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Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou (review)

Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou (review) Reviews 233 LucieOlivováandVibekeBørdahl,editors. Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou.NIASStudiesinAsianTopics,vol.44.Copenhagen,Denmark: NordicInstituteofAsianStudies,2009.xxiii,488pp.Hardcover$90.00, isbn978-87-7694-035-5. Thishandsomelyproduced,profuselyillustratedvolumeistheresultofalongterm,trulyinternationalcollaborationamongscholarswhoseworkfocuseson variousaspectsofYangzhoufromtheseventeenthcenturydowntothepresent day.Buildingonconversationsbegunincyberspace(aYangzhouClubwithinthe ChineseStorytellingwebsitewww.shuoshu.org),theeditorsorganizedathree-day workshopinOctober2005inYangzhouitself.Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhouistheresult. Thetextisdividedintofoursections,dealingrespectivelywith"thecityof sights"(fiveessaysaddressingeverythingfromarchitectureandcityplanning throughgardenstofashion),booksandliterature(fourcontributions),performanceandentertainment(fivestudies),andtheYangzhouschoolofpainting(four papers).Therosterofscholarsisdistinguished,themixofseniorandjunior scholarsjudicious,andthecaliberofscholarshipforthemostpartveryhigh.Itis anexcellentplacetogetasenseofthestateofthisveryactivesubfield.Yetitisnot thefirstplaceonewouldsendacolleaguewhowishedtobebroughtuptospeed aboutthisimportantplace. Inpart,thisreflectsthequalityofexistingscholarship--muchofitthework ofparticipantsintheworkshop--alreadyinprint.Tolimitoneselftopublications inEnglish,GingerHsu(2001),TobyMeyer-Fong(2003),andAntoniaFinnane (2004)publishedmajorbooksonthecitynotlongbeforeattendingtheconference.Workshopproceedingsareapttoleavethereadertobridgethegapsseparatingaspectsbroughtintosharpfocusinindividualpapers.Thisisparticularlytrue iftheintroductionis(ashere)amerethreepagesandthereisneitheranafterword noraconclusionthatattemptstomakeawholeoftheparts. Thereare,however,deeperproblems.Whileindividualcontributorsareoften rigorousinthewaytheydefinetheirterms,thereislittleevidenceofconsistency betweenessays.Threedaysis,ofcourse,fartoolittletimetohaveachieved this--butcouldmorenothavebeendone,eitherbeforeoraftertheworkshop,to thrashoutsuchissues?Onemight,moreover,havehopedthattwenty-first-century technologywouldhaveenabledparticipantstoengagemorefullywithoneanother'sfindingsandarguments;thereislittleevidencethatthisactuallyhappened. Further,someauthorsclearlyassumedtheywereaddressingaspecialistaudience withmuchmorethanpassingfamiliaritywiththetopic.Othersseemtohave pitchedtheircontributionstoafarmoregeneralaudience. McKinnon's"ATraveler'sTaleofTwoCities:Yangzhou,Shanghai"brings manyofthemoreproblematicaspectstogether.Thisarticleadoptsthestanceofa © 2012 by University of Hawai`i Press 234 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.18,No.2,2011 naiveoutsiderpreparedtorecognizeChineseproto-modernity--onlydefinedby invokingAnthonyGiddenssecondhandonthepenultimatepageofthechapter-- whenheseesit.Giventherigortheybringtotheirownwork,onesuspectsthat manyoftheothercontributorswouldhavecautionedthatearlymodernitywould lookverydifferent,andwouldcertainlybedifferentlyconfigured,inChinathanin theWest.Olivová'sessay"BuildingHistoryandthePreservationofYangzhou"-- whichmakesclearhowlittlehasbeendone,untilveryrecently,topreservephysicaltracesofthepast--suggeststhatseekingsuchevidenceonthegroundisa dubiousenterprise,inanycase.Yetthepointdoesnotseemtohaveregistered,and theeditorsseemtohaveavoidedraisingit. Astrongereditorialhandwouldhaveenhancedthebookthroughout.Carelesserrorsmarotherwisevaluablecontributions:thus,thepoetWangShizhenis elevatedfromprefecturaljudgetoprefectofYangzhou.Inabookaboutplace,the onlymap--ofthecityproper--isfoundonpage164,andwouldbeoflittleuseto a non-Chinesereader.Whilecomparativedimensionsarealludedto,theyare seldomexploredinanydetail--thus,whileFeiLiprovidesuswithavividdescriptionoftraditionalstoryhousesinYangzhou,thereisnosystematiccomparison withteahousecultureinotherpartsofChina.Kuzayuses9ofthe103songbooks collectedbyFinnishscholarHugoLundtodescribelateQingbrothelculture.The resultsarefascinatingandvivid--butinevitablyleavethereaderwonderingto whatdegreetheyreflect"lifeinthegreenlofts"(p.268)ratherthanconventional tropesthatcombineupliftwithtitillationintime-honoredfashion.Convincingly demonstratingtheimportanceofBuddhistthemesintheworkof(atleasttwo) Yangzhoueccentrics,Loringsuggeststhatthesewereattemptstoassuagethe tensionscreatedby"wealthandexcess,traditionalelitevaluesandthenoveltyof thehistoricalpresent"(p.404).Suggestiveasthisis,thereaderisleftwondering whetherthisreflectsthesensibilityofafewartists,theconcernsoftheirpatrons, orageneralsocialphenomenon. Giventheopportunitiesthewebaffordsforongoingengagement,itisdisappointingtoreportthatthisvolumeisnobetter(thoughcertainlynoworse) than thetypicalsetofpublishedconferencepapers.Onehopesthat,inthefuture, twenty-first-centurytechnologywillallowimplicationstobemorefullyexplored andremainingareasofdisagreementmoreclearlydefinedbeforeaworkshop becomesaprintedvolume.Ifthisistooccur,itwill,however,almostcertainly requireeditorstoinfusetheenterprisewithanold-fashionedelitismandrigorat oddswiththedemocraticspiritoftheInternet. MichaelMarmé Michael Marmé teaches Asian history at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus; he specializes in the social and economic history of late imperial China. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou (review)

