China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - The Death of a Genre: From Envoy Journals to Diplomatic Reports, 1860s-1910s

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Maryland Suite A, Lobby Level

It is right to assume that all travel writing is susceptible to influences at home – literary consciousness, cultural trends, the individual author’s political concerns and personal conundrums, and (for official travelers) bureaucratic conventions and structure.  Little has been done to explore how this relationship between “writing” and “seeing” affected China’s understanding of the foreign. In the Qing dynasty, the diary-form for intelligence gathering was perfected by Tulisen, whose travelogue to Central Asia (published in 1723) allowed the Kangxi emperor’s “imperial eyes” to assume vicarious witness to that heroic journey.  Prior to China’s stationing of resident ministers abroad in 1876, envoy journals similar to Tulisen’s were commonly used for information gathering.  In the next three decades, the genre of envoy communication became a fertile field for trials and experimentations, as Qing diplomats adjusted their method of communication to the changing needs of the state and the prevalent media and information technology.  When the Qing dynasty established China’s first bureau of foreign affairs (waiwubu) in 1901, the modern-style “foreign office” required radically new genres for diplomatic communication, which prioritized systemization, standardization, and a complete elimination of subjective experience.  These diplomatic reports, akin to Western-style bluebooks, were separated from classified information and thus designed for domestic circulation.  Tracing the evolution in diplomatic communications from the mid-Qing to the early Republican world, this paper seeks to unpack how new views of the foreign were shaped by new genres, new media, and new bureaucratic structures.

Jenny Huangfu Day

Skidmore College, New York

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3 - The Death of a Genre: From Envoy Journals to Diplomatic Reports, 1860s-1910s



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