Detailing the traumatic experiences an individual, a family, and a local community in Jiangnan area underwent amidst the Taiping-Qing civil war (1851<en>1864), Shen Zi's Bikou riji raises questions about the diary as a literary, cultural, and historical phenomenon during catastrophic times. Written on used slips of paper of various sizes and pasted on the back of old account books, the manuscript registers numerous temporal dimensions for which the war serves as a reference point. Exploring this collage-like, patchwork manuscript as an archeological site reveals two essential aspects of diaries: the references to the self and the temporal structure with implied narrativity. Ultimately, Shen Zi's heavily edited, patchwork manuscript diary showcases how a diary synthesizes the experiences from the realms of both the personal and the historical within the temporal structure of the everyday in catastrophic times.
Diaries and other personal accounts kept during catastrophic times are particularly gripping because they reveal how the writers mediated personal trauma under such trying circumstances.1 In recent years, scholarship on the Taiping-Qing civil war has begun to explore personal accounts in a variety of genres in order to understand the immediacy of violence, suffering, and endurance of people who experienced what was the most destructive civil war in human history.2 This article [End Page 141] examines one particularly rich account, the diary written by Shen Zi (1833–88). Shen's account is unique in part because its extant manuscript, consisting of fragments pasted onto recycled account books, reveals the diarist's revisions. Investigating the manuscript as an archaeological site, I explore the implications and significance such textual complexity conveys. I read the text contextually by situating it within three different frameworks: the genealogy of Chinese diaries as a genre, the cultural milieu of nineteenth–century Jiangnan (the Lower Yangzi region), and the background of the writer, Shen Zi. In doing so, this article explores Shen Zi's self-representation and self-reflexivity, as well as how he makes sense of personal experiences and historical events in this writing. The fragmented pieces of paper and the accounts in disarray evince the personal and social wounds inflicted by the Taiping-Qing conflict. The painstaking process of revision is synonymous with the endeavor metaphorically to suture emotional and psychological wounds, a means of bringing closure and rationality to what struck the diarist as senseless violence.
Diaries as Personal Writings
In China since the Song Dynasty (960–1279), a writing characterized by its ultimate reference to the self and a diurnal temporal structure, often referred to in English as "diaries," may bear multifarious titles, including "daily accounts" (riji), "miscellaneous notes" (biji), and, sometimes, simply "accounts" (ji, lu). The three volumes of Shen Zi's manuscript diary that I consulted bear two titles: one volume is entitled Beishan biji (Miscellaneous Notes from the North Mountain Studio), whereas the remaining two volumes are both entitled Bikou riji (Daily Accounts of Escape from the Bandits). The first half of Beishan biji contains most events from Xianfeng 10 (1860–61), when the diarist's family was displaced while escaping from the rebels; the second half is composed of entries from Tongzhi 3 (1864–65), when the war was approaching its end. The two volumes of Bikou riji cover events in the intervening years from Xianfeng 11 (1861–62) to Tongzhi 2 (1863–64).3 In comparison to Bikou riji, the poorer physical condition of Beishan biji in its tattered [End Page 142] remains suggests that this volume might have been produced under more difficult circumstances. Despite the disparities in the titles and the focuses between Beishan biji and Bikou riji, the accounts in all volumes share the following characteristics: written in the first person, taking the form of installments, and with each entry marked by a date, indicating at least the author's intent to maintain a diurnal rhythm. Therefore, while recognizing the specificities of Chinese personal accounts in comparison to their western counterparts, this article will refer to Shen Zi's text as a "diary." Whereas western diaries are known for their concerns with the individual, premodern Chinese personal daily accounts demonstrate a strong awareness of history in general, and may fall anywhere on the spectrum from pure objectivity (records of "facts") to expressions of subjectivity (e.g., lyric poetry). We will see the ways in which Shen Zi moves along this spectrum.
Compared with diaries in the western context that "have been connected to chronicles and annals as well as personal and household account books," premodern Chinese personal daily accounts, or diaries, have been associated with a sense of "journeying," especially during their formative stage as a genre.4 For instance, scholars trace the origins of diaries as a genre to the Tang Dynasty (618–907), when officials and monks kept regular records of what they observed and experienced while traveling to the frontiers of the empire or to a foreign country.5 During the Song Dynasty, travel diaries became an established genre. In the early seventeenth century, the intrepid traveler Xu Xiake (1587–1641) further developed the tradition of keeping travel accounts by recording his separate trips to specific destinations.6 Concurrent with the development of travel accounts, there was an emerging trend in the Song to chronical one's everyday observations and feelings with poetry.7 Among Xu's contemporaries, influenced by the intellectual interest in self-expression and self-cultivation, many literati kept daily accounts to measure their [End Page 143] moral progress, or "journeys" in the spiritual sense.8 A distinctive genre of literature that came into being during this period was "ledgers of merit and demerit" (gong guo ge), which quantified one's good and bad deeds to calculate one's moral progress at the end of a calendrical cycle.9 The practice of keeping diaries became much more popular during the Qing (1644–1911), as the number of extant diaries from this dynasty far exceeds those from previous dynasties.10 During the eighteenth century, at least, many diaries continued to center on traveling.11 The practice of keeping diaries flourished during the nineteenth century, when prominent officials and literati wrote diaries that were published during or soon after their lifetimes.12 Perhaps under the influence of the intellectual trend of evidential learning (kaozheng xue) that employed an empirical approach to research and emphasized the accumulation of evidence, cultural elites during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also kept diaries to record their everyday learning.13
One of the most prominent events recorded in a great many nineteenth-century diaries was the Taiping-Qing civil war; these diaries, in turn, became witness accounts of traumatic events during the war.14 When caught amidst a war that "took place outside the parameters of [End Page 144] 'normal' reality, such as causality, sequence, place, and time," authors metaphorically "journeyed" through a realm where the temporal and spatial structure of the familiar mundaneness was utterly displaced.15 Giving witness accounts to everyday violence, to some extent, binds the self with a natural diurnal rhythm, and such a process may intriguingly create a certain sense of order amidst the chaos that threatens self-continuity.16 As Lynn Struve demonstrates, during the late Ming, a period of similar social disruptions, diary writing could have been a venue for literati elites engaging with Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism to "find peace of mind and integrity of soul amid the political dissolution, sociocultural ferment, and moral dilemmas."17 The immediate, raw exposure of profound human suffering and poignant moral visions also sets diaries apart from memoirs and autobiographies recounted from a further historical distance. For example, a memoir written decades after the conclusion of the Taiping-Qing civil war could "take on its full traumatic power across the abyss of time" without being restrained by a specific time and space.18
Diaries written during the nineteenth-century Taiping-Qing conflict demonstrate the desires both to record historical facts and to relate personal experiences. After the traumatic Ming-Qing transition of the seventeenth century, few writings that offer explicit descriptions of the Manchu invasion survived the ruthless Qing censorship; in contrast, a significant number of individual accounts revealing a remarkable [End Page 145] historical consciousness from the Taiping period remain.19 Generally, these accounts can be divided into two categories: those that primarily document contemporary events, emulating an official history; and those, mostly consisting of personal accounts and memoirs, that describe individual experiences against the historical backdrop.20 The titles in the second category are expressive of the writers' traumatic experiences: Sitong ji (Records of Reflections on Pain), Zhuanxi yusheng ji (Records of Escapes and the Remaining Life), and Mengnan shuchao (Accounts of Falling into Rebel Hands). Extant texts are preserved in manuscripts, woodblock prints, stereotype prints, and installments in serialized magazines. Texts written during the war tend to remain in manuscript form; those printed in woodblocks usually were produced immediately after the war, either by the writer or his family. Around the turn of the twentieth century, some of the printed accounts were reprinted with letterpress printing or published in serialized magazines as installments.21 The emergence and reemergence of these personal accounts in modern media evoked memories of the catastrophic Taiping-Qing civil war as China faced recurrent political turmoil in the twentieth century.
The Text and the Diarist
Shen Zi's diary proves to be a unique text among extant personal records of the Taiping-Qing war. If Tobie Meyer-Fong, in her usage of accounts [End Page 146] of the war, "makes a place for individual suffering, loss, religiosity, and emotions" that addresses the collective trauma of China's nineteenth century, then Shen Zi's diary provides the opportunity to understand a survivor's intimate and personal cognitive process of rationalization and meaning-making both during and after the war.22 Shen Zi's records of local everyday violence are exhaustive, and the thoroughness of the text in representing personal tragedies and in expressing intense private feelings is extraordinary and rarely seen. In addition, the physical condition of Shen Zi's diary set this text apart from many others: comprised of paper fragments, the manuscript evinces the historical violence that deprived Shen Zi of very basic resources, while the traces of multi-layered editing offer insights into his struggles at negotiating the personal and the public as he seeks to come to terms with individual loss and sociopolitical chaos.
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Shen Zi's accounts run from March 1860 to September 1864, when his hometown of Puyuan, a major market town in northern Zhejiang province, endured repeated military occupations.23 This text was never published during the Qing or Republican eras, and probably did not circulate before the publication of the modern typeset edition in 1961 under the title of Bikou riji. The titles of each volume of the manuscript, written in the diarist's handwriting on small paper slips, are pasted on the book cover's top left corner, suggesting that the diarist himself probably compiled the volumes. The arrangement of the content conveys a certain disorder. The entries are not chronologically arranged. The dates and content of some entries repeat: it appears that Shen Zi did not always immediately record a given day's entry, but retrospectively reconstructed some entries based on memories and notes. Sometimes he also first jotted down a brief note and then returned to expand it when the memories were still fresh. Every entry was subject to additional rounds of scrutiny and revision.
