Visible Cities: Text and Urban Space in Middle-Period China, Eighth through Twelfth Centuries


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2013-2014


During the eleventh century, Chinese literati changed the geographic orientation of inherited literary genres, and devised new literary genres, in order to create a space in writing for the commercial cityscape. Within this newly created literary space, the commercial cityscape emerges, not as an achievement of human artifice, but as an extension of nature. The effort of eleventh-century literati to discern natural principles in urban traffic and in the urban economy aligns their writing of the city with other intellectual developments of the period, such as the interest in natural observation, medical diagnostics, and civil engineering. This intellectual history of the eleventh-century city will afford new insights into the economy, philosophy, and literature of the period.