Ritualized Homeland or Dangerous Frontier? A Study of Nalan Xingde’s Poems Written in Manchuria

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Nalan Xingde or Nara Singde 納蘭性德 (1655-1685) is regarded as one of the greatest lyric (ci 詞) poets of the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644-1912). In 1682, Xingde embarked on two separate journeys to Manchuria, first accompanying the Kangxi Emperor to make sacrifices at the tombs of the dynasty’s founding fathers; then, on a secret cartographic mission to survey Russian strategic points and roads leading to the city of Nerchinsk.

The focus of this presentation is on the poems Xingde wrote during his two trips to Manchuria with a particular emphasis on the concept of the “frontier”. As a member of the first generation of Manchus raised in Beijing, Manchuria is on the one hand, the land of Xingde’s ancestors, a region anointed by the Kangxi Emperor as the “mnemonic site of Manchu identity”. On the other hand, it is a vast and distant land with borders that Xingde was tasked with mapping. This paper investigates the depiction of Manchuria in Xingde’s poetry. It looks at how the poet draws from the well-established tradition of “frontier poetry” 塞外詩 while infusing his unique identity as a Manchu as well as his poetic sensibility into these poems written in Manchuria, and how this in turn, enriches our understanding of the “frontier”.

About the Speaker

Annie Luman Ren is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian Centre on China in the World and a co-editor of The China Story. Having previously written her PhD thesis on the poetics of China’s most celebrated novel Hongloumeng 紅樓夢 (The Story of the Stone), Annie’s latest research project is on the life and writings of the Manchu poet Nalan Xingde. Annie is also a literary translator and she is currently working on a translation of Nalan Xingde’s ci poetry.

The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Date and Times


Online & Seminar Room
Australian Centre on China in the World