Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China
Harvard University Asia Center 2011
New Books Network May 23, 2012 Carla Nappi
Xiaofei Tian‘s Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2011) is a model of comparative history. A study of travel writing in early medieval and nineteenth-century China,Visionary Journeys uses this juxtaposition to tell a surprising, rich, and beautiful story of travelers and their experiences of dislocation over land and sea, in heaven and hell, in poems and prose, in China and beyond. The book uses a wonderfully trans-disciplinary humanistic practice to weave diaries, images painted in words and pigment, Daoist writings and Buddhist scriptures, ethnographic and travel accounts, and other kinds of text to understand the ways that individuals dealt with profound social, political, and cultural change at different moments in China’s history. In a way, it’s a story that any traveler will be able to identify with and learn from. There is so much in this book – explorations of race, gender, family, urban life, ideas of the family, personal identity, practices of experiencing oneself in a changing world – and it rewards a close and joyful reading.