Qiuchi as Heterotopia The Other Space for Su Shi

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Lili Xia

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Abstract




“Qiuchi” 仇池 (“Qiu Pool”) recurs as an enigmatic proper name in Su Shi’s 蘇 軾 (1037–1101) later poetry. While scholars have treated Qiuchi primarily as the poet’s name for strange rocks, I argue that it is in the first place a metaphorical topos for him—it is a heterotopia, a counter-site to reality for this nonconformist. As a poetic image, Su Shi’s Qiuchi is a composite motif that allows for diverse interpretations. It is a hallucinatory dreamscape at the outset; the vision then turns out to be Mount Qiuchi, a historical spot and Daoist “grotto heaven” near Su’s hometown in Sichuan so that Qiuchi becomes a macro-micro-equation of landscape; finally, the poet analogizes his Qiuchi to Tao Qian’s 陶潛 (372?–427) Peach Blossom Spring while denying its transcendency by bringing it down to earth. Qiuchi also inhabits various roles in Su Shi’s different life stages. It appears in matching poems among scholar-officials as the antithesis of bureaucratic service and an expression of longing for seclusion when the poet was in office. During his banishment, the inaccessible Qiuchi is the prototypical home topos and projected on other sites of exile as mirror images, which I call “heterotopia and its paratopia.” In this way, the Qiuchi trope contributes to Su Shi’s self-identity and public image, crystallized in the poet’s posthumous appellation.




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