Shrines to Living Men in the Ming: Out-takes and Inside Stories

Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 4:30 pm
Speaker(s): 
Sponsor(s): 
East Asian Studies Program and Department

When the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 CE) government looked like the misbegotten union of a totalitarian emperor and a cowardly, grasping bureaucracy, shrines to the living – primarily to late-Ming eunuch dictator Wei Zhongxian – looked like absurd manifestations of wicked megalomania.  But now scholars take a more balanced view of the complicated strengths and weakness of a state that did last for 276 years.  Ming living shrines, too, deserve a second look.  For they appear frequently in the historical record -- across the whole span of the dynasty (indeed of the imperial period), the whole territory of the empire, and a range of genres, from local gazetteers to stories of the strange.  Ming people enshrined men who were still alive not only to flatter the powerful, but also to succor the persecuted and laud the worthy, to retain the spirits of effective “parents of the people,” and for other reasons.  In appearance just like postmortem shrines, their social base was different: they rested, at least nominally but sometimes in reality, on the active sponsorship of people without rank or examination degrees.   The stele essays recording the establishment of premortem shrines, sometimes by and for famous scholar-officials, delineate a legitimate political role for commoners in the monarchical and bureaucratic Ming state. This talk will include some material that did not fit into the book: a son mourning his father’s suicide, a sycophant displacing a goddess.

Discussant: Chuck Wooldridge (Lehman College)

Sarah Schneewind is Professor in the Department of History at the University of California, San Diego. Aside from Shrines to Living Men in the Ming Political Cosmos (Harvard, 2018), she is also the author of A Tale of Two Melons (Hackett, 2006) and Community Schools and the State in Ming China (Stanford, 2006).

Event category: 

Upcoming Events

The 2019 Annual Mote Lecture

Wed, Feb 20, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

"Morale" on the Home Front, Germany, Japan, Britain,1914-45: Its Transnational Construction and Destruction

Japan-US Relations: Visit from Ambassador Yamanouchi

Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping

Mon, Mar 11, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

The Taiwan Expedition: New Perspectives on Japanese Imperialism and the Meiji Restoration

Global History Workshop-Roundtable

Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: 202 Jones

Albums of Ordinary Faces: The Practice of Portrait Painting in Late Imperial China

Blindspotting, Gender, and China’s Revolutions

Thu, Mar 28, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones

The first Japanese book to be printed in the United States: the mystery of Ehon Ōshukubai (Philadelphia, 1855)

The 2019 Annual Jansen Lecture

Wed, Apr 3, 2019, 4:30 pm
Location: 202 Jones