P34. Written Worlds of Late Imperial China: Ancestors, Prisoners, and Believers

Session: Session 5, 10:15 – 11:45 am, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Knowledge

Chair: Yujie Pu (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Gang Song (University of Hong Kong), Xin Yu (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee), Tengyun Zhang (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

From the Lord of Heaven to the Savior of the World: Catholic and Protestant Narratives of Jesus’ Life in Late Imperial China

Speaker: Gang Song
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Hong Kong
Abstract: This paper explores the hidden links between two Chinese Christian works on the life of Jesus in late imperial China. One is Tianzhu jiangsheng yanxing jilüe 天主降生言行紀畧 (A Brief Record on the Words and Deeds of the Incarnated Lord of Heaven), the first Chinese biography of Jesus by the Catholic missionary Giulio Aleni (1582-1649) in 1635. The other work, titled Jiushizhu Yesu Jidu xinglun zhi yaolüe zhuan 救世主耶穌基督行論之要畧傳 (A Brief Account on the Deeds and Teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ), was made by the Protestant missionary Karl F. A. Gützlaff (1803-1851) in 1834. A detailed comparison of the two works shows similar or even verbatim passages. They further resemble each other in structural, lexical, and exegetical aspects. The remarkable intertextuality suggests that Aleni’s biography, a popular Catholic work with numerous later adaptations through the 17th and the 18th centuries, was tacitly adopted by Gützlaff as a source of his work in the nascent years of Protestant missions in China. This study offers a vivid example among many that can verify the overlaps between Catholic and Protestant biblical narratives in the 19th century. This group of overlapping texts, largely neglected in recent scholarship, bring to light the Catholic strategy of transwrting in biblical translations. They also facilitate a re-evaluation of the complex formation of Chinese biblical literature in the pre-modern era.

How to Make a Genealogy in Late Imperial China: Rethinking Book Culture in Rural Society

Speaker: Xin Yu
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Abstract: While compiling a genealogy is typically regarded as an individualized hobby, creating a genealogy in late imperial China was usually a collaborative endeavor that often involved the participation of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of individuals. In this presentation, Xin Yu analyzes the complex processes of producing genealogies and investigates how these processes shed light on our comprehension of book culture in rural society. Xin Yu traces the various processes involved in the creation of genealogies, such as organizing genealogy committees, collecting information, editing the content, pooling funds, procuring wood, recruiting artisans, conducting ritual commemorations, and distributing copies. It was through such inclusive collaborative projects, he argues, that individual villagers in rural China were drawn together under large-scale patri-lineages; it was also through such book-making projects that book culture became relevant and meaningful to the majority of Chinese peasants.

Identity and Literary Strategies: Zhang Binglin’s prison writing, 1903-1906

Speaker: Tengyun Zhang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Canonized as a scholar and revolutionary hero, Zhang Binglin’s identity as a dissenter, rebel, and prisoner has received less scrutiny. In conversation with Rivkah Zim’s methodology of examining the typology of prison writing, this paper discusses how Zhang Binglin consciously used his prison writing during 1903-1906 for spiritual therapy, to bear witness to the tension between repression and resilience, and to reconstruct his identity as a Han revolutionist. I will first introduce the intellectual background of the first decade of the twentieth century and how Zhang echoes the trending themes and style of anti-Manchu sentiment and the spirit of defiance, creating a valuable testimony when his anti-Manchu ideas were most fervent. Next, I will analyze how Zhang Binglin’s prison writings created and strengthened a self-image of a glorious representative of the Han people that resisted the official Qing discourse of him during the time. I attempt to investigate how Zhang Binglin’s perspective and persona as a prisoner were shaped in his writings, encompassing various genres such as letters, poetry, and essays. Finally, due to Zhang Binglin’s entirely shifting his focus to Buddhism sutras during imprisonment, I will analyze how he utilized Buddhism as a critical while expedient means of Han revival propaganda shortly after this period. With this research, I aim to purpose on shedding light on the role of prison writing in shaping Chinese nationalist identity during the eve of the 1911 revolution and contribute to the research on the intersection of literary writing and political identity.