The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban Literary Studies

Living Edition
| Editors: Jeremy Tambling

Walking the City: A Chinese Perspective

  • Ian Fong
Living reference work entry


This entry suggests that walking the city can serve as a methodology for urban literary studies and that this methodology can only provide an amateur reading of the city in such a way that the city can always be defamiliarized. It begins with the introduction of the word “walking” in Chinese, san bu. (散步). The word carries the meaning of distraction and is akin to Guy Debord’s sense of dérive. The French translation of Freud’s psychoanalytic concept of Trieb as dérive likens it to a walking activity driven by the unconscious drive. The alleyway’s spatial arrangement slows walking, providing a niche for the drive and associating walking with reading. Walking is henceforth read as a textual practice. Its literary significance is considered from a Chinese perspective with a reading of a short story called “Chun Fen, Mu Mian Shu” (春分・木棉樹 [“Spring, Cotton Tree”]) (2000) written by a Hong Kong writer Chan Wai (陳慧). Modern and contemporary Chinese, Japanese, and Western writers, together with critical theorists, are also referred to.


San bu Dérive Distraction Drive Alleyway Slow walking Rhythm Amateur 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chinese University of Hong KongHong KongChina