Nevertheless, a certain chronological order is established on a smaller scale because there is a general guideline, even though inconsistently maintained, to categorize accounts of several consecutive months or those from the same year together. Throughout the diary, most entries are marked with merely the numerical day of the month, with no indication of the month or year. The pages might have been thrown into disorder, but there probably was the intention to reorganize them. It is also possible that Shen Zi had a clear chronical structure in mind while he was writing, and the manuscript in its current shape comprises the "raw materials" for a historical project that Shen presumably planned to polish in the future. In fact, Shen Zi's fellow townsman, Zhu Fuqing (fl. 1850–80), who is mentioned in the manuscript, noted that Shen had "an unpublished large volume of records" about the Taiping war.24 Based on the known titles of Shen Zi's works, one may deduce that this "large volume of records" probably refers to the diary under discussion. It is likely that Shen Zi kept [End Page 148] these accounts about the war during its occurrence, with the intention of compiling them into a history or using them as stock materials for certain forms of historical writing. This hypothesis may also explain the thorough revisions and editing found in the manuscript.
The entire text is written on pieces of paper of various sizes. Because the pieces of paper usually do not fully cover the pages of the volume on which they are pasted, one can tell that these volumes are made out of the folded pages of used accounting books.25 Each folded page is half the size of pages in the original accounting books. I investigated three volumes of the text held at the Jiaxing Library. A slip inserted into one of the three volumes, perhaps written by a modern historian or librarian, suggests that there is a missing fourth volume. The number of the folio pages in each volume differs, ranging from about sixty to more than one hundred. Taken together, the three volumes consist of about 280 folio pages. Though the quality of the paper pasted onto the account books varies, almost all of it falls into the category of the high-priced "Xuan paper."26 A few pages are simply inserted into the books, but most pages are attached to the books with one to two corners. The diary is written on one side of each sheet of paper. Therefore, one has the opportunity to find fragments of prose and poetry in refined calligraphy on the backside of [End Page 149] the pages pasted onto the account books. Judging from the themes and the seals borne by the writings, one may deduce that these essays and poems were written before the war erupted, in preparation for the civil service examinations. Economical usage of free space, rather than a consistent format, is evidently the diarist's primary concern. Occasionally, crowded handwriting also occupies the marginal space surrounding the prose and poetry. The smallest piece bearing one day's entry has the width of about two index fingers. In contrast, the largest pieces of paper are folded and attached to the accounting book with one short end. These large pieces do not contain entries of everyday occurrences, but rather two hand-copied memorials preserved in their entirety authored by Wang Youling (1810–61), the governor of Zhejiang province from 1860 to 1861. Dated August, 1860, these materials provide an official overview of the political and military developments around the time when Puyuan and its surrounding locales fell to Taiping forces. Taken together, the varied content of these examples offers a glimpse of the nature of the text as a repository of miscellaneous information and historical accounts about the war.
Though the first person singular pronoun "I" completely elides the writer's name in the text, the mutual reinforcement of internal and external evidence allows us to establish Shen Zi's authorship.27 According to Shen Zi's biography, he "strived to study . . . and excelled at composing examination essays."28 His father, Shen Tao (?–1850s), who changed his career path from running a family business to being a Confucian scholar, died shortly before the Taiping invasion of Puyuan.29 Therefore, when the war broke out, Shen Zi, at the age of 28, became the head of a household that comprised his mother, his pregnant wife, a widowed elder sister, an unmarried younger sister, and a younger brother living away from home as a business apprentice in Suzhou.30 Around the time of the [End Page 150] Taiping invasion of Suzhou in May, 1860, Shen Zi lost connection with his brother. Shen Zi made several attempts to look for his brother before the outbreak of the war in Puyuan, but never found him. On XF10.8.26 (October 10, 1860), his widowed sister committed suicide by starving herself to death.31 On XF10.9.3 (October 16), Shen Zi married off his youngest sister. The next day, his wife, who had recently delivered a baby girl amidst the chaos, passed away. A few days later, the baby also died. By 1864, only Shen Zi and his mother survived the catastrophe. After the war, Shen was selected to study at the Imperial Academy and acquired the post of secretary in the Grand Secretariat (neige zhongshu), from which he soon resigned under the pretext of filial responsibilities. He subsequently became an active philanthropist in Puyuan, establishing the Xiangyun Academy (Xiangyun shuyuan) and creating the Baoyuan Philanthropy Hall (Baoyuan shantang) to distribute clothes and medicine to the poor, and for organizing proper burials for the deceased. Shen Zi's Yangzhuo xuan biji (Miscellaneous Notes from the Studio of Cultivating Austerity) survives in print. In this text, Shen Zi organizes accounts of the war according to individual events and figures.
Compared with other personal accounts during the war, Shen Zi's diary is distinguished by its exceptional meticulousness in recording historical events, personal experiences, and intimate feelings. Shen Zi seems to have been associated with the Chongwen Academy (Chongwen shuyuan) in Hangzhou, an academy sponsored by the eminent evidential scholar and official Ruan Yuan (1764–1849) in the late 1790s.32 Meanwhile, the title of Shen Zi's other work, Miscellaneous Notes from the Studio of Cultivating Austerity, resonates with the philosophy of "austerity and [End Page 151] honesty" (zhuo cheng) as advocated by Zeng Guofan, the influential Qing general during the Taiping period who eventually sought to accommodate evidential learning and other strands of Confucian scholarship in the face of what he perceived to be the greater ideological threat posed by the Taipings. 33 Taken together, in comparison to Yu Zhi (1809–74), who responded to the violence he experienced by propagating "a religiously inspired matrix of reward and retribution" as mediated by pamphlets and drama, Shen Zi's careful efforts to grasp the finest details of daily occurrences may be a manifestation of his attempt to comprehend the larger history.34
Shen Zi's concerns are first and foremost local, as shown by the map that emerges from the place names he mentions in the text. Located at the center of Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai (the emerging metropolis in Songjiang prefecture), Puyuan was characterized by a dense web of rivers, with the Grand Canal running through the town and dividing it [End Page 152] into two parts that during the Qing Dynasty were respectively under the jurisdiction of Tongxiang county and Xiushui county, the seat of Jiaxing prefecture. On a map of Puyuan dated to 1903, it is possible to reconstruct Shen Zi's route of escape from the northeastern segment of the town, where his house was located, to the northeastern suburbs. In recording the progress of the war, Shen Zi's primary focus is on the military movements that could have a major and direct impact on Puyuan and Hangzhou. Additionally, he pays close attention to the status of the war around Nanjing (the Qing prefectural seat of Jiangning), the Taiping capital. Thus, most of the cities and towns mentioned in the text were located in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, including major cities such as Hangzhou and Suzhou, as well as numerous medium-sized cities, towns, and villages. In addition, his diary allows us to map out most of the streets, riverbanks, temples, and bridges of Puyuan and its suburbs.
With Puyuan at the center of its geographical radius, Shen Zi's diary provides an encyclopedic view of the Taiping war on a microscopic scale. Mediated through and constituted by Shen Zi's experiences and observations, the text touches upon personal, religious, political, economic, social, and historical issues on various levels. In comparison to Wang Shiduo, a Nanjing elite who fled from the city nine months after it fell into rebel hands in March 1853, Shen Zi stayed in the Taiping-occupied area until the end of the war. He seemed to have avoided being put into the Taiping camp (guan) that divided the urban population by sexes in the areas under their control. In comparison to Wang, Shen Zi primarily focused on local affairs rather than the Taiping practices.35 The events Shen Zi recorded include, but are not limited to, the following: misfortunes happening to Shen Zi and others, local people's intensified adherence to religious rituals in the face of danger, the passing troops from both sides, rumors about relevant political and military changes, local gentry's futile defense efforts, Taiping customs and regulations, and social and economic inequality amidst the chaos, as well as the power struggles between the Qing government, the Taiping regime, and local armed forces—both militias and bandits. The text mentions the names of over a hundred people. Among these, more than half are from Shen Zi's immediate social circle, including his friends, extended family members, [End Page 153] classmates, and neighbors. The rest are the names of the military leaders from both sides, as well as the heads of local armed forces.
Overall, the fragmentary condition of the manuscript and the non-chronological arrangement of its entries both refer to and recreate the disjointed temporal structure that models Shen Zi's personal experience of the Taiping war. The revisions are indicative of the notoriously compliant and fragile nature of memory. Materially, the manuscript embodies three temporal dimensions for which the war serves as a reference point: prewar times, when the civil examinations played a paramount role in the life of an educated man; wartime, when that sociopolitical structure was dismantled and destroyed; and postwar times, when the allocation of resources and monetary transactions were registered in the account book. While the text as an object embodies these three temporal dimensions, its content also foregrounds at least three temporal points, with Shen Zi's personal experiences as the focal reference. He was, first and foremost, an individual who had a firsthand encounter with the war; second, a writer who documented witness accounts and collected information as soon as he could; and third, an editor who assiduously and thoroughly revised the text. I hypothesize that Shen made revisions at various times: his recollection of specific details and addition of minor events of the day suggest that he made many revisions while his memories were fresh; other revisions demonstrate certain historical hindsight. Although Shen Zi did not publish these diary accounts during his lifetime, the way the text is compiled and revised suggests that he probably anticipated audience engagement. Stitched together, the pieces from many temporal planes form a patchwork of experience in which victimhood and agency, reality and memory, interlace. It is precisely through the interstices of the numerous textual layers that we hope to comprehend how Shen Zi "sutured" the wounds of history and coped with individual sufferings by keeping and revising his diary accounts.
The Shifting Place of "I"
If writings on the self are placed on a spectrum, with one end being "impressionistic autobiographies" and the other being "circumstantial texts" where the self-references are largely situated within "the socio-material world of kinship, ancestry, 'real' time and place, proper names, and official positions," then Shen Zi's diary should be placed closer [End Page 154] to the latter.36 Wu Pei-yi's observation about Chinese autobiographies since the 1680s largely pertains to Shen Zi's accounts, where the writer expresses a general lack of interest in internal exploration.37 That said, self-expressivity and self-examination are occasionally manifested in Shen Zi's text; in very few instances, the references to the self also shift toward the "impressionistic" end of the spectrum.
In exploring the moments when an "I" is evoked, this section investigates how the "circumstantial" references to the self in Shen Zi's diary provide entryways to understanding issues such as self-reflexivity, literati identity, and the writing of history during the Taiping war. Even though, in classical Chinese, "I" is omitted when the meaning can be inferred from the context, in his diary Shen Zi refers to "I" hundreds of times. It is important to recognize that "I" is not to say "self." Nevertheless, posited or deposed, "I" identifies the self within existing conditions. When "I" is uttered, the self is implied reflexively.38 Such a large number of self-references may signify a heightened awareness of the self within complex relationships and situations amidst the war that is an imminent threat to life. In addition, keeping daily records of the actions taken by "I" implies constant self-examination. Ultimately, in Shen Zi's diary, the shifting place of "I" on the spectrum bookended by "impressionistic autobiographies" and "circumstantial text" yields important clues about the writer's continuous negotiation with the self during the war.
References to the self in the text primarily take two forms: in most cases, "I" (yu), and in very few cases, in the third person as "Master Shen" (Shenzi). Master Shen is the persona Shen Zi assumes to offer a historian's reflections on political, social, economic, and moral disorders. Master Shen's comments, characterized by allusions and parallel prose, are written in formal classical Chinese. "Yu" is an equivalent utterance of the first-person "I," the subject who states his existence, experiences, and [End Page 155] actions. The number of the utterances of yu as the subject of actions in each lunar calendar year is shown in the following chart.
In the accounts from the diary's first entry until the end of the tenth year of the Xianfeng reign (March 4, 1860 to February 9, 1861), when the Taiping invasion of Puyuan led Shen Zi and his family to undergo a series of catastrophic events, Shen Zi evokes "I" (yu) many times. The frequency of yu spikes from September to December, 1860, when his elder sister and wife died, leaving him to take care of their funeral arrangements. Accounts throughout the year of the Taiping invasion reveal how Shen Zi pronounces the self as the bearer of historical violence and as a Confucian patriarch responsible for protecting other family members. In the accounts from 1861 to 1864, after losing his wife, newborn daughter, and two sisters, Shen Zi shifted his focus to external military and political affairs. The decreased usage of "yu" from the first day of the eleventh year of the Xianfeng reign to the first day of the third year of the Tongzhi reign (February 10, 1861 to February 8, 1864) results from Shen's shifting focus from the private to the public domain. Such a detachment from the [End Page 156] self may be a coping mechanism for personal loss. It may also be that, when Shen Zi did not need to confront immediate personal tragedy that forced him to ponder and refer to the "self," he wrote with relatively greater ease. The low frequency of "I" for entries in the third year of the Tongzhi reign (from February 8, 1864, to August 22, 1864) is partially due to the decreasing number of entries Shen Zi recorded as the war concluded. In addition, the omission of "I" as the subject of actions becomes more common as the restored Qing order substantiated the continuity of Shen Zi's Confucian identity as a classically educated elite male that was previously shattered. In the following analysis, I use "I" to mark the places where the first-person pronouns are used or semantically implied, and "(I)" with parentheses to indicate the omission of yu in the sentence. What, then, are the circumstances that led to different modes of self-referentiality?
The first entry of all the accounts reads, "On the twelfth day of the second month in the tenth year of the Xianfeng reign [March 4, 1860], I was at the Gao Household in Xincheng [county]. Suddenly, I heard that the long-hair bandits had entered from the town of Si'an in Changxing county, Huzhou prefecture."40 Xincheng and Puyuan are about 12 miles away from each other; it takes several hours, according to Shen Zi's diary, to travel by water between these towns. Instead of being conceived at the occurrence of political events on the national level, such as the 1851 creation of the Taiping regime or the establishment of its capital at Nanjing in 1853, the text begins at the moment when Shen Zi perceived the rebels as an encroachment upon his life. The earliest entries of the diary have room for "objective knowledge" such as geographical locations and relevant customs and practices of towns and cities, but as the rebels approached and invaded Shen Zi's hometown, his writings begin to be filled with personal experiences, feelings, and thoughts. In declaring the presence of the self in specific time and space, Shen Zi makes an important statement, "I was there." In doing so, the self assumes the powerful position as a witness of the unfolding, collective history.
The frequent evocation of an "I" as the decision maker and actor during the first year of the diary, XF10 (March 4, 1860–February 9, 1861), calls forth a subject that actively exerts agency in response to a chaotic situation. This is best shown in the number of times that Shen [End Page 157] Zi, with scarce and sometimes conflicting sources of information, had to make the decision to lead his family's escape during the confusion of the invasion. For instance, after a local militia first defeated the Taipings, Shen moved all his female family members to a temple on June 19 to avoid the rebels' potential return. It turned out, however, that the rebels did not immediately invade Puyuan, so Shen Zi had to move his family back home a few days later. On September 9, there were rumors that legions of Taiping troops passed by the town, marching toward the west. Once again, Shen Zi had to decide when and where to move his family. He wrote, "I therefore went to Baique Temple to draw lots issued by the Bodhisattva. (The lot read) 'Staying is inauspicious, whereas moving is even more inauspicious.' I at first intended to go to Baoben Temple. In the afternoon, however, I learned that Tongxiang (the county seat) had been lost, so I dared not escape toward the west. This night, I thought that, should the rebels indeed come to our town, they must come from the west and south." Shen continued, "In Xiaotaoyuan (in the eastern suburb of Puyuan), there is my ancestor's tomb. We could temporarily hide there."41 In most places in this passage, omitting the character yu would not change the meaning. To call forth yu so many times yields a sense of urgency. When rationalization became increasingly irrelevant as the disorder escalated, Shen Zi turned to divination for instructions and toward his ancestors for protection. Taken together, the "guidance" inspired by these cultural and religious beliefs probably brought meaning amidst chaos and bewilderment, and yielded a kind of agency that allowed the self to maintain a sense of consistency despite the disorder.
In the face of a devastating war, the familiar social, geographical, and temporal order one relied on to navigate the world in peaceful times was completely overthrown. Shen Zi's decisions, however well calculated or supposedly divinely blessed, led to dire consequences that forced him momentarily to surrender his agency.42 On the morning of XF10.7.26 (September 11, 1860), as the Shen family was having breakfast, the Taipings suddenly overtook Puyuan. Shen and his family members had prepared to escape to the countryside later that day, but the unexpectedly early arrival of the Taipings forced them to alter their plans. Shen Zi's mother ordered him to leave by himself to preserve the bloodline. Shen [End Page 158] recorded their heartbreaking conversation: "I said, 'There are five in the family. I was not able to plan for this earlier. I cannot abandon you. Also, what should I do with my old mother?'"43 In this record, Shen presents an image of the self who, torn between his attachment to his family and his filial responsibilities, is steeped in regret and self-recrimination. Eventually, Shen fled because of his mother's constant and urgent insistence. The next morning, he returned to the ruined house. He found his elder sister and mother safe but his wife and younger sister missing: his mother had sent them away to escape with the neighbors. Shen decided first to escort his mother and elder sister to the countryside, and later to look for his wife and younger sister. In a related account, he describes the process of the family's escape, "It rained heavily again. There was no shelter in our immediate surroundings, so we had nowhere to hide. The field was rather slippery. Mother fell and got up again. I cried out for Heaven and wept."44 After Shen finally found his wife and younger sister, on XF10.8.9 (September 23), he moved the whole family to another place in the countryside. It was again a frustrating process: "As soon as we untied the cable (of the boat), it rained again. When we arrived at Zhai Bridge, it rained heavily as dusk was falling. Extremely discouraged, I could only cry out to Heaven."45 Throughout the diary, these are the only moments where Shen Zi records his cries to Heaven. When suffering overwhelmed the self, the deprivation of agency suffocated hope of surviving.
