Journal paper
篇名River Engineering, Rays of Light and Visual Limitations: On Scenic Descriptions in The Travels of Lao Can
作者姓名Hsu Hui-lin
Abstract  Prior to The Travels of Lao Can, a novel by Liu E, Chinese vernacular novels did not pay much attention on descriptions of natural scenery or landscape. Instead, they used set phrases and rhymed verses borrowed from prior literary works. Differing from previous vernacular novels, The Travels of Lao Can depicts scenery in vernacular prose, a significant change symbolized in the form of language used to describe landscape. The techniques Liu E uses to describe the natural scenery are shaped by his knowledge of river engineering, optics, astronomy, and Buddhism. In this essay, I attempt to re-examine the beginning of scenery description in in the form of vernacular prose in the backdrop where global knowledge convergence took place and where Chinese intellectuals learned to reflect on the convergence and put it into practice. In The Travels of Lao Can, Liu E discards the prior techniques used by chaptered novels, which are to use quotes and poems from previous works to describe the natural scenery. His use of vernacular prose to describe landscapes is not only a breakthrough, a departure from past convention, but also marks a new way of observing nature. Most importantly, such change in the techniques used in describing landscape elucidates the role of Confucianism in the new matrix of knowledge where Liu E were being exposed to in the late Qing period.
KeywordThe Travels of Lao Can, prose, ray of light, landscape description, visuality
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