China Review International , Volume 18 (2) – Sep 19, 2011

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Abstract

Reviews 233 LucieOlivováandVibekeBørdahl,editors. Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhou.NIASStudiesinAsianTopics,vol.44.Copenhagen,Denmark: NordicInstituteofAsianStudies,2009.xxiii,488pp.Hardcover$90.00, isbn978-87-7694-035-5. Thishandsomelyproduced,profuselyillustratedvolumeistheresultofalongterm,trulyinternationalcollaborationamongscholarswhoseworkfocuseson variousaspectsofYangzhoufromtheseventeenthcenturydowntothepresent day.Buildingonconversationsbegunincyberspace(aYangzhouClubwithinthe ChineseStorytellingwebsitewww.shuoshu.org),theeditorsorganizedathree-day workshopinOctober2005inYangzhouitself.Lifestyle and Entertainment in Yangzhouistheresult. Thetextisdividedintofoursections,dealingrespectivelywith"thecityof sights"(fiveessaysaddressingeverythingfromarchitectureandcityplanning throughgardenstofashion),booksandliterature(fourcontributions),performanceandentertainment(fivestudies),andtheYangzhouschoolofpainting(four papers).Therosterofscholarsisdistinguished,themixofseniorandjunior scholarsjudicious,andthecaliberofscholarshipforthemostpartveryhigh.Itis anexcellentplacetogetasenseofthestateofthisveryactivesubfield.Yetitisnot thefirstplaceonewouldsendacolleaguewhowishedtobebroughtuptospeed aboutthisimportantplace. Inpart,thisreflectsthequalityofexistingscholarship--muchofitthework ofparticipantsintheworkshop--alreadyinprint.Tolimitoneselftopublications inEnglish,GingerHsu(2001),TobyMeyer-Fong(2003),andAntoniaFinnane (2004)publishedmajorbooksonthecitynotlongbeforeattendingtheconference.Workshopproceedingsareapttoleavethereadertobridgethegapsseparatingaspectsbroughtintosharpfocusinindividualpapers.Thisisparticularlytrue iftheintroductionis(ashere)amerethreepagesandthereisneitheranafterword noraconclusionthatattemptstomakeawholeoftheparts. Thereare,however,deeperproblems.Whileindividualcontributorsareoften rigorousinthewaytheydefinetheirterms,thereislittleevidenceofconsistency betweenessays.Threedaysis,ofcourse,fartoolittletimetohaveachieved this--butcouldmorenothavebeendone,eitherbeforeoraftertheworkshop,to thrashoutsuchissues?Onemight,moreover,havehopedthattwenty-first-century technologywouldhaveenabledparticipantstoengagemorefullywithoneanother'sfindingsandarguments;thereislittleevidencethatthisactuallyhappened. Further,someauthorsclearlyassumedtheywereaddressingaspecialistaudience withmuchmorethanpassingfamiliaritywiththetopic.Othersseemtohave pitchedtheircontributionstoafarmoregeneralaudience. McKinnon's"ATraveler'sTaleofTwoCities:Yangzhou,Shanghai"brings manyofthemoreproblematicaspectstogether.Thisarticleadoptsthestanceofa © 2012 by University of Hawai`i Press 234 