Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Power of Places: A Northern Sung Literatus Tours the Southern Suburbs of Ch'ang-An

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

The Power of Places: A Northern Sung Literatus Tours the Southern Suburbs of Ch'ang-An

Article excerpt

The eleventh-century Yu ch'eng-nan chi [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (A Record of Travel South of the City Walls) belongs to a subclass of travel literature known as fang-ku [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] accounts of "visits to antiquities." This particular account, written in the form of a travel diary, concerns the architectural remains and cultural relics of the T'ang dynasty that were still to be seen in the southern suburbs of Ch'ang-an [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] during the Northern Sung. Recalling his first encounter with Yu ch'eng-nan chi, the author of its postscript, K'ang Ts'en [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] writes:

[It was a manuscript copy] written out by Hsu Shao-hua palace aide to the censor-in-chief. I had a chance to peruse it at the home of my "elder brother" Chang Hua-yuan [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] and liked it so exceedingly that I subsequently made a copy of it for myself. Later, after some research elsewhere, I finally obtained the authors' family names: Ming-wei [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] was surnamed Ch'en [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] and hailed from Western Ch'u [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] Mao-chung [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] was surnamed Chang [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED], named Li [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED].", and hailed from Chih-yu [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED]. They were men of wide learning and a lively interest in things at large.

There are many places in this work that are meticulously written, in terms of both literary skill and scholarly research. Although the Sung dynasty was temporally removed from the late T'ang, much of its scenery, its ponds and pavilions were still extant during the Sung. Now, however, it is impossible to research the names of [T'ang] city wards or wall gates. Alas. The azure sea and the mulberry groves are ever changing;(1) the contours of valleys and hills are seldom constant. Later travelers will derive much from this text.2

The frequent citation of the travelogue in secondary studies of T'ang history and culture attest to K'ang Ts'en's prediction.[3] Students of archaeology and the history of Chinese archaeology have long consulted the travelogue as they would a set of field notes.[4] But if the author of Yu ch'eng-nan chi, Chang Li, had intended his work to serve primarily as a catalogue of ruins and artifacts, transcriptions of inscriptions, and reports on the current condition of the T'ang remains, he certainly would have adopted a format similar to that of Sung Min-ch'iu's [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (1019-79) Ch'ang-an chih [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] with which he was quite familiar, or Hung Kua's [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (1117-84) Li shih [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] or Wu Lai's [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (1301-41) Nan-hai shan-shui jen-wu ku-chi chi [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED]. He must have had some reason for using the travel diary format, some motive in writing other than collection of data. In this paper I will look closely at the form and content of Chang Li's account to determine what these motives and reasons were.


Some of the earliest examples of Chinese literature can be classified as chronicles or travel accounts. Personal accounts of travel in chronicle form, however, do not appear before the T'ang dynasty and do not gain prominence as a genre until the Sung.(5) According to the common-sense definitions proposed in a recent study, works classified as yu-chi [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (records of travel) provide first-hand accounts of brief excursions or extended journeys; include factual data concerning the physical environment traveled through; and reveal the author's attitudes or opinions on various topics, thoughts that have been stimulated by sights or experiences encountered along the way. The travel diary differs from the travel essay in two ways. The diary generally is an account of a longer trip, the essay of a day trip. More importantly, the purpose of the diary is to record, primarily, the author's experiences while on the road and, secondarily, his reactions to those experiences; the essay, on the other hand, uses the experiences of travel simply as a setting for, or introduction to, philosophical or moral discourse. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.