Third Annual West Coast Workshop on Premodern Chinese Literature and Culture

DATE: Saturday, April 26, 2014

PLACE: IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor, UC Berkeley

SPONSOR: Center for Chinese Studies



This is the third annual West Coast Workshop on Premodern Chinese Literature and Culture, established to provide scholars in the field, especially those working in the midwest and west coast of the country, an opportunity to present and discuss their current work in progress, in an informal setting.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

9:00–9:10 — Welcoming Remarks (Paula Varsano)

SESSION 1: 9:15–10:25
Wang Shizhen's Theory of Spirit-Resonance: Evidence from the Shenyun ji (Spirit-Resonance Collection of Tang Verse) and Tangxian sanmei ji (Collection of Samādhi [Enlightened] Poetry by Bhadras [Virtuous Sages] of the Tang)
Richard John Lynn, University of Toronto (Discussant: Wang Yugen, University of Oregon)

Speculation about the exact meaning of shenyun 神韻 (spirit-resonance), the most salient term in the poetics of Wang Shizhen 王士禎 (1634–1711), began in Wang's own day and has continued through the next three hundred years up to today. Although I shall address some of the more noteworthy interpretations and mis-interpretations of shenyun that occurred during all this time, this essay will focus on the content of and ancillary statements connected with two poetry anthologies Wang compiled, the Shenyun ji 神韻集(Collection of Spirit-resonance Poetry) and the Tangxian sanmei ji 唐賢三昧集 (Collection of Samādhi [Enlightened] Poetry by Bhadras [Virtuous Sages] of the Tang), for both seem particularly valuable sources for what Wang himself meant by the term.

SESSION 2: 10:30–11:40
Mudan ting: The Theater of the Mind
Li Qiancheng, Louisiana State University (Discussant: Ling Hon Lam, UC Berkeley)

What characterizes the dramatic and narrative works in late imperial China, like their counterparts in the West, is a preoccupation, even obsession, with human desire (qing). Mudan ting is the centerpiece of what we can describe as a culture, or cult, of qing, taking hold at this time. One of the defining features of this development is that the construction of qing during this period is largely, and rather paradoxically, rooted in religion: particularly in Buddhist (and sometimes Neo-Confucian) discourse. The very same vocabulary that is used to prescribe asceticism and celibacy to its clergy is also used to explain and even legitimate desire. Writers and dramatists configure qing and religion together, and understand one by its contrast to the other, with the result that both ends of the spectrum are highlighted, intensified, and enhanced. As this paper will show, Mudan ting is a case in point.

Lunch (on-site): 11:45–12:45

SESSION 3: 12:50–2:00
In Search of A Perfect Match: Representation of Women and the Formation of A Literati Community in Jian'an Literature
Hu Qiulei, Whitman College (Discussant: Kevin Tsai, Indiana University)

This paper discusses a group of writings on woman across different genres (fu, yuefu and shi poetry) written in and around the Jian'an period. My discussion situates these writings in the context of the community of literati and their practice of group composition in the newly-established Cao court. Bu examining them in this light, I hope to show how they reflect a new ruler/literati dynamic, which in turn transformed the very function of court literature. Finally, I hope to show how, when the Jian'an literati wrote on beautiful women, they were also defining their own community and confirming its values.

SESSION 4: 2:10–3:20
Of Cats, Dust, and Dharanis: Gong Zizhen's Nostalgia for Beijing
Stephen Roddy, University of San Francisco (Discussant: He Yuming, UC Davis)

A significant number of poems in Gong Zizhen's (1792–1841) famous sequence of 315 quatrains, "Poems of 1839", touch on the delights of Beijing, ranging from its unusually clever cats, to its learned lamas and lay Buddhists, and even its dusty, harsh climate. This paper examines his outburst of nostalgia for the capital as a kind of coda to his fascination with the empire's northern regions. Specifically, the multiethnic, culturally pluralistic capital region came to represent an attractive alternative to what he viewed as the enervating conformity of southeastern monoculture. I argue that the modern tendency to read the "Poems of 1839" in nationalistic terms obscures its echoes of his strident critique of Han ethnocentrism found scattered across his writings of this period.

