The collections of the Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard-Yenching Library include countless treasures of East and Inner Asian art. Many of these works were collected on behalf of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, which publishes the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. We will use HJAS’s cover to showcase pieces from these remarkable collections. This issue’s cover features a print by Yashima Gakutei 八島岳亭 (ca. 1786–1868) of the Monkey King from Journey to the West 西遊記.
Gakutei was a writer, surimono 摺物 (woodblock-print) artist, and kyōka 狂歌 (comic-verse) poet.In 1835, he published a partial Japanese translation of Journey to the West with his own and other prominent artists’ illustrations. The Katsushikaren 葛飾連, a kyōka circle with which Gakutei was closely affiliated, appears to have issued this print to commemorate New Year’s 1824, the year of the monkey. As was typical for surimono, it features kyōka, in this case by Ōbokuen Yoshiharu 桜木園吉治 (dates unknown) and the circle’s leader, Bunbunsha Kaniko-maru 文々舎蟹子丸 (1787–1837). Both poems link the “sutra-reading monkey” (kyō yomu saru 経よむさる) to the New Year. The print reminds us that people throughout premodern East Asia knew, loved, and fully domesticated Journey to the West and other classics of Chinese literature. HJAS thanks the Harvard Art Museums for their kind permission to reproduce the image. The Journal also sincerely thanks John Carpenter, the Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for his guidance regarding the print.
Wordless Texts, Empty Hands
The Metaphysics and Materiality of Scriptures in Journey to the West
Why are the pilgrims given empty scriptures in the final chapters of Journey to the West? Prevailing interpretations read it as a transparent joke. This article instead proposes that the final chapters of the novel should be read as an extended allegorical commentary on the Heart Sūtra. The metaphysics of the empty scriptures and the materiality of the fragmented scriptures deliberately correspond to the Heart Sūtra’s duality of emptiness and form, a duality that is ultimately dissolved in the Buddhist paradox of expressing nonduality through linguistic means. Xiyou ji, and in fact Buddhism at large, suggests that all texts—whether they be scriptures or literary fiction—are necessary yet insufficient vehicles in the pursuit of ultimate truth. Texts are only instrumental; the proverbial raft that must be discarded once the river to enlightenment has been crossed.
What Did Disciples Do?
Dizi 弟子 in Early Chinese Texts
The Confucian “scene of instruction” is the most influential model of discipleship for the Warring States through the Han period. It portrays the collective identity of master and disciples (dizi) as derived from the production, recitation, and transmission of texts. However, examination of how pre-Qin texts depict discipleship as a social phenomenon suggests that learning to read and write was not a universal aspiration of dizi. Moreover, attention to emplotment, motifs, wording, and tone in historical narratives about the master-disciple relationship shows increasing similarities over time to the patron-retainer relationship, including the potential for aggression and expectations of material returns. Discipleship, however, apparently created a permanent mutual obligation not shared by retainership. Further research is needed to understand the broad range of social roles expected of dizi in early Chinese texts.
The Rehabilitation of Chen Dong
Chen Dong, a student at the Imperial University in Kaifeng, was executed in 1127 because he criticized Song policy to relocate to the south rather than continue military resistance against the Jurchen invasions. The historical process that transformed an executed criminal into one of the seminal moral voices of Song history reveals the tension between literati governance and autocratic governance throughout the dynasty. Thirty-eight colophons, dating 1222–1259, which were written on a holograph memorial from the day of Chen’s execution, demonstrate how literati resistance to the administrations of Shi Miyuan and his nephew Shi Songzhi, especially among adherents of the “learning of the Way” movement, enhanced the historical stature of Chen Dong and presented him as a voice of “public opinion” against the autocratic power of higher authority.
太學生陳東以其批判南宋朝廷偏安及放棄抗金之政策而於建炎元年被處極刑。本文分析陳東奏稿的三十八通題跋,說明士人 (尤其是道學者) 將其言論標榜為對抗獨裁勢力的公議,使其名聲從死犯轉為道德跫音之先驅。此一過程顯示了士人統治與專制統治之間的張力。