Date: October 28-29, 2016

Location: Belfer Case Study Room (S020), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street 

Known as the “Sage of Poetry,” the “Poet Historian,” and “the one who brought everything together,” the Tang dynasty poet Du Fu (712-770) has been considered the height of Chinese poetry from the early ninth century on.  By the end of the Song dynasty, he had already accumulated more commentaries than those on the rest of Chinese literature put together.  With a stature in Chinese literature comparable to Shakespeare’s in English literature, Du Fu also had a profound influence on other East Asian countries and cultures—Japan, Korea, and Vietnam—over the centuries.  His work has continued to impact twentieth and twenty-first century Chinese literature and culture, as evidenced by modern Chinese and Sinophone poets who have invoked Du Fu and reinvented his legacy under various historical circumstances.

With the 2014 publication of a 12-volume annotated edition of Du Fu’s poetic collection initiated by the late scholar Xiao Difei and completed by a group of scholars, with the 2015 publication of the first complete English translation of Du Fu’s complete poetic works by Stephen Owen, and with a new generation of younger scholars working on Du Fu in North America, a symposium on Du Fu—the first outside East Asia—is a timely undertaking. It will afford us an occasion to reflect on the current directions and changes in Du Fu studies and to explore the larger implications of “Du Fu” and Du Fu’s reception in Chinese literary and cultural studies. 

Stephen Owen’s translation of Du Fu’s poetry is, at the same time, the first title in the Library of Chinese Humanities, a long-term project published by De Gruyter. Its goal is to make important texts in pre-modern Chinese humanities available with the original text and facing-page translations, published both in paper and open-access on the Web. The conference on Du Fu is thus also an occasion to celebrate the inauguration of this series, which eventually will change the face of the study of pre-modern Chinese humanities.

The symposium brings together over twenty scholars in premodern and modern Chinese literary studies from North America and East Asia.  The discussions will focus on four aspects: 

  • Rethinking Du Fu in the context of the medieval world and poetics
  • Dimensions of Du Fu’s works less explored in Du Fu studies, such as Buddhism, humor, self-exegesis, and everyday life
  • Reception of Du Fu from Song through Qing literature, literary criticism, and art
  • The reinvention of Du Fu in modern times

The conference will be conducted in English and Chinese. It is open to the public.

Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard-Yenching Institute, and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.

Organizer: Xiaofei Tian, Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University