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Title: An analysis of literary and philosophical aspects of the travel diaries of Xu Xiake (1587-1641)
Author: Ward, Julian
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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Xu Xiake, China's best-known travel writer, spent a lifetime visiting and writing about the country's famous beauty spots. At the age of fifty, he embarked on a three year journey to the southwest of the country, an area, inhabited largely by minority peoples, which had only recently come back under Chinese imperial control. The general view of Xu's extensive travel diaries is that he brought a new sober, analytical approach to a genre previously the domain of the dilettante. On the basis of his exploration of the rivers, mountains and karst caves of southwest China, he has been considered as a pioneer of active field research. After an introduction to the history of the development of the travel diary in China, from its origins in the fantastic exploits of China's mythological kings and emperors to its emergence as an independent literary genre in the Tang dynasty, there will follow a short biography of Xu Xiake and a consideration of certain aspects of his personality. The main body of the thesis is then taken up with a close examination of a greatly expanded edition of his diary of his expedition to southwest China, discovered in the 1970s, with particular attention being paid to his attitudes firstly towards the region's non-Han peoples and secondly to its startling mountainous scenery. Finally, there will be a discussion of Xu's poetry and a recently discovered colophon which he wrote for an edition of Chinese poetry produced by the indigenous ruler of a part of Yunnan province. In spite of his zealous exploratory endeavour, Xu's scientific methods were primitive and many of his supposed discoveries have since been shown to be either erroneous or not original. Xu's diaries and his miscellanea, however, reveal a remarkable individual, perfectly in tune with the tastes of his age. His writing, full of references to the great lyrical writers of earlier generations, is sparkling and worthy of a place in the tradition of the classical Chinese travel diary. Imbued with a deep love of Nature and a desire to find freedom from worldly concerns, Xu was a man obsessed with seeing and describing the landscape.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available