China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: As William Faulkner observed, “The past is never dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” The past cannot be said to exist; it must constantly be created and recreated in the present to have any bearing on the present and the future. Employing a variety of approaches including literary and historical studies, the four papers in this panel examine different ways literati engaged with the past in several textual genres in medieval China. The questions they address include: Through what practices was the past remembered, and for what purposes? Why were certain aspects of the past frequently evoked whereas others were forgotten or suppressed? What can a better understanding of engagements with the past show us about human meaning-making in the medium of time?
Hu discusses how personal memories of the cultural past created cultural identities and established cultural authority for elite literati in the Shishuo xinyu; Zhang studies different ways in which historical events and figures were treated in early medieval poems on history; Ditter’s paper explores how memory is shaped by genre, voice and time through an examination of writings in commemoration of Liu Zongyuan; Hong argues that Han Wo’s compilation of poems about female beauty and sensuality in Xianglian ji was a way to shape the memory of the fall of the Tang. These papers demonstrate how versions of the past were constructed through cultural memory, commemorative practices, and poetic texts, how they were rhetorically deployed, and with what impact, in medieval China.
Paper Presenter: Qiulei Hu – City University of New York
Paper Presenter: Yue Zhang – University of Macau
Paper Presenter: Alexei Ditter – Reed College
Paper Presenter: Yue Hong – Renmin University of China