4: “History” in Landscape: The Bao Family (18c.-19c.) of Dantu and the Making of Family and Local Histories
Saturday, March 26, 2022
4:00pm – 5:30pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Landscape poetry by Bao Zhihui (1757-1810) comprised “history” (zhicheng) and the reader should not take them as ordinary “sketches on travels” (youcao) — so did Bao Zhilan (1751-1812) assert, when authoring an epilogue for her sister’s posthumous publication. “Landscape” here indicated sites in the Jiangnan heartland, which Bao Zhihui had visited with her family members. But a closer examination of Zhihui’s poetic works in the totality of the Bao family’s literary and artistic production reveals a predominant focus on Dantu (Jiangsu), which was a new home for this family of Huizhou (Anhui) descendants. Their poetic representations of landscape signaled a literary effort to echo major artistic developments shaping the local. These poetic works further demarcated cultural spaces for the Bao family to claim as “home” or “home mountains” (jiashan), following their forebears’ migration from Huizhou to Yangzhou during the late Ming and then, to Dantu after the dynastic transition. As the most prolific member of this family of poets writing on their “home,” Bao Zhihui played an active role in formulating her family’s cultural affiliations while creating opportunities for her own rise to literary prominence.
This paper thus analyses landscape poetry by Bao Zhihui as a form of personal and family narrative to engage with questions of place and identity during a time of rapid social and geographical mobilities. It is part of a larger project that brings together two lines of inquiry: the rise of writing women and the trans-regional movements of the Huizhou families in late Imperial China.