“Chang’an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Tales”

Harvard-Yenching Institute

Linda Rui Feng examines "Li Wa zhuan" 李娃傳 (The Tale of Li Wa), by Bai Xingjian 白行簡 (776-826), and several lesser-known Tang-dynasty anecdotes to bring to light a perception of the capital of Chang'an that is based on narratives of the experiences of examinees who congregated there annually to compete for the jinshi degree. In contrast to the widely accepted view of Chang'an as divided into tightly regulated wards, these narratives recapture the newcomers' nonlinear view of urban space, a view that reflects their meandering itineraries. Analyzing how these tales represent the liminal, probationary phase in the lives of fledgling literati as they adjust to the urban milieu, Feng shows that Chang'an's spaces served as arenas for disseminating information, gossip, and opinions, as well as for forging the identities of Chang'an's newest denizens.

The abstract above is courtesy of Harvard-Yenching Institute via Project MUSE.