Shen Zi's close observations on how his health deteriorated amidst trying situations reveal his heightened awareness of the self as a corporal existence limited by external conditions. In the entries from XF10.8.15 to XF10.10.2 (September 29 to November 14, 1860), Shen mentions his illness about ten times, whereas in the remaining part of the diary he rarely touches on his physical condition. During this one-and-a-half-month period, Shen Zi also suffered the consecutive deaths of several family members and underwent a climax of pain and loss. In the face of dire conditions, there was an incessant need for him to collect resources for the family. This responsibility exhausted him and exacerbated his health condition. For instance, on September 29, Shen returned to Puyuan [End Page 159] from the countryside to purchase essentials. In the entry for the day, he writes, "I was already greatly exhausted. This night, I stayed at the Dongs' house. Nüe (intermittent fever and diarrhea) erupted again."46 Two days later, Shen made another quick trip to the town to collect information about the war. Soon, a rumor arrived that the rebels would invade the town again, so Shen, summoning all his strength, attempted to return to the countryside. "After walking less than half a mile," Shen wrote, "(I) had to sit on the ground. Hot sweat oozed, and both my legs were sore and painful. I was utterly helpless."47 The symptoms and the frail physical conditions are evidence of the collapse of Shen Zi's body, the material site of the self onto which social constructions are mapped. In juxtaposing the detailed descriptions of his physical breakdown with the difficult situations that put high demands on him, Shen's representation of the self seems to be both frustrated at and apologetic for his inability to act for his family.
Shen Zi's very few explicit utterances of his intense feelings toward others center on the deaths of his elder sister and his wife. Self-expression in these cases, therefore, is mediated through concern and care for others. On the evening of XF10.8.25 (October 9, 1860), Shen came into the town to search for medicine for his elder sister. The next morning, he was informed by his younger sister, who arrived by boat, that their sister had passed away at daybreak. Hearing this news, Shen wrote, "My heart was astonished and my guts dropped."48 Shen refrains from giving more detailed descriptions of psychological activities, but continues to write about how he dragged his ill body to walk in the rain immediately after receiving this news, searching for funeral clothes and a coffin. The descriptions of his actions are charged with much bitterness and sorrow. A week later, Shen's illness worsened significantly. On October 23, when resting at a temple, he heard from a friend that his wife and baby had both died a few days earlier. Shen recalls his reaction to receiving the news, "Hearing that, I lost my soul and spirit in astonishment."49 His friends recommended that he not immediately return to the countryside. This is because the greedy landlord from whom Shen rented the house was trying [End Page 160] to extort more money by blaming the multiple deaths as inauspicious. Upon hearing this, Shen wrote, "I could not withstand my sorrow."50 When others told him that they could only find a coffin of low quality for the elder sister, Shen wrote, "I especially feel regret."51 Throughout Shen Zi's accounts, these are the only explicit revelations of his intimate feelings toward his family. The evocations of "I" in these accounts are especially poignant, as they call forth evaluation of the self, in assessing the goal of protecting the female members, to make judgement on oneself. Thus, Shen's intense emotions may be understood as being directed toward both the deceased and the self incapable of protecting others.
After such significant losses, Shen Zi seemed to have found new purpose and meaning for the self at the beginning of the new lunar calendar year (XF11), starting from XF11.1.1 (February 10, 1861). In the volumes collectively entitled Bikou riji, Shen primarily presents himself as an observer and recorder of the developments of the war, and his focus gradually shifts from the private to the public and political realms. Shen actively made trips between Puyuan, Xincheng, and occasionally Wuzhen, a town neighboring Puyuan on the northeast, to collect information about the military and political changes in Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces and to participate in local affairs. Many entries begin with Shen's identification of his movements, such as, "I came to Xincheng" (XF11.7.6/August 11, 1861), "I came to Puyuan from Xincheng" (XF11.7.9/August 14, 1861), and "I went to Puyuan" (TZ1.3.2/March 31, 1862).52 The rest of the entry for each of these days is devoted to what he saw or heard about during that day, rarely with a second utterance of yu. In doing so, Shen Zi returns to the position of the observer of history as assumed in the first entry where he announced the imminence of the war in his hometown. In entries throughout Bikou riji, from XF11.1 (February 1861) to TZ2.12 (February 1864), the actions Shen most frequently mentions are "saw" (jian) and "heard" (wen), and he records events with little embellishment.
From the second year (1863–64) of the Tongzhi reign, when Qing forces made many military advances, Shen Zi's tendency to establish the self as a historian bearing political and moral responsibilities grew [End Page 161] even stronger. The restoration of the Qing order seems to have helped him regain confidence in his self-identification as a Confucian student. In five entries from this year, Shen made elaborate moral and political comments under the name of "Master Shen." These comments touch upon topics including Qing military movements in the Yangzi region, politics among the gentry in Puyuan, refugees, and an immoral bandit named Bu Xiao'er.53 Records on these topics exist throughout the diary; however, Shen Zi rarely offers elaborative discussion on them elsewhere. Therefore, his Tongzhi 2 reflections on those instances are especially telling of his deliberate assumption of the role of historian. With dense allusions and parallel sentences, Master Shen's comments are characterized by a high-level linguistic register and formality; he also cites ancient comments on various virtues and vices to validate or condemn contemporary occurrences. These characteristics all point to the solidification of the Confucian self in conjunction with the Qing government's consolidation of power.
As the war approached its conclusion and the Qing government restored its rule, Shen Zi's personal need for moral support converged with the state's demand for ideological consolidation. The urgency of reconstructing local order and infrastructure gave Shen new identities and incentives to participate, and lead, in the rebuilding of the community of Puyuan. Concomitant with this change was that Shen kept his daily accounts less often. This might suggest that Shen was occupied by his new role in the community. Equally possible is the implied recognition of the returning mundaneness of everyday life with the restored Qing order: there is not much that is especially worth recording. The diary ends on TZ3.7.21 (August 22, 1864), about five months after the Qing had retaken Jiaxing and one month since the Taiping capital at Nanjing fell to Zeng Guofan's Hunan Army. On that day, Shen Zi visited the recently established General Reconstruction Bureau in the Jiaxing prefectural seat and the local academy where he had previously studied and taught. There, he shed tears for his teacher and classmates who had perished during the war. The last sentence of the diary reads, "On [my] way (I) saw Zhou Yizhai coming on a horse. (I) learned he was making the obligatory donations for Bu Danshu. . . . When (I) came to my boat, (I) received the notice from the governor, who asked me to transport [End Page 162] donations immediately. Therefore, (I) spent the night on the boat. Time was too limited for me to visit Zhou Yizhai. The next morning at the yin-hour (3 a.m.—5 a.m.), (I) loosened the cable and returned."54 Zhou Yizhai was Shen Zi's old classmate with whom he probably had long since lost contact. Nevertheless, the two were both too preoccupied to talk: Zhou was negotiating the reinstating of taxes to generate revenue for the newly re-established Qing order; Shen was allocating the funds gathered for an unspecified local restoration project. Both men would play an important role in building a new regional order that involved Qing governance, local armed forces, and the local gentry. In this entry, Shen Zi is again actively involved in numerous relationships. The utterance of "yu" as the subject is notably omitted. In comparison to the frequent evocations of "yu" in XF10 (1860–1861) that yield a sense of emergency amidst urgent and chaotic conditions, the omission of "yu" here may suggest that Shen Zi no longer felt the need to amplify the self as the sole agent responding to unpredictable changes, as he became an integral part of the restoration of the sociopolitical order.
With the conclusion of the Taiping war, expressions of the less intense self are most suggestively embodied in Shen Zi's lyrical descriptions of the natural environment. These are the "impressionistic" moments when Shen engages with non-social activities and uses figural language for description. On TZ3.3.1 (April 6, 1864), Shen retrieved his mother from her place of refuge to return home. He wrote, "The willow leaves were half yellow, and the peach flowers all blossomed . . . it was half sunny and half cloudy. The sun shone as if it were sunset. The flowers and the willow leaves concealed and revealed each other. Their tenderness and loveliness were inexplicable."55 Throughout the diary, Shen mostly represented nature as a hostile force that catalyzed his misery, so this "rediscovery" of beauty in nature is certainly a sign that his anguish has been alleviated. This beautiful spring scenery that marked the beginning of another cycle of nature and rebirth, however, coexisted with ubiquitous ruins that testified to warfare and violence. Shen continues, "And yet within the scenery of spring and fields, corpses were oftentimes floating on the water, and the foul smell was oppressive. . . . There were destroyed walls and broken hearths, and the crimson color of the walls was particularly [End Page 163] prominent. The burnt debris still carried an air of fierce flame . . . . No one knows to where the tens of thousands of households have drifted. This is indeed pitiful and lamentable."56 The rejuvenating spring and the demolished houses should be deemed metaphoric of the self who, after being traumatized by the war, expects order to arise from the ruins. In both excerpts, "I" is by and large omitted, but the self is unmistakably implied in the elaborate descriptions of the natural scenery and the destroyed buildings. This is illustrative of the principle of "integrating feelings with scenery" (qing jing jiaorong) in traditional Chinese poetics. In addition, in contrast to the unembellished style that runs through accounts that prioritize "facts," the figurative language and the imagination of the fate of tens of thousands of households illustrates Shen Zi's poetic expressions of the self.
