History, Space and Identity: Cultural Discourse of Luoyang qie lan ji

Book Reviews

Wang Meixiu 王美秀

Taipei: Li ren shu ju 里仁書局, 2007

Reviewed by Liu Yuanju (Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, Academia, Sinica; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2005-2006)

Wang Meixiu, with a PhD from the Department of East Asian studies, University of Leeds, UK, recently joined the National Taiwan Normal University faculty as an assistant professor in the International Sinology Institute. This book presents her studies on Southern and Northern Dynasties literature, Buddhist literature and historical writing over the years. Focusing on the three themes of history, space and religion, she explores different areas of politics, economics, society, folklore, literature and art. The purpose is to uncover a cultural discourse of Northern dynasty literati identity, and to explain the construction of a new cultural identity, a hybrid of Han Chinese – different both from previous Southern Han culture and from that of Han culture in the Eastern Jiang.

Although Northern studies, throughout the history of Chinese literature, received less attention, the Luoyang qie lan ji always played an important role in Chinese and Japanese literary history of religious studies. These issues have continued to be discussed, including the Hebenzizhu (integration of parallel versions) based on form (Chen Yinke: 1939), Buddhist monasteries of Luoyang (Mizuno Seichi: 1939), the capital Luoyang’s organizational system (Lao Gan: 1948) and politics (1960) , society and culture of Luoyang in the Northern Dynasty (Hattoi Katsuhiko: 1965), cultural conflict between North and South (Wang wenjin:1982), historical consciousness (Ho Jipeng:1983), “hot” and “cold” narration (Lin Wenyue: 1985), and so on. Wang builds upon these discussions and achievements, while also adding her own illumination of Yang’s intrinsic motivation from the viewpoint of cultural identity theory. For example, she proposes that Yang rendered his own historical writing different from the Wei Shu, the official history, so as to fight for the right to historical interpretation according to the perspective of Northern Wei instead of Han. She shows how Yang took advantage of Buddhism, which originated from the “Hu” district, to merge the races between Hu and Han, and to make Luoyang’s civilization distinct and of central significance.

Despite these considerable contributions, Wang’s book lacks sufficient attention to the Luoyang qie lan ji‘s characteristic as a geographical record. Her understanding of the Northern Buddhist religious meaning is also relatively simple, confined to ŌCHŌ Enichi, who characterized its tone as “fearing the power of the mysterious and praying for worldly happiness.” But in light of Wang’s recent research on Biographies of the Eminent Monks and Shui jing zhu, we can look forward to further work that will correct these deficiencies.