Women’s Life during the Song
Short essay: no less than 250 words. In your essay, you should engage with course materials, including lectures and readings, in a coherent way.
In Song-dynasty Kaifeng, empire and emporia existed in a relationship of mutual dependence
and mutual competition. Th e imperial government depended on merchants for the
shipment of grain and goods to supply its massive armies and to pay the salaries of its offi –
cials; the merchants derived their income directly or indirectly from these government
expenditures. Th e concentration of wealth and goods in the capital generated in turn a
culture of sumptuary competition. Th e contests over space in the streets of the capital, and
the competition for the goods that circulated through them, reveal confi gurations of power
that rarely fi nd direct expression in writing.
À Kaifeng, capitale des Song du Nord, l’empire et les emporia se trouvaient dans une relation
de dépendance mais aussi de compétition. En eff et, le gouvernement impérial dépendait
des marchands pour le transport des grains et des marchandises avec lesquels il
approvisionnait ses armées et payait les traitements de ses fonctionnaires. Réciproquement
les marchands tiraient la plupart de leurs revenus des dépenses gouvernementales. La concentration
des richesses et des biens dans la capitale entraîna en retour une compétition
somptuaire. La concurrence pour l’espace dans les rues métropolitaines et les rivalités pour
*) Christian de Pee, Department of History, University of Michigan, USA, cdepee@
I wish to express my gratitude to Jos Gommans for inviting me to participate in the
conference on “Empires and Emporia,” and to publish the resulting paper. A semester of
nurturance leave during the winter of 2008, kindly granted by the College of Literature,
Science, and the Arts at the University of Michigan, aff orded me the time to write the
essay. In addition to the participants in the JESHO conference, audience members at the
Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and participants in a
lively session of the Premodern Colloquium at the University of Michigan off ered valuable
insights and criticisms. I am grateful to Linda Cooke Johnson, Lara Kusnetzky, Rachel
Neis, Michael Nylan, Helmut Puff , Ivo Smits, Angela Zito, and an anonymous reader for
JESHO for their comments on the manuscript, and for their encouragement.
150 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
l’appropriation des biens qui y circulaient révèlent des confi gurations de pouvoir rarement
exprimées de manière explicite dans les textes.
empires, markets, Song China, Kaifeng, imperial and commercial city-space
Located at the northern end of the Grand Canal, at a confl uence of rivers
and a convergence of roads, Bian Prefecture became an important commercial
city during the Tang dynasty (618-907), as it provided produce
and raw materials from the southern regions to the capital cities Luoyang
and Chang’an, which lay westward along the postal roads and along the
Luo and Yellow Rivers.1 In 907, the founding emperor of the Later Liang
(907-23) named Bian Prefecture his Eastern Capital and converted the
yamen of the Military Commissioner into his palace.2 Th e city also remained
a prefectural seat, newly named Kaifeng Prefecture, and it became in addition
the seat of Kaifeng and Junyi counties.3 Th e Later Jin (936-46), too,
chose this busy commercial city as its capital, both for its convenient infrastructure
and for its geomantic location: “Bian Prefecture, now, lies at a
vital node of roads and waterways, in a powerful confi guration of mountains
and rivers. It is the land of a myriad warehouses and a thousand
regions; it is the crossroads of the four thoroughfares and the eight directions.”
4 Emperor Gaozu (r. 936-44) renamed the buildings and the gates
of the small palace city, and retained the seats of Kaifeng Prefecture,
Kaifeng County, and Junyi County.5 When the founding emperor of the
Later Zhou (951-60) in turn established his capital at Kaifeng, in the fi rst
1) See Chen Youzhong ???, “Tang-Wudai Luoyang-Kaifeng jian de jiaotong luxian”
?????????????. Zhengzhou daxue xuebao 3 (1985): 65. On the increasing
agricultural and economic importance of the southeast during the Tang and Song periods
see, for example, M. Elvin, Th e Pattern of the Chinese Past: A Social and Economic
Interpretation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973): 113-78; R. M. Hartwell, “Demographic,
Political, and Social Transformations of China, 750-1550.” Harvard Journal of
Asiatic Studies 42 (1982): 365-442; Shiba Yoshinobu, Commerce and Society in Sung China,
transl. M. Elvin (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1968).
2) See Gao Cheng ??, Shiwu jiyuan ???? (1085; Siku quanshu edition): 6.41a,
6.42b; Wang Bo ??, Wudai huiyao ???? (961; Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe,
3) See Wang Bo, Wudai huiyao: 19.307.
4) Wang Qinro ??? et al., eds, Cefu yuangui ???? (1013; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju,
5) See Wang Bo, Wudai huiyao: 5.79-80, 19.307-8; Wang Qinro, Cefu yuangui: 14.24b-26b.
Purchase on Power 151
month of 952, the narrow streets and crowded neighborhoods had become
When the king establishes his domain, it is truly called “the capital.” For the measurements
of its grounds and the settlement of its people exist fi rm prior principles. Th e
Eastern Capital is the hub of the civilized and the barbarian worlds, the intersection of
roads and waterways. As the times tend toward abundant peace, it will grow more
prosperous each day. Yet because the city walls are old and because the structure of the
city has not been expanded, the army camps of the garrisons are cramped, and space
is wanting for the construction of the offi ces of the government offi cials . . . . Th e
houses, too, stand close together. Th e streets and intersections are narrow and abject.
During the summer, the heat and the humidity are miserable, and there is ever the
worry of smoke and fi re. For the convenience of the government and the people, the
city must be enlarged. It is therefore befi tting to command the responsible authorities
to build a new defense wall on all four sides of the capital.6
Begun in 955, the construction of the new wall was completed in 958 by
the naming of its ten gates. Th e ample girth of the new wall, some twentyeight
kilometers in circumference, enclosed broad imperial avenues, paved
streets lined with trees, imposing government buildings, and new residential
neighborhoods.7 Th e triple wall, however, failed to protect the palace
of the Later Zhou when Military Commissioner Zhao Kuangyin ???
(927-74) turned his troops against the imperial house and founded the
Song dynasty (960-1279).8
Th us stood the Eastern Capital of the Song Empire on the western edge
of the Central Plain. By 976, its rivers and canals carried “several million
bushels of rice a year from the Yangzi and Huai regions” to feed “the hundreds
of thousands of troops stationed at the capital.”9 Th e contents of its
6) Wang Bo, Wudai huiyao: 26.417; Wang Qinro, Cefu yuangui: 14.27b-28a. Cf. Gao
Cheng, Shiwu jiyuan: 6.41b. Because the previous wall of Bian Prefecture was retained, the
Eastern Capital after 958 had three walls: the wall of the palace city; the old prefectural city
wall, known as the “old” or the “inner” wall ( jiucheng ??, licheng ??), 11.55 kilometers
in length; and the “new” or “defense” wall (xincheng ??, luocheng ??).
7) See Li Lian ??, Bianjing yiji zhi ????? (1546; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999):
1.2; Wang Qinro, Cefu yuangui: 14.28ab; Xue Juzheng ???, Jiu Wudai shi ????
(974; Baina edition): 116.1a, 118.6b. Cf. Cheng Ziliang ??? and Li Qingyin ???,
eds, Kaifeng chengshi shi ????? (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 1993):
45-6; Zhou Baozhu ???, Songdai Dongjing yanjiu ?????? (Kaifeng: Henan
daxue chubanshe. 1992): 14-5.
8) See Xue Juzheng, Jiu Wudai shi: 120.7ab.
9) Li Tao ??, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian ??????? (1183; Beijing: Zhonghua
shuju, 1992): 17.369; Shao Bowen ???, Shaoshi wenjian lu ????? (1151; Beijing:
152 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
warehouses sustained the growing imperial family and aff orded the salaries
of government offi cials.10 Its ten gates admitted carts of produce for the
markets and the restaurants, and the products of the imperial foundries
and kilns built on the outskirts of the city. Th e roads brought in candidates
for the imperial examinations and foreign ambassadors, and carried away
imperial edicts and appointed offi cials to distant corners of the realm.
Although Song Taizu (r. 960-76) had hoped to move the capital to his
native Luoyang—“to rid of the superfl uity of soldiers by taking advantage
of the excellent powers of the landscape, to follow the precedent of the
Zhou and Han dynasties, and thereby to bring peace to the empire”—his
offi cials persuaded him that only the infrastructure of his Eastern Capital
could maintain his armies and his government.11 By successive repairs and
fortifi cations, the outer wall was expanded to a circumference of more than
twenty-nine kilometers, with fourteen city gates and seven water gates. Yet
the growing population spilled beyond it in uncounted numbers, clearing
markets and building houses, erecting stores and restaurants, and planting
gardens in the ever expanding suburbs. By the end of the eleventh century,
the number of residents in the walled city and the suburban streets may
have reached a million and a half.12
Zhonghua shuju, 1983): 7.66; Wang Cheng ??, Dongdu shilüe ???? (1186; Taipei:
Wenhai chubanshe, 1967): 28.5ab. According to Cai Xiang ?? (1012-67), 1.2 million
troops were stationed at the capital in 1064. See Zhao Ruyu ???, ed., Songchao zhuchen
zouyi ?????? (1186; Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1999): 148.1694. Th e
annual shipment of rice from the Southeast appears to have amounted to about “six million
piculs” (liubai wan dan ????), a number mentioned by Ouyang Xiu ??? (1007- 72)
for the 1040s, by Su Shi ?? (1036-1101) for around 1068, and by Wang Xiang ??
(fl . 1120s) for 1126. See Ouyang Xiu ???, Ouyang Xiu quanji ????? (ca. 1072;
Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2001): 32.477-8; Lü Zuqian ???, ed., Song wenjian ???
(1179; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1992): 56.844; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi:
45.480. Cf. Shen Gua ??, Mengqi bitan ???? (1086-93; 1305; Beijing: Wenwu
chubanshe, 1975): 12.8b.
10) On the warehouses see, for example, Meng Yuanlao ??? (attr.), Dongjing meng Hua
lu ????? (1147; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982): 1.41, 1.46-7. Cf. Zhou Baozhu,
Songdai Dongjing yanjiu: 16-7.
11) Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 17.369; Shao Bowen, Shaoshi wenjian lu: 7.66;
Wang Cheng, Dongdu shilüe: 28.5ab.
12) See Chen Zhen ??, Songdai shehui zhengzhi lungao ???????? (Shanghai:
Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 2007): 165-9; Cheng Ziliang and Li Qingyin, Kaifeng chengshi
shi: 88-9; Shiba Yoshinobu ????, Chûgoku toshi shi ????? (Tokyo: Tokyo
daigaku shuppansha, 2002): 33-4; Wu Songdi ???, Zhongguo renkou shi: Liao Song Jin
Yuan shiqi ?????:?????? (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe. 2000): 574;
Purchase on Power 153
Yet the tremendous, unprecedented supply system operated by a series
of dynamic contradictions that both urged and threatened its continuity.
