Although it is difficult to identify a distinct moment in the Chinese past when printing technology caused a radical change in the production or the transfer of knowledge, it is evident that beginning in the eleventh century the availability of printed texts transformed practices of reading and writing. The notebook (biji 筆記) was a product and a record as well as an instrument of these new practices of learning. As a genre defined by marginality—the symbolic marginality of its bibliographic classification, the iconic marginality of its varied content, and the indexical marginality of the typical title—the notebook could accommodate materials that did not have a place in other, more established genres of writing. Situated at the margins of written discourse, at the shifting boundaries of acceptable subject matter, the notebook mediated between periphery and centre, speech and writing, empirical observation and book learning, vernacular wisdom and classical authority. Perceived from the literate centre, the notebook might appear as an instrument of empire, turning the periphery into writing and into a commodity, but perceived from the periphery, the notebook recalls the enduring complementarity of speech and writing, of empirical knowledge and book learning, and of manuscript and print.
de Pee, Christian
"Notebooks (Biji) and Shifting Boundaries of Knowledge in Eleventh Century China,"
The Medieval Globe: Vol. 3
, Article 7.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/tmg/vol3/iss1/7