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.18,No.2,2011 naiveoutsiderpreparedtorecognizeChineseproto-modernity--onlydefinedby invokingAnthonyGiddenssecondhandonthepenultimatepageofthechapter-- whenheseesit.Giventherigortheybringtotheirownwork,onesuspectsthat manyoftheothercontributorswouldhavecautionedthatearlymodernitywould lookverydifferent,andwouldcertainlybedifferentlyconfigured,inChinathanin theWest.Olivová'sessay"BuildingHistoryandthePreservationofYangzhou"-- whichmakesclearhowlittlehasbeendone,untilveryrecently,topreservephysicaltracesofthepast--suggeststhatseekingsuchevidenceonthegroundisa dubiousenterprise,inanycase.Yetthepointdoesnotseemtohaveregistered,and theeditorsseemtohaveavoidedraisingit. Astrongereditorialhandwouldhaveenhancedthebookthroughout.Carelesserrorsmarotherwisevaluablecontributions:thus,thepoetWangShizhenis elevatedfromprefecturaljudgetoprefectofYangzhou.Inabookaboutplace,the onlymap--ofthecityproper--isfoundonpage164,andwouldbeoflittleuseto a non-Chinesereader.Whilecomparativedimensionsarealludedto,theyare seldomexploredinanydetail--thus,whileFeiLiprovidesuswithavividdescriptionoftraditionalstoryhousesinYangzhou,thereisnosystematiccomparison withteahousecultureinotherpartsofChina.Kuzayuses9ofthe103songbooks collectedbyFinnishscholarHugoLundtodescribelateQingbrothelculture.The resultsarefascinatingandvivid--butinevitablyleavethereaderwonderingto whatdegreetheyreflect"lifeinthegreenlofts"(p.268)ratherthanconventional tropesthatcombineupliftwithtitillationintime-honoredfashion.Convincingly demonstratingtheimportanceofBuddhistthemesintheworkof(atleasttwo) Yangzhoueccentrics,Loringsuggeststhatthesewereattemptstoassuagethe tensionscreatedby"wealthandexcess,traditionalelitevaluesandthenoveltyof thehistoricalpresent"(p.404).Suggestiveasthisis,thereaderisleftwondering whetherthisreflectsthesensibilityofafewartists,theconcernsoftheirpatrons, orageneralsocialphenomenon. Giventheopportunitiesthewebaffordsforongoingengagement,itisdisappointingtoreportthatthisvolumeisnobetter(thoughcertainlynoworse) than thetypicalsetofpublishedconferencepapers.Onehopesthat,inthefuture, twenty-first-centurytechnologywillallowimplicationstobemorefullyexplored andremainingareasofdisagreementmoreclearlydefinedbeforeaworkshop becomesaprintedvolume.Ifthisistooccur,itwill,however,almostcertainly requireeditorstoinfusetheenterprisewithanold-fashionedelitismandrigorat oddswiththedemocraticspiritoftheInternet. MichaelMarmé Michael Marmé teaches Asian history at Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus; he specializes in the social and economic history of late imperial China.

Journal

China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Sep 19, 2011

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