Han Zhang

Han Zhang, “Philological Jiangnan: The Practice of Wu Dialect in the Works of Drama in Late Imperial China”

Han Zhang will present a work-in-progress version of one of her dissertation chapters. She summarizes the chapter as follows.

In 1684, after winning a complete victory over the revolt of the three Han feudatories and consolidating Manchu rule over mainland China, Emperor Kangxi soon launched his first southern inspection tour. In Suzhou, the emperor grabbed the earliest opportunity he had to indulge in a Kunqun opera performance. The emperor’s infatuation with Kunqu, captured in a contemporary Shanghai native and Ming sympathizer’s diary, obviously contains extravagant historical and political implications worthy of decoding. This paper focuses on the dual indexicality of Kunqu as a unique art and cultural genre in the Qing dynasty. Kunqu, in the historical trajectory, is a highly refined, artistic representation of the classic and entertaining cultural inheritance passed down from the late Ming, while in the geopolitical dimension, it bears an inseverable philological connection to Jiangnan, the thorny area that once held the most persistent resistance to the Manchu conquest. By examining the practice of the Wu dialect, the alleged linguistic foundation of Kunqu composition and vocalization, in the works of drama in late imperial China, this paper intends to gain a further understanding of the actual use of the Chinese language(s) in a multi-lingual and multi-media context. Moreover, this study aims to complicate and challenge the prevailing time-dominant narrative of the vernacularizing history of the Chinese language(s) and literary writing, bringing the discussion of language into intrinsically connected spatiotemporal formations.

A draft of Han’s chapter is available at this link. If you have not received the password for the post, or if you have concerns about accessibility, please feel free to contact David Krolikoski at davidkroli at uchicago.edu or Brian White at bmwhite at uchicago.edu.