Originating in the experience of geographical dispersion and survival, the concept of diaspora (lisan 離散) can be extended to diaspora consciousness (lisan yishi 離散意識) and its correlate, return consciousness (huigui yishi 回歸意識). The famous group of Tang and Song intellectuals who were forced to leave hometown political/cultural centers and dream, perennially, of return constitutes the early Chinese embodiment of diaspora-return consciousness. For many “hometown” (guxiang 故鄉) came to mean not just their homeland but their ideal destination or spiritual home, as in Su Shi's 蘇軾 (1037–1101) “wherever my heart is at peace is my home.” The layered features of this diaspora-return (lisan-huigui 離散—回歸) consciousness led to a unique literary style and the development of tropes that would shape Chinese writing for a millennium. Political banishment yielded an unintended yet undeniable cultural value.

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