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Literary critic Yongyi Zhang offers a different perspective in interpreting Jiangnan culture

On October 24th, 2019, a lecture on Jiangnan culture (江南文化) given by Yongyi Zhang was held on the Suiyuan Campus. NNU’s School of Chinese Language and Literature organized the Suiyuan Art Forum, where a series of lectures were hosted. This time, literary critic and scholar Yongyi Zhang, specialized in Jiangnan culture, shared his original ideas with students and provided insights into Jiangnan culture.

During the lecture, scholar Yongyi Zhang mainly focused on four aspects: the location of Jiangnan, the relationship between Jiangnan and its waters, the three points forming Jiangnan culture and the scenery of the ancient riverside towns.

Photo provided by NNU student photographer Yue Yu

In the beginning of the lecture, scholar Yongyi Zhang pointed out that the location of Jiangnan was not the same for all: literally speaking, it refers to the area south of the Yangtze River, while geographically speaking, it embraces the area between the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the northern part of the Qiantang River.Then scholar Zhang revealed the relationship between Jiangnan and its waters by quoting stories, history and displaying a map of the geography of the area.

As to the three points that form Jiangnan culture, scholar Zhang gave an interpretation full of sparkle and originality. Yue Yu, a graduate student majoring in drama and film studies, expressed her understandings after Yongyi Zhang’s enlightenment: “Born in Nanjing, I have been deeply influenced by Jiangnan culture since I was young. And scholar Zhang encouraged us to dig deeper into the core of culture with our emotions and soul.”

Scholar Zhang also emphasized the importance of the ancient water towns, where many traditional delicacies and customs are still prevalent. And he added, “visiting the towns and tasting the local food can build a bridge for people to link their souls to the culture; moreover, the towns are a treasure to be explored, and one could not study Jiangnan culture without visiting those ancient water towns. ”

A map of Jiangnan of China, picture provided by wikipedia

When asked about his inspiration for studying Jiangnan culture, scholar Zhang replied that he was born in Northern Jiangsu Province (the north of the Yangtze River, not belonging to the area of Jiangnan), but he studied and lived in Nanjing, so Jiangnan can be called his second hometown. Fascinated with the culture in his new hometown, he spent most of his spare time researching Jiangnan culture, and wrote two academic monographs on this subject.

At the conclusion of the lecture, Hui Wang, a professor from the Drama and Film Studies Department, observed that, “scholar Yongyi Zhang has portrayed a panorama of Jiangnan for us. No matter where our students from, they will now have a better understanding of Jiangnan!”