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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the origins and nature of the shared literary heritage in the East Asian “Sinographic Sphere,” namely China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, focusing on developments before the early modern period, in keeping with the temporal and thematic scope of this handbook. It explores modes of cross-cultural communication and textual culture conditioned by the Chinese script, including gloss-reading techniques, “brush talk,” and biliteracy; surveys shared political and social institutions and literary practices, sustained by the flourishing book trade; and touches on the rise of vernacular literatures, the dynamic between Literary Chinese and local vernaculars, and the role of women. With the recent death of Literary Chinese as the lingua franca of East Asia we are facing a new phase in world history. The Chinese-style literatures of East Asia point to cultural commonalities and tell stories of creative engagement with Chinese literary history that offer insights about Chinese literature.

Keywords: Sinographic Sphere, East Asian literatures, vernacular, biliteracy, East Asian women writers, logographic scripts, gloss-reading, Japanese literature, Korean literature, Vietnamese literature

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