Writing “The Book of Rivers and Lakes”

Writing “The Book of Rivers and Lakes”

Writing The Book of Rivers and Lakes: A Humanities Workshop at UBC

Workshop location: UBC Asian Centre (1871 West Mall), room 604

When: September 1-2, 2017

Organizer: Prof. Christopher Rea, UBC Asian Studies

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
The Modern Chinese Culture Seminar at UBC (funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange)
UBC Dean of Arts Office
From the Ground Up (FROGBEAR)


“Writing The Book of Rivers and Lakes (Jianghu)” was a planning workshop for a co-authored encyclopedic book-length study entitled The Book of River and Lake. The Book will focus on an enduring and influential Chinese concept, known as jianghu. Jianghu (literally, “rivers and lakes”) is an imaginary realm away from home and hearth. As its water motif suggests, this realm is one of flow and transience. In literature, poetry, performing and graphic arts, and cinema, the jianghu is the haunt of roving warriors, traveling merchants, itinerant quacks, and exiled men of conscience. To be on the rivers and lakes is to be on the road or “in the wilds,” and thus in a rather dubious sphere where identities and motivations are uncertain. It is a place of refuge, commerce, predation, and heroism—a space with ethical codes of its own. It features in martial arts novels and films, in merchant travel guides, in collections of swindle stories, as well as in sociological studies, classical poetry, philosophical texts, and political discourse. Jianghu, a fluid type of cultural imaginary, is also intimately connected to the notion of a solid and stable “Middle Kingdom”; over the centuries, notions of unruly and uncivilized border regions have helped to shape ideas of empire and nation. This workshop brought together specialists in a variety of fields to design a learning, teaching, and research resource related to this influential cultural idea.


Friday, Sept. 1

9:00-9:30am: Chris Rea: What’s the big (book) idea?
9:30-11:00am: Everyone: Collective discussion of draft book entries; nominations of new entries.
11:00-11:15am: Coffee/tea break
11:15am-12:15pm: Iris Ma: “Jianghu in pre-modern Chinese Thought and Literature.” Respondent: Carlos Rojas
12:15-1:30pm: Lunch at Asian Centre
1:30-2:30pm: TJ Hinrichs: “Selection from Taiping guangji on Commerce, Freedom, and Danger in the Rivers and Lakes.” Respondent: Paize Keulemans
2:30-3:30pm: Alison Bailey: “Wang Shizhen’s Jianxia zhuan 劍俠傳 (1569), its sources, influence and illustrations.” Respondent: Chris Hamm
3:30-3:45pm: Coffee/tea break
3:45-4:45pm: Paize Keulemans: “The Use of Thieves Cant (Jianghu heihua) in Late Ming and Late Qing Literature.” Respondent: Bruce Rusk
4:45-5:45pm: Chris Rea and Bruce Rusk: “Two Stories from The Book of Swindles (ca. 1617).” Respondent: TJ Hinrichs
6:15pm: Workshop participants meet in Ponderosa lobby for dinner.

 Saturday, Sept. 2

8:30-9:00am: Breakfast at Asian Centre room 604
9:00-10:00am: Helena Wu: Three jianghu abstracts. Respondent: Iris Ma.
10:00-10:30am: Chris Rea, moderator: Bruce Fulton: “Jianghu Elements in Two Modern Korean Epic Novels” and Siyuan Liu: Abstracts on茶馆, 闯江湖, and山东响马. Respondents: Everyone
10:30-10:45am: Coffee/tea break
10:45-11:45: Carlos Rojas: “Jianghu as Method.” Respondent: Helena Wu
11:45-12:30: Chris Hamm: “The Handwashing, from Ch. 6 of Xiao’ao jianghu.” Respondent: Chris Rea
12:30-1:30pm: Lunch
1:30-2:30pm: Kate Swatek: “Ch. 13 (學琴, “Learning the Qin”) of Xiao’ao jianghu.” Respondent: Alison Bailey
2:30-3:30pm: Chris Rea and Everyone: Next steps towards the organization, composition, and publication of The Book of Rivers and Lakes
4:00-6:00pm: Iris Ma talk: “Writing Beyond Tradition: Chivalric Stories by Chen Jinghan in Late Imperial China.” Location: room 120, CK Choi Building, 1855 West Mall
6:15pm: Workshop participants meet in Ponderosa lobby for dinner.