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Tao Yuanming and Manuscript Culture

The Record of a Dusty Table

by Xiaofei Tian

Publication Year: 2005

As medieval Chinese manuscripts were copied and recopied through the centuries, both mistakes and deliberate editorial changes were introduced. Xiaofei Tian shows how readers not only experience authors but "produce" them by shaping texts to their interpretation, focusing on the evolution over the centuries of the reclusive poet Tao Yuanming into a figure of epic stature.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

In writing this book I am indebted to many people for their inspiration and support. I would particularly like to thank Alan Berkowitz, Kang-i Sun Chang, Wilt Idema, and David Knechtges, who read through the entire manuscript and gave detailed, thoughtful comments...

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pp. 3-22

In the early eleventh century in moorish Spain, an aristocratic Arab scholar, Ibn Hazm (994–1069), wrote a book entitled The Ring of the Dove. In this book, Ibn Hazm explored various aspects of love: its origin, signs, and the misfortunes suffered by people in love. The lines...

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1. Possession & Loss

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pp. 23-55

This chapter is about the ways in which a person may relate to a mountain: catching sight of it, looking at it with longing, desiring it, acquiring it by obtaining its “spirit” through painting or writing, buying it, or stealing it. Our question of mountains intersects with...

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2. “Who the Master Is, No One Knows”

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pp. 56-94

There has been much debate and speculation about the detailed chronology of Tao Yuanming’s life. The biographies of Tao Yuanming preserved in various historical sources do not contribute much toward a clarification of the poet’s dates; instead, the biographies and the...

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3. Lost Homesteads: Returning to Tao

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pp. 95-131

Mencius believed that an ideal reader should, in his reading, seek to understand and befriend ancient authors. When we try to return to Tao Yuanming, we find that the man is shrouded in a haze of generalized anecdotes and the poet is lost in a body of...

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4. Food, Death, & Narration

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pp. 132-173

Death and narration seem to share a darkly close relationship. In Boccaccio’s Decameron, vivid stories are set in the threatening narrative frame of the Great Plague, which casts its shadow over the merry tales. In the Chinese tradition, establishing oneself by...

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5. Becoming a Vessel

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pp. 174-195

Despite the efforts of some scholars to portray Tao Yuanming as a person deeply at odds with the world he lived in, in many ways, Tao Yuanming was very much a product of his age, an age that was dominated intellectually by “arcane learning”...

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6. Hard Evidence: Reading a Stone

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pp. 196-219

The act of reading lies at the heart of hermeneutics. To read is to interpret. Interpretation is not just about understanding something, be it a literary work, a cultural object, or a life situation; it is essentially about giving meaning. But what is meaning...

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pp. 220-225

Earlier work on Tao Yuanming has tended to accept the Song image of the poet, interpreting poems to confirm this image. By contrast, we have seen the fluidity of the medieval Chinese textual world and how its materials were historically reconfigured for later purposes...


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pp. 226-274

Chinese Glossary

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pp. 275-288

Editions of Tao Yuanming’s Collection

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pp. 289-298

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 299-308


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pp. 309-319

E-ISBN-13: 9780295801933
E-ISBN-10: 029580193X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295985534
Print-ISBN-10: 0295985534

Publication Year: 2005