In the diary, Shen Zi's self-references and self-expressions take numerous forms over time. With the specific identification of yu, Shen, bewildered by the sudden arrival of the rebels, begins keeping daily records by testifying to the significant historical change with the presence of the self. The rather frequent utterances of yu in the Beishan biji accounts from the tenth year of the Xianfeng reign (1860–61) indicate Shen's self-reflexivity as he recorded his active assertion of agency, loss of power, and physical and emotional collapse during the calamitous time. Even though direct emotional and psychological depictions are rare and brief, expressions of intense private feelings are implied where Shen situates the self within complex familial and social relationships. From the eleventh year of the Xianfeng reign (1861–62), and from the beginning of Bikou riji, Shen primarily presents the self as a historian whose focus centers on the public domain, as shown by his self-reference as "Master Shen." At the conclusion of the war, the Qing restoration of order naturally provided Shen with a sense of self-continuity or self-rejuvenation when his identity as a Confucian student converged with the demand of the state. Finally, Shen's "rediscovery" of the beauty of nature and his lamentation over the ashes of war, mediated by literary and figural language, resonates with the perennial themes of appreciation for everyday life and of meditation on history in Chinese literary tradition. Compared with the individual "I" caught by surprise in the snares of unprecedented violence, the self has now returned to the familiar literary [End Page 164] tradition where historical turbulence may be mediated, and hopefully transcended, through lyrical language.
Reconstruct, Revise, and Restore
Many entries in the manuscript diary are reconstructed with the aid of mnemonic notes that consist of one or two sentences with minimal information about a few key events of a given day. "Yu" is omitted in almost all the mnemonic notes. A note of ten characters can be expanded to hundreds of words with additional information. For instance, the note dated TZ1.1.14 (February 12, 1862) reads, "(I) visited Yan's tomb. (I) came across Shen Hengqing and Shen Qiweng. We shed many tears." In comparison, the corresponding expanded entry includes the following elements: Shen Zi's accidental encounter with a villager who informed him that both the Qing general and the Taiping rebels were making announcements to pacify residents in nearby villages, the friend who accompanied him to the Yan tomb, information about the rebels' movements in Shuanglin, a town northwest of Puyuan in Huzhou prefecture, how the leader of Shuanglin's local defense force narrowly escaped the rebels, and how Shen Zi's meeting with Shen Qiweng, whose hair had suddenly turned grey after he lost a boat full of family members, was full of sorrow.57 Another note dated TZ2.10.17 (November 27, 1863), reads, "(I) received Wu Langao's letter." Shen Zi elaborates on this note with two corresponding entries, both marked with the date of TZ18.104.22.168 In the first entry, he summarizes the content of the letter with one sentence, and then gives it more context: Wu, his nephew-in-law, was a resident of Huzhou prefecture, then under Taiping control. He was sent by the local defense force to Shanghai to seek collaboration with Qing troops to resist the rebels. Considering the incompetent Qing military force, Shen Zi tried to dissuade Wu from taking this trip. In the letter, Wu told Shen of his recent setback. In the second entry, Shen copies Wu's entire letter, and then appends his comment beginning with "Master Shen says." Together, the letter and the comment add up to thousands of words. Overall, introductions to more relevant events, contextualization and elaborations of details, and Shen Zi's historical and moral judgement, are all ways in which Shen expanded these mnemonic notes. [End Page 165]
Shen Zi's intent for his revisions does not seem to have been to portray himself in a more positive light. Instead, private feelings such as stress, despair, and sorrow become more intense in the reconstructions and revisions. For instance, when Shen Zi was searching for his wife and younger sister, his cousin refused to help him deliver a message of reassurance to his mother. The sentence in the first draft is short and simple: "I was on the journey by myself." In the revision, Shen elaborates, "Alas! Since the loss of my younger brother, I was on the journey all by myself. I had absolutely no support from siblings. Things have always been this way. There has been a history of the family having conflicting opinions, and there is a reason for that to lead to disasters."59 In this insertion, Shen Zi highlights his loneliness and tries to rationalize the family tragedy. In the mnemonic note dated TZ1.1.16 (Feb 14, 1862), he writes, "(I) bought the flags of the rebels. On my way home, the boat capsized."60 In the expanded entry, he uses more than three hundred words to delineate vividly how the boat capsized and how he, not knowing how to swim, had a moment of panic in the water.61 Shen's remembrance of his mother as he was on the verge of drowning and his senses and feelings under water are impressively vivid. Another illustrative example is Shen's account of the deaths of his wife and their newborn daughter. In the revision, before his friend's description of what happened at the last moment of his wife's life, Shen inserts his emotional response to the tragic news he received, "Hearing that, I lost my soul and spirit in astonishment. Neither did I know why things had suddenly changed as they had."62 Taken together, the writer's revisits to these intimate moments prompted reverberations of emotional memories and further self-explorations, and possibly even some moral embellishment in hindsight.
Some revisions reflect a heightened political sensitivity and, occasionally, self-censorship in Shen Zi's representation of his contact with the Taiping rebels. In the same mnemonic note dated TZ1.1.16 (February 14, 1862), he revises "(I) bought the flags of the rebels" to [End Page 166] "(I) went to the Bureau to buy two yellow flags for Shen Qiweng, on which are the stamps of the Xincheng military commander."63 These flags were probably for Shen Qiweng to go and fetch his family.64 The references to the yellow color and to the stamps of "the Xincheng military commander" do not identify the political significance of these flags. By writing in this manner, Shen Zi avoids specifying his contact with the Taipings. Another example that demonstrates certain political sensitivity is the entry of XF11.12.6 (January 5, 1862), in which Shen Zi records that he witnessed hundreds of low-ranking Taiping soldiers entering the town. He asked some soldiers about the silver medals hanging on their waists, and received the reply, "This is the award we won after capturing Hangzhou."65 He at first recorded the four characters on the Taiping soldiers' silver medals as such, "the Manchus fled and the Blessed triumphed" (Man zou Fu sheng), but later changed them to "urgent affairs" (ji gong), two characters of ambiguous meaning.66 "The Blessed," homophonic of "father" (fu), is often used to refer to God, the Heavenly Father in Taiping ideology; so, "the Manchus fled and the Blessed triumphed" means that the Taiping's celebration of the military victory was in honor of God.67 Given that the Taipings conquered Hangzhou on XF11.11.9 (December 10, 1861), it is likely that what Shen Zi wrote at first was the actual inscription.68 In the revision, however, Shen removed the phrase "the Manchus fled and the Blessed triumphed," which highlights ethnic hatred toward the Manchus and glorifies the Taiping troops and their alternative ideology. This change may be because general references as such to the conflicts between the Taipings and the Qing government were considered to cause potential political consequences in the post-Taiping context. [End Page 167]
Shen Zi often first jotted down records of events in the manner of history writing, what Hayden White would term "annals." Following chronological order, this narrative mode records events as humanly experienced, oftentimes seemingly "incomprehensible," "practical," and "endless."69 In comparison, according to White, "chronicle" is an alternative form of representation characterized by a desire for a kind of moral order and fullness that it promises but fails to deliver. Both "annals" and "chronicles" present historical accounts in chronological order. In the following pages, I investigate how the reconstructions and revisions in the manuscript diary demonstrate Shen Zi's efforts to organize the events of "annals" into a "chronicle" with greater narrative coherence.
The insertions of time markers assert multiple "beginnings," indicative of an intention to historicize in the revisions. For instance, Shen Zi at first described the rebels' arrival in Puyuan in this way, "On this day, a few rebels came to the outside of the barriers," but he later revised it to "On this day, a few rebels began to scurry right up to the barriers ."70 This change recognizes the lapse of time with the marker word "began." In addition, "scurry" (cuan), a negative term usually used to describe the movements of animals and despicable people, not only highlights the unexpected appearance of the rebels, but also conveys Shen Zi's scorn and hatred for the enemy. In the entry for XF11.9.27 (October 30, 1861), Shen describes the situation of the refugees on a lake adjacent to Puyuan. He first wrote, "On the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, some refugee boats from Huzhou began to return to Xincheng." He then changes it to: "At the beginning, five to six hundred refugee boats from Huzhou docked at Xincheng."71 What is noteworthy is that despite the explicit, numerous statements of "beginnings," the entire text ends indefinitely when the local order was yet to be fully established after the Taipings lost the war. This is characteristic of the "chronicle," which promises and yet fails to provide closure.
Many inserted entries "complete" the void in between the events of political, social, and personal significance that "interrupt" the continuity [End Page 168] of the calendar. A date mentioned in an entry may serve as the point of departure for Shen Zi's recollections. For instance, in the first draft, Shen records no entry from XF10.R3.17 to XF10.R3.22 (May 7–May 12, 1860); however, in the entry for the twenty-third day of the intercalary third month (May 13), Shen records that he heard that on the eighteenth Qing troops had passed by Wuzhen, a town close to Puyuan.72 In the revision that is literally inserted between the lines, Shen not only adds the title of the Qing general leading the passing troops, but also adds two brief entries for the nineteenth and the twenty-first that relate to rumors Shen heard about military affairs. In the inserted entry for the twenty-first, Shen notes that he heard the gunfire of the siege, which seems to echo the march of the Qing troops on the twenty-third (which is written down earlier, as shown by the textual traces).73 In another example, Shen Zi inserts between the entries of XF11.11.12 (December 13, 1861) and XF11.11.17 (December 18, 1861), an entry for 11.15 (December 16) in which he records a placard he saw that announces the opening of a Taiping academy for local children.74 Without direct impact on Shen's personal life, this inserted entry seems to be solely for "record-keeping," but it also provides a glimpse of how the Taiping regime gradually institutionalized its governance in various aspects of life in Puyuan. Taken together, this practice of "filling in the blanks" between consecutive entries that are a few days apart demonstrates the desire for a version/vision of reality characterized by continuity and "completeness" promised by the diurnal structure of the calendar.
