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Sequence of power: ritual controversy over the Zhaomu sequence in imperial ancestral rites in Song China (960-1279)

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This dissertation explores the history of ancestral rituals and the related political controversy in the Song China (960-1279). Considering the pivotal role played by ancestral rites in shaping Chinese identity

This dissertation explores the history of ancestral rituals and the related political controversy in the Song China (960-1279). Considering the pivotal role played by ancestral rites in shaping Chinese identity and consciousness, this study contributes to a better understanding of how ancestral ritual has been politicized in Chinese history as a specific cultural apparatus to manipulate politics through theatrical performance and liturgical discussion. Through a contextual analysis of a variety of Song scholar-officials and their ritual writings, including memorials, private letters, and commentaries on the ritual Classics, this study demonstrates that Song ritual debates over the zhaomu 昭穆 sequence--that is, the positioning of ancestral temples and spirit tablets in ancestral temples with preparation for alternation or removal--differentiated scholar-officials into separate factions of revivalists, conventionalists and centrists. From a new perspective of ritual politics, this study reveals the discursiveness of the New Learning (xinxue新學) community and its profound influence on the Learning of the Way (Daoxue 道學) fellowship of the Southern Song (1127-1279). It examines the evolution of the New Learning fellowship as a dynamic process that involved internal tension and differentiation. Daoxue ritualism was a continuation of this process in partaking in the revivalist approach of ritual that was initiated by the New Learning circle. Nowadays, the proliferation of ritual and Classical studies crystallizes the revitalization of Confucianism and Confucian rituals in China. Taking zhaomu as a point of departure, this project provides a lens through which modern scholars can explore the persistent tension between knowledge and power by rethinking the modernization of ritual and ritual politics in contemporary China.

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  • 2015

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Changing political and intellectual landscapes during the mid-Ming: revival of private academies, emergence of jianghui, and the enshrinement case of 1584

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This thesis examines the relationship between political culture, Confucian intellectuals, and the rise of a new intellectual and cultural paradigm during the early to mid-Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). The

This thesis examines the relationship between political culture, Confucian intellectuals, and the rise of a new intellectual and cultural paradigm during the early to mid-Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). The main goal of this thesis is to supplement current scholarship on Chen Xianzhang’s 陳獻章 (1428 – 1500) life as an intellectual of Cantonese origin and his political activities at both local and national levels. Furthermore, the thesis supplements current research on the Yangming School and the School’s contribution to the revitalization of private academies during the Ming with a study on the relationship between the three Confucian intellectuals enshrined in 1584 and the revival of private academies from the perspective of political history. In analyzing the relationship between these various aspects of the Ming political and intellectual landscapes, the thesis uses the 1584 Confucian Temple enshrinement, which involved Wang Yangming 王陽明 (1472 – 1529) and his two older contemporary Confucian intellectuals, Chen Xianzhang and Hu Juren 胡居仁 (1434 – 1484), as an entry point to explore the dynamics behind the political and cultural changes at the time. It aims to investigate the issue of cultural power versus imperial power, the central-versus-peripheral narrative in Ming politics, the evolution of how cultural power was asserted by members of the Confucian tradition, and the manifestation of such evolution in response to contemporary political discussions. The author begins with an analysis of the revival of private academies (shuyuan 書院) during the mid-Ming, and the influence of Chen Xianzhang and Hu Juren in this revival. He then dissects the relationship between the revival of private academies and the emergence of jianghui 講會 (discussion gatherings) in the following decades. Finally, the thesis discusses the struggle of mid-Ming intellectuals in gaining cultural legitimization for both private academies and jianghui activities by urging the imperial court to give due recognition through enshrining Wang, Chen, and Hu in the Confucian Temple, and the historical significance of this struggle to the development of the Confucian tradition in the Ming. The author ultimately argues that Chen Xianzhang, contrary to the common perception about him being a philosopher-poet who was indifferent to political discourses, was in fact a politically active intellectual; and that Chen’s contributions to the revival of private academies in Guangdong predated that of Wang Yangming in the Jiangnan region.

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  • 2016

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Born of the North Wind: Northern Chinese Poetry and the Eurasian Steppes, 1206–1260

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Based on literary works produced by the multiethnic literati of the Jin dynasty (1115–1234), this dissertation examines Chinese conceptions of the Steppe world in the early years of the Mongol

Based on literary works produced by the multiethnic literati of the Jin dynasty (1115–1234), this dissertation examines Chinese conceptions of the Steppe world in the early years of the Mongol era (1206–1260). As I show, late Jin literati, who took arduous journeys in the Eurasian Steppes, initiated transcultural communications between the Chinese and Steppe worlds. Their writings encouraged more Chinese literati to reach out to the Mongols and hence facilitated the spread of the ideal Confucian-style governance to the Mongol empire. In general, I follow the approach of New Historicism in analyzing poetic works. Even though the Mongol conquest of China damaged many northern literary texts, materials surviving from the thirteenth century still feature a great diversity. I brought historical records and inscriptions on stela to study the social conditions under which these literary works were produced. This dissertation aims to contribute a new voice to the ongoing effort to modify the traditional linear understanding of the development of Chinese literary tradition.

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  • 2020

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Neither dust nor gold: a comprehensive study of the Dadao School from 1115-1398

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During the twelfth century, three new schools of Daoism were founded in North China: Quanzhen (Complete Perfection), Taiyi (Supreme Unity), and Dadao (Great Way). While Quanzhen has received much scholarly

During the twelfth century, three new schools of Daoism were founded in North China: Quanzhen (Complete Perfection), Taiyi (Supreme Unity), and Dadao (Great Way). While Quanzhen has received much scholarly attention, the others have been largely ignored. By focusing on just one school--Dadao--as in depth as possible and within the historical context, I hope to elucidate the flourishing state of Daoism in North China during the twelfth through fourteenth centuries beyond just the activity of the Quanzhen school. To that end, I have amassed sixteen inscriptions and records, as well as reconstructed one inscription previously incomplete, and added them to the eleven inscriptions and records published in the Daojia jinshi lüe and the three pieces of Yuan-dynasty poetry and prose contained in the Nan Song chu Hebei xin Daojiao kao. This has doubled the available source material. Most of these have been previously published individually, but have never been studied in conjunction with the other known Dadao texts. The result is the most comprehensive study of the school in over seventy-five years, in which I also present a new understanding of the school’s founder, how the lineages developed, and the school’s ultimate fate. The portrait of the school which emerges from this dissertation challenges the notion that Dadao was nothing more than a minor variation of the Quanzhen school or is otherwise unworthy of scholarly attention.

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  • 2017