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Two Halls of Hangzhou: Local Gazetteers and the Grading of Geography for a Song Dynasty City

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

This article examines the shifting geo-political significance of Hangzhou as presented in two local gazetteers dating from the Southern Song dynasty (1127–1276). Focusing on literary works quoted in both of these gazetteers that describe two of Hangzhou’s famous halls on West Lake, I argue that geographic discourses on these halls manifest a tension between two conflicting presentations of Hangzhou’s geo-political significance as understood by literati elite of the Southern Song. In writings concerning the Hall of Possessing Beauty (Youmei tang 有美堂), Hangzhou was viewed as a city of rising economic and cultural importance during the Northern Song. Writings on the Hall of Centrality and Harmony (Zhonghe tang 中和堂), in contrast, depict Hangzhou as an imperial refuge for a court in flight and associate it with the motif of territorial loss during the Southern Song when the city became the dynastic capital. By examining how these two views of Hangzhou are contrasted, this essay concludes that gazetteers functioned to grade and rank different kinds of landscapes in order to make geo-political arguments about the proper reconstitution of the empire during the Southern Song.


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