Ever since the Cold Spring Pavilion (Lengquan ting 冷泉亭) was built, it has been extolled by scholar-literati as a place of purity, where the dust of the mundane world could be cleansed by the cold spring water flowing beside it. For centuries, people tried to reinforce the image of the pavilion as an innocent haven through writing poems, stories, and essays about their visits there. But they were unaware, or refused to admit, that their admiration of the place also possessed the power to destroy whatever sacredness and serenity it stood for. This paper examines representations of the Cold Spring Pavilion in Chinese literature through the lens of a paradox that has haunted the pavilion since it was first built. The paper argues that, ever since the pavilion was built, it has, through its literary-historical representation, been slowly but inevitably absorbed or assimilated into what it had originally been built to fend off. Like the Cold Spring, which flowed into West Lake, the Cold Spring Pavilion, which was created to help people resist the temptations of city life, was inevitably absorbed into the very fabric of the city.
This article examines the shifting geo-political significance of Hangzhou as presented in two local gazetteers dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1276). Focusing on literary works quoted in both of these gazetteers that describe two of Hangzhou’s famous halls on West Lake, I argue that geographic discourses on these halls manifest a tension between two conflicting presentations of Hangzhou’s geo-political significance as understood by literati elite of the Southern Song. In writings concerning the Hall of Possessing Beauty (Youmei tang 有美堂), Hangzhou was viewed as a city of rising economic and cultural importance during the Northern Song. Writings on the Hall of Centrality and Harmony (Zhonghe tang 中和堂), in contrast, depict Hangzhou as an imperial refuge for a court in flight and associate it with the motif of territorial loss during the Southern Song when the city became the dynastic capital. By examining how these two views of Hangzhou are contrasted, this essay concludes that gazetteers functioned to grade and rank different kinds of landscapes in order to make geo-political arguments about the proper reconstitution of the empire during the Southern Song.
Through a close reading, this article explores a few aspects of gendered dissent in Li Ang’s story, “The Devil in a Chastity Belt,” which reveals the ambivalence and irony of a woman’s participation in the Taiwanese opposition movement. Instead of writing a stereotypical work of political fiction for the opposition movement that she supports, Li Ang interrogates the problematic intersection of gender and politics, while reclaiming some of the neglected aspects of oppositional history. While recognizing the inevitability of historical contingency, she nevertheless questions the politically-motivated choice of asceticism, heroism, and sacrifice over individual and familial well-being. Li juxtaposes seemingly trivial and disorderly details of ordinary life against the apparently important and grandiose arena of national politics, creating tension through their interaction and contention. She employs images—including the Devil, the female body, and sensory feelings—to perform gendered dissent. While the lyrical and trivial discourse gradually disrupts the political and didactic, the story’s open-ended conclusion inspires complex interpretations of the enigmatic symbol: the Devil wearing a chastity belt.
Erotic fiction produced during the 16th and the early 17th centuries used different strategies to create settings for subversive sexual desires. This article examines one of these strategies: Authors of Ming erotic stories often associated the sexual expressions that challenged the existing social order with portrayals of the foreign. This article demonstrates that historical accounts and literary traditions informed the representations of the foreign in Ming erotic stories produced during the mid- and late Ming period through the examination of Ruyijun zhuan and “Jinhailing zongyu wangshen.” I argue that both narratives exoticized the erotic in order to exclude unsettling elements of sexual desire from China. However, due to their different views of sexual desire, they depicted the foreign differently. This paper concludes that the different strategies for appropriating sexual desire into foreign settings may be related to the historical contexts within which the two works of fiction were created.
After the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), leading late Qing intellectuals such as Liang Qichao introduced modern political concepts in a highly affective fashion, making the passionate interest in and adoption of western-imported political concepts a hallmark of Chinese modernity. What are these highly personalized affective experiences like? What have given rise to them? How can the study of these experiences broaden our understanding of modernity, and myriad modernizing experiences, in China and other similar cultural contexts? More importantly, how can the use of affect and emotion as analytical categories offer us better insights into some of the most radical intellectual and political transformations that have taken place in China? To answer these questions, perhaps we need to look elsewhere than the semantic content of language. This article focuses on the incipient moments of this affective trend in late Qing China and studies the formation of discursive “text” as the production of sensational “object.” It examines musical and visual appeals Liang Qichao generated for two recently translated political concepts, “national citizen” (guomin) and “revolution” (geming), in historical biographies published in New Citizen Journal in 1902. By exemplifying that Liang’s semantic text was intended to be circulated as an audio text and pictorial text, and that modern concepts had been received as literary as well as auditory and visual experiences, I argue that Chinese modernity often teeters in a state of aesthetic ambivalence. It is displaced and suspended from discursive meanings of the constructed discourse resulting from cross cultural exchanges and consolidated by power relations on both the local and the international levels.
The Diary of A Madman (Kuangren riji), Lu Xun’s first well-known short story and the alleged first modern short story in vernacular Chinese, is famous for its first-person narrative by an intellectual that is suffering from a persecution complex. As acknowledged by Lu Xun himself and argued by most scholars, this short story was influenced by Gogol’s homonymic short story, but has developed more profound melancholy and indignation. However, as my paper demonstrates, this perspective neglects the role of Japan as an intermediary in the transculturation of madness. First, Lu Xun’s initial encounter with Gogol’s Diary of A Madman was through his reading of Futabatei Shimei’s translation in the Japanese magazine Kyōmi. Second, the framed narrative and contrasting styles of Lu Xun’s short story, which are not features of Gogol’s, might also be due to the inspiration from the Japanese genbun itchi movement in the Meiji period. Third, and most importantly, cannibalism, a major theme in Lu Xun’s Diary of A Madman, was arguably shaped by the heated discussion in Japan on national character and cannibalism. My paper will trace the double origin of the depiction of madness and cannibalism in Lu Xun’s work and illustrate the importance of the role of Japan in the transculturation of the story of a madman.