Title: Reclusion as Socio-cultural Engagement in Pre-modern China and Japan
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Yuefan Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States (organizer, presenter)
Kikue Kotani, Nihon University, Japan (presenter)
Qi Shi, Shanghai Theatre Academy, China (presenter)
Yuan Zhang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States (chair, presenter)
There is a common perception that reclusion indicates withdrawal from the world into a life of seclusion. This, however, does not necessarily imply a complete renunciation of public affairs. Operating within the substantial discourse constructed by previous reclusive prototype, those who withdrew play active roles within the world. Some even participate in the most engaging activities of the times. Interwoven with complex socio-cultural contexts, the realization of reclusion requires outward engagements in varied aspects. In many circumstances, considerable resources are invested to "ground" such ideal even utopian hermitage materially. Artful recluses apt at poetic creation involve themselves in the production of literary reputation, or in publication business that emerged in imperial times. The circulation of their works further entrenches the vocabulary of reclusion. Female intellectuals, by adopting these words and images, enter the existed patriarchal discourse of reclusion and play a visible role.
Seeing reclusion as a way of life, the five papers in this panel will respectively focus on one or multiple related practices from perspectives including literature, history, art history, and religion in an attempt to reflect on the East Asian at the crossroads. We intend to demonstrate that, through practicing these activities, recluses and the discourse of reclusion go beyond the portray of idealized hermitage to an embracement of diverse life pursuits. In another word, the socio-cultural connotation of reclusion is always in a process of forming, being redefined and extended by practitioners who adopt existed vocabulary to strategically engage in their lived situation.