By Anne Gerritsen
Medieval History Journal, Vol.11:2 (2008)
Abstract: This paper explores the story of Lady Tan across genres from biographical record to temple inscription and marvellous tale, highlighting different representations of ‘the local’ in these stories: the loss of local belonging for some, inscribing the morals of a local community for others. Focusing on this tale, this essay argues that locality and belonging were contested constructs, especially during the Song-Yuan-Ming transitional period. Exploring how literati understood themselves in relation to their localities contributes to our understanding of literati identities and the meaning of ‘the local’, in a period with ‘weak central government’, or as a repeating pattern of centralisation and localisation. It reveals the complexities in-volved in giving meaning to locality and negotiating belonging. In Ji’an prefecture, the centralising policies of the Hongwu and Yongle emperors were felt locally and affected how literati positioned themselves between central government and local community. This focus on literati writings from a single prefecture suggests that a close reading of the negotiations that form part of constructing locality and belonging in Ji’an can reveal the potential for a complex interplay between central government and local communities throughout China.