Jonathan D. Felt's Structures of the Earth is the first study of the emergent genre of geographical writing in China. It provides a comprehensive and thorough account of geographical writing in early medieval China as a means of understanding and interpreting Chinese history. The work brings to prominence the importance of geographical knowledge to challenge concepts of Chinese exceptionalism, namely, the fixed imperial framework of unity and centrality. Felt problematizes this conception, which is often accepted uncritically in Western scholarship, revealing a simplistic understanding of China and the Chinese world order. The book shows how geographical writing helped articulate the unusual circumstances of this complex period of disunion and, likewise, how the chaotic nature of the period inspired the burgeoning of local writing that would help make sense of the world.

Felt argues that the major historical shifts during the early medieval period contributed to a reconceptualization of the fixed...

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