“Kubla Khan” and Islamic Structures: Retracing Symbolism and Investigating Imagination

Subhradeep Chatterjee

Abstract


Samuel Taylor Coleridge’spoem “Kubla Khan” draws upon the historical Xanadu, the summer palace of Mongol ruler Kubla Khan, and presents an architectural space that uses a commixture of imagination and mimesis to present a space of historical and supernatural transactions and transcends geographical limits.

The architectural characteristics of Kubla Khan’s pleasure-dome in Xanadu are replete with similarities with various elements of Islamic architecture. The walled-in structure bears a great deal of resemblance to the layout of Islamic paradise gardens which are often found in the chaharbagh structure in mosques and Islamic sites.

Further, the poem proposes a setting which has marked similarities with Kashmir and its geographical spaces and the same has been posited by several scholars.

In this paper, I have aimed to present a coherent sequence of arguments in an attempt to relate the similarity of Xanadu with real geographical spaces and its intersection with elements of Islamic architecture through an examination of its actual history along with various tales of Xanadu found in the accounts of Marco Polo and other travellers. The paper also compares Xanadu with the structural compositions of the Taj Mahal in India and later, the Mecca, and also engages in discussing its allegorical significance in relation with the Islamic paradise or Jannah.

The paper also discusses the possible sources for Coleridge’s poem and how they might have influenced him and his dreams and investigates the poem’s role in revisiting the fabled summer city of the Mongol ruler and its pleasure-dome configuration that resembled his paradise.


Keywords


Kubla Khan; Samuel Taylor Coleridge; Islamic architecture; paradise garden; Taj Mahal; Mecca; Xanadu; Kashmir

Full Text:

PDF

References


Beer, John. Coleridge the Visionary. Humanities Ebooks, 2007. PDF.

Cannon, Garland H. “A New, Probable Source for ‘Kubla Khan.” College English 17, no. 3 (1955): 136. doi:10.2307/495734.

Chayes, Irene H. ""Kubla Khan" and the Creative Process." Studies in Romanticism 6, no. 1 (Autumn 1966): 1-21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25599673 .

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Kubla Khan. Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment." In The Complete Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. London: Penguin, 1997.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. 1996. “Imagination.” In Biographia Literaria, edited by Anne K Mellor and Richard E Matlak, 749–50. London: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Dawood, N. J. The Koran. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Farahani, Leila Mahmoudi, Bahareh Motamed, and Elmira Jamei. “Persian Gardens: Meanings, Symbolism, and Design.” Landscape Online, 2016, 1-19. doi:10.3097/lo.201646.

Koch, Ebba. “The Taj Mahal: Architecture, Symbolism, And Urban Significance.” Muqarnas Online 22, no. 1 (2005): 128-49. doi:10.1163/22118993-90000087.

Lowes, John Livingstone. The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination. Princeton University Press, 1957.

Majid, Haji Abdul. “A Malay’s Pilgrimage to Mecca.” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 4, no. 2 (1926): 269-87. JSTOR.

Petruccioli, Attilio. “Rethinking the Islamic Garden.” In Transformation of Middle Eastern Natural Environment: Legacies and Lessons, edited by Jane Coppock and Joseph A. Miller, 349-63. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.

Polo, Marco. “Of the City of Chandu, and the Kaan’s Palace There.” In The Travels of Marco Polo, translated by Henry Yule. Wikisource.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

Villiers-Stuart, C. M. Gardens of the Great Mughals. Adam and Charles Black, 1913.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/nh.2019.4.67-73
Data publikacji: 2019-09-13 22:32:42
Data złożenia artykułu: 2019-01-14 19:20:10

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2019 Subhradeep Chatterjee

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.