In addition to offering an overarching historical view, in his revisions Shen Zi also tries to be more precise about the people, scope of events, and exact locations that he observed, even though sometimes the revision seems to be based on general impressions. One example is the enumeration of boats docking at Xincheng in the aforementioned entry for XF11.9.27 (October 30, 1861). A similar example is the entry for TZ2.3.22 (May 9, 1863); here, Shen describes the sudden arrival of the Taiping rebels. He first wrote, "a large troop," but then inserted "(a large troop) of four to five thousand soldiers."75 In comparison to these cases, [End Page 169] some revisions are made to alter the earlier records with subsequently acquired information. One of the numerous examples is the entry for TZ2.10.14 (November 24, 1863), in which Shen writes about how a local bandit leader and his armed followers seized a boat loaded with goods and passengers. The record of the first draft is a general description of the event. In the revision, Shen specifies the number of passengers as twenty, among whom fifteen were killed. He also describes the crime with more details: the bandits coerced the boatman to drive to a remote cove, killed fifteen passengers, sank the bodies in water, and sailed the boat away.76 In adding the exact number of victims and the murderous actions, Shen renders a clearer delineation of the local gangster's criminal activities amidst local disorder. Taken together, these meticulous additions concerning his records of events that do not have direct impact on Shen Zi's life make evident his efforts at assuming the role of a historian.
Minor changes to characters and words entail aesthetic concerns: they bring rhyme, clarity, and precision to subsequent drafts. For instance, during his homecoming journey on XF10.7.27 (September 12, 1860), the day after his escape from the Taiping invasion, Shen Zi arrived at the end of the Wang Plank Bridge. There, he saw a dismembered female body. In the first draft, Shen describes the body in graphic detail: "On the stone-covered bank of the river near the Wang Plank Bridge, I saw a woman's body covered by a straw mat. Her feet were cut off, and fresh blood covered the ground."77 In the revision, he changes "fresh blood covered the ground" to "blood covered the ground" to make it a phrase of four characters that better abides by the aesthetic tradition of classical Chinese. This change, however, reduces the vivid sense of horror and astonishment in the original version. In another entry, Shen at first writes, "our family of five were all sick and lying in bed, unable to rise," then edits it to read "our family of five were all lying in bed, sick, not able to rise."78 While the meaning of the sentence remains unchanged, the revised version makes "sick" (bing) rhyme with "rise" (xing). Occasional stylistic changes like this demonstrate Shen Zi's efforts to make the text aesthetically more polished, which is symptomatic of his search for order on a linguistic level. [End Page 170]
Through the revisions, causal relationships are implied and built through additional information acquired in hindsight. In August 1860, when the Taipings defeated Qing troops and began to approach Puyuan, the prevailing sociopolitical order of the town was completely disrupted. Shen Zi at first wrote, "(I) . . . saw villagers and townsmen rob packages from the pawn shops."79 In the revision, he added, "(Those people) used spears as carrying poles and held broadswords in their hands. Previously, they were members of the Defense Bureau."80 In explaining that the local militia soldiers had turned into looters, Shen Zi makes sense of the ultimate deterioration of order in the town by placing the burden of moral accountability and corruption on his fellow townsman.81 Another illustrative example is the account of TZ2.7.19 (September 1, 1863). In this entry, Shen seems to make sense of the Taiping troops' movement with additional knowledge about the conflicts of interest between different Taiping cliques. Shen relates that the Taiping military commander surnamed Zhong, who had been stationed in Tongxiang, received an order to march to Hangzhou. Unsatisfied with the amount of revenue derived from his levy on the people of Tongxiang, Zhong postponed his departure; however, another Taiping commander succeeding him arrived at the town and took control of all the Taiping offices. As a result, Zhong could take little of the money he collected. Forced to leave Tongxiang, Zhong headed for Jiashan, a county in Jiaxing northeast of the prefectural seat, instead of going to Hangzhou, to the southwest. In between the lines, Shen Zi inserts text explaining that "At the time, the rebel Ting King (ting wang) was in Jiashan, and Zhong was the nephew of the Ting King's wife."82 Implicitly, this detail explains the reason for Zhong's movement by revealing the nepotism and power struggles within the Taiping leadership. [End Page 171]
Furthermore, the insertions of the names of neighboring towns bring forth not only a spatial relationship, but also causal linkages. For instance, the original draft of the entry for XF10.8.18 (October 2, 1860), reads, "(I) heard the Qing troops came. A general wearing a blue stone on his official cap first arrived. . . . Wherever they showed up, it became empty. I think that at this moment, the Qing troops do not dare to come to the town. It was probably the rebels pretending to be the official troops." The revised entry elaborates, "Chaos ensued as there was a rumor that the long-hairs had arrived at the town. People all fled. Immediately afterwards, I heard it was the Qing troops from Tongxiang. A general wearing a blue stone on his official cap first arrived at the Temple of Guan Yu. . . . Wherever they showed up, it became empty. I think that at this moment, Hangzhou troops do not dare hope to recover Jiaxing. How could they dare to come to the town? It was probably the rebels pretending to be the official troops so that they could attack the capital of the province."83 The revision begins with a change of perspectives: the insertion of fellow townsmen's reactions to the rumor makes the subsequent hearsay a piece of information not only relevant to Shen Zi, but also information shared by all residents of the town. The names of places such as Tongxiang, Jiaxing, and Hangzhou, the capital of the province, delineate a speculative route of the troops, which leads to Shen's inference that the putative Qing troops must be the rebels in disguise.84 Together, the map emerging from these revisions reflects Shen Zi's attempts to connect the disjointed temporal and spatial experiences so that he can establish links to mediate between his limited knowledge and the unfolding of greater historical events.
Shen Zi's revisions of accounts about his family members imply moral judgments as he contrasts the courageous self-sacrifice of some with the apathy and selfishness of others. When all family members remaining in Puyuan were dead except for Shen Zi and his mother, his mother insisted on staying in their own house in the town rather than escaping to the countryside: she wanted to protect the house while Shen Zi hid to avoid being drafted by the Taipings. Shen Zi first laments, "My mother was [End Page 172] already in her fifties. With her house broken and family dead, she lived here alone. Fierce and brutal bandits came frequently. How much did she suffer from fear, worry, and frustration!"85 In the revisions, Shen inserts "having already been victimized by the disaster . . . [she was] too weak to escape, so she stayed in this broken house [to guard it]. Every day, she dealt with fierce and brutal bandits."86 In the revisions, the mother appears resilient and brave despite her victimhood. In contrast to his praise for his mother, in the retrospective edits Shen Zi does not hide grudges he held against certain family members. One case in point is the entry for TZ2.9.3 (October 15, 1863), when Shen went to inspect the graveyard where his youngest sister was buried. After she was married off to the Chen family in 1860, the Chen family sent her to live with her married sister, and she later lived with her mother and died in the Shen house.87 By the date of the 1863 diary entry, her husband, who was once captured by the Taiping rebels, had already died. After inspecting the graveyard, Shen Zi concluded that the direction in which the tombs were facing inauspiciously foreshadowed the extinction of the Chen clan. But none of the Chens listened to him. Shen first wrote, "The auspicious land awaits the burial of the blessed people," but changed it to "a piece of [auspicious] burial ground is not comparable to a [good] heart." In the following sentence, which remains unchanged, he makes this comment, "the Chens have no integrity, so they deserve to be buried inauspiciously even in this auspicious ground."88 Shen Zi's moral judgement of the Chen family is extremely harsh given the cultural significance placed on ancestral tombs and family graveyards in late imperial Chinese society. Generalizing the moral judgement, the revised sentence escalates Shen's condemnation of the Chens' dishonesty.
Many inserted lines reflect Shen Zi's reflexivity as a historian when he tried to evaluate the authenticity of the information he received, as best illustrated by how he recorded the Taiping capture of Hangzhou on XF11.11.9 (December 10, 1861). For about two months, Shen Zi diligently and anxiously grasped scraps of information on how the battle in Hangzhou proceeded. He also inserted comments retrospectively. For [End Page 173] example, on XF11.12.8 (January 7, 1862), upon hearing that the Qing troops had left Huzhou, the seat of the adjacent prefecture north of Hangzhou, Shen Zi supposed they were marching toward Hangzhou, and told his friends, "This means Hangzhou has certainly not been lost."89 When he learned that in the neighboring town, local gangsters had tried to occupy the Taiping headquarters, he reasoned, "In that case, not only is Hangzhou not lost, probably the long-hairs have been defeated."90 Both lines were inserted into the text: Shen Zi apparently sought to convince himself of a favorable outcome of the war as he reviewed the assembled information. The entry for the following day even records a complete story about the Taipings' defeat circulating at the time.91 It was not until 12.11 (January 10) that Shen Zi finally confirmed in his diary the Taiping takeover of Hangzhou, and his description of the process is close to what we know today.92 Shen Zi's assiduous record-keeping activities and his reflections showcase how an individual with heightened historical awareness continuously tried to make sense of the history on a larger scale amidst confusion and disorder.
