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LRCCS Interdisciplinary Workshop | “Local Histories Surely Were There": Decentering the “Treatise on Terrestrial Patterns” of Ban Gu (32–92 CE) in the Early History of Geographical Learning

Jian Zhang, PhD, U-M Department of History
Monday, March 27, 2023
12:00-1:30 PM
Room 447 Weiser Hall Map
Jian is a doctoral candidate of history specializing in the Middle Period (c. 750 – c. 1350) of Chinese history. His dissertation examines the writing of local history as a social practice in the Song dynasty (960–1279) of Chinese history. It asks why, by what means, and in what sense scholars and officials of the Song empire invested “prefectures and counties” (or “localities”) with sufficient permanence to become a textual locus at which converged government institutions, social elites, local populations, infrastructure, and landforms. By addressing these questions in relation to a prefecture known as Mingzhou 明州 (modern Ningbo), his dissertation will clarify the (re-)organization of central–local relations during the Song dynasty and make a unique contribution to the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between environment, infrastructure, and political rule.

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In this workshop, Jian will share initial findings from his dissertation research on the writing of “local history” (fangzhi 方志) in Middle-Period China. In outlining the history of “geography” (dili 地理) as a field of learning, he has revisited the “Treatise on terrestrial patterns” (“Dili zhi” 地理志) of the Book of Han (Hanshu 漢書) by Ban Gu 班固 (32–92 CE), and reassessed the conventional view that this treatise marks the beginning of geography as a separate field of learning. Jian argues that the contribution of Ban Gu lies more precisely in lending coherence to “terrestrial patterns” as a recurrent theme in classical works. The status of a seminal text in a learned tradition, the treatise acquired in the prefaces of subsequent geographical treatises, and most decisively, in the “Treatise on bibliography” (“Jingji zhi” 經籍志) of the Book of Sui (Suishu 隋書) compiled in the 7 th century. In this major intellectual synthesis, however, the wholeness of the imperial archives upon which Ban Gu’s treatise was predicated gave way to an enlarged field of textual production, one that recognized the writing of local history as an integral part of geographical learning. The emergence of geography as a field of textual learning, in other words, is a process through which the “Treatise on terrestrial patterns” of Ban Gu became decentered, and the thematic coherence of “terrestrial patterns” that he derived from classical texts turned disciplinary.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Workshop / Seminar
Tags: Asia
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies