For students of The Story of the Stone, a lingering question is why it appeared in the mid-18th century. This paper seeks to answer this question by examining the extent to which the novel taps into the cultural reservoirs of the day. It argues that in addressing the interplays and intersections of zhen (real) and jia (unreal), The Story of the Stone draws so heavily on the art of interior decorations and architectural designs of the Qing court that it gives both a gripping expression to, and a sophisticated spin on the tastes and artistic inclinations of the Manchu royal house. More specifically, the novel’s representation of Grand Prospect Garden bears the trademark of the visual tricks -- or what might be broadly described as the art of deceiving (zaojia) -- that informs the paintings, interior designs, and more generally, the material culture of the imperial palaces and gardens of the time.
Professor Shang’s research interests include print culture, book history, intellectual history, and the fiction and drama of the early modern period. Currently, Professor Shang is working on two book projects, Jin Ping Mei Cihua and Commercial Publicity: Narrative Construction of the Everyday World in Early Modern China; and The Story of the Stone and the Making of Modern Chinese Culture, 1791–1949. His book Rulinwaishi and Cultural Transformation in Late Imperial China (Harvard University Press, 2003) addresses the role of ritual and fiction in shaping the intellectual and cultural changes of the eighteenth century. His other publications include “Jin Ping Mei Cihua and Late Ming Print Culture,” in Writing and Materiality in China, (ed. Judith Zeitlin and Lydia Liu, Harvard University Asian Center, 2003) and “The Making of the Everyday World: Jin Ping Mei Cihua and Encyclopedias for Daily Use,” in Dynastic Crisis and Cultural Innovation: From the Late Ming to the Late Qing and Beyond (Harvard East Asian Monographs, 2006).
Professor Shang received his BA and MA from Peking University (1982, 1984) and his PhD from Harvard (1994). He joined the Columbia faculty in 1997 and became an associate professor in 2002.
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