Alongside the scores of travel books about China written by foreign visitors, Chinese travelers' impressions of their own country rarely appear in translation. This anthology is the only comprehensive collection in English of Chinese travel writing from the first century A.D. through the nineteenth. Early examples of the genre describe sites important for their geography, history, and role in cultural mythology, but by the T'ang dynasty in the mid-eighth century certain historiographical and poetic discourses converged to form the "travel account" (yu-chi) and later the "travel diary" (jih-chi) as vehicles of personal expression and autobiography. These first-person narratives provide rich material for understanding the attitudes of Chinese literati toward place, nature, politics, and the self.
The anthology is abundantly illustrated with paintings, portraits, maps, and drawings. Each selection is meticulously translated, carefully annotated, and prefaced by a brief description of the writer's life and work. The entire collection is introduced by an in-depth survey of the rise of Chinese travel writing as a cultural phenomenon. Inscribed Landscapes provides a unique resource for travelers as well as for scholars of Chinese literature, art, and history.
Richard E. Strassberg is Professor of Chinese at the University of California, Los Angeles.