Landscapes and Environmental Change: Famous Views of Linfen

Landscapes and Environmental Change: Famous Views of Linfen

Andrea Janku (SOAS University of London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1807-6.ch007


This chapter is the second part of an exploration into the history and meaning of landscapes, based on a case study of the “must-see” scenic spots or Eight Views (bajing 八景) of Linfen County in the south of China's Shanxi province. While the first part focused on the value of these iconic landscapes as sources of identity, this chapter will show how their aesthetic appreciation is intrinsically linked to their productive power. The author argues that it was largely the idea of productivity that made these landscapes amenable for aesthetic consumption and viable as sources of identity and meaning. It was the inherent instability of these productive aspects that made their aesthetic appreciation even more significant, as it ultimately depended on the precarious balance between the two.
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Literati Outings And The Aesthetic Of Productive Landscapes

Judging by the density of the available documentation, Linfen’s most popular destination for spring outings was the Dragon Son Temple marking the site of the Dragon Son Springs at the foot of Mount Ping, a foothill of the Guye Mountains – a celebrated water resource, feeder of a large irrigation system, and efficient site for rain prayers. The earliest extant description of the place is by Mao Hui 毛麾 (jinshi 1176). He describes how in Song times (960-1279) the spring waters irrigated several hundred qing [1 qing roughly equals 6.67 ha] of land, powered more than one hundred mills, and formed Lake Ping further down east (Xing, ed., 1696, j.9:11b-12b). Playful outings to the temple area as well as to Lake Ping were commemorated in countless poems. In one poem visitors from the capital are mentioned who in their praise of the site went as far as comparing it favorably to Hangzhou’s famous West Lake (Xing, ed., 1696, j.9:68a). But the Dragon Son Springs area was by far not only a place for the occasional elite visitor. Much more important was its extraordinary fertility that was such that it was described as a place where “the farmers enjoyed the gods” (Xing, ed., 1696, j.9:69a). Thanks to the springs that were hot springs (maintaining an average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius even in winter), cucumbers, bamboo shoots and a couple of other crops ripened earlier than elsewhere, and garlic shoots (韮芽) were a special produce of the area (Liu, ed., 1933, j.2:43a).

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