ASCJ 2009
Session 27: Room 11-209

Redrawing the Map: Displacement and Geography in Song-Yuan Literary and Visual Discourses
Organizer/Chair: Shuen-fu Lin, University of Michigan

This panel examines the different ways in which geographical discourses were deployed during periods of personal and large-scale displacement in political writings, literature, and the visual culture of the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1260-1368) dynasties. Intersections between geography and displacement are particularly salient to this period which saw repeated exiles of scholar-officials due to the intensity of factional politics as well as the relocation of populations following wars of conquest. Approaching this period from different disciplinary perspectives, we engage a common set of questions related to verbal and visual texts on place. How and why did places come to be redefined, rising to or falling from prominence, under conditions of displacement?  How did court and literati make use of geographical discourses to “redraw the map,” to relocate their “place” in a new environment?  Two papers concentrate on the tensions surrounding the selection of a new dynastic capital in the south following the collapse of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127): Benjamin Ridgway considers the reconfiguration of Jiankang (i.e., Nanjing) as frontier city in the writings of the early Southern Song literatus Ye Mengde (1077-1148), while Gang Liu reveals the tension between geomancy and landscape beauty in the choice of Hangzhou as the capital city in a Song loyalist’s text Qiantang Yishi. A third paper by Roslyn Hammer explores connections forged between geography and the Song dynastic legacy by writers displaced following the Yuan conquest, arguing that the Book of Agriculture functioned as a textual and illustrated location to maintain displaced Song cultural practices.

1) Benjamin Ridgway, Valparaiso University

From River By-way to River Border: Reconfiguring Jiankang in the Wartime Writings of Ye Mengde

This paper explores the way that geographical discourses on dynastic capitals were deployed in political writings and literary works of the Chinese scholar-official elite during the traumatic collapse the Northern Song. Specifically, I examine the way Ye Mengde's writings on the city of Jiankang (i.e. modern-day Nanjing) reflect the tensions felt by many scholar officials to relocate their “place” in a redefined geo-political order. In 1127 the northern Jurchen army sacked Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Song dynasty and conquered the territory of the Chinese empire north of the Huai river, fundamentally altering the political and cultural landscape of the Chinese empire. Ye Mengde (1077–1148) played a pivotal role in the transition, serving as the Pacification Commissioner in Jiankang (i.e. modern-day Nanjing), a city with a rich history as an ancient political capital situated on the Yangzi River in-between the new border and the relocated capital of Hangzhou. In both Ye Mengde’s official political prose and poetry we see the tension between the presentation of Jiankang as a river by-way--center of culture and trade on the Yangzi River, and the reconfiguration of the city into a river border--central strategic node in network of screens defending the newly established capital of Hangzhou. This paper argues that the textual oscillation between Ye’s goals of cultural restoration and border defense in Jiankang exemplifies the unresolved tension between the nostalgic desire to retake the north and relocation in the south.

 2) Gang Liu, University of Michigan

From Fengshui to Shanshui: Shifting Perspectives on Dynastic Change in a Song Loyalist Text

Throughout Chinese history, choosing a fortunate capital site is of primary importance for the founding of a dynasty. The selection of an ideal site is determined not only by economic, political, and military reasons; geomancy (fengshui) and landscape (shanshui) also affect the final decision. This paper investigates the interplay between fengshui and shanshui in the selection of Hangzhou (known as Lin’an at that time) as the capital for the Southern Song (1127–1279), with primary focus on a literati miscellany (biji) Qiantang yishi, compiled by a Song loyalist Liu Yiqing (fl. late 13th–early14th century). I argue that although good shanshui was viewed by geomantic experts as a sign of good fengshui, the beautiful landscape of Hangzhou was often criticized as something working adversely against its auspicious topography, for it made the Southern Song rulers and officials indulge in sensual comfort and forget to recover the lost territory in the north. The disharmony in accounts about Hangzhou’s shanshui and fengshui led to a further disharmony in explanations about the Southern Song’s downfall: Loyalists like Liu Yiqing, while proposing a fatalistic view that regards the dynastic fall as predestined by its fengshui, could not get across a poignant realization that the rulers and officials’ obsession with shanshui also led to its decline. This conflict partly reflects the tormented mentality of the Song loyalists: While they employed fatalistic arguments and political criticisms to soothe the historical trauma they felt, they also knew that the traumatic history could never be made to reverse its course.

3) Roslyn Hammers, University of Hong Kong

The Book of Agriculture: Re-locating the Appearances of Proper Governance

Modern scholars consider the early 14th-century Nong Shu or Book of Agriculture by Wang Zhen (act. 1300s) to be a scientific achievement that consolidated and expanded research on agricultural technology. The original book is lost, but the content of later editions indicates the original contained an extensive amount of visual material reproduced as woodblock prints. Scientific inquiry undoubtedly informed the depiction of tools and techniques, but it was only one aspect of Wang Zhen’s project. The Book of Agriculture included literary references, imagery, poetry, etymological studies, and descriptions of historical rituals along with commentary on the value of agriculture and its role in providing for the economic welfare of both the people and the court. The book with its prints and literary allusions served as a paean to the culture of agriculture that was perceived as marginalized or dislocated in the Yuan dynasty. For example, Wang Zhen depicted agricultural ceremonies initiated in the Zhou dynasty and re-introduced by the Southern Song court that were no longer observed in the Yuan dynasty. He deployed the Southern Song imagery of the Gengzhi Tu or Pictures of Tilling and Weaving to promote values of proper governance articulated by the Zhou dynasty and later reinvigorated by reform-minded intellectuals of the Song. This paper argues the Book of Agriculture combined political theory, agrarian imagery, literature, and technological information to preserve the embattled legacy of Zhou- and Song-dynasty culture.

Discussant: Lara Blanchard, Hobart and William Smith Colleges