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Interpretation and Literature in Early Medieval China

Alan K. L. Chan, Yuet-Keung Lo

Publication Year: 2010

Explores the new literary and interpretive milieu that emerged in the years following the decline of China’s Han dynasty. Covering a time of great intellectual ferment and great influence on what was to come, this book explores the literary and hermeneutic world of early medieval China. In addition to profound political changes, the fall of the Han dynasty allowed new currents in aesthetics, literature, interpretation, ethics, and religion to emerge during the Wei-Jin Nanbeichao period. The contributors to this volume present developments in literature and interpretation during this era from a variety of methodological perspectives, frequently highlighting issues hitherto unremarked in Western or even Chinese and Japanese scholarship. These include the rise of new literary and artistic values as the Han declined, changing patterns of patronage that helped reshape literary tastes and genres, and new developments in literary criticism. The religious changes of the period are revealed in the literary self-presentation of spiritual seekers, the influence of Daoism on motifs in poetry, and Buddhist influences on both poetry and historiography. Traditional Chinese literary figures, such as the fox and the ghost, receive fresh analysis about their particular representation during this period.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page

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pp. 1-8

Early medieval China, spanning the period from the last years of the Eastern, or Later Han dynasty (second century C.E.) to the early Tang in the seventh century, marks an era of profound change in Chinese history. The decline and eventual demise of the Han dynasty in 220 C.E. altered drastically the Chinese political and intellectual landscape. During the ...

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1. Court Culture in the Late Eastern Han: The Case of the Hongdu Gate School

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pp. 9-40

On 15 March 178, Emperor Ling 靈 (r. 168–189), the second to the last ruler of the Eastern, or Later Han dynasty (25–220),1 established a new school in the imperial court.2 Because it was located inside the Hongdu men 鴻都門 (Grand Capital Gate) of one of the imperial palaces,3 this new school was called the Hongdu Gate School (Hongdu men xue 鴻都門學). ...

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2. The Patterns and Changes of Literary Patronage in the Han and Wei

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pp. 41-62

Literary patronage in ancient Greece can be traced to as early as the fifth century B.C.E. and is often associated with autocratic rulers.1 By the first century C.E., literary patronage by the powerful Roman families had attracted both Greek and Roman intellectuals to Rome.2 In China, the accommodation of learned scholars or guests with special skills at one’s own household ...

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3. Wandering in the Ruins: The Shuijing zhu Reconsidered

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pp. 63-102

This is an essay about ways of seeing and the use of the eye as an organ of distance and calculation. This is also an essay about memory and loss—important subjects that many empiricists from the Qing (1644–1911) and Republican eras (1911–present) have eschewed, with the result that antique writings like the Shuijing zhu 水經注 (River Classic Commentary) ...

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4. Evolving Practices of Guan and Liu Xie’sTheory of Literary Interpretation

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pp. 103-132

The term guan 觀, literally meaning “to observe” or “observation,” has been used to denote a broad range of interpretive traditions developed since antiquity. Of early interpretive traditions, two are most noteworthy. The first is that of guanshi 觀詩 or “observing the Poetry”—that is, the Book of Poetry (Shijing 詩經, hereafter Poetry)—prevalent in pre-...

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5. Narrative in the Self-Presentation of Transcendence-Seekers

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pp. 133-164

For the better part of a century now, standard scholarly practice has been to portray transcendents, or xian 仙, and those who sought to transform themselves into xian as socially distant figures, isolated on mountaintops or residing in the heavens.1 Scholars have likewise focused almost exclusively on explaining the esoteric methods claimed to lead to transcen-...

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6. “Jade Flower” and the Motif of Mystic Excursion in Early Religious Daoist Poetry

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pp. 165-188

In early Chinese literature, there is a prominent motif of imaginary flights to heaven, whose entelechy became rudiments for a unique literary theory on the “spiritual flight” in the pre-writing stage after Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303) first discussed it in his “Rhapsody on Literature” (“Wenfu” 文賦). In the scholarship of Chinese poetics this well-studied theory is no novelty. ...

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7. Representing the Uncommon: Temple-Visit Lyrics from the Liang to Sui Dynasties

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pp. 189-222

Owing to the memorable lyrics of Wang Wei 王維 (701–761) and other major poets of the Tang, poems about visiting Buddhist temples are often associated with that dynasty.* By the late eighth century, the subject was well enough established that the monk and critic Jiaoran 皎然 (Xie Zhou 謝晝, 730–799) complained about its clichés.1 Yet “temple-visit poetry” ...

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8. Fox as Trickster in Early Medieval China

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pp. 223-250

In “Hu meng” 狐夢 (“A Dream of Foxes”), Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715) tells of a friend so moved by one of the heroines of his fox tales (“Qingfeng” 青鳳) that he longs to meet one.1 In a dream he encounters a group of lovely sister foxes, one of whom becomes his lover. She asks how she compares to the fox he had read of and then begs him to ask ...

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9. Justice, Morality, and Skepticism in Six Dynasties Ghost Stories

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pp. 251-274

The concept of ghost in early China is often characterized by the function that ghosts played in the moral system. Ghosts appeared for a reason: to avenge wrongs that a person suffered, to settle an injustice, and so forth. This is to say, people’s imagination with regard to ghosts centered on what ghosts could do to the living. Stories about ghosts in the ...


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pp. 275-278


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pp. 279-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781438432199
E-ISBN-10: 1438432194
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438432175
Print-ISBN-10: 1438432178

Page Count: 294
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 659590776
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Interpretation and Literature in Early Medieval China

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Subject Headings

  • Chinese literature -- 220-589 -- History and criticism.
  • Chinese literature -- Philosophy.
  • Hermeneutics.
  • Religion and literature -- China -- History.
  • China -- Intellectual life -- 221 B.C.-960 A.D.
  • Chinese literature -- Explication.
  • Philosophy in literature.
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