In the revisions, Shen Zi also makes retrospective moral and historical judgements on what he observed in the public realm. In the entry for XF11.10.25 (November 27, 1861), Shen records how he witnessed the abduction of women from wealthy families by gunboats led by bandits. Perplexed, he inserts, "Is this because of their (the women's) guilt in previous life? Or is it the retribution for the [sins] of their fathers or husbands? Why didn't the rich families think about previous examples rather than indulge themselves in brothels?"93 His attempts to apply the rule of moral retribution to the chaotic reality resonate with the early Qing discourse that blamed the exuberant commercial culture of the late Ming for the dynastic fall, and his particular focus on the role of women in social disorder is reflective of the familiar trope that associates decadence and sensual pleasures with political corruption and social disorder.94 Shen Zi's vision as a historian is equally prominent in the [End Page 174] revision made to the entry for TZ2.9.9 (October 21, 1863). In the original draft, he first describes the famine in the Qing-controlled region where the natural disaster of saltwater flooding of farmland made many sick and caused deaths by starvation, and then contrasts this situation with the good harvest in the Taiping-controlled area unaffected by this disaster. In the revision, he inserts an elaborate comment after the juxtaposition, "Seeing the disaster of salty water and the large number of deaths from sudden [intestinal] turmoil (huoluan), I know that Heaven let disaster befall people. Seeing the harvest of rice in paddies fill the rebels' stomachs, I know that Heaven is assisting the rebels. I suspect that the poisonousness of the rebels is not exhausted yet. Otherwise, how could Heaven favor (the rebels) in this way?"95 While the original draft was a record of the unbalanced natural environment in the regions respectively under the control of Qing troops and the Taiping rebels, the insertion interprets this disparity as a reflection of Heaven's will to let the rebels continue their advances. The ultimate reference Shen Zi used to make sense of the calamity, therefore, was Heaven.
Comparisons between the existing mnemonic notes and their corresponding diary entries demonstrate that there were numerous ways to construct "what had happened." In the revisions, Shen Zi expresses his private and intimate feelings more intensely, but also demonstrates a degree of self-censorship when representing his political stance. On the linguistic level, his search for order is evinced by stylistic changes. On the narrative level, this search manifests itself as the attempt to claim beginnings, to "fill in" the calendrical structure, to construct causal relationships, and to moralize or historicize the phenomena recorded. In all, these attempts suture "what had happened" and the memories associated with the disorienting occurrences. [End Page 175]
Both historians and scholars of literature, when faced with the large number of diaries from the nineteenth century, grapple with this question: how can we approach authors' personal accounts without treating them simply as collected historical facts? Shen Zi's manuscript diary is a rare specimen that allows us to engage with this question extensively. Diaries were published in various print media after the Taiping-Qing civil war. Although the editorial traces are effaced in the final printed versions, the processes of revision, reconstruction, and restoration of personal and historical memories by either the author or the editor are a shared practice that is not unique to Shen Zi and his accounts.
Nonetheless, in comparison to the many published and even manuscript diaries of his contemporaries, Shen Zi's diary is unique for the way in which it has been stitched together, with multiple revisions pasted into recycled account books. Exploring this collage-like, patchwork manuscript as an archeological site has revealed two essential aspects of diaries: the references to the self and the temporal structure with implied narrativity. The trajectory of change revealed by the various forms of self-reference demonstrates Shen Zi's continuous negotiation with the self. From the most violent times to the conclusion of the war, the self is called forth as the agent of actions and bearer of tragedy, represented as a historian with moral concerns, and eventually restores its identity as a Confucian elite. At the same time, the natural diurnal rhythm the accounts largely abide by seems to provide a sense of order amidst sociopolitical disorder. In addition, with a variety of devices and a sense of historical distance, Shen retrospectively attempts to impose a certain narrative and moral order on the fragmented accounts through the revisions. Ultimately, the heavily edited, patchwork manuscript of Shen Zi's daily accounts showcases how a diary synthesizes the experiences from the realms of both the personal and the historical within the temporal structure of the everyday in catastrophic times. [End Page 176]
Huan Jin is an Assistant Professor of Chinese and History at the City University of Hong Kong.
Shen Zi. Bikou riji (Daily accounts of escape from the bandits). In Taiping tianguo (The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom), edited by Luo Ergang and Wang Qingcheng, 10 vols. (Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2004), vol. 8, 1–250.
Shen Zi. Beishan biji (Miscellaneous notes from the North Mountain Studio). Jiaxing Library, Zhejiang. [ms.]
Shen Zi. Bikou riji (Daily accounts of escape from the bandits), 2 vols., vol. 1, Jiaxing Library, Zhejiang. [ms.]
Shen Zi. Bikou riji (Daily accounts of escape from the bandits), 2 vols. vol. 2, Jiaxing Library, Zhejiang. [ms.]
* The author is grateful to Wai-yee Li, Robert E. Hegel, Lynn A. Struve, and May Bo Ching for their feedback. I appreciate the suggestions and comments from the anonymous readers and the editors at Late Imperial China. In addition, I would like to thank Hu Siao-chen, Pamela Kyle Crossley, and Lawrence C.H. Yim for creating the conditions for me to present earlier versions of this article at Academia Sinica, Dartmouth College, and Chinese University of Hong Kong. Special thanks to the generous help provided by Shen Qiuyan, the librarian at Jiaxing Library. The work described in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CityU 9048136).
1. Trauma is generally defined as "a psychologically distressing event that is outside the range of usual human experience" and that "often involves a sense of intense fear, terror, and helplessness." Rhoades, "Trauma Psychology."
2. Recent scholarly works on personal writings generated during the Taiping period and its aftermath include: Meyer-Fong, What Remains; Tian's translation of Zhang Daye's (1854–?) Weichong shijie; and Wooldridge, City of Virtues. In the following pages, I will have deeper engagements with these scholars' discoveries and arguments.
3. The different titles seem to suggest that the compiler of the manuscript, probably Shen Zi himself, considered "miscellaneous notes" and "daily accounts" slightly different genres: the former perhaps allows more space for private observations and reflections.
6. See Xu Xiake, Xu Xiake you ji. For a full-length, English-language study of Xu Xiake and his writings, see Ward, Xu Xiake (1586–1641): The Art of Travel Writing.
7. This is especially true for the Southern Song dynasty. For instance, many poems of Yang Wanli (1127–1206), especially those he composed on his journeys, bear the dates of composition that are indicative of the author's intention to chronicle mundane life on an everyday basis.
8. For example, Huang Chunyao (1605–45) sincerely used the diary to check his spiritual development, and participated in a local elites' club in which the members shared self-monitoring diaries to comment on each other's progress. Struve, "Self-Struggles of a Martyr," 353. Wu Pei-yi explores the rise of autobiographical writings in The Confucian's Progress.
12. Many important historical figures, such as Lin Zexu (1785–1850), Zeng Guofan (1811–72), and Guo Songtao (1818–91), are known for keeping diaries. In recent years, as scholarly interest in this genre increases, many nineteenth-century diaries–both manuscript and printed–have been reproduced. Some are published individually, such as Xie Lansheng's (1769–1831) diary, whereas some are reprinted or printed for the first time in large compiled series such as Lidai riji congchao.
13. For studies on evidential learning, see Elman, From Philosophy to Philology; Liang Qichao, Zhongguo jin sanbainian xueshu shi. For an enumeration of the important diarists who were also evidential scholars during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and analysis of the focus in their diaries, see Chen, Zhongguo riji shi lüe, 81–85, 90–92, 96–97, 106–9.
14. Chen Zuogao, "Dao-Xian shiqi zuozhe he zuopin," in Zhongguo riji shi lüe, 100–134. The word "witnessing" is steeped in Judeo-Christian values; here I use the phrase "witness accounts" to describe texts in the Chinese context, without the specific Judeo-Christian associations, to emphasize the action of seeing an event, crime, or conflict take place.
18. Xiaofei Tian, "Translator's Introduction," 9, 18. The memoir's author, Zhang Daye, witnessed the atrocities of war when he was a child. As an adult, he revisited these traumatic memories, which returned in the form of nightmarish flashbacks in his memoir characterized by religious concerns. Because Shen Zi and Zhang Daye experienced the war at different stages of their lives, the events they remembered and recorded vary. Moreover, partially due to the generic difference, the scale of the events covered, the role of the author in the war, and reflections on the war differ greatly between Zhang Daye's memoir and Shen Zi's diary. The materiality and circulation of the two texts are also different: the memoir was possibly circulated among the writer's family members and friends as a clean manuscript, whereas the diary manuscript probably never circulated, and remained in the form of a first draft upon which many revisions were made.
19. One notable exception to the dearth of extant accounts of the Ming-Qing transition is Wang Xiuchu's short diary recounting the events of the 1645 massacre at Yangzhou. See Struve, Voices from the Ming-Qing Cataclysm.
20. Works in the first category include Zeiqing huizuan (Compiled information on the bandits) and Yuefen jishi (Accounts of the Guangxi rebels). On the former text, Meyer-Fong has a full-length discussion in her article, "To Know the Enemy: The Zei qing huizuan, Military Intelligence, and the Taiping Civil War," 384–423.
