New Research on Tenth to Fourteenth Century China
10:00- 1:00 Morning Session. Chair, Patricia Ebrey
10:00. Chun Xu 徐淳, Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
The Idea of Water’s Benefits in the Xifeng Reforms of Wang Anshi
In order to understand the late imperial term shuili 水利 as a political discourse, an episteme, and a set of technological cultures, I trace its origins to the eleventh-century Xifeng Reforms. I argue that, instead of being a neutral term denoting “hydraulics” or “water conservancy”, shuili referred to a set of elaborated visions, practices and meanings that coexisted and at times competed with each other. Wang Anshi’s nongtian shuili fa, for example, seems to have internalised the technological culture(s) and ecological expectation(s) of the hilly areas in Jiangnan and Jiangxi. At the same time, the contemporaneous shuili debate between Shan E and Jia Dan was clearly addressing the problems of the deltaic polders.
Discussant: Christian Lamouroux (EHESS)
11:00. Stéphane Feuillas, Professor of Classical Chinese Studies, Department of Asian Studies (LCAO), University of Paris
Zhu Dunru 朱敦儒 (1081-1159): a Lyricist before and after the Collapse of the Northern Sung (960-1127)
Although not very well know in Western sinology, Zhu Dunru 朱敦儒 (1081-1159) is a Chinese lyricist at the eve of the Northern Sung dynasty and the beginning of the Southern Sung. Also famous for his calligraphy and painting (none of which has survived to this day), and his musical skills, he challenged in his lyrics (ci 詞), he experienced in his life four major moments: the hedonistic life of a child of the golden youth in Luoyang; the brutal and unprepared flight to the South after 1127; the enlistment in public service since 1135; the abandonment of the administrative career from 1145 and the return to a seclusive life in the mountains until his death. The primary aim of this talk is to introduce this poet in a wider historical context and to scrutinize through careful reading of some of his lyrics and one example of his calligraphy the contours of the scholarly identity he tries to build for himself and against the pressure of a range of political and intellectual constraints of his time.
Discussant: Hilde De Weerdt
12:00. Fan Lin 林凡, University Lecturer at Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University
Dangerous Gaze: Heavenly Girls Transgressing Painted Surfaces in Medieval Chinese Visual Culture
A painted surface can be thought of as the porous divide between the real and imagined worlds. In the early and medieval periods, famous painters were frequently praised for bringing painted subjects to life. However, in popular imagination from the Tang onwards, female figures who emerged from paintings were considered dangerous and subversive. This paper examines stories in which female attendants and heavenly girls “walked out” of screens, wall paintings, and hanging scrolls and engaged in romantic relationships with their male viewers. These paintings were usually displayed in public spaces such as Buddhist and Daoist temples, and the static painted women were animated by the gaze of the male viewers rather than the miraculous craftsmanship of the painters. While the male viewers initiated an imagined intimacy through their intruding gaze, the female figures destabilized social and gender boundaries. Drawing from tales about boundary-crossing women in medieval biji notebooks, I aim to understand this new visual practice in both art historical and social contexts.
Discussant: Alice Bianchi (University of Paris)
1:00 – 2:30 Lunch
2:30 – 5/6:30 Afternoon Session. Chair, Hilde De Weerdt
2:30 Shih-shan Susan Huang 黃士珊, Associate Professor, Department of Transnational Asian Studies, Rice University
Elite Uighurs as Cultural Middlemen of Buddhist Books and Woodcuts in the Mongol Empire
Elite Uighurs active in China under Mongol rule in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries played major roles as cultural middlemen in Buddhist book culture. This talk examines selected individuals as sponsors, users, and transmitters of Buddhist books over long distances. It draws on Buddhist woodcuts excavated in Turfan, and epigraphic sources found in southeast and northwest China. Taken together with the Mongol postal system, the elite Uighurs’ vast network extending from China to the Uighur homeland in Central Asia, and to Buddhist countries in South and Southeast Asia can all shed light on how Buddhist books and woodcuts were circulated. The talk will highlight two individuals. Mengsusu (1206-1267) was a high-ranking official serving Kubilai Khan before the founding of the Yuan dynasty. The second case is Yihemishi (ca. 1270s-1320s), a wealthy Uighur diplomat, navigator, merchant, who was also a fervent Buddhist donor.
Discussant: Pierre Marsone (EPHE)
3 :30. Francesca Fiaschetti, Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Vienna
Citizens of Eurasia: Central Asian scholars in 14th Century China
As a consequence of 13th century Mongol policies integrating Middle Eastern and Central Asian (semu 色目) personnel in the higher ranks of the Yuan administration, the intellectual scene of 14th century China was strongly shaped by the works and writings of these individuals. Scholars studying these elites’ development in the 14th century have offered various explanations for their strategies of identification, from assimilitation, to “strategies of survival” (Brose). This talk looks at private writings and collections of literature in prose and verse produced by semu scholars in the last forty years if the Yuan dynasty. Thus, it will analyse how 14th century semu bureaucrats and intellectuals shaped their networks, conversed with their Chinese peers, portrayed their own identity, and served the Yuan state.
Discussant: Angela Schottenhammer (Leuven University)
4:30. Angela Schottenhammer, Professor of Chinese Middle Period & Early Modern World History, Leuven University
Some Characteristics of Yuan China’s Maritime Trade Administration
Both maritime and overland trade played a major role in Yuan politics. Many, perhaps even most actions of the government were, in one or the other way, commerce-driven. In order to be able to build up and govern their vast empire, the ruling elite needed a massive accumulation and distribution of wealth and tried to attract merchants and goods from every corner of the world that they could gain access to. This explains the close interrelationship between politics, military and trade. I plan to introduce some concrete steps and characteristics of Yuan China’s maritime administration as well as identities of those who were responsible for its management on the ground, the so-called Superintendencies of Maritime Trade and their maritime trade officers.
Discussant: Patricia Ebrey
5:30. Wrap-up Open Discussion
Led by Patricia Ebrey, Hilde De Weerdt, and Christian Lamouroux
Image Credits: Scroll Cover with Birds and Flowers - 12th Century - The Metropolitan Museum