Literati Storytelling in Late Medieval China


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Languages and Cultures


This project examines the community-building function of story exchange among Chinese literati (scholar-offcials) from the mid-eighth to the mid-tenth-century. Rather than simply a literary prose genre as conventionally believed, literati story-telling is better understood as both a mode of discourse and a medium of pre-modern mass culture embedded in its historical context. This study looks into how story-telling enabled late medieval literati to adjust to the fundamental transformation from aristocracy to meritocracy by constructing their community and developing new paradigms for collective identity. The contextualized analysis expands our understanding of a widely acknowledged watershed in Chinese history and of story-telling as a universal yet complex human phenomenon.