Lifestyles in the Tang Dynasty under the Influence of Manuscript Culture

Visiting Scholar Talks

Dec 1, 2023 | 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Shuyang Zhao | Associate Professor, School of Liberal Arts, Nanjing University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2023-24


Xiaofei Tian | Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

The physical form of books plays a crucial role in human’s daily life. Prior to the advent of woodblock printing in ancient China, the manuscript era prevailed, in which all books were laboriously copied by hand. This unique method of production bestowed upon these books’ distinct features such as fluidity, serendipity, and individuality. During this period, people came up with various strategies to accommodate these traits to facilitate the smooth dissemination of written works. Adapting to this manuscript-based literary culture, the ancients in China developed specific ways of life that left a lasting impact on fields like history, culture, and literature. These historical lifestyles are different from what we know today and interpreting them through the perspective of the print era could lead to misconceptions. A genuine understanding of these lifestyles and the historical documents they produced is only possible when contextualized within the manuscript era.