Remembering Bianliang: Space, Place, and Collective Memory in Emergent Urban Voices in Twelfth-Century China


ACLS Fellowship Program


School of International Letters and Cultures

Named Award

supported in part by the Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr. Fund for Chinese History named award


This is a study of Southern Song literary and historical texts written about the former capital of Kaifeng, focusing on the intellectual and emotional milieu of expatriate communities of northerners who had been displaced to south China by the Jurchen invasions. It shows that the post-Enlightenment tendency to view such works as revealing pre-existent truths about cities does not survive scrutiny, and that these texts are better viewed as “staged contingencies:” linked, staged scenes that do not present an unmediated representation of the city, but rather the anxieties and fragmented memories of their producers. These scenes are redolent with sensory information about food, sex, and entertainment and run directly counter to the interests of high culture.