Th e open infrastructure that enabled the maintenance of standing armies
in numbers “unequaled in the entirety of the imperial past,” also rendered
the presence of such armies necessary, as the capital lay open to attack on
all sides.13 Th e effi cient roads and waterways that brought fresh produce
could also bring rebels or foreign soldiers. Th e traders who supplied the
imperial court with the building materials, the textiles, the precious metals
and stones, the rare foods, and the exquisite dyes to project its splendid
power, sold the same goods to wealthy merchants and offi cials, who competed
with each other and with the court in fashions and in conspicuous
display. Th e imperial kinsmen, the government offi cials, the soldiers, the
shopkeepers, the restaurant owners, and the other inhabitants of the capital,
who in their hundreds of thousands sustained and protected the functioning
of the imperial government, also threatened the safety of the
imperial house by building dwellings near defense works, by starting fi res,
and by spreading epidemics. Th e diverse population lived in mixed neighborhoods
of residences and shops that abutted the walls of the palace city,
in close proximity to the monarch and his kin. Th e rivers and canals that
gave convenient access to the imperial warehouses also brought the danger
of devastating fl oods.
In the wide avenues and the close streets of the Eastern Capital, within the
massive walls and along the freighted canals, the contradictions between
imperial power and commercial prowess assumed concrete shape. Th e ostentatious
residences of wealthy merchants, the imperial storehouses of auspicious
portents, and the changeable fashions and hairstyles of the capital
render visible to the historian competing, contrary notions of power that
shaped and defi ned one another. Th e anxiety of the imperial court and some
of its offi cials about the mobility of wealth, the fl uidity of social status, the
avid competition for material possessions, and the infringement of shops
and residences onto sacred ritual space bring into view the profound meaning
of the imperial vision of the capital: an ideal grid of imposing avenues and
Wu Tao ??, Bei Song ducheng Dongjing ?????? (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe,
1984): 37; Zhou Baozhu, Songdai Dongjing yanjiu: 319-24.
13) Th e quote is from a 1064 memorial by Cai Xiang. See Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen
zouyi: 148.1694. Cf. ibid.: 127.1397. In a fascinating essay entitled “Th e Settlement of the
Capital” (“An du” ??), Qin Guan ?? (1049-1100) argues that the open infrastructure
of Kaifeng, suited to the supply of armies and to the conduct of war, renders it the fi tting
capital of a commercial age. See Li Lian, Bianjing yiji zhi: 339-41.
154 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
sacred sites, whose inhabitants are ranked and marked by a strict, unambiguous
hierarchy that determines the distribution of the wealth of the realm as it
fl ows in from the provinces. Although commercial wealth thus challenged
the fi xity of the imperial order, it depended entirely upon the government.
Th e conspicuous consumption of the Eastern Capital was funded, not by the
independent profi ts of industrial manufacturing, but by the tax grain that
provided the salaries of high offi cials and the commissions of shipping merchants
alike. For Kaifeng was, after all, a consuming city, where the imperial
workshops produced on command and where retailers dominated the economy.
14 Scholarship on the Song dynasty has tended at times to present the
imperial apparatus of classical ritual and sumptuary restrictions as the moribund
remains of a prior age, and to exaggerate the sophistication of the
urban economy.15 It is unwise, however, to dismiss as disingenuous a coherent
view of the ritual city that was propagated in the erudite prose of the
most talented men of the era, or to assign to diff erent periods economies of
power that encroached upon one another in the streets of the same city. Th e
contests over space in those streets, and the competition for the goods that
circulated through them, reveal confi gurations of power that rarely fi nd
direct expression in the texts of the period. Th e infringements upon the ritual
space of the capital and upon the sumptuary laws of the empire make
visible, especially, the power of the “puissant families” (hao ?), an amorphous
group of anonymous families who exist as a negative presence in the
sources, but whose assertion of infl uence by means of wealth and prestige
14) See L. J. L. Ma, Commercial Development and Urban Change in Sung China (960-1279)
(Ann Arbor: Department of Geography, University of Michigan, 1971): 6, 118-20 et seq.;
Quan Hansheng ???, Zhongguo jingjishi luncong ??????? (Hong Kong: Xinya
yanjiusuo, 1972): 186-99; Wu Tao, Bei Song ducheng Dongjing: 60, 90; Zhao Baojun ???,
“Shilun Kaifeng zhi shengshuai” ???????. In Zhongguo gudu yanjiu ?????
?, ed., Zhongguo gudu xuehui ?????? (Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe,
1985): 246. Cf. E. A. Kracke, Jr., “Sung K’ai-feng: Pragmatic Metropolis and Formalistic
Capital.” In Crisis and Prosperity in Sung China, ed. J. Winthrop Haeger (Tucson: University
of Arizona Press, 1975): 51-2.
15) See, for example, Cheng Ziliang and Li Qingyin, Kaifeng chengshi shi: 57-9; Dai Junliang
???, ed., Zhongguo chengshi fazhan shi ??????? (Harbin: Heilongjiang
renmin chubanshe, 1992): 207-8; Chye Kiang Heng, Cities of Aristocrats and Bureaucrats:
The Development of Medieval Chinese Cityscapes (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press,
1999): 67; A. F. Wright, “Th e Cosmology of the Chinese City.” In The City in Late Imperial
China, ed. G. W. Skinner (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977): 60; Wu Tao, Bei
Song ducheng Dongjing: 14; Zhou Baozhu, Songdai Dongjing yanjiu: 20.
Purchase on Power 155
challenged the ritual hierarchy of the imperial court and drew emperors and
imperial kinsmen into vain contests of ostentatious consumption.
Imperial Space: Avenues, Altars, Omens
In the fi rst month of 962, imperial builders began the expansion of the old
government compound of Bian Prefecture to create an imperial city and a
palace city worthy of the grand empire of Song. With its circumference of
fi ve kilometers, the new imperial city remained small compared to the
enormous palace compounds of the Han (206 BCE-220 CE) and Tang
empires, but it could now at least accommodate a central axis of lofty palaces,
as well as temples and central government offi ces to the south, east,
and west, and private quarters and a garden in the quiet rear to the north.16
Th e palaces were laid out, moreover, according to the plan of the Tangdynasty
imperial city at Luoyang, and all buildings and gates were given
auspicious names of cosmological propriety and classical virtue: “At this
point did the imperial residence fi rst attain its forceful beauty.”17 To the
south of the capital, some four kilometers outside the central city gate, a
hill was found whose proportions of natural dignity fi tted it to become the
Altar of Heaven. Simply terraced and marked with ritual gates at the four
compass points, this became the central, most sacred site in the realm.18
Additional temples, monasteries, and pagodas arose within the walls of the
capital to assist in the legitimate rule of the new dynasty. At the cardinal
gates in the outer wall, at the end of the four right-angled imperial avenues,
stretched elegant imperial parks with lakes, forests, and rare animals and
plants. Th e names of the buildings and sites changed, individually or
16) Li You ??, Songchao shishi ???? (early Southern Song; Siku quanshu edition):
juan 6; Toghto ?? et al., eds, Songshi ?? (1345; Baina edition): 85.4b-6b; Xu Song
?? et al., eds, Song huiyao jigao ????? (Song; ca. 1820; Taipei: Xin wenfeng, 1976):
fangyu 1.2b-7b; Ye Mengde ???, Shilin yanyu ???? (1128; Beijing: Zhonghua
shuju, 1984): 6.83-4. Cf. also Kaifengshi wenwu gongzuodui ????????, Kaifeng
kaogu faxian yu yanjiu ????????? (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe,
1998): 173-8, 186-8.
17) Gao Cheng, Shiwu jiyuan: 6.42b-43a. See also Fan Zhen ??, Dongzhai jishi ????
(11th century; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980): 1.3; Kaifengshi wenwu gongzuodui, Kaifeng
kaogu faxian: 175-6, 186-8; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.2b-7b, 1.11ab; Ye Mengde,
Shilin yanyu: 6.83-4. Emperor Taizong (r. 976-97) canceled plans for further expansion in
985. See Toghto, Songshi: 85.4b; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.11b-12a.
18) See Li You, Songchao shishi: 11.1a; Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 3.39, 11.138-9.
156 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
collectively, as cosmic occurrences and imperial prestige required. All
thirty-two city gates were renamed in 979, all but four of the 136 wards
received new names in 995, and bridges, palace buildings, gates, and wards
were again renamed in 1012.19 According to Ye Mengde ??? (1077-
1148), the main halls in the palace changed names continuously, especially
after inauspicious palace fi res.20
Th is city of palaces and altars, of gates and temples, of auspicious names
and cosmic confi gurations, was the Eastern Capital. Th e orderly city that
stretched around him in 982 was to Tian Xi ?? (940-1003) the expression
of the unifi ed empire: “At present, all under Heaven is united by a
single house; everything within the seas is unifi ed in a continuous realm.
Th e four quarters converge upon the even grid of the imperial domain; the
myriad goods gather in the rich abundance of the capital city. Among the
army camps and cavalry stables, not a single is lacking in lofty awe; of
the Buddhist monasteries and Daoist temples, every one is possessed of
forceful beauty.”21 When Fan Zhongyan ??? (989-1052) in 1042 urged
the fortifi cation of the capital, he summarized the whole of its importance
by a list of defi ning sites and persons: “the Ancestral Temple and the Altars
of Soil and Grain, the Forbidden City and the storehouses of wealth and
arms; the kinsmen of the imperial family and their relatives by marriage,
the families of the thousand offi cials and the noblemen; the six armies and
the myriad people—the relatives of the blood are all here.”22 Although the
Song had succeeded to the capital of the Later Zhou, its numinous environs
suited the “fi ery virtue” of the mandate of the new dynasty.23 Th e
Western Capital at Luoyang, the Southern Capital at Shangqiu, and the
19) See Gao Cheng, Shiwu jiyuan: 6.41b-42b; Li Lian, Bianjing yiji zhi: 1.4-7; Song Minqiu
???, Chunming tuichao lu ????? (1070s; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980):
1.11; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.12a-13b.
20) See Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 6.83-4. Cf. Shen Gua, Mengqi bitan: 3.11b-12a; Xu Song,
Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.3a.
21) Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 145.1645.
22) Fan Zhongyan ???, Fan Wenzhenggong ji ????? (1089; Sibu congkan edition):
19.9a; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 126.1390. Cf. Fan Zhongyan, Fan Wenzhenggong ji:
19.11b. Cf. also the geography laid out in Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.1a-7b, 1.23a.
23) Th at is, the mandate of the Song dynasty was associated with the Fire Phase of the Five
Phases. See Wang Qinro, Cefu yuangui: 1.4b. On the general importance accorded to geomancy
in the founding of capitals during the Song, see Wang Qinro, Cefu yuangui: 13.1a-
2a; Wang Shu ?? et al., eds, Dili xinshu ???? (1050s; 1184; 1192; Taipei: Jiwen
shuju, 1985): preface.2b, 1.20a-26a.
Purchase on Power 157
Northern Capital at Daming stood likewise in auspicious surroundings,
their palaces evenly arrayed and protected by ritual and benevolence.24
Its square walls made the Eastern Capital a simulacrum of the Earth.25
Th e terraces of the Round Mound gave worldly shape to Heaven.26 Th e
straight lines of the palace axes and the “even grid” of the imperial avenues
manifested indiscriminately a cosmological aesthetics and sacred authority,
perspicacious power and incorruptible virtue:
Th e Eastern Capital was called Bian Prefecture during the Tang. Emperor Taizu
[r. 907-13] of the Liang dynasty erected Establishing Prosperity Hall at the site of the
Xuanwu [Propagating Arms] prefectural yamen. Under the Jin its name was changed
to Great Peace Hall. Although Emperor Shizong [r. 954-57] of the Zhou dynasty
undertook renovations, these yet failed to create a structure suited to a true king. Not
long after Emperor Taizu [of the Song] had received the Mandate of Heaven, he sent
a Commissioner to draw up a map of the Great Within of the Western Capital, and
he altered [the imperial city in the Eastern Capital] according to this plan. When the
work was completed, the Emperor seated himself in Myriad Years Palace and ordered
that all gates be thrown wide open. Everything lay square and straight, in one line. Th e
Emperor sighed, “Th is is what I desired. Th e slightest crookedness or deviance will be
visible to everyone.” One day the Emperor ascended Illuminating Virtue Gate. Pointing
to its plaque, he asked Zhao Pu [922-92], “ ‘Gate of Illuminating Virtue’—why is
the character zhi [‘of ’] used here?” Pu said that it was “an auxiliary word.” “Zhi, hu,
zhe, ye,” said the Emperor, “what help have these ever provided to anyone?” Pu had
It matters not the least whether these anecdotes about Emperor Taizu be
true (If the authenticity of the anecdotes do not contribute to the authority
of the Emperor, the authenticity of the Emperor contributes to the
authority of the anecdotes). Th e stories connect auspicious names, architectural
form, political legitimacy, and natural morality in a coherent reading
of imperial architecture. Emperor Taizu proposes that the uprightness
of his court be judged by the straight lines of his palace, and he demonstrates
his intolerance of waste by the elimination of a preposition.28
24) See anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji ????? (1131-62; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju,
1962): 159.598; Gao Cheng, Shiwu jiyuan: 6.43a; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.7b-11a.
25) See, e.g., N. Shatzman Steinhardt, Chinese Imperial City Planning (Honolulu: University
of Hawai‘i Press, 1990): 8-9.
26) See, e.g., Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 11.138.
27) Shao Bowen, Shaoshi wenjian lu: 1.5. Cf. Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 1.2-3.
28) Cf. Fan Zuyu ???, Fan taishi ji ???? (ca. 1098; Siku quanshu edition): 27.6b.
158 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
In the sacred rituals of the court, the squares and straight lines of imperial
architecture are set in motion, their symmetry completed by the symmetrical
movement of persons and objects through symmetrical time.29 Records of
the fi rst sacrifi ce at the Altar of Heaven in the eleventh month of 963, preserved
in Events and Facts of the Song Court (Songchao shishi ????, midtwelfth
century), show the grave concern of the Emperor and his ritual
advisors with the proper placement of banners and vessels, the coordination
of colors with the cardinal directions, the ranked attire of ritual assistants,
and the symmetry of the Emperor’s fast and his return to the palace.30 Th e
same scholars who drew up the protocol for this fi rst performance of Grand
Sacrifi ce devised in 965 a special ceremony for the punishment of Meng
Chang ?? (919-65), an erstwhile rival for the imperial throne.31 Th e ritual
experts used the grand avenues and the towering gates of the capital to cow
Meng Chang and his supporters into acknowledging the rightful authority
of Emperor Taizu:
On the sixteenth day of the fi rst month, Chang arrived. On the day prior, the authorities
placed a throne in Venerating Beginnings Hall and arrayed a ceremonial guard in
the courtyard, as in the ceremony of the New Year’s audience. Th ey also set up ceremonial
positions for Chang and his false offi cials, outside Illuminating Virtue Gate. Th ey
placed the tabouret for the memorial north of the cross street by the gate. On the day
itself, they arranged a grand display of cavalry and infantry troops on both sides of the
Avenue of Heaven. Chang, his younger brother, his false offi cial Li Hao, and so forth,
29) On the symmetry of time and space in classicist ritual, see C. de Pee, The Writing of
Weddings in Middle-Period China: Text and Ritual Practice in the Eighth through Fourteenth
Centuries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007): 30 et seq.; A. R. Zito, Of Body
and Brush: Grand Sacrifice as Text/Performance in Eighteenth-Century China (Chicago: Th e
University of Chicago Press, 1997): chapters 1, 6, and 7.
30) See Li You, Songchao shishi: 11.1a-7b. Cf. Li You, Songchao shishi: 4.1a-3a; Toghto,
Songshi: 1.16a, 99.9b-10b; Wang Cheng, Dongdu shilüe: 2.3a. Th e timing of this fi rst
Grand Sacrifi ce, however, was irregular, as it was performed on the sixteenth day of the
eleventh month. See Song Minqiu, Chunming tuichao lu: 2.31. On the performance of
Grand Sacrifi ce in Song, see also Fan Zuyu, Fan taishi ji: 24.4b-7b; Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian:
3.39-40, 11.138-9, 23.339, 23.341-2, 64.951 et seq., 105.1459-61; Meng Yuanlao,
Dongjing meng Hua lu: 10.243-4, 246; Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Xiu quanji: 14.234; Toghto,
Songshi: 99.1a-15b; Wang Pizhi ???, Shengshui yantan lu ????? (ca. 1095;
Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981): 5.61; Zhang Lei ??, Zhang Lei ji ??? (twelfth century;
Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999): 1.1-3. On Grand Sacrifi ce, see also P. B. Ebrey,
“Taking Out the Grand Carriage: Imperial Spectacle and the Visual Culture of Northern
Song Kaifeng.” Asia Major, Th ird Series, 12 (1999): 33-65; Zito, Of Body and Brush.
31) See Li You, Songchao shishi: 17.9b-13a.
Purchase on Power 159
thirty-two men in all, walked up to the palace gate. Th ey were each dressed in plain
robes and gauze caps. Th e Secretarial Receptionist led Chang to a position south of
the small memorial table, facing north. Th e false offi cials all stood in a fi le behind
Chang. Th e memorial of the expectation of punishment was placed on the tabouret.
Chang knelt and off ered the memorial to the Audience Commissioner, who took the
memorial and entered the palace. Chang et alii returned to their positions and stood
in a fi le to await the imperial command.32
Th e architecture of the Eastern Capital aff orded a ritual grammar of avenues,
walls, and gates that by the addition of appropriate persons and
implements could produce specifi c, articulate statements about power and
virtue. Th e residents of the Eastern Capital could take part in the choreography
of imperial space as well, when they watched imperial processions,
or entered the imperial parks during certain restricted seasons, or when
they were admitted to the walls of the imperial palace to admire a newly
fi nished building.33
Heaven, too, intervened in this sacred grid of walls and palaces. Although
omens could appear anywhere in the realm as symptoms of the auspicious
health or the corrupting disease of the body politic, a fl ight of cranes or the
spread of fi re in the imperial capital signifi ed the state of the government
with especial urgency.34 Emperor Renzong (r. 1022-63) explained the
appearance of a fi ery star in the fourth month of 1028 by the failure of
justice in the capital and promulgated an amnesty.35 When lightning
32) Li You, Songchao shishi: 17.9b.
33) On imperial processions, see Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing meng Hua lu: juan 6-10. Cf.
Ebrey, “Taking Out the Grand Carriage.” On imperial parks, see Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing
meng Hua lu: 7.181-92; Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 1.4. Cf. J. M. Hargett, “Huizong’s Magic
Marchmount: Th e Genyue Pleasure Park of Kaifeng.” Monumenta Serica 38 (1988-89):
1- 48; S. H. West, “Spectacle, Ritual, and Social Relations: Th e Son of Heaven, Citizens,
and Created Space in Imperial Gardens in the Northern Song.” In Baroque Garden Cultures:
Emulation, Sublimation, Subversion, ed. M. Conan (Washington, DC: Dumbarton
Oaks, 2005): 291-321; Zhou Baozhu, Songdai Dongjing yanjiu: 452-85. On admission to
imperial buildings, see anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji: 144.528; Xu Song, Song huiyao
jigao: fangyu 1.11b. Cf. S. H. West, “Th e Emperor Sets the Pace: Court and Consumption
in the Eastern Capital of the Northern Song During the Reign of Huizong.” In Selected
Essays on Court Culture in Cross-Cultural Perspective, ed. Lin Yaofu (Taipei: National Taiwan
University Press, 1999): 36-41.
34) Th e imperial city, the moat, and many of the palaces bore the names of celestial bodies,
and the heavenly constellations were called “palaces” (gong ?) and “halls” (dian ?), to
explicate the central position of the capital within the moral universe. See, for example,
Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 38.375, 45.469, 45.470.
35) See anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji: 152.567.
160 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
struck the imperial city in the sixth month of 1029 and set fi re to a pair of
unfi nished halls, Su Shunqin ??? (1008-48) blamed the disaster on an
excess of imperial construction.36 In the fi fth month of 1037, Emperor
Renzong gathered imperial kinsmen and eunuchs to see a polypore mushroom
that had grown on a pillar of Transformation Completed Hall, and
distributed a poem about this propitious event to his offi cials.37 Th e 1056
fl ood that inundated the palace, destroyed the imperial altars, set coffi ns
and corpses afl oat in the suburbs, and left residents to live on rafts in the
Avenue of Heaven was too frightful to be reduced to a single cause. Ouyang
Xiu ??? (1007-72) attributed this unprecedented heavenly punishment
to Emperor Renzong’s protracted failure to appoint an heir, to his
recent dismissal of worthy offi cials, and to the neglected danger of a current
drought in the southeastern rice fi elds.38 A solar eclipse during the
third month of 1100 caused Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-25) to retreat
from his court.39 Earthquakes rattled the palace gates in 1124 to warn of a
foreign invasion.40 Th ese natural disasters manifested themselves in the
streets and in the skies of the capital, and changed the constellation of its
buildings and inhabitants by warning or by immediate destruction.
