Honorable Mention for the 2016 Kayden Book Award
This first book-length study in Chinese or any Western language of personal letters and letter-writing in premodern China focuses on the earliest period (ca. 3rd-6th cent. CE) with a sizeable body of surviving correspondence. Along with the translation and analysis of many representative letters, Antje Richter explores the material culture of letter writing (writing supports and utensils, envelopes and seals, the transportation of finished letters) and letter-writing conventions (vocabulary, textual patterns, topicality, creativity). She considers the status of letters as a literary genre, ideal qualities of letters, and guides to letter-writing, providing a wealth of examples to illustrate each component of the standard personal letter. References to letter-writing in other cultures enliven the narrative throughout.
Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China makes the social practice and the existing textual specimens of personal Chinese letter-writing fully visible for the first time, both for the various branches of Chinese studies and for epistolary research in other ancient and modern cultures, and encourages a more confident and consistent use of letters as historical and literary sources.
Antje Richter is assistant professor of Chinese language and civilization at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She previously taught at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel and Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg.
Acknowledgments Introduction:Epistolary Research in Chinese Studies and Beyond Textual Sources of Early Medieval Chinese Letter Writing The Organization of This Book Remarks on Translation Part One. Materials and Concepts of Letter Writing1. Materiality and Terminology:The Spread of Paper Calligraphy and Letter Writing Writers and Transporters of Letters Terminology The Genre of Personal Letters 2. Letters and Literary Thought:Cao Pi's "Disquisitions on Literature" on Letters as a Genre The Absence of Letters in Lu Ji's "Rhapsody on Literature" Liu Xie's The Literary Mind and the Carvingof Dragons on Letters Letters in Xiao Tong's Selections of Refined Literature Letters about Literary Thought Part Two. Epistolary Conventions and Literary Individuality3. Structures and Phrases Letter Opening Letter Body Letter Closing Terms of Address and Self-Designation 4. Topoi Lamenting Separation Letters as Substitutes for Face-to-Face Conversation The Limits of Writing and Language 5. Normativity and Authenticity Letter-Writing Guides Expressing Individuality within the Bounds of Convention Conclusion Notes Bibliography Glossary-Index