Break: 3:20–3:40

SESSION 5: 3:40–4:50
Whose Voice is it Anyway? A Rereading of Wang Changling's "Autumn in the Palace of Everlasting Faith: Five Poems"
Paula Varsano, UC Berkeley (Discussant: Charles Egan, San Francisco State University)
Among his poetic peers, Wang Changling may profitably read as someone especially interested in the nature of lyrical expression, and not just because he is the attributive author of the "Lun wenyi", a short, rather disjointed essay exploring the interface between the perceived world and the feeling subject, and recommending ways to nurture and manifest those feelings in language. Another, and perhaps more compelling reason is his predilection for and excellence in the composition of seven-character quatrain, in his time, was not considered "lyrical" in the usual sense. Through a close reading of his "Autumn in the Palace of Everlasting Faith", I offer a demonstration of how Wang Changling took this relatively impersonal form and subtly transformed it into a window onto the complexities of the nature of poetic subjectivity as it had been developed in the tradition up to his time.



Charles Egan is Associate Professor of Chinese and Director of the Chinese Flagship Program, at San Francisco State University. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, and his research and teaching cover Classical Chinese literature and culture, with research specializations in Classical Chinese poetry, medieval China studies, Buddhism, garden studies, and orality-literacy studies. He is the author of a number of articles, including "A Critical Study of the Origins of chüeh-chü Poetry" in Asia Major, 3rd series, 6, pt.1 (1993): 83-125), and "Reconsidering the Role of Folksongs in Pre-T'ang yüeh-fu Development" in T'oung-Pao 86, nos.1-3 (2000): 47-99. He has also published a book of translations: Clouds Thick, Whereabouts Unknown: Poems by Zen Monks of China (Columbia University Press, 2010).

Yuming He is Assistant Professor of Chinese at UC Davis, and received her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. Her research areas include dramatic performance and texts, textual and visual culture, as well as social and intellectual history, particularly history of the book, in late-imperial China (14thĖ19th centuries). She is the author of the book, Home and the World: Editing the "Glorious Ming" in Woodblock-Printed Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013).

Qiulei Hu is Assistant Professor of Chinese at Whitman College, and received her Ph.D. at Harvard University. She specializes in early medieval Chinese poetry, with a focus on gender issues in poetic expression and the tradition of male writing in the feminine voice. Her dissertation, "Gender and Voice in Early Medieval Chinese Poetry," examines how poetic expressions about women and female gender markers were established and stabilized in the period from 3rd to 6th century. She is currently working on a book project based on her dissertation.

Ling Hon Lam is Assistant Professor of Chinese at UC Berkeley, and received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. His research and teaching interests cover premodern Chinese drama and fiction, women's writing, sex and gender, history of sentiments, nineteenth- and twentieth-century media culture, and critical theories. His publications include "The Matriarch's Private Ears: Performance, Reading, Censorship, and the Fabrication of Interiority in The Story of the Stone" (HJAS 65.2), "Reading off the Screen: Toward Cinematic Il-literacy in Late 1950s Chinese Opera Film" (Opera Quarterly 26.2-3), and "A Case of the Chinese (Dis)order? The Haoqiu zhuan and the Competing Forms of Knowledge in European and Japanese Readings" (forthcoming in Asian Publishing and Society). His forthcoming book is titled "From Dreamscapes to Theatricality: The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China." He is now working on a project concerning the fate of reading in late imperial and modern Chinese media culture.

Qiancheng Li is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and he received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Washington University in St. Louis. He specializes in premodern Chinese literature from a comparative perspective, and is especially interested in theory of the novel, drama, and translation studies. His book, Fictions of Enlightenment: "Journey to the West," "Tower of Myriad Mirrors," and "Dream of the Red Chamber" appeared in 2004 (University of Hawai'i Press).

