Public Memory in Early China

Public Memory in Early China

by K. E. Brashier


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In early imperial China, the dead were remembered by stereotyping them, by relating them to the existing public memory and not by vaunting what made each person individually distinct and extraordinary in his or her lifetime. Their posthumous names were chosen from a limited predetermined pool; their descriptors were derived from set phrases in the classical tradition; and their identities were explicitly categorized as being like this cultural hero or that sage official in antiquity. In other words, postmortem remembrance was a process of pouring new ancestors into prefabricated molds or stamping them with rigid cookie cutters. Public Memory in Early China is an examination of this pouring and stamping process. After surveying ways in which learning in the early imperial period relied upon memorization and recitation, K. E. Brashier treats three definitive parameters of identity—name, age, and kinship—as ways of negotiating a person's relative position within the collective consciousness. He then examines both the tangible and intangible media responsible for keeping that defined identity welded into the infrastructure of Han public memory.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674492035
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 06/23/2014
Series: Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series , #91
Pages: 526
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

K. E. Brashier is Professor of Religion at Reed College.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures ix

Conventions xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Han memorial culture 1

Section 1 "Repeated. Inking" and the backdrop of a manuscript culture 5

Section 2 "Continuous Chanting" and the backdrop of an oral performance culture 9

Section 3 Inking and Chanting share their secret of longevity 49

Part I Names as positioning the self 58

Section 4 The ancestor's given names as locative markers 68

Section 5 The ancestor's surname as a spatial marker 92

Section 6 Following the named lineage back through time 115

Part II Age as positioning the self 144

Section 7 The age of childhood 153

Section 8 The age of adulthood 158

Section 9 The age of advanced years 172

Section 10 The age of death 181

Section 11 The age of afterlife 198

Part III Kinship as positioning the self 209

Section 12 Weakening personal agency 214

Section 13 Strengthening interpersonal bonds 221

Section 14 A dynamic relationship net 231

Part IV The tangible tools of positioning the self 263

Section 15 Calling cards and the trafficking of names 268

Section 16 The ancestral shrine and its tools of remembrance 272

Section 17 The cemetery and its tools of remembrance 292

Section 18 Commemorative portraiture as a tool of remembrance 305

Part V The intangible tools of positioning the self 317

Section 19 Reduction 321

Section 20 Conversion 333

Section 21 Association 349

Conclusion: "Here is where the Earl of Shao rested" 366

Notes 373

Bibliography 481

Index 505

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