Rethinking the Sinosphere: Cover art depicts “brush conversations” (筆談 or 筆話) between scholars

Professors Nanxiu Qian, Richard J. Smith, and Bowei Zhang, editors of Rethinking the Sinosphere: Poetics, Aesthetics, and Identity Formation, on the images on the front cover of their book.

Rethinking Sinosphere Front Cover

The cover images for this volume depict “brush conversations” (筆談 or 筆話) between scholars in the Sinosphere who did not speak the same languages, but who could communicate by writing notes to each other using literary Sinitic characters. One collection of these conversations records 667 communications between the Takasaki 高崎daimyo Ōkōchi Teruna 大河内輝聲 (1848–1882) and his friends in the Sinosphere, including 58 Chinese, 69 Japanese, and 5 Koreans, in the period from September 3, 1875, to October 13, 1881. The upper image shows an ink-brush sketch, dated August 15, 1876, which features the late Qing Chinese literati/artist Luo Xuegu 羅雪谷 (the one wearing a queue) in conversation with three Japanese literati. Judging from the round seal bearing his studio name (Minamoto Keikaku 源桂閣), Teruna may have drawn the sketch himself.

The lower image records Teruna’s conversation with Wang Qiyuan 王桼園 (a.k.a. Wang Zhiben 王治本, 1836–1908) and Shen Meishi 沈梅史 (dates unknown) on February 13, 1878. It includes a poem praising the close friendship between these “people of the same race from different countries” (異邦同種人), written by a Japanese scholar named Matsui Kyōsai 松井強哉. We are grateful to the Zhejiang Ancient Book Publishing House 浙江古籍出版社 for permission to reproduce our cover images from its 2016 publication of Riben cang Zhong Ri Chao bitan ziliao: Dahenei wenshu 日本藏晚清中日朝筆談資料: 大河內文書 (Documents of late Qing brush conversations between Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans preserved in Japan: the Ōkōchi monjo).

See also Reexamining the Sinosphere: Transmissions and Transformations in East Asia by the same professors.

Both books are part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Professors, make going remote easy by assigning this book for readings through the Cambria Book Cloud, which allows for affordable semester-long 24/7 access to multiple books (even the entire Cambria Sinophone World Series) anywhere through web browser. Students are able to read titles on their phone, tables, laptops, or desktops.


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