Transmuting Wen: Writing Enterprises, Transcultural Encounters, and Transmedial Entanglements in the Chinese World Since the Late Imperial Era

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Transmuting Wen: Writing Enterprises, Transcultural Encounters, and Transmedial Entanglements in the Chinese World Since the Late Imperial Era
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Authors:
Meimei Xu, Nanjing University, China (presenter)
Jin Wang, University of Toronto, Canada (presenter)
Baoli Yang, Brown University, United States (presenter)
Chia-chi Chao, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan (presenter, chair)
Yixin Xu, University of Macau, Macau (organizer, presenter)
Shoutong Zhu, University of Macau, Macau (discussant)



Abstract:

As the end of the 19th century witnessed drastic transformations in Chinese history, fresh contents, foreign ideas, and innovative media challenged the time-honored concept of wen, namely writings that manifest Chinese culture. As China increasingly participated in the global circulation of modern culture, writing was no longer the only primary means by which its culture embodied itself. The Chinese language, embodying the thinking system behind it, became insufficient to deal with new historical contingencies that arose.

This panel gathers five papers to investigate the crises of wen and ramifications of the new transcultural and transmedial conflicts since the late Imperial era. In Hong Kong, English newspapers' attention to disputes in the entertainment industry shed light on how colonial media implicitly stemmed from grassroots Chinese culture and championed colonial power in the late Qing. In the utopia constructed in Tan Sitong’s writing, scientific and Buddhist terminologies modernized traditional Chinese writing and Confucian futurity. Global dissemination of the Dunhuang manuscripts in the early 20th century encouraged global solidarity in Silk Road studies and raised controversies regarding Chinese identity. The fictional writings of Eileen Chang and Xiao Hong spoke to the conundrums of the upstart middle class trapped in a chaotic China, but the transmission of their works in cinema and Western translations flavored Chang’s original with a Cold-War allure and tamed Xiao’s Chinese nationalist thrusts. By pre-circulating its papers among the presenters, this panel hopes to explore the multiple paths, models, and media through which the modern Chinese have transmitted their wen.