This chapter traces the pacifist-oriented, Chinese-inflected genealogy of selected literary and musical works by three prominent California cultural figures from the mid-20th to the early-21st centuries. It argues that Maxine Hong Kingston (1940–), Kenneth Rexroth (1905–1982), and Lou Harrison (1917–2003) articulated their political commitments in part through the works they created under Chinese influence, particularly during the era of anti-Vietnam War activism in the 1960s–1970s. While it has long been observed that Chinese cultural expression—literary, musical, philosophical, and other—inspired significant creative projects by all three figures, to date few studies have demonstrated the many parallels between their respective political and cultural affinities. I set out to do that in the case of each one, and in the process, to name and describe a Sino-Pacifist lineage that was nurtured in the multiethnic and culturally pluralistic setting of the U.S. West Coast.
From the mid-Tang through the Qing dynasty, poets employed the short-lyric form known as zhuzhici [bamboo branch lyrics] to write, first and foremost, about ordinary people going about their daily lives in China and elsewhere in the Sinosphere. This article explores how early developments in this genre prepared the ground for what later emerged as an arguably proto-ethnographic mode – that is, both poetry and accompanying prose annotations based on poets’ direct observations of and even immersive “fieldwork” within discrete localities. I focus specifically on poems about “water labor,” by which I mean those that describe and give voice to vocational groups and communities along lakes, levies, and channels of the Yangzi River basin. It was partly thanks to this history of reporting about local lives and conditions, I argue, that zhuzhici eventually came to adopt a more information-intensive and increasingly empirical orientation during the later stages of their development. Moreover, this mode of what might even be identified tentatively as affective or lyrical ethnography prefigures efforts by contemporary social scientists to recalibrate ethnography in spatially affective modes, and I conclude with some observations on how its example might inform future efforts in these directions.
This article examines the confluence of homoerotic desire with career ambition in Wu Jingzi’s (ca. 1701–1754) novel Rulin waishi (ca. 1750), specifically through its allusions to the author’s cousin Wu Qing (1696–1750), owner of the famed portrait by Chen Hu of the actor Xu Ziyun (1644–1675). The study argues that Wu Qing’s inscription on this portrait is subtly reflected in Wu Jingzi’s representation of male-male eroticism as complementary and even instrumental to the literati’s pursuit of social mobility through the examination system. It also compares this juxtaposition of libidinous and career desires to antecedents in earlier fiction, and concludes with a discussion of a second portrait of Xu Ziyun and his lover Chen Weisong (1625–1682) as well as the impact of this artistic and literary legacy on Chen Sen’s Pinhua baojian (1849).