Richard John Lynn. A.B. Princeton University (magna cum laude); M.A. University of Washington; Ph.D. Stanford University; positions at universities in New Zealand, Australia, U.S.A. and Canada; finally Professor of Chinese thought and literature, University of Toronto, now Professor Emeritus. His publications include Kuan Yün-shih [1286-1324] (Twayne, 1980), Chinese Literature: A Draft Bibliography in Western European Languages (Australian National University Press, 1980), Guide to Chinese Poetry and Drama (G. K. Hall, 1984), The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi (Columbia University Press, 1994; CD-ROM, 1996), The Classic of the Way and Virtue: A New Translation of the Tao-te ching of Laozi as Interpreted by Wang Bi (Columbia University Press, 1999). He is the editor of James J. Y. Liu, Language — Paradox — Poetics: A Chinese Perspective (Princeton University Press, 1988). Current works in progress include a new translation and study of the Daoist classic, the Zhuangzi, with the complete commentary of Guo Xiang (for Columbia University Press), and a book-length study of Huang Zunxianís literary experiences in Japan (1877–82).

Stephen Roddy is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Modern and Classical Languages, and he received his Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from Princeton University. He specializes in the fiction and other prose genres of 18th- and 19th-century China and Japan. His current interests focus on the influences of Chinese fiction on late-Tokugawa writers, and of Meiji-period thinkers on essayists of the late-Qing. He teaches courses in Japanese and Chinese literature, culture, and language.

Kevin Tsai is Assistant Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University. His research interests include Tang Dynasty prose literature, Yuan and Ming drama, as well as Roman epic poetry, ancient Greek rhetoric and fiction, and East-West comparative studies. Championing texts that have been unjustly ignored, he pays particular attention to the interplay between literary form and the social. Among his publications is the article, "Ritual and Gender in the 'Tale of Li Wa'," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 26 (2004): 99-127. He has also published original poetry in a number of journals, including Salamander, Perihelion, and CML.

Paula Varsano is Associate Professor of Chinese at the University of California, Berkeley. She specializes in classical poetry and poetics from the third through the eleventh centuries, with particular interest in literature and subjectivity, the evolution of spatial representation in poetry, the history and poetics of traditional literary criticism, and the theory and practice of translation. She is the author of Tracking the Banished Immortal: The Poetry of Li Bo and its Critical Reception (University of Hawaii Press, 2003), and the editor of the forthcoming "The Rhetoric of Hiddenness in Traditional Chinese Culture" (SUNY Press). She is currently at work on a book tentatively titled "Coming to Our Senses: Locating the Subject in Traditional Chinese Literary Writing."

Yugen Wang is Associate Professor of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Oregon. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and specializes in classical Chinese poetry and traditional Chinese literary theory and criticism. He is especially interested in the pedagogical and interpretive traditions of Chinese poetry, as well as the materiality of reading and writing in the Chinese literary tradition. His book, Ten Thousand Scrolls: Reading and Writing in the Poetics of Huang Tingjian and the Late Northern Song appeared in 2011 (Harvard University Asia Center).



The third annual West Coast Workshop on Premodern Chinese Literature and Culture will be held in the IEAS conference room on the Berkeley campus – 2223 Fulton Street, 6th floor conference room.

See section D1 on this large campus map.


Directions to the Berkeley campus

If traveling by BART, exit the Richmond-Fremont line at the Berkeley station (not North Berkeley). When you leave the BART station, walk south down Shattuck Avenue to Kittredge Street (one or two blocks depending on which station exit you leave from) and turn left. Walk one block to Fulton Street and you will be facing the 2223 Fulton Street Building.

From Interstate 80

To reach the site by car from Interstate 80, exit at the University Avenue off-ramp in Berkeley. Take University Avenue east to Oxford Street and turn right. Oxford becomes Fulton Street in a couple of blocks. We are located in the six-story beige building on the east (left) side of the street.

From Highways 24/13

To reach us from Highways 24/13, exit 13 at Tunnel Road in Berkeley. Continue on Tunnel Road as it becomes Ashby. Turn right at Telegraph and drive approximately one mile north to Bancroft Way and turn left. The 2223 Fulton Street Building is at the northeast corner of the Bancroft and Fulton intersection (right side).

Directions to campus are also available at http://www.berkeley.edu/visitors/traveling.html


There are various public parking lots and facilities near campus and in downtown Berkeley. This list includes municipal and privately owned parking lots and garages open to the public. Please consult signs for hours and fees prior to entering the facilities.

Other lots:

  • Berkeley Way near Shattuck
  • Center Street near Shattuck
  • Allston Way near Shattuck
  • Kittredge Street near Milvia

More information is available on the UC Berkeley Parking and Transportation page.