China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Notions of emptiness that challenge comprehension have long been core elements of Chinese philosophy, religion, and literary expression. Unlike the Western rationalist philosophical tradition that generally eschewed thoughts of the void, such mystical elements were central to Chinese thinking from the earliest days. Conceptions of nothingness and the abyss in turn had considerable impact on Chinese poetry, especially poetry inspired by Daoist religious practice. This panel takes a diachronic approach in exploring the work of poets from the sixth century to the contemporary that have plumbed the celestial and beyond. It begins with Yiyi Luo’s examination of the medieval poet Yu Xin whose command of Daoist scripture and interest in ritual song enabled him to meld together his interests in politics, literature, and religion. Tyler Feezell takes up the issues of religion and sound as well as the shared interests in the Shangqing and Lingbao traditions of Yu Xin to show how Wu Yun and other Tang poets presented a full-blown image of the netherworld composed alternatively of vibrant sound and absence. In the late Qing dynasty, Xu Xishen, the subject of Yanning Wang’s paper, appealed to the metaphor of the butterfly, linking it with a conception of the soul in an effort to assuage her profound sense of the loss of her daughters. Loss and the void also inform Christopher Lupke’s paper on contemporary Sinophone poetry, as he argues that many of the diaspora poets used the traditional notion of the void and abyss to voice feelings of displacement.
Paper Presenter: Yiyi Luo – Capital Normal University
Paper Presenter: Tyler Feezell – Arizona State University
Paper Presenter: Yanning Wang – Florida State University
Paper Presenter: Christopher Lupke – University of Alberta