I am Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. My major research fields are Chinese cultural history and literature, and I work with materials ranging from collections of anecdotes, narrative tales to maps and urban geographies. I am especially fascinated by the interconnections among urban space, social networks, and narrative formation. For the past few years, I have been thinking about how a premodern city might have been experienced by those who were the country’s most prolific writers. I tackle this question in my book, City of Marvel and Transformation: Chang’an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Dynasty China (August 2015). It explores how the Chinese cultural imagination and its literary imprint became transformed in the Tang dynasty by shared sojourns and encounters in the capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an), as megalopolis and cultural paradigm.
Currently, I am working on a Connaught-funded project titled “The Mindscape of Here Versus There: Imagined Geographies and the Circulation of Spatial Knowledge in Medieval China.” This work goes beyond the technical act of mapping itself, and continues to explore the human awareness of space, whether such a space is found within the walls of a medieval capital city or on the roads connecting the center and peripheries of an empire. The project asks questions about how space was made tangible through both text and illustration, how writers of medieval China employed and evaluated spatial knowledge, and what they imagined to be the sources of its efficacy.
My other interests include the history of travel and discourses relating to the senses. Recently, I have also been awarded a MacDowell Fellowship for fiction writing.
“Negotiating Vertical Space: Walls, Vistas, and the Topographical Imagination.” T’ang Studies 29 (2011): 27—44.
“Chang’an and Narratives of Experience in Tang Tales.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 71:1 (2011): 35—68.
“Unmasking Fengliu in Urban Chang’an: Rereading Beili zhi (Anecdotes from the Northern Ward). ” Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 32 (2010): 1—21.