Yao Mian’s letters: the epistolary networks of a late Song literatus


Though little known today, in his own era Yao Mian (jin shi 1253) was a top-ranked degree holder, a lauded poet, and a recognized master of the parallel prose genre (in which most official and much unofficial correspondence was written). He had powerful mentors and served briefly at court, but a combination of personal and political factors conspired to keep him in low-level posts in the countryside for most of his career. This paper examines the more than eighty letters (qi , zhazi劄子, and shu ) that survive in Yao Mian’s collected works in order to understand the nature of his social and political networks as well as the uses of various types of correspondence. With whom did Yao Mian correspond, and why? Can particular forms of letters be identified with specific types of interlocutors, or specific social or political purposes? What can Yao Mian’s letters tell us about him as a person, and about social and political interaction in the late Southern Song? 



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