The city of Hangzhou is unique in the Chinese cultural imagination. As a former dynastic capital, Hangzhou is saturated with the intrigues of China's turbulent political and social history. But the city is also famous as a literary and cultural center--a prime leisure location along the Grand Canal; the site of the famous West Lake (just as famously compared to the mythically beautiful Xi Shi); and the setting for numerous poems, short stories, and dramas.
This seminar explores the literary culture situated in and around Hangzhou, considering topics such as food, folklore, and tourism, in addition to the city's depiction in poems, short stories, and dramas. Our aim is to explore how the Chinese cultural imagination about Hangzhou--part of a broader imagining of the southern region of Jiangnan ("South of the Long River")--is built through these many layers of texts, histories, and spaces. With Hangzhou as our geographical focus, we consider materials from a range of genres (poems, short stories, dramas, folktales, historical anecdotes) and time periods (Song to late Qing, with reference to the present as well). We consider how the image of Hangzhou is built up throughout time, and how the literary culture in and of Hangzhou is interwoven with the "real" experience of the city as a space/place.