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Posted by: mchu 8 years, 9 months ago


On December 18 and 19, 2012, the International Conference on Song Dynasty Literature and Thought宋代文學與思想國際研討會 was held at the Department of Chinese, National Tsing Hua University國立清華大學中國文學系. Details of the conference are available at


Hilde gave a presentation titled “Conversations and Identities” on the second day of the conference. On the basis of an encoding of notebooks dating to the eleventh, twelfth, and early thirteenth centuries and the linking of notebook data with large prosopographical and historical GIS datasets, Hilde compared the social makeup of informants, their geographic distribution, the extent, frequency, and temporal distribution of sources cited, as well as the distribution of topics in each notebook. Through the systematic investigation of information networks embedded in these notebooks, Hilde aimed to re-examine the construction of elite identities.


Hilde’s paper makes me wonder what the term “elite” actually refers to. Does it cover all literate people in a broad sense? Or does it narrowly refer to a particular group of literati who share similar characteristics? In her recently published monograph titled Transformative Journey, Zhang Cong contended that travelling helped construct elite identities. The elites she refers to are literati engaged in frequent travel. Can the study of information networks embedded in notebooks help explain the formation of the identity of literati who were not engaging in this mode of political communication? To what degree and to what extent can the study of a subset of literate people shed light on the political culture of Song literati in general?


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