Of this ritual, cosmic city, the long, descriptive poems called fu ?
(“prose poem,” “rhapsody”) preserve perfect representations. In conscious
imitation of their Han-dynasty predecessors, Song literati used the lyrical
36) See Ma Duanlin ???, Wenxian tongkao ???? (ca. 1308; Taipei: Taiwan
shangwu yinshuguan, 1988): 298.2358a; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: ruiyi 2.33a; Yang
Shiqi ??? et al., eds, Lidai mingchen zouyi ?????? (1416; Siku quanshu edition):
299.5a-8a, 299.13a-14a; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 37.372-3. Cf. anonymous,
Song da zhaoling ji: 151.561, 152.565, 152.567-8, 155.581; Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Xiu
quanji: 108.1639-40; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: ruiyi 2.31a-34b passim; Zhao Ruyu,
Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 37.361-2.
37) See Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 120.2831-2; Toghto, Songshi: 10.10a; Yang
Shiqi, Lidai mingchen zouyi: 299.23b-24a. On the polypore mushroom, see Hargett,
“Huizong’s Magic Marchmount”: 19n73.
38) See Ma Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao: 297.2347a; Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Xiu quanji:
109.1658-65; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: ruiyi 3.2b; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi:
40.411-2, 41.414-5. Cf. anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji: 153.571; Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian:
31.476; Ma Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao: 297.2347bc; Shao Bo ??, Shaoshi wenjian
houlu ?????? (1157; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983): 30.233; Xu Song, Song huiyao
jigao: ruiyi 3.3ab; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 41.417-24, 45.474.
39) See anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji: 155.580. Cf. Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi:
41.416, 44.465, 92.999.
40) See Yue Ke ??, Tingshi ?? (1214; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981): 15.179. Cf.
Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 42.429.
Purchase on Power 161
detail of the fu to describe the imperial grandeur of their Eastern Capital.41
Th eir stately parallel phrases reproduce the grid of grand thoroughfares,
their rare vocabulary replicates the exotic fl ora of the imperial parks, their
ornamental detail conjures the decorated purlins of distant palace roofs. In
these transmitted lines, the present reader may yet see the continuous stream
of ships and carts converging upon the capital, and the warehouses full of
southeastern rice. Here, the present reader may yet witness the perfection of
imperial ritual, the arrival of foreign ambassadors, and the variety of urban
entertainment. In Zhou Bangyan’s ??? (1058-1123) “Fu on the Bian
Capital” (“Biandu fu” ???), for example, the cosmic order of the capital
obtains, with orderly traffi c proceeding through right-angled streets:
Inside the city there are:
Streets from east to west;
Avenues from south to north.
Its intersections stretch in the four directions;
Its roads divide into nine tracks.
Amid the carriages there is no argument when wheels collide;
Among people there is no strife when diffi culties arise.
Seven-forked crossroads, four-way intersections;
Extensively peaceful, entirely safe.
When the traffi c is ended and the carriages are gone;
Th en the manure is swept and the fi lth is removed.
Th ose who walk the streets do not hurry but amble at a leisurely pace;
Th ose who drop something will not stoop but leave it gladly behind.42
41) On the revival of the fu in the Song dynasty, see Zhou Hui ??, Qingbo zazhi ???
? (1192; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983): 6.62. Th e fu about the capitals and imperial
parks of the Han dynasty are among the most famous compositions in the genre. See Xiao
Tong ??, ed., Wenxuan ?? (sixth century; twelfth century; Taipei: Yiwen yinshuguan,
1990): juan 1-6. On the Han-dynasty fu, see Martin Kern, “Western Han Aesthetics and
the Genesis of the Fu.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 63 (2003): 383-437; M. E. Lewis,
Writing and Authority in Early China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999):
42) Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 7.93. For Yang Kan’s ?? (fl . 1015) “Huangji fu” ???,
Zhou Bangyan’s ??? (1058-1123) “Biandu fu” ???, Song Qi’s ?? (998-1061)
“Wangji qianli fu” ?????, and Li Changmin’s ??? “Guang Biandu fu” ????,
see Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 2.19-25, 7.91-102, 11.135; Wang Mingqing ???, Yuzhao
xinzhi ???? (1198; Congshu jicheng chubian edition): 2.25-39. For fu on other Song
capitals, see Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 1.1-2, 10.122-7. For fu on Song imperial ritual, see
Fan Zhongyan, Fan Wenzhenggong ji: 1.1a-5b; Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 1.2-4, 2.31-4,
3.39-40, 4.57-60, 8.104-6; Sima Guang ???, Wenguo Wenzhenggong wenji ?????
?? (ca. 1086; 1190s; Sibu congkan edition): 1.5a.
162 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
Commercial Space: Alleyways, Real Estate, Flâneurs
Upon this ideal imperial vision of the Eastern Capital infringed the ostentatious
residences of covetous offi cials, the stalls of hawkers, the shacks of
squatters, the errant fashions of the leisured classes, and the conspicuous
display of competitive consumption. Th e space aff orded by the new outer
wall of the Later Zhou had been rapidly usurped by the growing population,
which spread far into the suburbs. Th e expansion of the imperial city
in 962 provided place for a number of central government offi ces, but
many departments remained outside the palace walls, scattered haphazardly
across the inner city. Th e ever-increasing number of imperial kinsmen
lived in cramped quarters.43 And in spite of Zhou Bangyan’s imagination
in the lines translated above, the Eastern Capital was not laid out on a
consistent grid of orthogonal streets and avenues, but was comprised in
large part of a maze of irregular roads and alleyways. Th e crowding houses
and shops of the capital prohibited renewed expansion of the palace. Th e
walls set forbidding limits to the extent of the city. Within the triple wall
of the Eastern Capital, imperial kinsmen, government offi cials, and commoners
of all classes competed for space, shifting offi ces, building in roadways,
encroaching upon walls and canals. Th e unprecedented choice of an
existing, commercial city as the site of an imperial capital had unanticipated,
Imperial offi cials warned that the lack of proper offi ces compromised
the dignity of the government. Already in 981, Tian Xi complained that
the situation of the government offi ces and the examination halls was
unworthy of the new capital.45 Th e completion of permanent buildings for
the Secretariat, the Grand Councilors, and the Bureau of Military Aff airs
in 1071 at long last exempted the incumbents of these prestigious institutions
from discomfi ting travel and improvised desks:
Since the founding of the dynasty, in respectful obedience to Tang precedent, many
high offi cials have not attained to building full-block residences but are renting houses
43) See Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.19b-20a; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi:
32.312. Cf. J. W. Chaff ee, Branches of Heaven: A History of the Imperial Clan of Sung China
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 1999): 78-9.
44) On the unprecedented choice of a “natural” city as capital, see Kracke, “Sung K’aifeng”:
50-1; Steinhardt, Chinese Imperial City Planning: 137-8; Wright, “Th e Cosmology of
the Chinese City”: 60. On the lack of space, cf. Cheng Ziliang and Li Qingyin, Kaifeng
chengshi shi: 55; Wu Tao, Bei Song ducheng Dongjing: 9-10.
45) See Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 145.1646.
Purchase on Power 163
among the common people, sometimes as far as several kilometers outside the city
wall. To the east, to the west, to the north, to the south, the perimeter is distant and
discontinuous. Memorials submitted from all quarters and reports of great urgency are
collected by clerks and runners who make the rounds of all the residences. If one of
these should be leaked or delayed, the loss will be irreparable. Moreover, through the
heat and the cold, through the wind and the rain, rushing in at dawn, returning at
dusk, as the carriage guards and the road-clearing criers lead in front and follow
behind, gentlemen of the literate class create havoc by seeking audiences in the narrow
passages of alleyways and byroads—a spectacle of most undignifi ed appearance. Now,
the Th ree Marshals of the Palace Guard all had public offi ces, and some of the Departments
and Courts of lesser offi cials also had housing, and yet no accommodations
were arranged for these high offi cials. Every morning they waited for the appointed
hour outside the palace gate. Upon entering, they debated in the halls of government.
After they retreated to chambers, all government offi cials would be asked to report on
possibilities [of accommodation], and after a while, clerks and scribes would swoop
down from all sides to off er stationery and low tables. Th ey would not return home
until several quarters after the hour of sundown.46
For the Grand Councilors and the Military Aff airs Commissioners, such
indignities ended in 1071, according to this celebratory “Inscription for
the Newly Constructed East Administration” (“Xin xiu Dongfu ji” ???
??), composed by Chen Yi ?? (1021-88). But the conditions that the
inscription relegates to an unhappy past continued to oppress numerous
offi cials of lesser rank.
As the government reassigned offi ces and put up new structures within
the imperial city in hopes of overcoming the shortage of space, the inhabitants
of the Eastern Capital extended their houses into the roadways, built
structures against the city walls, and encroached upon the canal dikes.
Edicts in 1002, 1012, 1024, 1034, and 1035 called for the destruction of
houses that infringed upon the roadways of the capital.47 Although most
records of these edicts do not specify the reasons for the repeated destruction
of “commoner dwellings that obtrude into the streets of the old city,”
an account of the eff ort to broaden the alleyways of the inner city during
46) Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 81.1165. Cf. Wu Chuhou ???, Qingxiang zaji ????
(1087; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985): 3.28-9; Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 81.1167.
47) See Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 51.1114, 79.1808, 102.2358, 115.2706,
116.2725. Cf. Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 95.2192, cited in Kida Tomoo ????,
“Sôdai no toshi kenkyû wo meguru sho mondai: kokudo Kaifû wo chûshin to shite” ???
???????????:??????????. Tôyôshi kenkyû 37 (1978): 282-3;
Zheng Shoupeng ???, Songdai Kaifengfu yanjiu ??????? (Taipei: Guoli bianyiguan
Zhonghua congshu bianshen weiyuanhui, 1980): 576-8. During the 1070s, the government
permitted encroachment upon the roads of the capital against payment of a “street
encroachment levy” (qinjie qian ???). See Kida Tomoo, “Sôdai no toshi kenkyû”: 286-7.
