Lili Xia

Postdoctoral Fellow, Hebrew University
Faculty Adviser: Anna M. Shields

Claiming China Against North-South Divide: Classical Traditions and Literati Culture in the Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115–1234)


My dissertation deals with cultural confrontations between the so-called “barbarian/nomadic” North and the “civilized/Sinitic” South in the multi-lateral world of Middle Period China (800–1300). The Jin dynasty (1115–1234), ruled by the Jurchen conquering minority, has received insufficient scholarly attention especially in the literary field. It was dismissed in late imperial China as either an illegitimate, alien regime compared to the Han Chinese-ruled Southern Song polity (1127–1279), or a scaled-down and short-lived predecessor of the Mongol Yuan empire (1271–1368). My research, however, fleshes out the overall Jin literary culture and poetic production in particular, and illustrates the burgeoning literati culture in North China under Jurchen rule. By demonstrating a rival narrative of claiming China in the Sino-Jurchen North against the cultural orthodoxy conceptualized in the Han Chinese-ruled South, I argue for the plurality and constructedness of Middle Period China as an intersubjective, transcultural, and border-crossing space.To envision a comprehensive picture of Jin dynasty poetry and literati culture, my dissertation is organized in a tripartite structure with seven chapters. Chapters 1 to 3 outline the cultural history of Jin literati community. Integrating socio-historical studies and bibliographical research, I examine the origins and developments of Jin literati, including both Jurchens and Han Chinese, as well as their identity negotiation and cultural legitimacy under Jurchen rule. Chapters 4 and 5 compare the contemporary northern and southern literary fashions. In particular, I combine literary analysis and digital tools to map out both discursive force and social networking that shaped the Jin literati group. Chapters 6 and 7 shift from poetry contests in the North-South space to literary traditions of the past – they explore the historical provenances of Jin literati culture, as well as the Jin refashioning of poetic legacies from previous Tang and Northern Song dynasties. Jin material culture including book history and literati art are also integrated into relevant discussions. In conclusion, I argue that the pluralist topology of Northern Song, Southern Song, and Jurchen Jin literary pasts kept intertwined with and superposed on each other, which always potentially spoke for the heteroglossia and constructedness of Middle Period China.