Merging to Emerge: Elite Insecurity, Collective Supports, and Paratextual Anthologies in Early Modern China

in East Asian Publishing and Society
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Liu Xuehu meipu was designed to be a manual on the painting of plum blossoms; however, its original pedagogical content is demonstrably marginal, while the majority of its pages are filled with more than two hundred commentaries, letters, encomiums, and poems extolling the talent and virtue of its author, Liu Shiru (act. 16th c.). This was not the only volume of its type in late Ming China. A prolific scholar-publisher of Jiaxing, Zhou Lüjing (1542-1633), also published a series of anthologies which only contain hundreds of allographic writings dedicated to him by contemporary elites, including many cultural luminaries such as Li Rihua (his nephew), Chen Jiru, Dong Qichang, Tu Long, and Wang Shizhen. While highlighting the unique programs of these books wherein the auxiliary paratexts of encomiums, endorsements, and postfaces in fact function as primary texts, this paper will investigate how such anthologies were related within the larger cultural matrix of the time.



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Genette, Paratexts, 1-15, 344-403.


Stanitzek, ‘Texts and paratexts in media’, 32.


Genette, Paratexts, 263-275.


Genette, Paratexts, 14. Regarding the socialized, trans-individual, and collective nature of authorship and readership in Chinese literature, see Sieber, Theaters of desire, 163-165.


Bell, ‘Victorian paratexts’, 330. Textuality is a slippery term, which somehow de-defines itself in many different ways. Although a range of discussions have been offered on this concept, in this paper, my approach is to treat the term’s rather broader spectrum across both structuralist and post-structuralist perspectives. Texuality is an eco-system of language, writing and reading, where a certain term or word’s formation, meaning, circulation, interpretation, miscommunication, arbitration, transformation, popularity and even criticism can be manifested within a society. Thus, the term touches upon various phases of literary, oral, political and social practice of written-ness of language. For further discussion, see Barry, Beginning theory.


This translation is from Mote and Chu, Calligraphy and the East Asian book, 141.


Sun, ‘Writing for print’, 114.


Sun, ‘Writing for print’, 84.


Chambers, ‘Baudelaire’s dedicatory practice’, 12.


Hegel, Reading illustrated fiction, 38. For studies of the textual source materials in Jinpingmei, see Hu Wenbin, Jin Ping Mei shulu, Hanan, ‘Sources of the Chin p’ing mei’ and ‘The text of Chin p’ing mei’, and Carlitz, ‘Allusion to drama in the Chin p’ing mei’ and ‘Puns and puzzles in Chin p’ing mei’.


Ye Dehui, Shulin qinghua, 25.


Sun, ‘Writing for print’, 63.


Foucault, ‘What is an author?’, 113-138.


Chambers, ‘Baudelaire’s dedicatory practice’, 5.


Curtis, ‘Dickens in the visual market’, 241.


Nixon, ‘ “Stop a moment at this preface” ’, 126.


Maclean, ‘Pretexts and paratexts’, 277.


  • Liu Shiru, Branch of Blossoming Plum, mid to late 16th century. Hanging scroll; ink on silk, 180.3 × 98.4 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Edward B. Bruce Collection of Chinese Paintings; Gift of Galen L. Stone, 1923.191.
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  • A page from Liu Xuehu meipu, 1595, 1681 reprint, juan 2, p. 23a. 23.5 × 16.5 cm. East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University.
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  • A page from Liu Xuehu meipu, juan 2, pp. 36b-37a.
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  • Liu’s portrait in Liu Xuehu meipu, juan 1, p. 5a.
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  • Portrait of Yang Lun, Qinpu hebi, 1609, yin, pp. 14b-15a. East Asian Library and the Gest Collection, Princeton University.
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