164 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
the spring of 1002 suggests a confl ict between public order and commercial
Wuchen day of the second month [March 18, 1002]. . . . Because the streets and the
alleyways were too narrow, the Emperor [Zhenzong, r. 997-1022] by edict commanded
Right Palace Attendant and Audience Usher Xie Dequan ??? [953-1010]
to broaden them. When Dequan received the edict, he fi rst dismantled the residences
of the noble and the powerful. Immediately there was widespread discussion, and an
edict came forth suspending the endeavor. Dequan submitted his plea in person:
“Th ose who are impeding the project are all powerful men. Th ey merely begrudge the
rent of their properties—there is nothing else to it. Even at the pain of death, I dare
not carry out the imperial command.” Th e Emperor had no choice but to follow his
advice. Dequan thereupon reported in detail the width and length of the streets and
alleys, and the hours of curfew, reviving the old system of Chang’an. Only then did
the Emperor issue an edict to the Offi ce of Streets of Kaifeng Prefecture to compile
registers and place markers everywhere, and to order the people that from now on they
should no longer encroach upon the streets.48
Th e narrow alleyways of the city not only threatened the public order, but
they also encumbered the processions of state, designed for broad ritual
thoroughfares. In 1090, for example, Fan Zuyu ??? (1041-98) submitted
a memorial to dissuade Emperor Zhezong (r. 1085-1100) from ordering
the destruction of the dwellings of commoners when his solemn cortège
set out to mourn Sun Gu ?? (1016-90) in the remote lane where this
respected offi cial had lived: “When recently the two Majesties honored the
wake of Cao Yi ?? with their presence, the authorities were excessive in
their wrecking of houses. All occupants became homeless. Although many
people build houses into the roadway, the destruction of their dwellings
should not cause hatred.”49
Th e usurpation of public space by private dwellings not only caused
inconvenience to patrolling watchmen, imperial processions, and commuting
offi cials, but it compromised the safety of the city. After four years of
rigorous fortifi cation of the outer wall, the imperial court and the
Prefect of Kaifeng ordered in 1078 that a distance of ten paces be maintained
between the inside of the wall and the nearest buildings, so that large
numbers of troops would be able to move quickly along the defense works.
By the time the order was promulgated, however, residents had already built
48) Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 51.1114.
49) Fan Zuyu, Fan taishi ji: 19.8b-9a. Cf. Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Xiu quanji: 63.914. It was
the very desire of Sun Gu to live with the people, and to be trusted by them, that put his
neighbors’ houses in danger of destruction upon his death. See Toghto, Songshi: 341.6ab.
Purchase on Power 165
several meters into the intended roadway, leaving a mere fi ve paces for the
passage of soldiers.50 In 1082, “authorities reported that residents along the
canals of the capital were illicitly digging into the dikes to expand their
houses.”51 Fan Zuyu warned in 1092 that the prefectural yamen inside the
imperial city, rebuilt after a fi re, remained at risk of confl agration due to its
proximity to residences on the other side of the wall.52
An ideal textual representation of this landscape of encroached streets
and narrow alleyways provides A Record of Dreaming of Hua in the Eastern
Capital (Dongjing meng Hua lu ?????, 1147), a nostalgic memoir by
the pseudonymous Meng Yuanlao of his splendid life in Kaifeng prior to
its conquest by Jurchen armies in 1126-7. An 1187 colophon by Zhao
Shixia ??? (1175 jinshi) compares the commercial, vernacular geography
of A Dream of Hua to the imperial geography of an earlier work, A
Record of the Eastern Capital (Dongjing ji ???, 1070s), by Song Minqiu
Th e humane and generous virtue of the founding Emperors has nourished and
drenched their subjects for some two hundred years. Between the Xuanhe and
Zhenghe reign periods [1111-26], the era of great peace reached its pinnacle. Th e
volumes of the historians record in full all matters of ritual and music, of law and
politics. Yet, without recourse to records of hearsay and other small works, how could
the fl ourishing customs of an era and the proliferation of great personages have been
transmitted? Song Minqiu’s Record of the Capital [sic] describes the wards, the gates,
the offi cial buildings, the palaces and monasteries, and the private residences in
extreme detail, but it never touches upon the alleyways and bypaths, the inns and
market districts, or the things and curiosities of every festival and season. Th e Hermit
of the Hidden Th oroughwort recorded all of his experiences of the past to make the
Record of Dreaming of Hua. In it, all aff airs that relate to the rites and regulations of
the palace and the Forbidden City were gotten by hearsay and cannot be without
mistakes and errors. But as for things like the sights of roaming in the marketplace, the
commodities of every season of the year, and the customs and favorites of popular
taste—in these he was well versed by his own experience, and in every case he has gotten
to the truth of it.53
50) See Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fangyu 1.16b. Further fortifi cation in 1089 caused
worry and resentment among those living near the wall. See Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen
51) Du Dagui ???, ed., Mingchen beizhuan wanyan ji ??????? (1194; Taipei:
Wenhai chubanshe, 1969): II.30.846, cited in Kida Tomoo, “Sôdai no toshi kenkyû”: 286.
52) See Fan Zuyu, Fan taishi ji: 22.15b.
53) Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing meng Hua lu: 255. Th e latter two thirds of this translation are
copied, with a few slight modifi cations, from S. H. West, “Th e Interpretation of a Dream:
Th e Sources, Evaluation, and Infl uence of the Dongjing meng Hua lu.” T’oung Pao 71
166 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
According to Zhao Shixia, it requires vernacular language and a vernacular
form to write vernacular space. Th e four-character phrases of classical prose
and the angular categories of imperial historiography will describe the
grand, symmetrical thoroughfares of the ritual city, but they cannot penetrate
into the crooked alleyways of changeful commercial activity. In his
colloquial phrases and rudimentary classical grammar, the author of A
Dream of Hua preserves a “linguistic imprint” of a vernacular vision of the
capital.54 Th e text replicates the act of roaming, the lateral movement of
the flâneur through continuous, horizontal urban space that disregards, in
writing as in walking, the symmetrical order of discontinuous, hierarchical
ritual space.55 Th e city that Meng Yuanlao remembers, as he ambles along
(1985): 78, 89. Of Song Minqiu’s Record of the Eastern Capital only a few fragments
survive. See Gao Cheng, Shiwu jiyuan: 6.41a-7.24a passim; Li Lian, Bianjing yiji zhi: 1.2, 3.43,
8.113, 8.119, 11.189. See also West, “Th e Interpretation of a Dream”: 77-81. A long fragment
of Song Minqiu’s description of Luoyang in his Gazetteer of Henan Prefecture (Henan
zhi ???, ca. 1060), copied into a Yuan-dynasty gazetteer of the same title, preserves
a more extensive stretch of the textual geography that Zhao Shixia criticizes. See Xu Song
??, ed., Henan zhi ??? (Yuan dynasty; 1840). In Song-Yuan fangzhi congkan ???
???, ed. Zhonghua shuju bianji bu ??????? vol. 8 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju,
1990): 8335-91. On this text, see C. de Pee, “Wards of Words: Textual Geographies and
Urban Space in Song-Dynasty Luoyang, 960-1127.” Journal of the Economic and Social
History of the Orient 52 (2009): 86-92.
54) West, “Spectacle, Ritual”: 316. Th is paragraph relies in important part on the scholarship
of S. H. West, who has written extensively and perceptively about A Dream of Hua and
vernacular space in Kaifeng. See West, “Th e Interpretation of a Dream”; West, “Th e Emperor
Sets the Pace”; S. H. West, “Empresses and Funerals, Pigs and Pancakes: Th e Dream of Hua
and the Rise of Urban Literature.” Unpublished paper (2000); West, “Spectacle, Ritual.”
55) Cf. West, “Empresses and Funerals”: 3, 15; West, “Spectacle, Ritual.” Meng Yuanlao’s
characterization of himself and his peers as youren ?? (“roamers”)—connoisseurs of restaurants,
wine houses, and brothels, who remember the city through food, spectacle, and
sensual pleasures—suggests certain parallels with Walter Benjamin’s flâneur. Although the
Eastern Capital of the Song diff ered in many respects from “Paris, capital of the nineteenth
century,” it shared with the latter certain amusing parallels, such as the mimicry of nature
in domestic settings, detective stories, bohemian painters, and a fascination with artifi ce.
See R. E. Harrist, Jr., Painting and Private Life in Eleventh-Century China: Mountain Villa
by Li Gonglin (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998): 46-66; M. Powers, “Discourses
of Representation in Tenth- and Eleventh-Century China.” In The Art of Interpreting, ed.
S. C. Scott (University Park: Department of Art History, Pennsylvania State University,
1995): 88-125; R. van Gulik, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An): An Authentic
Eighteenth-Century Chinese Detective Novel (New York: Dover, 1976): i; S. H. West, “Playing
with Food: Performance, Food, and the Aesthetics of Artifi ciality in the Sung and
Yuan.” Journal of Asiatic Studies 57 (1997): 67-106. On the flâneur, see W. Benjamin, Das
Passagen-Werk, ed. R. Tiedemann (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1983): 69-72, 524-69
Purchase on Power 167
the streets that serve as his “paths of memory,”56 lacks the straight lines and
squares of edicts and fu. Here, paintings and intestines are sold in adjoining
stalls, pharmacies stand next to execution grounds, and pimps and
prostitutes mimic an imperial procession.57 Although Meng Yuanlao off ers
his memoir as a tribute to the grand peace of Emperor Huizong’s reign,
when “youths with trailing locks practiced naught but drumming and
dancing, the aged with white speckled hair recognized neither shield nor
spear,” his understanding of the nature of power and space diff ers from the
ideology inscribed by offi cials and the imperial court.58 Th e signs of the
imperial order are commercial fl orescence and varied entertainment, and
the Emperor himself becomes a consumer, his processions a diverting spectacle
interchangeable with theatrical performances.59 In this respect, A
Dream of Hua resembles Zhang Zeduan’s famous painting, “Upstream
during the Th ird Month” (“Qingming shanghe tu” ?????), a visual
tribute to the ordered realm of Emperor Huizong.60 Like Meng Yuanlao,
(M). See also D. Frisby, Cityscapes of Modernity: Critical Explorations (Cambridge: Polity,
2001): 27-51; A. Gleber, The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature, and Film in Weimar
Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999); M. Opitz, “Lesen und Flanieren:
Über das Lesen von Städten, vom Flanieren in Büchern.” In Aber ein Sturm weht vom
Paradiese her: Texte zu Walter Benjamin, eds M. Opitz and E. Wizisla (Leipzig: Reclam-
Verlag, 1992): 162-81; V. R. Schwartz, “Review Essay: Walter Benjamin for Historians.”
The American Historical Review 106 (2001): 1721-43. I thank David Bialock and Pete Soppelsa
for the latter references.
56) West, “Empresses and Funerals”: 14.
57) Cf. West, “Empresses and Funerals.”
58) Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing meng Hua lu: preface, as translated in West, “Th e Interpretation
of a Dream”: 67.
59) Cf. West, “Th e Emperor Sets the Pace”: 45-50; West, “Empresses and Funerals”: 17;
West, “Spectacle, Ritual”: 320.
60) On this painting, see L. Cooke Johnson, “Th e Place of Qingming shanghe tu in the Historical
Geography of Song Dynasty Dongjing.” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 26 (1996):
145-82; J. K. Murray, “Water Under a Bridge: Further Th oughts on the Qingming Scroll.”
Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 27 (1997): 99-107; Hsingyuan Tsao, “Unraveling the Mystery
of the Handscroll ‘Qingming shanghe tu.’ ” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 33 (2003): 155-79.
It would seem that the double meaning of the title of the painting is deliberate, qingming
?? meaning at the same time “the third month” and “the ordered realm.” Th e chosen
season of the painting thereby renders it a manner of omen painting, such as were produced
in considerable number at Huizong’s court. See M. Bickford, “Huizong’s Paintings: Art
and the Art of Emperorship.” In Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China: The Politics
of Culture and the Culture of Politics, eds P. M. Ebrey and M. Bickford (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Asia Center, 2006): 453-513. Cf. Murray, “Water Under a Bridge”: 104.
Th e fl ow of undulating lines in “Upstream during the Th ird Month” contrasts with the
168 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
Zhang Zeduan ignores the ritual grammar of the Eastern Capital, entering
the city at a southwestern gate (rather than at the central Southern Dipteryx
Gate) and moving laterally along peaceful but disorderly commercial
roads.61 Th e maze of streets and avenues of the expansive capital could
accommodate such divergent views of imperial power, expressed in transient
speech or in occasional prose. But the acquisition of a material share
of imperial splendor—the use of complex bracket sets, the possession of
golden vessels, the mimicry of embroidered dragons—constituted incontrovertible,
tangible evidence of the owner’s challenge to the imperial vision
of inherent hierarchies of persons and goods.
Th e Circulation of Goods: Commodities, Insignia, Portents
Just as the straight lines of imperial architecture signifi ed indiscriminately
cosmic order, natural aesthetics, legitimate power, and moral uprightness,
sumptuary laws prohibited the possession of goods that the court deemed
at the same time wasteful, inappropriate, disorderly, and ominous.62 When
the Emperor awarded an intricate silk weave or a jade girdle to an offi cial
of exceptional merit, he marked the rarity of the offi cial’s talent (itself conceived
as a tribute of a superior grain of human timber, cai ?, from the
man’s native region) by the rarity of the gift. Th e arrogation of the ranked
materials of imperial monopoly obtruded into the hierarchy of ranked
individuals, and thereby challenged the legitimacy of the imperial order.
One might roam the city oblivious of its cosmological confi guration, or
one might regard an imperial procession as a theatrical performance, but
to rival the court in ostentatious display reduced the material manifestation
of power to a mere matter of sumptuary competition, and rejected the
inherent, centered hierarchy of imperial government. And because the
court viewed the hierarchical distribution of ranks and goods as the expression
of a cosmic order, sudden changes in fashion could be cause for the
straight, orderly perspective of Zhang Zeduan’s “Capturing the Flag at the Reservoir of
Metal’s Luster” (“Jinming chi zhengbiao tu” ??????). On the latter painting, see
West, “Spectacle, Ritual”: 306-9.
61) On the route depicted in “Upstream during the Th ird Month,” see Johnson, “Th e Place
of Qingming shanghe tu.” I thank Professor Johnson for providing additional details on this
article in personal communication, August 2008.
62) Cf. J. Schneider’s well-known argument about the irreducibility of black clothes to a
symbol. See J. Schneider, “Peacocks and Penguins: Th e Political Economy of European
Cloth and Clothes.” American Ethnologist 5 (1978): 413-47.
Purchase on Power 169
gravest concern. Th e possession of gold-fl ecked clothing or embroidered
silks was potentially a form of treason, punishable by decapitation.
Along the roads and canals of the fu, a stream of tax grain, raw materials,
manufactured goods, and auspicious portents enters the gates of the Eastern
Capital, as though in a natural fl ow:
Heaven created two canals:
One named Cai, the other named Bian.
Th ey connect with the rivers and meet up with the sea;
Th ey encircle the capital and gird round the domain.
A thousand warehouses have here arisen;
A myriad grain-stacks are here set up.
A Du Yu is in charge of accounts;
A Liu Yan is in command of transport.63
What is the tribute, what are the submissions?
Non-glutinous rice from the southeast, paddy rice from the south.
Every month a million bushels arrive,
And yet they are chided that it is too little.
Th e grand warehouses of the Han
Stored millet until it rotted.
But if one were to count it by the grain;
It would fall short of the number of our reserves.
Th e grain-stacks of King Cheng
Were supplied by myriads of carts.64
And yet they were no match for our thousand shuttling ships,
Sailing the Yangzi and Huai without end.
We have stores to last nine years,
To supply the needs of the six armies.65
Yang Kan ?? (fl . 1015) here presents the unprecedented amount of grain
and the unmatched effi ciency of transport as evidence of the legitimacy of
the house of Song. In the lines that follow, he boasts of the abundance of
horses, agricultural produce, silk, fruit, farm animals, roots, gourds, and
63) Du Yu ?? (222-84) was nicknamed “War Chest Du” by his contemporaries. Liu Yan
?? (715-80) improved canals and transport during the Tang.
64) Allusion to the ode “Extensive Fields” (“Futian” ??) in the Book of Songs. See Maoshi
zhengyi ???? (Shisanjing zhushu edition): 14A.12a.
65) Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 2.20.
170 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
game in the region of the capital itself, until in the fi nal verses the portents
arrive that confi rm the undoubted mandate of this unrivaled court:
Upon the imperial performance of the eastern sacrifi ce [on Mount Tai],
Comes now an unusual manifestation of auspicious omens.
Suddenly there is the cry of cranes,
Descending from the lofty blue.
Th eir vermillion tufts not yet discernible through the fog,
Th eir jade feathers already visible by the guard.66
Obsequious though this composition may be in its hyperbolic imagination,
it presents in the comprehensive scope of its vivid imagery an economy
of goods that is assumed in a wide variety of Song-dynasty texts. Fang
Shao ?? (1066-after 1141), for example, remarks in his Collection of
Bozhai Village (Bozhai bian ???, twelfth century), “During the more
than a hundred and twenty years of our Empire, unusual implements and
strange objects, precious plants and marvelous stones, renowned calligraphy
and famous paintings have all returned [gui ?] to the Emperor. In
all quarters people climb the mountains and sail the oceans, apparently
without an idle day. Important off erings are rewarded with a title and
emoluments, lesser ones merit proportionate rewards.”67 Sima Guang protested
in 1063 that a strange animal conveyed forcibly to the capital by
boat and cart did not qualify as an omen.68 A 1082 memorial by Lin Xi ?
? (1057 jinshi) lists all portents submitted to the capital that year, in matter
or in writing, as evidence of the Emperor’s virtue and wisdom.69 In an
anecdote reported by Luo Dajing ??? (1226 jinshi), a number of high
court offi cials boast to the Emperor of the exquisite produce and seafood
found in their native regions until one of them says, “My region hasn’t
66) Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 2.25. Cf. Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 7.92-9.
67) Fang Shao ??, Bozhai bian ??? (twelfth century; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983):
68) Sima Guang, Wenguo Wenzhenggong wenji: 1.1a-3a.
69) See Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 69.1009-10. Cf. Fan Zhen, Dongzhai jishi: 1.8; Cai Tao
??, Tieweishan congtan ????? (ca. 1130; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983): 1.12.
Submitted portents were stored in warehouses within the imperial city. See, for example,
Fan Zhen, Dongzhai jishi: 1.5; Song Minqiu, Chunming tuichao lu: 1.11; Wang Yong ??,
Yanyi yimou lu ????? (1227; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981): 3.22; Wei Tai ??,
Dongxuan bilu ???? (1094; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1983): 1.8.
Purchase on Power 171
produced much; it has merely produced one Ouyang Xiu.”70 In this economy
of goods, portents, tribute, taxes, commodities, and talented men alike
return to the wellspring of imperial benefi cence from which they issue.
Th eir common origin in the cosmic harmony centered on the imperial
court renders the categories of these off erings permeable: the abundant
commodities traded in the Eastern Capital are portents of virtuous government,
talented men sent up to the metropolitan examinations are a form
of regional tribute.71
Like the cosmos, the Empire comprised a hierarchy of fi xed points and
moving objects, of stable bodies and changing states. Th e Emperor bore
the responsibility of managing the circulation of goods and assigning
people to their proper professions and ranks, creating a cultural order that
merged with the movement of the heavens and that ensured a prosperous
harmony. Commercial competition and the application of unseasonable
force could only harm this natural order. “If one wishes that nothing
obstruct the path of prosperity,” advised Jia Yi ?? (fl . 1086-early twelfth
century) in 1091, “one cannot do better than to encourage the fundamental
occupations and to spurn the secondary professions, to elevate
frugality and to reject extravagance, so that the people of the four quarters
will all keep to their occupation and will not be tempted by the sight of
unusual objects.”72 If people of all classes and professions compete for
land and rare possessions, social relations become disorderly and fl uid,
and a stream of refugees will fl ow to the capital, argued Cheng Hao ??
(1032-85) in 1069:
In antiquity, the four classes each had their fi xed profession, eight or nine out of ten
being farmers. Food and clothing were therefore easily provided, and the people had
no cause for hardship or misery. At present, the population of refugees in the capital
has repeatedly exceeded a million. Th e number of vagrants is incalculable. When one
sees their destitution and misery, their forlorn poverty and illnesses, the falsity and
deception they practice to stay alive and that yet often will not sustain them, their daily
increase and their yearly augmentation, one wonders how long this can continue.73
70) See Luo Dajing ???, Helin yulu ???? (1248-52; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju,
71) Hence the appellations gongyuan ?? (“tribute hall”) and gongshi ?? (“tribute gentlemen”)
for examination halls and examination candidates.
72) Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 150.1713.
73) Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 149.1701.
172 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
Men and women of exceptional merit could be lifted from the commoner
classes and be assimilated into the aristocracy of imperial kinsmen and
enfeoff ed nobles, invested with jade belts and gold jewelry.74 Indeed,
Heaven might punish an imperial failure to acknowledge moral worth.
