Visual hermeneutics and the act of turning the leaf: A genealogy of liu yuans lingyan ge

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The printed book appeared in a variety of forms during the course of its his­ tory in China. These included, among others, the “whirlwind” binding (xuanfeng zhuang), sometimes called the “dragon scales” binding (longlin zhuang), to describe the overlapping sheets of paper within the book; the “fold” bind­ ing (zhezhuang), also known as the “folding sutra” binding (jingzhe zhuang) or “Sanskrit” binding (fanjia zhuang), given its common use in the presen­ tation of Buddhist texts; the “butterfly” binding (hudie zhuang), whose appellation derives from the effect of fluttering papers that accompanies the opening of the book; and the “thread” binding (xianzhuang), a technical designation that refers to the silken or cotton filaments used to stitch together folded sheets of paper into fascicles. (For diagrams of these fabrications, see Fig. 30.) As to how and when these various forms developed, historians of the book have presented contrary views. Still debated is the relation between the manuscript roll (juanzhou zhuang, or “scroll” binding) and the flat-leaf book; the extent to which experimental mingling of one physical format with another occurred; and the nature of the interaction among forms of the book, their contents, and their imagined readers. These questions notwithstanding, the material format of a text remains critical to an analysis of how that text was read. In addressing bibliographic issues that pertain to the materiality of the book, I follow, among others, Roger Chartier, who has observed, “The significance, or better yet, the historically and socially distinct significations of a text, whatever they may be, are inseparable from the material conditions and physical forms that make the text available to readers.”

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe History of the Book in East Asia
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9781351888356
ISBN (Print)9781409437819
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences

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