Spatial Imaginaries in Mid-Tang China: Geography, Cartography, and Literature

by Ao Wang


"The present monograph is focused on literature, but unlike previous scholarship, it examines this literature as a process that significantly overlapped with the production of and interest in maps as well as in textual representations of space. [...] Spatial Imaginaries in Mid-Tang China demonstrates a commendable method for circumventing the lacuna of evidence from historical loss. After all, to forego making conjectures would be to disengage from one of the most exciting periods for visual and literary culture. Instead of disengagement, this book has chosen to face the challenge by locating sources beyond their inherited categories, and by reading extant textual sources anew. This is a challenge, but one that the author has more than admirably met." —Imago Mundi

"The mid-Tang period (790s-820s) was a time of dynamic changes and powerful innovations in the Chinese literary tradition. Ao Wang’s new book, executed with critical insight and poetic sensitivity, encompasses diverse literary forms and lends new nuances to our understanding of mid-Tang literature. Imaginative and inspiring, it is a significant contribution to the study of medieval Chinese literature and cultural history." —Xiaofei Tian, Professor of Chinese Literature and Chair of Regional Studies East Asia, Harvard University

“Looking into the relationship between geography and literature in mid-Tang China, Ao Wang’s groundbreaking study is well structured, argued, and documented. It provides an important new lens for the reading of literature from a geographic perspective, and vice versa. Literary pieces are deftly translated and carefully interpreted; and the close reading of each literary piece—along with the incorporation of sociopolitical, economic, cultural, class, and ethnic conflicts—illuminate how and why literature can be indispensable references for historical studies. In analyzing the texts, Wang brings together literature, art, geography, cartography, ecology, philosophy, and religion to uncover a rich cultural history of intellectual exploration when the empire was struggling to revive itself, and multitalented literati used their geographically informed literary writing to address their ambitions and anxieties and to cope with the rapidly changing world. This book makes a major contribution to the study of mid-Tang literature and is an important reference for scholars and students of classical Chinese literature.” —Nanxiu Qian, Professor of Chinese Literature, Rice University

“This book is an innovative, provocative study of the interplay of the geographic imagination and literary creativity in the mid-Tang period, a watershed moment in Tang literature. Wang explores the ways that mid-Tang cartographic advances, travels by literati into more remote areas of the Tang, and new approaches to representing spatial experience fueled new literary forms, styles, and knowledge. Drawing on a wide range of materials, many of them little studied by either historians of geography or literary scholars, Wang convincingly shows how many of the most prominent mid-Tang literati reimagined their physical and cultural environments to produce new ‘spatial imaginaries’ in their literary work.” —Anna M. Shields, Professor of Chinese Literature, Princeton University


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