But the mobility of people and wealth was otherwise excessive in every
sense: unnatural, wasteful, disorderly, and threatening.75
Th e Emperor promulgated sumptuary laws to ensure that rarifi ed goods
circulated only within restricted orbits of society, thereby to discourage
distracting, destructive competition among his subjects and to prevent
simultaneously profl igacy, insubordination, witchcraft, and treason. A
composite edict of 1036, for example, enjoins to frugality, modesty, and
the separation of classes: “the noble do not challenge those below them,
and the abject do not imitate those above them: such is the fi xed allotment
of the offi cials and the people.” It warns that the current extravagance
in residential architecture, clothing, jewelry, and vessels, of which
the court has learnt, will exhaust precious resources. Gatehouses will
henceforth be allowed only in the walls of ranked offi cials, colored and
lacquered beams only in palaces and monasteries, the use of pearls only in
the dress of titled women, the possession of gold vessels only to those who
have received them as gifts from the court, and so forth. Th e edict promises
that it will reward information about violations, and threatens owners
and manufacturers of off ending items with tattooing and exile.76 An edict
promulgated during the tenth month of 1049 prohibits headdresses and
hairstyles of the contemporary mode that mimic the fashion of palace
women, and that are possibly ominous:
74) See, for example, the overview of sumptuary regulations in Ma Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao:
juan 119. See also Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 3.34, 7.104-5.
75) See, for example, Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: fuyu 4.62.
76) See Li You, Songchao shishi: 13.10b-12a; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.6b-7a. For
other sumptuary laws, see anonymous, Song da zhaoling ji: 199.734-5; Li You, Songchao
shishi: 3.2b-3a, 13.8a-10b; Ma Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao: 119.1075c-1078a; Toghto,
Songshi: 153.12b-16b; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.5a-7b, shihuo 41.45a-46b; Zhao
Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 98.1058-60. See also Li Xinchuan ???, Jiuwen zhengwu
???? (thirteenth century; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981): 2.34, 4.57; Luo Dajing,
Helin yulu: II.2.261; Shen Gua, Mengqi bitan: 3.7a; Wang Yingchen ???, Shilin yanyu
bian ????? (twelfth century; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1984): 186, 190-2, 206;
Wang Yong, Yanyi yimou lu: 1.7-8; Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 6.82, 8.124; Zhang Lei,
Zhang Lei ji: 45.717-8; Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi: 7.306.
Purchase on Power 173
On the nineteenth day of the tenth month of the fi rst year of the Huangyou reign
period [November 16, 1049] it was decreed: “Hats worn by women cannot exceed
four inches in height or one foot in width. Th e comb cannot exceed four inches in
length, and may not be made of horn. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent
of the law. Th e authorities will consider accusations by informers.” Precedent to
this, a taste had developed in the palace for hat combs of white horn. Th e people
vied in imitating them, to the point of calling them “inner fashion” [neiyang ??,
after “the Great Within”]. Th e hats were called “shoulder-hangers” [chuijian ??] or
“shoulder-matchers” [dengjian ??]. Some were as wide as three feet. Some of the
combs were also more than a foot long. Th e offi cial who reported on this deemed it a
form of clothing magic. Th erefore it was prohibited.77
As is common with “clothing magic” ( fuyao ??), the ominousness of the
off ending apparel lies not only in its outward appearance—in this case, the
close imitation of palace fashion, and the disquieting, excessive uselessness
of the hats and the combs—but also in the name that attaches to it.
Although the people of the Eastern Capital intended by the names of the
fashion to indicate that the hats were as wide as the wearer’s shoulders, they
could be interpreted as assertions of equality in stature with the court, as
though the wearers stood shoulder to shoulder with their betters or, more
likely, dengjian ?? (matching the shoulder) might be understood as a
homonym of dengjian ?? (awaiting evil, expecting betrayal), making the
conspicuous headgear a sign of impending treason.78 Clothing and speech,
as forms of wen ? (pattern, textile, text, culture) were especially sensitive
membranes, prone to render legible, in spite of their ostensible producers,
the tendencies of the universe whose texture they shared. But all manufactured
goods could assume ominous meaning in this inherent, hierarchical
universe, as they formed constellations of prestige, wealth, aesthetics, and
power in the streets and residences of the Eastern Capital.
77) Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.7a. According to Li Tao’s Long Digest for a Continuation
of the Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government, “many women were prosecuted.”
See Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 167.4019, cited in Zheng Shoupeng, Songdai
Kaifengfu yanjiu: 391-2. Cf. also Toghto, Songshi: 153.15ab; Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi:
78) On the shoulder as a measure of stature in ritual see, for example, Liji zhushu ????
(Shisanjing zhushu edition): 1.21a. For other examples of clothing magic, see Lu You ??,
Laoxue’an biji ????? (1190s; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979): 1.4-5, 2.27, 3.40; Ma
Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao: 310.2431c, 310.2435c; Wang Yong, Yanyi yimou lu: 1.8; Wu
Zeng ??, Nenggai zhai manlu ????? (1157; Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe,
1960): 13.334; Yue Ke, Tingshi: 5.54. Cf. also the prohibitions of nomadic dress in 1048
and in 1119. See Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.7a, 4.7b.
174 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
Th e sumptuary laws of the Song imperial court were centered on the
capital. Th e sumptuary regulations of 1036, for example, specify that their
stipulations be entrusted to the Prefect of Kaifeng for enforcement.79 Time
and again, the sumptuary infractions reported by watchful offi cials are perpetrated
by the wealthy, competitive population of the capital: a commoner
of Kaifeng is convicted of wearing clothing embroidered with gold
and silver thread in 1008; powerful persons in the capital wear gold-fl ecked
clothing and jewelry in 1049; “the gentlemen and the puissant families of
the capital” in 1095 travel in excessively decorated sedan chairs with four
footmen; residents of the capital indulge in a predilection for nomadic
dress in 1048 and 1119, and in a fashion of warrior robes combined with
nomadic belts in 1110.80 “Th e empire comforts and nourishes the masses,
and labors to improve customs,” observes Ding Wei ?? (966-1037) in
1008, “yet in the shadow of the palace, the shops and stalls that face each
other across the street compete in manufacturing objects of gold and gilt,
in hopes of gaining an ample profi t.”81 In a 1062 memorial, Sima Guang
attributes the profl igacy of the capital to the central presence of the palace,
whose splendor sets an unintended standard for consumption.82
Th e reiteration of sumptuary prohibitions and the occasional relinquishment
of prohibited goods to the sphere of commodities—dark silk in 981,
purple cloth in 995, for example—indicate the limited effi cacy of these
laws, which were further compromised by infractions within the imperial
palace itself.83 Although many materials and articles were never ceded to
79) See Li You, Songchao shishi: 13.12a; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.7a. Cf. Toghto,
Songshi: 153.14ab, 153.15b, 153.16a. Cf. also Heng, Cities of Aristocrats and Bureaucrats:
166-70; Zheng Shoupeng, Songdai Kaifengfu yanjiu: 386-93.
80) See Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 98.1056, 98.1058-9; Xu Song, Song huiyao
jigao: yufu 4.7b, 4.7a, 4.7b; Wu Zeng, Nenggai zhai manlu: 13.334. See also Li You,
Songchao shishi: 13.10a.
81) Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 98.1056. Th e original reads “below the imperial
carriage” rather than “in the shadow of the palace.” For sumptuary competition in Kaifeng,
see also Meng Yuanlao, Dongjing meng Hua lu: 8.207, 8.215; Ouyang Xiu, Ouyang Xiu
quanji: 9.141; Zhao Yanwei ???, Yunlu manchao ???? (1206; Beijing: Zhonghua
shuju, 1996): 5.81. Cf. Quan Hansheng, Zhongguo jingjishi luncong: 98-100. On the general
mechanics of competitive consumption, see Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.6b;
Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 11.97, 149.1699-701, 150.1721.
82) See Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 24.239. Cf. Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 53.800;
Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 150.1721.
83) For reversals of sumptuary prohibitions, see Ma Duanlin, Wenxian tongkao: 119.1076ab;
Wang Yong, Yanyi yimou lu: 1.8; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.5ab; Ye Mengde,
Purchase on Power 175
general commodifi cation, the frequent renewal of the prohibitions against
gold and gilt, pearls, ornamented carriages, and embroidered silks suggests
that the fashionable classes of the capital felt the pressure to compete in the
purchase of rare goods more keenly than the fear of prosecution.84 Th is
insistent display of material wealth in the streets of Kaifeng, where towering
gatehouses marked the houses of the rich and lacquered conveyances
indicated the progress of the powerful, suggests an alternative understanding
of power: a notion of power, not as inherent and grounded in cosmology
and ritual, but as fl uid and substantiated by wealth and infl uence—the
very kind of power that connected high offi cials and puissant families to
imperial kinsmen, and that may have protected them from prosecution for
sumptuary violations. Th e leisured classes of Kaifeng shared, therefore, the
court’s association of rare items with a social hierarchy of power, but they
appear to have denied the natural inherence of this social hierarchy as well
as the court’s authority to determine its confi guration.85 Th e prosecution
in 1049 of women who wore wide hats and horn combs, for example, “was
greatly ridiculed by knowledgeable persons, and the population of the
capital composed songs to mock it.”86 Th e imperial court itself, in fact, appears
to have been drawn into competitive ostentation for its own sake—perhaps
in an eff ort to encompass commodifi ed space as the court encompassed all
Shilin yanyu: 6.82. For profl igacy and sumptuary violations within the palace itself see, for
example, Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.7a; Zhao Ruyu, Songchao zhuchen zouyi: 11.94-
84) See Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.5a-7b. On the ineffi cacy of sumptuary restrictions,
see also Lü Zuqian, Song wenjian: 102.1419; Toghto, Songshi: 153.16a. Cf. Sung
Shee ??, “Cong keju yu yufu zhidu kan Songdai de shangren zhengce” ???????
?????????. Shixue huikan 5 (1973): 19-20.
85) Th is contradiction between the court and the wealthy was not absolute. Th e admission
of certain prohibited items to the commodity sphere, for example, indicates that the restriction
of some articles was a somewhat arbitrary matter of controlling extravagant expenditure,
without ponderous ritual or cosmological implications. Similarly, the ominousness of
certain forbidden goods was recognized outside the court. According to Wang Yong ??
(fl . 1227), for example, literati shunned a shade of “black purple” as possibly magical—
although they allowed their spouses to wear it—prior to its prohibition by edict. See Wang
Yong, Yanyi yimou lu: 5.44. Cf. Toghto, Songshi: 153.15b; Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu
4.7ab. On changing perceptions of restricted fashions, see also Wang Yong, Yanyi yimou lu:
1.7-8; Ye Mengde, Shilin yanyu: 6.82; Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi: 8.338.
