Where the Land Meets the Sea: Mapping Perceptions of the Maritime World of Lingnan in Literary and Historical Discourses from the Song to Qing Dynasties
1: Through Continental Eyes: Textual Verification and (Mis)perceptions of Guangzhou in Fang Xinru's One Hundred Poems on the Southern Sea
Saturday, March 26, 2022
4:00pm – 5:30pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Benjamin B. Ridgway
Swarthmore College, United States
One Hundred Poems on the Southern Sea, written by scholar-official and Fujian native Fang Xinru (1177-1222) during his first post at Guangzhou in 1195-1197, presents a fascinating case study for considering how Song literati perceived the city—as an extension of empire or part of an oceanic network. I argue that Fang’s hundred-poem collection represents an attempt to define the city in continental terms—as the southern frontier of the Song dynasty empire. Fang’s poems empirically record details of the local landscapes and customs, yet constantly filter these observations through comparisons to received texts in a process of textual verification (kao). In many poems Fang uses textual verification to integrate Guangzhou’s local geography into a larger history of empire building and to affirm the Song founders’ recreation of order out of chaos. On the other hand, in a smaller set of poems about sites on the city’s periphery Fang views Guangzhou as a maritime contact zone, albeit one in which encounters with the strange and foreign often invite danger. Focusing on a set of poems in which Fang evaluates sites associated with the independent Southern Han kingdom (917-971), my paper finds that Fang’s commitment to empiricism ultimately outweighs his often ideologically-tinged textual verification. Paradoxically, by meticulously documenting numerous sites from the Southern Han, his collection reveals how that regime left an indelible impression on the city’s identity and culture, giving it a new shape as a maritime city whose flourishing was directly linked to the wealth accumulated through trade.