Gong Zizhen's (1792–1841) poetic sequence, Jihai zashi (Poems of 1839), is noted for its subtle, sophisticated allusions to the poet's wide-ranging intellectual interests, especially his erudite and innovative scholarship in the discipline of geographical studies. It also bears witness to his religious conversion to the esoteric doctrines of the Tiantai sect during the last decade of his life. This study argues that these two dimensions of his intellectual and spiritual life converge in many of the poems; moreover, they serve to complement the ideals of interethnic comity and cultural pluralism that Gong came to champion during his later years. This essay also demonstrates how these themes are also evident in Buddhist metaphors employed in poems addressed to Lingxiao, a Suzhou prostitute whom Gong took as a concubine. By tracing the interplay between the erotic, philosophical, and intellectual dimensions of the poems, this study aims to contribute to furthering the understanding of the structural and thematic coherence of the sequence as a whole.

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