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Writing and Materiality in China

Writing and Materiality in China

Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan

Edited by Judith T. Zeitlin and Lydia H. Liu

ISBN 9780674010987

Publication date: 05/30/2003

Speaking about Chinese writing entails thinking about how writing speaks through various media. In the guises of the written character and its imprints, traces, or ruins, writing is more than textuality. The goal of this volume is to consider the relationship of writing to materiality in China’s literary history and to ponder the physical aspects of the production and circulation of writing. To speak of the thing-ness of writing is to understand it as a thing in constant motion, transported from one place or time to another, one genre or medium to another, one person or public to another.

Thinking about writing as the material product of a culture shifts the emphasis from the author as the creator and ultimate arbiter of a text’s meaning to the editors, publishers, collectors, and readers through whose hands a text is reshaped, disseminated, and given new meanings. By yoking writing and materiality, the contributors to this volume aim to bypass the tendency to oppose form and content, words and things, documents and artifacts, to rethink key issues in the interpretation of Chinese literary and visual culture.


  • Judith T. Zeitlin is Professor of Chinese Literature, University of Chicago.
  • Lydia H. Liu is Helmut F. Stern Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
  • Ellen Widmer is Mayling Soong Professor of Chinese Studies and Professor of East Asian Studies at Wellesley College.

Book Details

  • 672 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center
  • With Ellen Widmer