The Treasure-Seekers: The Poetry of
Social Function in a Beijing Recitation Club

By John A. Crespi

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 22, no. 2 (Fall 2010), pp. 1-38

Based on participant-observation over a span of eighteen months between 2005 and 2007, this essay aims to expand the study of Chinese contemporary poems beyond the familiar text-centered approaches by examining the social function of poetry in a Beijing recitation club. The study situates the club within the tradition of poetic gatherings in China, relates the history of the club itself, and analyzes the structure of club meetings as well as the aesthetics of club recitation. The essay centers on the close, performance-centered analysis of a specific recitation event that stands out for its reflexive engagement with the practice of “exchange” or jiaoliu–a multifaceted principle that animates club activities and represents the adaptation of socialist-era aesthetics to China’s post-socialist urban society.