Classical Culture Abroad: Poetry and Politics in the Wider East Asian World

2017 One Asia Forum Talk Series with speaker Dr. Kathlene Baldanz (Penn State University)

Event Details

Start: 05 October 2017 4:00 pm
End: 05 October 2017 6:00 pm
Venue: Room 604, Asian Centre


Poetry played an important role in traditional East Asian relations, allowing diplomats to form friendships and show off their learning. The friendship between the Vietnamese envoy Phùng Khắc Khoan and his Korean counterpart, Yi Sugwang, is a case in point. I will use the story of their encounter at the court of the Wanli emperor of the Ming in the late 16th century to illustrate two features classical culture. The first is the extent and significance of classical culture beyond China’s borders. The second is the deep and surprising anxieties that this cross-border flow of ideas caused the Ming. Premodern Chinese emperors could not—and did not—define their geographical and political borders simply through autocratic dictates. They were instead subject to bilateral negotiations with neighbors, debate within and without the imperial court, and complex influence between the foreign negotiations and domestic debates. I will address how their cultural borders were much more porous and much more threatening than we might think. What I hope to show is that the use of classical culture and Chinese institutions abroad was, while instrumental to China’s role as the dominant state in East Asia, also, and surprisingly, treated by Chinese officials as a very real threat to China’s moral and political supremacy.




About the speaker:

Kathlene Baldanza is an assistant professor of history and Asian studies at Penn State University. She earned her BA from Bryn Mawr College and her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, Ming China and Vietnam: Negotiating Borders in the Early Modern World, argues that Vietnamese patronage of classical culture posed an ideological threat to the Ming state. A second project looks at the impact of the misty, pathogenic miasmas of the borderlands on Sino-Viet relations and military campaigns.