Judith Zeitlin traces the history of a rare musical instrument to consider how the meanings of a thing change over time and are shaped by its representation in various media. Her narrative centers on two collectors who went to extraordinary lengths to document the importance of this “biographical object” in their life and work: the dramatist Kong Shanren (1648–1718) and the publisher Liu Shiheng (1875–1926). Focusing on the elaborate forms of literary, theatrical, visual, and printed display that the two men adopted to express the relationships of owner to thing and of thing to the cultural heritage at large, Zeitlin follows the instrument’s transformation from “a leftover thing” (yiwu) from the past that inspired feelings of regret and nostalgia to “a cultural relic” (wenwu) now under the protection of a state museum.


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pp. 395-441
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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