21. One of the most influential late-Qing newspapers, Shen bao, was one of the earliest modern media to publish personal accounts about the Taiping war in its literary supplement. For instance, in 1878, it published Guang'ai shi (Poems on great sorrow), which commemorated the deceased in the war, and Jiangnan chunmeng an biji (Miscellaneous notes from the Studio of Spring Dreams in Jiangnan). Scholars have identified Jiangnan chunmeng an biji as a forgery. See Zhang, Taiping tianguo ziliao mulu, 73, 82; Luo, Taiping tianguo shilun wenji, 5. Xiaoshuo yuebao (Monthly journal of fiction) serialized Dunbi suiwen lu (Random encounters while holding the shields) in 1916 and Zhao Huifu xiansheng gengshen biluan riji (Mr. Zhao Huifu's diary on escaping from the disaster) in 1918. About twenty years later, Zhao's account was republished in the literary supplement of Beiping chenbao (Morning post from Beiping). See Taiping tianguo ziliao mulu, 73, 104.
23. With a history that can be traced back to the Yuan Dynasty, Puyuan today belongs to the city of Jiaxing located in the upper northern corner of Zhejiang province. On June 15, 1860, Taiping forces conquered Puyuan. Their arrival marked the beginning of incessant military conflicts for four years, causing significant decrease in population. Nevertheless, after the war, Puyuan's economy and education soon revived and developed. See Rankin, Elite Activism and Political Transformation in China, 56, 82, 138.
25. This manuscript is not catalogued. It consists of Beishan biji [ca. 1860–64], a manuscript in one volume, and Bikou riji [ca. 1860–1864], a manuscript in two volumes, both held at the Rare Book and Local Documents Reading Room, Jiaxing Library, Zhejiang. Luo Ergang describes some physical aspects of this diary in "Fulu: bence shumu jieti" (Appendix: interpretations of the titles in this volume), in Taiping tianguo shiliao congbian jianji, vol. 4, 620. Because of the diachronic nature of the texts, Luo concluded that Shen Zi did not compile the diary. I disagree with his argument, because the handwriting on the slips attached to the title pages of the volumes very much resembles that in the body of the text. This detail suggests that Shen Zi may have arranged the entries himself. This article follows the chronological order of the diary reconstructed in Taiping tianguo, edited by Luo Ergang and Wang Qingcheng. In the following pages, because of the low legibility of the manuscript, I cite both the page order in the manuscript and the page number in the modern typeset edition. I use "MS 1" to refer to Beishan biji, and "MS 2" and "MS 3" to refer to the two volumes bearing the title of Bikou riji, according to the general chronological order that these volumes follow. The modern edition puts the entire manuscript under the title of "Bikou riji." See Shen Zi, Bikou riji, in Taiping tianguo, vol. 8, 1–250. I use "MS" to refer to the manuscript, and "BKRJ" for the modern edition.
26. There are numerous subcategories of "Xuan paper" (xuanzhi), a kind of paper named after the prefecture of its origin, Xuancheng, Anhui. This kind of paper is acid-resistant, bookworm-proof, and endures the passage of time. See Zhongguo hua zhishi da cidian, 14.
27. Luo Ergang identifies Shen Zi to be the writer, but he does not offer any explanation. What leads me to confirm Shen Zi's authorship is Shen's biography of his older sister, Shen Fen (?–1860). See Shen Zi, "Shi Shen shi zhuan," in Puyuan zhi, juan 20, 1131. A piece of internal evidence is the diary entry in which the diarist mentions his second marriage to Woman Zhou from Qiantang. In the Puyuan gazetteer, their marriage is recorded in Woman Zhou's epitaph. See Puyuan zhi, juan 24, 1189.
30. Shen Zi also had two sisters who were married and living elsewhere. One of them survived the war.
31. In the following pages, when necessary, I use both the Chinese lunar calendar and the Gregorian calendar to refer to the diary entries. I refer to the different reign eras with abbreviations: Xianfeng 10 as XF10, Xianfeng 11 as XF11, Qixiang 1 as QX1, Tongzhi 1 as TZ1, Tongzhi 2 as TZ2, and Tongzhi 3 as TZ3. Qixiang was the initial reign name that Qing regents chose for Zaichun, who succeeded the Xianfeng emperor. His reign name was later changed to Tongzhi, the reign name by which this emperor is conventionally known. Hummel, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, 729. Shen Zi does not use the reign titles to mark the diary content, but he mentions the changes made to the reign titles in his diary and considers Qixiang inauspicious. The edited, Taiping tianguo edition of the diary does not use the Qixiang dates.
36. Larson, Literary Authority and the Modern Chinese Writer, 3. Regarding "impressionistic autobiographies," Larson terms its relevant system of reference "literary codes" that include "allusion to reading and writing for pleasure, drinking, solitary and nonsocial activities, and figural nomination."
39. Generally, the accounts from XF10.2.12 to XF10.12.30 and from TZ3.1.1 to TZ3.7.21 belong to Bikou riji, and the accounts from XF11.1.1 to TZ2.12.30 belong to Beishan biji.
40. MS 1:1; BKRJ, 1. No revision. Here, "the long-hair bandits" refer to the Taipings.
41. MS 1:11, left leaf; BKRJ, 22.
43. MS 1:11 left leaf; BKRJ, 22.
44. MS 3:27, left leaf; BKRJ, 24.
45. MS 1:14, right leaf; BKRJ, 30.
47. MS 1:14, left leaf; BKRJ, 31.
48. MS 1:14, left leaf; BKRJ, 31.
49. MS 1:15, right leaf; BKRJ, 35.
50. MS 1:15, right leaf; BKRJ, 35.
51. MS 1:15, right leaf; BKRJ, 35.
52. BKRJ, 53, 54, 109.
53. BKRJ, 138, 146, 147, 220, 221.
54. MS 1:22, left leaf; BKRJ, 250.
55. MS 1:52, right leaf; BKRJ, 243.
56. MS 1:52, right leaf; BKRJ, 243.
57. MS 2:27, left leaf; BKRJ, 100.
58. BKRJ, 222, 232.
59. MS 1:13, left leaf; BKRJ, 27. Throughout the article, I will note the difference between the first draft and the revised version by italicizing the revisions.
60. BKRJ, 165.
61. BKRJ, 101.
62. MS 1:15, right leaf; BKRJ, 35.
63. The mnemonic note: BKRJ, 165; the expanded entry: BKRJ, 101. The Taping rebels' flags with the official stamp served as the permit for boats to pass Taiping customs stations on rivers. For another example of how the local bandits used these flags to pass customs stations freely, see BKRJ, 169.
64. In the aforementioned entry from TZ1.1.16, Shen Zi records that someone reported in the evening that he saw the boat of Shen Qiweng's family in another town.
65. MS 2:53, right leaf; BKRJ, 76.
66. MS 2:53, right leaf; BKRJ, 76.
69. White, "The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality," 8. For his discussion of "chronicle," see 16–22.
70. MS 1:12. BKRJ, 22.
71. MS 2:51, left leaf; BKRJ, 69.
72. In these dates, "R" indicates an intercalary (run) month.
73. MS 1:4, right leaf; BKRJ, 9.
74. MS 1:49, left leaf; BKRJ, 73.
75. MS 2:5, right leaf; BKRJ, 194.
76. MS 2:11, right leaf; BKRJ, 222.
77. MS 3:27, left leaf; BKRJ, 24.
78. MS 1:14, left leaf; BKRJ, 31.
79. MS 1:13 left leaf; BKRJ, 24.
80. MS 1:13 left leaf; BKRJ, 24.
81. Contrary to the assumption that the conflict during the Taiping War involved only the Qing government and the Taiping rebels, the political milieu on the local level was far more complex. For instance, social elites in different groups and independent armed forces all took the opportunity to participate in the political transformation. Regarding the complex political structure in local counties in Zhejiang, see Zheng Xiaowei, "Loyalty, Anxiety, and Opportunism."
83. MS 1:14, left leaf; BKRJ, 30. The precious stones of different colors worn on Qing officials' caps indicated their official ranks. A lan ding (the blue button made of precious stones or glass on a Qing official's cap) indicates the general was of middle-rank in Qing officialdom. See Li Li, Qingdai guanzhi yu fushi, 186–187.
85. MS 118, left leaf; BKRJ, 42.
86. MS 118, left leaf; BKRJ, 42.
87. On the development of the youngest sister's story, see BKRJ 102, 103, 131, 201, 203, 213.
88. MS 2:15, right leaf; BKRJ, 214.
89. MS 2:52, left leaf; BKRJ, 78.
90. MS 2:52, left leaf; BKRJ, 78.
91. MS 2:52, left leaf; BKRJ, 78.
93. MS 2:52, right leaf; BKRJ, 72.
94. About early Qing literati's repentance of the exuberant lifestyle in the highly commercialized late-Ming society, see Wang, Wan Ming Qing chu sixiang shilun, 91–92, 194. On women as metaphorical sites where literati pass moral and political judgement, see Li, Women and National Trauma in Late Imperial Chinese Literature, 617–634. On people's sense of retribution, common during the Taiping-Qing war, see Meyer-Fong's discussion of Yu Zhi in What Remains.
95. MS 2:16, right leaf; BKRJ, 217. The term that Shen uses for the fatal disease, huoluan, was a term found in classical medical tests that "referred to distinctive clinical cases characterized by their sudden onset and simultaneous vomiting and exhaustive diarrhea." These symptoms can stem from cholera, and in fact a cholera pandemic occurred in Shanghai in 1862. Hanson, Speaking of Epidemics, 136, 141–42.