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Reinventing Chinese Writing: Zhang Guixing's Sinographic Translations

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Chapter Summary

This chapter analysis two novels by the Malaysian-Chinese writer Zhang Guixing (Elephant Tropes, 1998) and (Monkey Cup, 2000). It explores ways Chinese writing can become a medium for resisting essentialist fantasies of and about Chinese culture. For diasporic Chinese writers like Zhang, the Chinese writing system is both the inevitable basis for signification and something they cannot completely claim. In his novel Monkey Cup, far from distancing the sinograph from the pictogram, Zhang reflects on Chinese writing through mapping it onto the tattoo art of the indigenous Dayak tribe. Zhangs sinographic translations hinge upon challenging the boundaries between different media of representationssuch as writing, the image, ornamentation, tattooingas well as the boundaries between different cultural systems. In his texts, the sinograph thus partakes of the realm of the uncanny, in which difference and similarity cease to be distinct categories and object level and metalevel can no longer be distinguished.

Keywords: Chinese culture; Chinese writing; Elephant Tropes; Malaysian-Chinese writers; Monkey Cup; Zhang Guixing; Zhangs sinographic translations

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