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Transformative Journeys

Transformative Journeys: Travel and Culture in Song China

Cong Ellen Zhang
Copyright Date: 2011
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    Transformative Journeys
    Book Description:

    During the Song (960-1279), all educated Chinese men traveled frequently, journeying long distances to attend school and take civil service examinations. They crisscrossed the country to assume government posts, report back to the capital, and return home between assignments and to attend to family matters. Based on a wide array of texts,Transformative Journeysanalyzes the impact of travel on this group of elite men and the places they visited.

    In the first part of the book, Cong Ellen Zhang considers the practical aspects of travel during the Song in the context of state mobilization of and assistance to government travelers, including the infrastructure of waterways and highways, the bureaucratic procedures entailed in official travel, and the means of transport and types of lodging. The second part of the book focuses on elite activities on the road, especially the elaborate farewell banquets, welcoming ceremonies, and visits to famous places. Zhang argues convincingly that abundant travel experience became integral to Song elite identity and status, greatly strengthening the social and cultural coherence of the practitioners. In promoting their experience of traveling across a large empire, Song elite men firmly established their position as the country's political, social, and cultural leaders. The literary compositions and physical traces they left behind also formed an overlapping web of collective memories, continually enhancing local pride and defining the place of various localities in the cultural geography of the country.

    Transformative Journeyssheds new light on the nature of Chinese literati, their dominance of culture and society, and China's social and cultural integration. Those interested in premodern China and travel literature will find a wealth of material previously unavailable to Western readers.

    3 illus., 7 maps

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6068-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Notes on Conventions
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Weights and Measures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Travel, Culture, and the Song Literati
    (pp. 1-18)

    When the Southern Song (1127–1279) scholar-official Fan Chengda (1126–1193)² composed the above stanza on the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiu) in 1173,³ he was a regional commissioner stationed in Guilin (in Guangxi), about a thousand li from his hometown in Pingjiang (Suzhou, Jiangsu). In a long poem, cited in part here, Fan remarked emotionally that, in every one of the past nine years, he had spent the Mid-Autumn Festival in a different place. In light of his many journeys, Fan took comfort in the fact that the moon loyally accompanied him wherever he went.₄

    Court service would...

  7. CHAPTER 1 A Transient Life: Travel and the Song Literati
    (pp. 19-42)

    Just as his contemporary Fan Chengda tended to reflect on his extensive journeys around Mid-Autumn Festival time, Zhang Xiaoxiang (1132–1169) was inclined to gather his thoughts on the occasion of the Seventh Night. The piece above is hardly the sole example of this type of verse. Another, written a few years earlier, reads:

    Last year, I spent the Seventh Night at Yongzhou [in Hunan].

    This year, I am at Hengzhou [Hengyang, Hunan].

    Traveling back and forth, I do not dare complain about the roads.

    Being greeted and sent off by officials and soldiers, all I feel is embarrassed.


  8. CHAPTER 2 The Infrastructure of Travel: Water Routes and Official Highways
    (pp. 43-68)

    Thus did Lu You recount his journey up a small branch of the Yangzi River in 1170 while en route to Kuizhou to assume the office of controllergeneral. On this particular day, Lu’s party traversed an especially desolate area. Not only did he discover, to his dismay, that his large charter boat would flounder without the help of a small tug, he and his party were also terrified of the brigands known to prowl the thick, entwining rushes—Lu’s complaints seem to have been well grounded. This should not lead us to conclude, however, that sailing the Yangzi in the...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Readying for Departure: Paperwork and Procedures
    (pp. 69-82)

    Lu You wrote this memorial of gratitude following his appointment as controller-general of Kuizhou in the winter of 1169. By no means ecstatic about serving in a remote area in southwest China, Lu nonetheless accepted the post and dutifully tendered his thanks. It was not until half a year later, however, that he actually departed for his new assignment.

