Patterns of the earth : writing geography in early medieval China

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This study explores the first flourishing of geographical writing in China during the early medieval period (ca. 200--600 CE). It examines the reasons for the initial emergence of geographical writing, its development of new spatial conceptualizations, and the cultural work that it accomplished. The dissertation argues that dramatic shifts in the political, demographic, and religious landscape of this distinctive period of imperial fragmentation inspired a re-evaluation of classical geographic notions of a monolithic China at the center of the world. Since this once substantial body of texts has now been lost, I rely primarily upon the sole extant comprehensive geography from the period, Li Daoyuan's Shuijing zhu (Commentary on the Classic of Waterways), as well as other fragmentary remnants of other texts and retrospective accounts from the seventh century, to piece together the evidence. I also employ Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in a spatial analysis of these texts. My findings reveal an emic spatial representation of China that runs contrary to the official orthodoxy of a court-centered, Sino-centric imperial geography. These sources manifest a culturally subversive spatial model that prioritized environmental over political geography, emphasized regional over imperial cohesiveness, and displaced China from the center of the world.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2014
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Felt, David Jonathan
Associated with Stanford University, Department of History.
Primary advisor Lewis, Mark
Thesis advisor Lewis, Mark
Thesis advisor Dien, Albert E
Thesis advisor Sommer, Matthew Harvey, 1961-
Thesis advisor Wigen, Kären, 1958-
Advisor Dien, Albert E
Advisor Sommer, Matthew Harvey, 1961-
Advisor Wigen, Kären, 1958-


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility David Jonathan Felt.
Note Submitted to the Department of History.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2014.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2014 by David Jonathan Felt
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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