University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Chinese Summer Institute Public Lectures: Memories and Experiences of Migration in Early Medieval Chinese Literature

Date & Time:
June 20, 2018 | 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
EEEL 161
Evan Nicoll-Johnson / University of Alberta
Photo by Kristen Sturdivant on Unsplash

The collapse of the Western Jin dynasty in the early fourth century led to the destruction of the capital city of Luoyang. Those who did not perish fled east, crossed the Yangzi River, and resettled in and around what is now Nanjing. There, in the new capital city of Jiankang, a distant member of the Jin imperial clan was installed as the first emperor of the Eastern Jin dynasty, and the émigré population quickly became the new ruling class of the region. Although not intended as a formal history of this period of migration, the fifth-century collection Shishuo xinyu (A New Account of Tales of the World) contains many anecdotes that relate to this harrowing journey eastward. In its pages, historical figures reminisce about their former lives in Luoyang, suffer the hardships of the long and dangerous journey, and come to terms with the unfamiliarity of their new home. Throughout these anecdotes, the phrase “crossing the river” is used as shorthand for the entire experience of migration. “Crossing the river” is characterized as a traumatic, transformational process that marks the end of an era, upsets the political and social order, and irreversibly alters the personalities of those who made the journey. I will use this text to examine the relationship between literary convention and the expression of personal experience, exploring the ways travel and the loss of homeland were experienced, understood, and expressed by early medieval Chinese writers.

Evan Nicoll-Johnson (Ph. D. UCLA) studies early medieval Chinese literature and culture, with research interests that include the narrative literature of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and the history of books and bibliographic scholarship. Having completed his graduate work at UCLA, he is an instructor in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Alberta.

The Calgary Institute for the Humanities at the University of Calgary and the Kule Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Alberta are co-sponsoring a Humanities Summer Institute on Chinese Migration. Recent migration of Chinese individuals and families from the interior countryside to the coastal cities is the largest in world history. These social realignments have had profound implications in the realm of cultural representation, in such fields as literature, film, memoir, and media.

The institute is supported by generous funding from the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation (CCKF) and the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), with supplementary funding provided by the VP International at the University of Calgary. 

Two public lectures will be hosted at the University of Calgary on the mornings of June 20 and June 21:

Memories and Experiences of Migration in Early Medieval Chinese Literature
Evan Nicoll-Johnson / University of Alberta      
Wednesday, June 20 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
University of Calgary
EEEL Room 161

“Turning from Guests into Hosts”: Han Chinese migration and anti-Mongolian Pogroms in Inner Mongolia during the Qing and early Republican Periods
David Curtis Wright / University of Calgary
Thursday, June 21 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
University of Calgary
Hotel Alma, Senate Room

Five public lectures will be hosted at the University of Alberta between June 26 and July 3:

Handle with Care: Little Americans and the Supply Chain of Human Feeling (人情)
Julie Chu / University of Chicago
Tuesday, June 26 Time 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
University of Alberta
Telus Centre 134

Making Sense of Moving Home: Documentary Practices, Wartime Migration, and Chinese Residents of Burma
Tina Mai Chen / University of Manitoba             
Wednesday, June 27 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
University of Alberta
Telus Centre 134

Homeless in the Fatherland: Xiao Hong's Migrant Geographies
Clara Iwasaki / University of Alberta                  
Friday, June 29 Time 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.                           
University of Alberta
Telus Centre 134

Portable Values: Mainland Migration to Taiwan, Chinese Values, and the Reconstitution of Community (or not)
Christopher Lupke / University of Alberta
Monday, July 2 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. 
University of Alberta
Botanical Garden

Circulating Expertise: Migration, International Relations, and Development during the Cold War
Madeline Hsu / University of Texas
Tuesday, July 3 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. 
University of Alberta
Telus Centre 134

You can learn more about the Institute and this year's focus on Chinese Migratory Realities in the CIH News section.

Connect with us