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Collective Memory, Displaced Nostalgia, and Dislocated Knowledge in Southern Song Ambassadors’ Travel Records of Jin-dynasty Kaifeng

image of T'oung Pao

Aside from the few envoys dispatched to the Jin court in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, Southern Song subjects seldom experienced the occupied north after the Jurchen conquest of 1127. Passing through the former Northern Song capital of Kaifeng, ambassadors found a neglected, depopulated, and impoverished city, and described its destroyed and reconstructed urban spaces as metaphors for the Jurchen occupation of the homeland. Their private travel records transposed their experiences of Jin Kaifeng into a pre-existing textual framework of Northern Song geographical knowledge. These authors shared a collective diasporic memory of Kaifeng’s lost spaces, recognizing its rebuilt cityscape and ruined sites from pre-conquest accounts rather than from direct experience. In their accounts, Kaifeng’s urban spaces became legible not only for their survival under Jurchen rule, but for how far they deviated from textual representations of the pre-conquest past, evoking homelessness and nostalgia for a lost time and place.
En dehors des quelques ambassadeurs envoyés à la cour des Jin à la fin du xiie et au début du xiiie siècle, rares sont les sujets des Song du Sud ayant pu visiter le nord sous occupation depuis la conquête Jurchen en 1127. Lorsqu’ils traversaient Kaifeng, l’ancienne capitale des Song du Nord, les ambassadeurs trouvaient une ville négligée, dépeuplée et appauvrie ; les sites urbains démolis ou reconstruits qu’ils décrivent étaient comme une métaphore de l’occupation de leur patrie par les Jin. Les récits de voyage qu’ils ont laissés intègrent leur expérience de Kaifeng sous les Jin à un ensemble textuel de savoir géographique remontant aux Song du Nord. Participant de la mémoire collective d’une diaspora, ils identifient le cadre reconstruit de Kaifeng et ses sites en ruine à partir de récits antérieurs à la conquête plutôt que sur la base d’une expérience directe. L’espace urbain de Kaifeng devient lisible non seulement pour avoir survécu à la domination des Jin, mais aussi dans la mesure de ses déviations par rapport aux représentations écrites d’avant la conquête, d’où le sentiment de déracinement et la nostalgie pour une époque et un lieu disparus.

Affiliations: 1: University of Georgia


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