The Fascination of Handscrolls – Manuscript and Block Print Products of Ming Dynasty Literati Gatherings (CHEN Zhenghong)
Handscrolls are a specific sort of manuscript. In Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) literati gatherings they were often a joint production of several people. Written impromptu these were poetic texts which served social interaction. The concrete direction and specific meaning of the poems in handscrolls comes from their relation to the other texts included in the scroll, and because of this they hold a unique fascination. But as soon as a poem had been removed from its scroll and printed in Ming and Qing Dynasty anthologies or collections, it became, in a way, an independent work which a reader would only appreciate on the level of a specific literary form. The greater the influence that these works gained from being printed, the greater their distance from the original environment of an actual manuscript setting became. Therefore when we study texts found in the collected works division from the four bibliographic divisions that early modern Chinese literature is traditionally organized in, and although our main sources are block prints regarded as the definitive edition of a text, we should retain an awareness of their “manuscript origin”.