Sedentary Life, Nomadic Texts: A Study of the Chinese Intertexts in the Japanese Heian Women’s Writings

Dr Jindan Ni1

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

In his preface launching Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault writes passionately that: “Prefer what is positive and multiple: difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.” For Foucault, it is the nomadism, the mobility, the heterogeneity that enrich the productions in the humanistic domain. Allying myself with Foucault, this paper intends to bring the literary mobility in premodern East Asia under the spotlight by examining the literary interrelations between the Japanese Heian (794-1185) women’s writings and the Chinese texts. For a very long period, the Japanese national literature studies have encouraged generations of scholars and readers to read the Heian women’s writings as “purely Japanese,” which represent the essence of Japan. This study attempts to challenge this mode of “national literature,” focusing on the impact of Chinese texts to reveal the more heterogeneous features of Heian women’s writings. Drawing on the theories of contemporary transnational literary studies, this paper will show how the Chinese texts metaphorically mobilised Heian women’s sedentary life and how these women writers tactfully expanded their literary creation beyond the indigenous culture and eventually achieved the accomplishment both at home and its beyond.


Dr. Jindan Ni is a lecturer of Chinese Studies at RMIT university, Australia. She holds a PhD from La Trobe University. Her research interest lies in the dialogic relationships between Chinese and Japanese literature, as well as comparative literature. She has published academic papers in Japanese literature and history. She is also an active translator who has translated books from Japanese and English to Chinese.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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