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Joanne Tsao

In The City of Ye in the Chinese Literary Landscape, Joanne Tsao demonstrates how the city of Ye changed from an iconic space that represented Cao Cao’s heroic enterprise to a symbol of the fruitlessness of human endeavour, and then finally to a literary landmark, a synecdoche for the vicissitudes of human life caught in the predictable cycles of dynastic rise and decline. Through a close reading of literary works on Ye, she illustrates how the city transformed from a lived to imaginative space to become a symbol in the poetic lexicon.
Making use of literary and historical texts on Ye and its material remains through the Song and beyond she shows the potency of place as a generative force in literary production and in historical discourse.

Edited by Paul Goldin and Elisa Levi Sabattini

Lu Jia's New Discourses:  A Political Manifesto from the Early Han Dynasty is a readable yet accurate translation by Paul R. Goldin and Elisa Levi Sabattini. Celebrated as “a man-of-service with a mouth [skilled] at persuasion”, Lu Jia (c. 228-140 BCE) became one of the leading figures of the early Han dynasty, serving as a statesman and diplomat from the very beginning of the Han empire. This book is a translation of Lu Jia’s New Discourses, which laid out the reasons for rise and fall of empires. Challenged by the new Emperor to produce a book explaining why a realm that was conquered on horseback cannot also be ruled on horseback, Lu Jia produced New Discourses, to great acclaim.

Yi Liu

Translator Casey Lee

Abstract

The ancient Chinese people believed that they existed at the center of the world. With the arrival of Buddhism in China came a new cosmic worldview rooted in Indian culture that destabilized the Han [huaxia 華夏] people’s long-held notions of China as the Middle Kingdom [Zhongguo 中國] and had a profound influence on medieval Daoism. Under the influence of Buddhist cosmology, Daoists reformed their idea of Middle Kingdom, for a time relinquishing its signification of China as the center of the world. Daoists had to acknowledge the existence of multiple kingdoms outside China and non-Han peoples [manyi 蠻夷] who resided on the outskirts of the so-called Middle Kingdom as potential followers of Daoism. However, during the Tang dynasty, this capacious attitude ceased to be maintained or passed on. Instead, Tang Daoists returned to a notion of Middle Kingdom that reinstated the traditional divide between Han and non-Han peoples.

Wen Lei

Translator Kathryn Henderson

Abstract

The Abbey Celebrating the Tang [Qingtang guan 慶唐觀], a Daoist temple on Mount Longjiao in southern Shanxi Province, played a special role in the religious history of China in the Tang dynasty. Because of the myth that Laozi himself emerged from this mountain during the war to found the Tang state, this abbey was closely linked to the political legitimation of the Tang. Even plants in this abbey were regarded as the harbingers of the fate of the state. The emperor Xuanzong erected a huge stele in the Abbey Celebrating the Tang, demonstrating the support enjoyed from the royal house. Images of the six emperors, from Tang Gaozu to Xuanzong, were also held in the abbey. After the collapse of the Tang dynasty in 907, the Abbey Celebrating the Tang lost its political, legitimizing privileges, but its connection with the local community continued to develop well into the Song, Liao, Jin, and later dynasties. The creation and transformation of the Abbey Celebrating the Tang not only show the political influence of popular religion in ancient medieval China but also provide an interesting case of how a Daoist temple grew in popularity and prestige after it lost favor with the state.

Shuchen Xiang

Abstract

This paper, unlike scholars who ascribe to it a copy theory of meaning, argues that the logic of the Xici is best described through “philosophy’s linguistic turn,” specifically Ernst Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms. Cassirer’s concept of the symbol as a pluralistic, constitutive, and functional yet concrete and observable form, is comparable to the symbolic system in the Xici 系辭: xiang 象, gua 卦, yao 爻, and yi 易. Their similarity is due to a shared philosophical orientation: humanism. The characteristics of the Xici—the part-whole (structuralist) relationship typical of correlative cosmology, the simultaneously sensuous and conceptual nature of its symbols, the stress on order as opposed to unity, and the importance of symbols per se—for Cassirer are characteristics that were only possible in European intellectual history after a substance ontology was replaced by a functional one. For Cassirer, a functional ontology is closely associated with a humanism that celebrates creations (i.e., language) of the human mind in determining reality. This humanism is coherent with the intellectual context—Confucian humanism—contemporary with the period of the Xici’s composition. It would thus be inconsistent to concede this humanism to the Xici without also conceding that its understanding of the symbols is akin to that of the linguistic turn. Finally, even regardless of this comparative framework, the Xici runs into a paradox if we read it through a copy theory of meaning, paradoxes that immediately dissolve if we read it through the paradigm of the linguistic turn.

Bin Wei

Translator Casey Lee

Abstract

During the Six Dynasties period, the cultural landscape of the mountains underwent a transformation. Most notable among these were the appearance of monasteries and Daoist temples as well as the system of immortals’ grottos and estates that accompanied the latter. Because of this shift, mountains began to constitute a special religious and cultural space. Two factors contributed to this shift. The first was religious, specifically, the movement of Daoist and Buddhist practice into mountain retreats. The second was political, namely, how political power was shaped by new geopolitical configurations centered on the city of Jiankang (Nanjing). With these two factors at work, a new cultural form and spatial configuration emerged from the mountains that reflects the intimate relationship between the Six Dynasties politics, society, and culture.

Postsocialist Conditions

Ideas and History in China’s "Independent Cinema", 1988-2008

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Xiaoping Wang

In Postsocialist Conditions: Idea and History in China’s “Independent Cinema,” 1988-2008, WANG Xiaoping offers a comprehensive survey and trenchant critique of China’s “Independent Cinema” by the sixth-generation auteurs. By showing the multi-valence of the postsocialist conditions in contemporary Chinese society, their films articulate a new cultural-political logic in postsocialist China, which is also the logic of the market in this era of neoliberal transformation, brought about by the forces of marketization since the late 1980s. The directors laudably show the spirits of humanism and the humanitarian concerns of the underclass, yet the shortage and repudiation of class analysis prohibits the artists from exploring the social contradictions and the cause of class restructuration.