Description

Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China

Antje Richter

  • Published: 2013
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies, China Studies, Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 244 pp., 10 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Modern Language Initiative
  • Contents

This first book-length study in Chinese or any Western language of personal letters and letter-writing in premodern China focuses on the earliest period (ca. 3rd-6th cent. CE) with a sizeable body of surviving correspondence. Along with the translation and analysis of many representative letters, Antje Richter explores the material culture of letter writing (writing supports and utensils, envelopes and seals, the transportation of finished letters) and letter-writing conventions (vocabulary, textual patterns, topicality, creativity). She considers the status of letters as a literary genre, ideal qualities of letters, and guides to letter-writing, providing a wealth of examples to illustrate each component of the standard personal letter. References to letter-writing in other cultures enliven the narrative throughout.

Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China makes the social practice and the existing textual specimens of personal Chinese letter-writing fully visible for the first time, both for the various branches of Chinese studies and for epistolary research in other ancient and modern cultures, and encourages a more confident and consistent use of letters as historical and literary sources.
Antje Richter is assistant professor of Chinese language and civilization at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She previously taught at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel and Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg.

"Richter's intellectual breadth and dialogue with contemporary scholars of letter-writing traditions in Europe should ensure her work has a broad reception. This is original scholarship that handles an important literary genre with sensitivity and sophistication."
-Cynthia Chennault, University of Florida
Contents
Acknowledgments

Introduction:
Epistolary Research in Chinese Studies and Beyond
Textual Sources of Early Medieval Chinese Letter Writing
The Organization of This Book
Remarks on Translation

Part One. Materials and Concepts of Letter Writing
1. Materiality and Terminology:
The Spread of Paper
Calligraphy and Letter Writing
Writers and Transporters of Letters
Terminology
The Genre of Personal Letters

2. Letters and Literary Thought:
Cao Pi's "Disquisitions on Literature" on Letters as a Genre
The Absence of Letters in Lu Ji's "Rhapsody on Literature"
Liu Xie's The Literary Mind and the Carving
of Dragons on Letters
Letters in Xiao Tong's Selections of Refined Literature
Letters about Literary Thought

Part Two. Epistolary Conventions and Literary Individuality
3. Structures and Phrases
Letter Opening
Letter Body
Letter Closing
Terms of Address and Self-Designation

4. Topoi
Lamenting Separation
Letters as Substitutes for Face-to-Face Conversation
The Limits of Writing and Language
5. Normativity and Authenticity
Letter-Writing Guides
Expressing Individuality within the Bounds of Convention

Conclusion

Notes
Bibliography
Glossary-Index
Reviews