China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Inspired by new explorations of spatiality in Chinese literature, this panel investigates entanglements of cultural forces and spatial imagination in China from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Situating varied modes of spatial representation from fiction, drama, anecdotal essays, and tanci storytelling in specific cultural settings, we raise the following questions: What role did social ethos, political ideology, and religious practices play in spatial construction? How did authors utilize objects and memory to create space? How did the production of space change across genres and mediums? In response, Jing Zhang explores the relationship between theatrical space and materiality through analyzing a porcelain pillow, a central theatrical prop in Tang Xianzu’s (1550–1616) play Handan Dream. By examining Li Yu’s (1611–1680) Leisure Notes, S.E. Kile shows how the social production of the space of urban gardens changed in the wake of the Ming-Qing transition as the dreamy and impassioned atmosphere of the late Ming gave way to an exploration of the useful, convenient, and speedy. Peng Liu uncovers connections between the novel Dream of the Red Chamber and an esoteric Buddhist sutra, arguing that the novel’s utopian garden is a mental space modeled upon Buddhist meditation. Yunjing Xu investigates how tanci performances in twentieth-century Suzhou mobilized local elements in constructing a symbolic space to interact with the state’s ideologies. Katherine Carlitz and Andrea Goldman as chair and discussant will help us consider how the study of space can contribute to the cultural history of early modern and modern China.