 (traditionally rendered “virtue”) in literary sources from the Western Zhou and Springs and Autumns periods. Instead of attempting to define this important term through its often vaguely perceived associations with the supernatural, an approach which in the past led to rather arbitrary results, the present paper aims to delineate the generic function(s) of de in context-bound excavated texts inscribed on bronze vessels and stone tablets.
In a first step, I will show that within the period under review, de appears overtly in mid-to-late Western Zhou appointment inscriptions as well as in 5th century BCE covenant texts. In both sources, I argue, de habitually forms part of a larger conceptual field or repertoire of terms employed in commitment formulae uttered either by the recipient of a royal command or by a covenantor in rendering his allegiance to the covenant lord. This find should enable us to define de as an aspect or function of an idea of political organisation, which must have enjoyed some degree of diachronic stability from the 9th to 5th century BCE.
In a second step, I will explore the possibility of applying this idea as a hermeneutical framework for interpreting non-formulaic instances of de which occur in discursive passages concerned with Zhou political theology in both bronze inscriptions and in transmitted texts from the Odes (Shi 詩) and Documents (Shu 書).

Yunxiao Xiao, “Textual Heterogeneity in Multi-Text Manuscripts: Reconstructing the *Zichan 子產 and *Xin shi wei zhong 心是謂中 Manuscript Scroll”

Materiality plays a decisive role in restoring unearthed ancient manuscripts and their texts. Indeed, studies on the physicality of the Warring States manuscripts keep enriching our understanding of book formats, the textual culture, and history of knowledge. These explorations, then, let us rethink the following questions: How should we define “text,” “manuscript,” or “book” in Warring States manuscript culture? What is their basic unit? What principles or criteria were applied in the compilation and organisation of a “book” containing more than one text?
By probing into these questions, this paper aims to elucidate the intricate interplay among text, manuscript, and people. I will first reconstruct a continuous scroll, consisting of two groups of Warring States bamboo slips from the Tsinghua manuscript collection. Their texts, titled *Zichan and *Xin shi wei zhong, respectively, at first sight, appear to be unrelated in their content but share a remarkable consistency in their materiality. Furthermore, a close reading of the text reveals that in spite of their ostensibly different rhetoric, theme, and genre, they share many similarities in their language, structure, and important concepts. Both the resemblance and divergence between *Zichan and *Xin shi wei zhong suggest that, instead of forming a consistent “book” with a clear and strict configuration of “chapters,” the manuscript is a loose compilation with a low degree of consistency. The coexistence of heterogeneity and homogeneity, in both textuality and materiality, appears to be typical of the manuscript culture of the time.

Kun You, “Paratext and Textual Coherence: The Case of the Mawangdui Silk Manuscript Text Shiliu jing

Modern readers are used to encountering texts from early China in the form of compilations containing an often large number of chapters in a more or less systematic arrangement. The growing number of excavated manuscripts from the Classical Period (approx. 5th to 1st c. BCE), however, shows a very different textual culture: texts seem to have circulated in separate bundles of bound bamboo slips containing relatively short texts. The large compilations we encounter today in the form devised by the team around Liu Xiang in the late first century BCE use paratextual devices that were still absent in the pre-imperial period. My research aims to trace developments in book culture that led to extensive, well-ordered arrangements of texts as those compiled by Liu Xiang.
This presentation centres on a text, titled Shiliu jing 十六經, in an early second century BCE silk manuscript. I will show that the manuscript betrays efforts to create a meaningful order of the heterogeneous textual material found in that text. This process includes incorporating textual authority into the text itself, thus making it less dependent on the authority of instructional or ritual contexts in which the texts were originally used.