    This chapter focuses on travel-related bureaucratic formalities. Before they could embark on their new assignments, Song civil servants were subject to many formal procedures. In addition to the pro forma memorials of gratitude, they were responsible for reporting at various government...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Government Assistance for Official Travel: Porter-Guards, Means of Transport, and Lodging
    (pp. 83-110)

    We may never know the veracity of this story, which apparently aimed to praise Zhao, a high-ranking official, for being humble and unassuming on his inspection tours. But the very fact that Shen Kua found the anecdote interesting and that Zhao’s fellow lodgers were clueless about his status seems to suggest that it was uncommon for government officers to travel anonymously and without a sizable entourage. Other Song scholars shared this view. A story from theRecord of the Listenertells of an official stationed far from home having a dream that his father had passed away. Convinced that the...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Rituals of Departure: Farewell Parties
    (pp. 111-129)

    The above stanza by Lu You is typical of the poems composed on the occasion of a friend’s departure for a government post. At the end of what might be a series of send-off ceremonies, well-wishers gathered to bid the traveler farewell. With their transient professional lifestyle, Song elites regularly took part in these activities as hosts, guests of honor, and participants. Their literary compositions display elite sociability as the central element of contemporary farewell culture, characterized by rituals such as drinking, the exchange of poems, and a public display of emotion. These activities allowed Song officials to bond over...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Travelers and Their Local Hosts: Receptions, Entertainment, and Their Cost
    (pp. 130-153)

    As earlier chapters have shown, large entourages that included family members, clerks, and soldier-escorts were commonly part of an official’s travel retinue, yet these are rarely featured in Song travel writing. It was association with their peers that greatly enriched the lives of official travelers on the road, and this accordingly takes center stage in their travel writings. The above stanza, written by Lu You in Hubei in 1170, refers to the poet-traveler running into a former colleague, Zhang, whom he had befriended while serving in Jiangxi. It shows that, while frequent relocation made bidding farewell a constant fact of...

  13. CHAPTER 7 Sightseeing and Site Making: Visiting and Inscribing places
    (pp. 154-179)

    So did the late Southern Song scholar-official Zhao Jiren summarize his lifelong aspirations in a conversation with his friend Luo Dajing (1196–1252). Zhao did not find it necessary to define what he meant by “good people” or “good books.” He did, however, elaborate on his third wish with a brief reference to the renowned scholar Zhu Xi (1130–1200). According to Zhao, wherever Zhu went, he would bring enough wine to drink for the day and make sure not to miss any nearby mountains and rivers, even if it meant making a detour of dozens ofli.

    Zhao’s and...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Elite Travel, Famous Sites, and Local History: Huangzhou after Su Shi’s Time
    (pp. 180-206)

    The above poem, written by the renowned Tang poet Bo Juyi at his Zhongzhou (Zhongxian, Sichuan) post in 820, is one of three that celebrate strolling the East Slope (Dongpo), a plot of land not far from his office.² Over two and a half centuries later, during his exile (1080–1084) in Huangzhou (Huanggang, Hubei), Su Shi purchased a piece of farmland, named it East Slope, and adopted Dongpo as his literary name. His works from this time, in particular the famous “Eight Poems about the East Slope,” further allude to the resemblance Su Shi saw between his life and...

  15. Epilogue: The Native, the Local, and the Empire
    (pp. 207-210)

    When Lu You composed these lines in the early winter of 1170, he had been traveling up the Yangzi River for almost five months and was finally approaching his destination in eastern Sichuan. He had been in government service for two decades by then. Little did he know that this sojourn in the southwest would last over seven years: it was not until 1178 that he would again set out for his hometown in Zhejiang.

    Neither could Lu You have expected that his official career would continue well into his seventies. None of the positions he held had brought the...

  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 211-216)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 217-260)
  18. Glossary
    (pp. 261-268)
  19. References
    (pp. 269-288)
  20. Index
    (pp. 289-301)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-302)