Rugao and Water Garden in Seventeenth Century China


My paper focuses on Rugao, a city on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, during the period of the fall of the Ming dynasty and the consolidation of Qing rule in the mid and late seventeenth century. The unique status of Rugao was due to its location in one of the most prosperous and civilized areas of China, as well as the area greatly suffering from the trauma of war and violence during the dynastic transition. It also had the reputation of a literary city, thanks to a local writer Mao Xiao (1611-1693) and his estate, Water Garden. Mao’s estate became ruins after the conquest, but it was a heaven for Mao and his politically marginalized friends, as the old sites on the ruins symbolized their aesthetics and sensibility. One such site was Tree-Nest, a pavilion, built on an old tree beside a river. The idea of Tree-Nest showed Mao’s attempt to emulate the ancients’ simple life, but it was also in tune with Ming literati’s interest in strangeness and artfulness. Only when the pavilion collapsed and the tree alone was left after the conquest did Tree-Nest recover its original significance and invite Mao and his friends to contemplate what it meant to live on a tree while no place was left for them in the world. By examining how the estate obtained new meanings, I will explore how the city survived the destruction, how destruction led to reconstruction, and how the city was commemorated in writings and paintings.

Author Information
Yingzhi Zhao, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2016
Stream: Language. Literature and Linguistics

This paper is part of the CITY2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon