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The Private Chinese Library as Contact Zone: The Little Mountain Hall Collection as Case Study

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The late imperial Chinese private library, more often than not, was found within the walls of a secluded garden in one or other of the urban centres of Jiangnan. As part of a larger project on the history of the private library in China and through a reading of the available documentary evidence, this paper discusses the vicissitudes of one particular book collection, that of the Qi family of Shanyin, as items from this library made their way from Qi Biaojia's (1602-1645) Library of the Eight Principles of Book Acquisition in his Allegory Mountain into that of Zhao Yu (1689-1747) in Hangzhou, his Little Mountain Hall in the Garden of the Spring Grasses.

In doing so, I propose a reading of the private libraries and gardens of the Qing dynasty (1368-1644) as critical 'contact zones' wherein the newly installed (and foreign) ruling Manchu elite sought to adopt and appropriate Han literary and artistic culture, and where, occasionally, as in this case, the Han Chinese elite resisted such processes. Methodologically, I will seek to bring into dialogue the disciplines of book history and garden history.
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Keywords: China; Manchus; private gardens; private libraries

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2018

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  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 0.698. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.806.
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