86) See Li Tao, Xu Zizhi tongjian changbian: 167.4019. Cf. Zhou Hui, Qingbo zazhi: 8.338.
Th e ineffi cacy of the prohibition is evinced also by a renewed prohibition of the horn
combs in 1052 (with a one-month grace period), two and a half years after the promulgation
of the original proscription. See Xu Song, Song huiyao jigao: yufu 4.7a.
176 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
discourses, but perhaps also in response to the challenge posed to the court
by the elegant circles of the sophisticated capital.87 Commercial wealth,
however, did not replace ritual signifi cance as a measure of value. Th e commodities
traded in the markets and the possessions displayed by residents
could ever assume portentous power or threaten ritual hierarchies, just as
imperial cortèges and expanding restaurants, literati gardens and military
fortifi cations, government offi ces and rental property, competed for the
same crowded, commodifi ed, sacred space in the Eastern Capital.
Few traces of the Eastern Capital of the Song remain in Kaifeng today.
Although the Jurchen conquerors used the city as one of the fi ve capitals of
the Jin Empire (1114-1234), its population had greatly diminished and its
former splendor had faded.88 Th e city wall of the Ming (1368-1644) and
Qing (1636-1912) dynasties was built on the contours of the inner wall of
Song Kaifeng.89 Th e deliberate fl ooding of the Yellow River during the civil
wars of the late Ming buried the city deep under alluvial soil. Today,
the Planting Charity Pagoda (“Splendid Pagoda”) of 974 and the Kaibao
Monastery Pagoda (“Iron Pagoda”) of 1049 still stand, but most archaeological
remains of Song times lie eight to eleven meters underground,
where high groundwater impedes extensive excavation.90 Archaeologists
have ascertained the contours of the walls of the Eastern Capital, the location
of some of the gates and bridges, and the course of the Cai River, and
they have excavated a few stretches of wall, the Reservoir of Metal’s Luster,
87) On the imperial encompassment of all discourses, see C. de Pee, “Material Ambiguity
and the Hermetic Text: Cities, Tombs, and Middle-Period History.” Journal of Song-Yuan
Studies 34 (2004): 88-90; Zito, Of Body and Brush: 13-50.
88) On the population of Kaifeng during the Jin dynasty, see Ma, Commercial Development:
138; Wu Songdi, Zhongguo renkou shi: 213-4. For a description of the appearance of the
city under the Jin see, for example, Fan Chengda ???, Lanpei lu ??? (1170). In Fan
Chengda biji liuzhong ??????? (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2002): 11-2.
89) See Kaifengshi wenwu gongzuodui, Kaifeng kaogu faxian: 156-62; Li Lian, Bianjing yiji
90) On the pagodas, see Guojia wenwuju ?????, ed., Zhongguo wenwu ditu ji: Henan
fence ???????:???? (Beijing: Zhongguo ditu chubanshe, 1991): 54; Henan
shifan daxue dilixi ?????????, Gudu Kaifeng ???? (Beijing: Zhongguo
lüyou chubanshe, 1982): 20-4, 34-6. On the conditions of archaeology, see Kaifengshi
wenwu gongzuodui, Kaifeng kaogu faxian: 1.
Purchase on Power 177
a few palace foundations, and the Prefectural Bridge that lay south of the
main gate of the imperial city.91 Th e probes and limited excavations have
confi rmed that Sun Yatsen Avenue in modern Kaifeng runs where formerly
stretched the Avenue of Heaven.92
Th e fewness of the material traces of Song Kaifeng requires that the textual
geographies of the Eastern Capital be studied with respectful care.
Although it can be useful to determine by means of texts the precise location
of streets and buildings, such a geographic reconstruction of the Song
capital should not become the objectivist setting for a predetermined linear
narrative, founded on the dense alluvial soil of structuralism, about the victory
of capitalism or the doom of feudal decadence.93 Rather, the carriages
and the pedestrians, the carts and boats, the tax grain and the portents, the
imperial processions and the refugees, should be allowed to chart their distinct
courses through the landscapes of edicts, memorials, fu, offi cial histories,
and A Dream of Hua, to make visible the simultaneous, partial,
overlapping topographies of a living city.94 Edicts replicate in their rarifi ed
language the precious, privileged environs of the imperial palace. In memorials,
the crude violations of corruption and deceit intrude into the orderly
world of imperial virtue and ritual, represented by the stately formulas of
the opening lines and the summation. Fu, with their natural fl ow of profuse
91) See Kaifengshi wenwu gongzuodui, Kaifeng kaogu faxian: 1-8, 134-204. Cf. Johnson,
“Th e Place of Qingming shanghe tu”: 153-4.
92) See Kaifengshi wenwu gongzuodui, Kaifeng kaogu faxian: 142.
93) See, for example, Cheng Ziliang and Li Qingyin, Kaifeng chengshi shi: 57-9; Dai Junliang,
Zhongguo chengshi fazhan shi: 207-8; Heng, Cities of Aristocrats and Bureaucrats: xvi;
Sung Shee, “Cong keju yu yufu zhidu”; Wright, “Th e Cosmology of the Chinese City”: 60;
Wu Tao, Bei Song ducheng Dongjing: 14; Zhou Baozhu, Songdai Dongjing yanjiu: 20. For a
similar critique of reconfi gurations of the cityscape in time, see N. Zemon Davis, “Th e
Sacred and the Body Social in Sixteenth-Century Lyon.” Past and Present 90 (1981): 41.
94) Cf. J. Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (1793; 1791; New York: Th e Modern
Library, 1931): 256 (aetat. 54):
I have often amused myself with thinking how diff erent a place London is to diff erent
people. Th ey, whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one
particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician thinks of it merely
as the seat of government in its diff erent departments; a grazier, as a vast market for
cattle; a mercantile man, as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon
‘Change; a dramatick enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a
man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns, and the great emporium for ladies of
easy virtue. But the intellectual man is struck with it, as comprehending the whole of
human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible.
178 C. de Pee / JESHO 53 (2010) 149-184
goods and virtuous subjects, give perfect written expression to the imperial
vision of the Eastern Capital, even if their perfect grid of streets and avenues
be objectively false—just as the earliest extant maps of Kaifeng, with their
ideally centered imperial city, render a true historical ideal of the city rather
than an accurate topography.95 Th e crowded alleyways of A Dream of Hua
and the allegorical streets of “Upstream during the Th ird Month” give form
to the fading memories of a nostalgic flâneur and to the auspicious imagination
of a court painter—however realistic they may appear to the modern
eye. Within the extant corpus of texts from the Song period, the textual
geography of imperial ideology predominates. Almost all texts extant today
were composed by men who participated in the culture of the imperial
examinations and offi cialdom and who, however vehemently they criticized
the current practice of the court they served, assumed in their writings a
civilized, civilizing center that grounded all meaning. A Dream of Hua,
upheld by many historians as the truest representation of life in the Song
Empire, stands apart within this corpus, with its fl uid, horizontal cityscape
of oblivious consumption—and even the blissful vision of that text is
informed in important part by the associations between peace, prosperity,
and proper distinctions that are central to imperial ideology.96
Material culture, even material culture represented in texts, preserves
confi gurations of power that extant texts rarely express directly. Modern
scholarship has almost invariably presumed a widespread skepticism about
imperial ideology, but such skepticism has at most a negative presence in
the extant texts:
Xu Shichuan’s [i.e., Xu Fu ??, 1075-1141] oldest son, Bi ?, whose polite name was
Daijia ??, was impetuous, and an able writer. He once composed a letter of ten
95) See Chen Yuanjing ??? (attr.), (Xinbian qunshu leiyao) Shilin guangji ??????
???? (1325; 1699; Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1999): I.11.61b-62b. Cf. Johnson, “Th e
Place of Qingming shanghe tu”: 151-2; Steinhardt, Chinese Imperial City Planning: 141.
Stephen West proposes a useful distinction between what is “real” and what is “true.” See
S. H. West, “Deconstructing History: Huizong in the Afterglow, Or the Deaths of a
Troubling Emperor.” In Emperor Huizong and Late Northern Song China, eds P. M. Ebrey
and M. Bickford (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006): 606-8.
96) On the misreadings of A Dream of Hua by historians, cf. West, “Th e Interpretation of
a Dream.” On the uneasy place of commerce and consumption in classical writing, cf.
R. Egan, The Problem of Beauty: Aesthetic Thought and Pursuits in Northern Song Dynasty
China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006): 133-9, 162-236; West
“Th e Interpretation of a Dream”: 85.
Purchase on Power 179
thousand words that he intended to submit to the throne. It discussed the current state
of government in extreme terms, without observing taboos or avoiding sensitive subjects.
Shichuan happened to see it, and was greatly frightened. He snatched the letter
and burnt it. Bi died young.97
Th e mutual dependence and the mutual constitution of imperial space and
commercial space in the Eastern Capital off er a more specifi c, more concrete
vision of alternative confi gurations of power—even if the robes and
jewelry, the markets and shops, the walls and carriages of this vision exist
within textual geographies rather than in a material reality. Th e fl uidity
and mobility of commercial space caused great anxiety at the imperial
court, which protected the fi xity and hierarchy of its ranked order with
feudal honors and sumptuary laws. Commercial culture, in turn, depended
entirely on the apparatus of the imperial government, being the growth of
a consuming city funded by taxes and tribute, and many of its most avid
architectural and sartorial fashions originated within the palace. And yet
its alternative power structure of wealth and connections posed a worrisome
challenge to the ritual order of the court, tempting its members
to abandon the cosmological center for the uncentered fl uidity of conspicuous
consumption, and to send out for unmatched rarities rather than
rely on a natural fl ow of auspicious goods.
Th e establishment of the capital within the limiting confi nes of an existing
commercial city thus yielded unexpected consequences. Th e open
infrastructure of the Central Plain supplied the imperial government and
its servants with unprecedented effi ciency, but it also left the capital open
to attack on all sides. Th e massive armies gathered to protect the city, and
the diverse commercial culture that developed to provide for the everexpanding
population created their own, secondary challenges to the legitimacy
of the court. Th e ritual order of imperial avenues and the sumptuary
competition of commercial alleyways do not represent diff erent stages of
a linear historical development, but constitute a map of simultaneous,
confl icting confi gurations of power, intersecting in the overlapping,
incompatible textual geographies of the Eastern Capital.
97) Lu You, Laoxue’an biji: 2.20. A “letter of ten thousand words” is a conventional format
for a comprehensive, detailed discussion of the state of the government.
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