China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Commentation is a way of reading. In China, exegetical tradition plays a crucial part in the formation and interpretation of canon. This project focuses on a particular type of commentaries—the collected commentaries (jizhu) on literary texts. One early example of this type is the eighth-century “five officials” commentary on the literary anthology of Selections of Refined Literature (Wen xuan). However, different from the collective work done by the “five officials,” it was from the Song dynasty (960–1127) that contemporary scholars’ separate commentaries were collected and published together.
This project centers on the case Wang zhuangyuan jizhu fenlei Dongpo xiansheng shi (Wang Shipeng’s Collected Commentaries and Categorization of the Poetry Collection by Su Shi). This book, which collected 96 scholars’ commentaries on the collection of poems by the renowned poet Su Shi (1037–1101) and classified all his poems into 79 categories, provides a vivid sample of a popular reading of classic poetry. By examining how scholars in the Song transmitted, categorized, and made commentaries to Su Shi’s poems, I draw the attention from a modern reading of an “authoritative” text to the investigation of how poetry was read and appropriated by different communities of readers. These commentaries and categories reveal a kind of heteroglossia (borrowing Bakhtin’s term) insofar as they display a diversity of voices—they coexist but in the meantime are in conflict with each other, and thus reveal multiple ways in which literature is produced, interpreted, misinterpreted, and transformed in the flourish of print culture.