AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 580

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Session 580: Dynastic Chinese Literature II

Restructuring Cultural Memory in the Tang yulin (Forest of Anecdotes on the Tang): A Chinese Literati Reader’s Response to the Anecdotal Representations of the Past.
Amelia Ying Qin, University of Houston, USA

This paper examines how and under what social and historical context, Wang Dang (fl. 1101-1110), a 12th century literati scholar, compiled Tang yulin, his own collection of anecdotes on the past Tang dynasty. The paper argues with examples that anecdotal representations of the past work within the framework of shared cultural memory. It first demonstrates that Wang Dang, as an anecdote reader and compiler, was part of a literati community who enjoyed reading and collecting anecdotes. Secondly, by compiling his own collection, Wang Dang engaged in the practice of giving order and preference to his casual reading material, and restructured the collective cultural memory of the past in his collection. Thus in so doing, he formulated his individual response to the various ways anecdotal past was represented in his day. In the end, this paper offers a discussion on Wang Dang’s topical preferences in selecting sources and constructing his own version of cultural memory of the Tang.

The Conversation Between Zhuangzi 莊子and Cao xueqin曹雪芹: The Influence of Zhuangzi’s “Zhi Le 至樂” on The Dream of the Red Chamber
Jiao Liu, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Zhuangzi and The Dream of the Red Chamber are both the namable classical literary corpus in China. While it is known to all that Zhuangzi uses metaphor extensively, there is much less appreciation of the role it plays in its influences in the greatest Chinese vernacular full-length novel The Dream of the Red Chamber. Zhuangzi used the metaphors of skeleton as a mirror to reflect life’s ultimate significance concern and curious and then pointed out that life and death are identical, even as the river and the sea are just one, so one should not devote to secular enjoyment or worry about death. Interestingly enough, in The Dream of the Red Chamber, the author Cao Xueqin used the same metaphor in his image of “Feng-yue Bao-jian 風月寶鑑”as the matrix of narrative theme in his lifetime work. We believe that the creative conception of the The Dream of the Red Chamber was deeply inspired by Zhuangzi. This paper will try to deal with the topic that how Zhuangzi’s Concept of Life and Death exerted a profound influence on The Dream of the Red Chamber , and the connection between Zhuangzi’s skeleton image in “Zhi Le 至樂” and Cao xueqin’s “Feng-yue Bao-jian 風月寶鑑” image in The Dream of the Red Chamber.

Mirror, Dream, and Shadow in Gu Taiqing’s writings
Changqin Geng, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Gu Taiqing, one of the most remarkable and prolific poetess of the Qing dynasty, produced Tianyouge ji (a shi anthology), Donghai yuge (a ci collection), and the novel Honglou meng ying (a sequel to the masterwork Dream of the Red Chamber.) All of Taiqing’s writings can be interpreted through three categories: mirror, dream and shadow. These three words frequently appear throughout Taiqing’s poetry and novel, and bear rich meanings in both the interpretation of Taiqing’s works, and the relationship between Taiqing’s life and her writing. As traditional literary images, the mirror, dream and shadow contribute to a unique artistic style of poetry. Taiqing creates illusory and unsubstantial realms in her lyrics, and utilizes blurry imagery to achieve an esthetic effect that the events in her poetry are happening through the lens of a dream. Dream and shadow symbolize an important motif in her novel, that “life, desire, aspiration, happiness and sadness are really nothing but illusion.” The mirror, dream and shadow also provide biographical information about Taiqing. Shadows sketch the blurry memories, exposes traces or hint at the mysteries of her life; dreams symbolize her fantasies or fictional aspects. Finally, the mirror, dream, and shadow bring into light her religious disposition, philosophical speculation on life, and spiritual pursuits that have roots in Daoism and Buddhism. By analyzing Taiqing’s three major themes and their revelation as to her writing, life, and mentality, this paper “re-explores” the role of writing by the women of pre-modern China.

Reading with Class
Shun-Chang Kevin Tsai, Indiana University, USA

What makes a reading classy, and what sort of aesthetic operation does social distinction aid? Consider one of the stupidest readers ever, Sun Hua from the major Ming Dynasty chuanqi play Killing a Dog (Sha gou ji). He idealizes Confucian merchants whose combination of book learning and practical know-how he believes makes them superior to proper, traditional Confucians, yet whenever he attempts to apply his readings to life, he suffers from a curious blindness that prevents him from drawing the correct analogies, making him a stunning example of dramatic irony. Critics typically dismiss Sun Hua’s unbelievably obtuse interpretation of literature as the play’s inept attempt at elevation by invoking the canon. This paper challenges such uncomplimentary views of the play, and argues that the seemingly awkward intertextuality is a deliberate strategy for addressing the social anxiety over the changing status of the literati and the merchants in mid to late Ming. Killing a Dog intimates that plausible interpretations come not from technique, which anyone can acquire, but from personality with its concomitant class membership. Indeed, the play’s epistemology, following Analects 6.26 and Mencius 9.2, is produced not by method, but by ethics, and as such gives rise to a sort of dramatic irony that depends not on plot, but on self-knowledge. If this process is also applicable to the reception of the play, how might the aesthetic operation of irony construct social distinctions amongst the audience of Chinese drama in general?

Language, Performance, and Gender in Mid-Qing Beijing: A Study of the Bannermen Tale "Eating Crabs" (Pangxie duan'er)
Suet Chiu, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

This paper explores zidishu (bannermen tales), a popular storytelling genre created by Manchus in early eighteenth-century China. Although zidishu was closely associated with the Manchus, its readers or listeners were not limited to the Manchus after the genre became popular in Beijing and Northeast China. Zidishu was transmitted through a great number of hand-copied librettos and printed texts. By contextualizing zidishu in Qing dynasty Beijing, this study introduces its performance and examines a Manchu-Chinese bilingual text called “Pangxie duan’er” (Manchu: Katuri jetere juben i bithe; Eating Crabs). This paper discusses multiple aspects of Qing cultural hybridity reflected in the text, including linguistic and gender issues as well as ethnicity. The writer of “Eating Crabs” creatively employed Manchu-Chinese mixed speech to deepen the characterization of those characters with Manchu background. The text also indicates the cultural hybridity of mid-Qing Beijing as it dramatizes bannermen’s everyday life. This paper argues that zidishu exemplified elements of Manchu cultural hybridization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while at the same time performing and perpetuating Manchu identity. The zidishu “Eating Crabs” sheds light on the role of Manchu language in Qing literature, amateur theater in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Beijing, and the social and cultural relationships between Manchu bannermen and the Han Chinese population.