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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Word, Image, Studio, Water: Remembrance of Place in Premodern China
1: Remembering West Lake: Place, Mobility, and Geographical Knowledge from the Southern Song to the Ming
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
North Carolina State University, United States
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed increasing publications of gazetteers, tourist manuals, and maps. These texts and images frequently copied and reorganized information accumulated since the Song dynasty (960–1279). A case study of Hangzhou’s West Lake reveals two features in retaining knowledge: one is the appropriation of historical place names and sightseeing routes; the other is cross-referencing between maps and texts. Examining West Lake-energized gazetteers, literary notes, tourist books, and fictions, this paper analyzes how historical records and maps were adapted in new genres to meet the desire of new readers. It regards the recurrence of place-names and routes as embodying historical consciousness and evaluates enduring visual strategies in topographical images as an effort to make sense of spatial (dis)order. The interconnection between documents and images provides coordinates for one’s movement. This paper argues that the remembrance of geographical knowledge was invoked by and facilitated people’s mobility through the physical landscape and historical times. While their movements were historically referenced, their peregrinations demonstrated standardization and popularization of elite knowledge in articulating mobilities of and for ordinary sightseers. Such rearticulating of geographical knowledge allowed people to claim ownership of a place and also effaced the particularity of their individual experiences. Consequently, the increasing experience of natural landscape enriched the knowledge system through remembering, visualizing, and commercial publishing. This research contributes to the discussion on the Song-Yuan-Ming transition by tracing the development of cultural geography.