Linda Rui Feng
City of Marvel and Transformation
Chang'an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Dynasty China
University of Hawaii Press 2015
Linda Rui Feng‘s beautiful new book shows us the Tang city of Chang’an as we’ve not seen it before. City of Marvel and Transformation: Chang’an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Dynasty China (University of Hawai’i Press, 2015) remaps Chang’an as a lived space and a city created by wandering and dislocation. Feng draws on letters, epitaphs, poems, and story collections to create an archive of the literatus as wayfarer, a liminal figure making and remaking himself in the context of an urban environment pulsing with information and desire. As the examination system began requiring annual visits to Chang’an, the city was transformed by the journeying of exam candidates who were eager to make their names there, and the colleagues, courtesans, swindlers, and emperors who helped create and traverse the spaces of the city along with them. Feng’s book brings us into those spaces and its stories, and offers a wonderful view of the city as skyline, theater, labyrinth, and more. It’s a wonderfully interdisciplinary contribution to history and literary study of cities, space, and China.