Publications

2012
The People's Post Office: The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871-2010
P. L. Maclachlan, The People's Post Office: The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871-2010. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

In 2001, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō launched a crusade to privatize Japan’s postal services. The plan was hailed as a necessary structural reform, but many bemoaned the loss of traditional institutions and the conservative values they represented. Few expected the plan to succeed, given the staunch opposition of diverse parties, but four years later it appeared that Koizumi had transformed not only the post office but also the very institutional and ideological foundations of Japanese finance and politics. By all accounts, it was one of the most astonishing political achievements in postwar Japanese history.

Patricia L. Maclachlan analyzes the interplay among the institutions, interest groups, and leaders involved in the system’s evolution from the early Meiji period until 2010. Exploring the postal system’s remarkable range of economic, social, and cultural functions and its institutional relationship to the Japanese state, this study shows how the post office came to play a leading role in the country’s political development. It also looks into the future to assess the resilience of Koizumi’s reforms and consider the significance of lingering opposition to the privatization of one of Japan’s most enduring social and political sanctuaries.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Preface

Introduction

Index

Toward a History Beyond Borders: Contentious Issues in Sino-Japanese Relations
D. Yang, J. Liu, H. Mitani, and A. Gordon, Ed., Toward a History Beyond Borders: Contentious Issues in Sino-Japanese Relations. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

This volume brings to English-language readers the results of an important long-term project of historians from China and Japan addressing contentious issues in their shared modern histories. Originally published simultaneously in Chinese and Japanese in 2006, the thirteen essays in this collection focus renewed attention on a set of political and historiographical controversies that have steered and stymied Sino-Japanese relations from the mid-nineteenth century through World War II to the present.

These in-depth contributions explore a range of themes, from prewar diplomatic relations and conflicts, to wartime collaboration and atrocity, to postwar commemorations and textbook debates—all while grappling with the core issue of how history has been researched, written, taught, and understood in both countries. In the context of a wider trend toward cross-national dialogues over historical issues, this volume can be read as both a progress report and a case study of the effort to overcome contentious problems of history in East Asia.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Chronologies, Documents, Tables, and Figures

Introduction

Index

Traversing the Frontier: The Man'yōshū Account of a Japanese Mission to Silla in 736–737
H. M. Horton, Traversing the Frontier: The Man'yōshū Account of a Japanese Mission to Silla in 736–737. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

In the sixth month of 736, a Japanese diplomatic mission set out for the kingdom of Silla, on the Korean peninsula. The envoys undertook the mission during a period of strained relations with the country of their destination, met with adverse winds and disease during the voyage, and returned empty-handed. The futile journey proved fruitful in one respect: its literary representation—a collection of 145 Japanese poems and their Sino-Japanese (kanbun) headnotes and footnotes—made its way into the eighth-century poetic anthology Man’yōshū, becoming the longest poetic sequence in the collection and one of the earliest Japanese literary travel narratives.

Featuring deft translations and incisive analysis, this study investigates the poetics and thematics of the Silla sequence, uncovering what is known about the actual historical event and the assumptions and concerns that guided its re-creation as a literary artifact and then helped shape its reception among contemporary readers. H. Mack Horton provides an opportunity for literary archaeology of some of the most exciting dialectics in early Japanese literary history.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Tables

Introduction

Index

Critics and Commentators: The Book of Poems as Classic and Literature
B. Rusk, Critics and Commentators: The Book of Poems as Classic and Literature. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

At once a revered canon associated with Confucius and the earliest anthology of poetry, the Book of Poems holds a unique place in Chinese literary history. Since early imperial times it served as an ideal of literary perfection, as it provided a basis for defining shi poetry, the most esteemed genre of elite composition. In imperial China, however, literary criticism and classical learning represented distinct fields of inquiry that differed in status, with classical learning considered more serious and prestigious. Literary critics thus highlighted connections between the Book of Poems and later verse, while classical scholars obscured the origins of their ideas in literary theory.

This book explores the mutual influence of literary and classicizing approaches, which frequently and fruitfully borrowed from one another. Drawing on a wide range of sources including commentaries, anthologies, colophons, and inscriptions, Bruce Rusk chronicles how scholars borrowed from critics without attribution and even resorted to forgery to make appealing new ideas look old. By unraveling the relationships through which classical and literary scholarship on the Book of Poems co-evolved from the Han dynasty through the Qing, this study shows that the ancient classic was the catalyst for intellectual innovation and literary invention.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Introduction

Index

Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China
X. Tian, Visionary Journeys: Travel Writings from Early Medieval and Nineteenth-Century China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

This book explores the parallel and yet profoundly different ways of seeing the outside world and engaging with the foreign at two important moments of dislocation in Chinese history, namely, the early medieval period commonly known as the Northern and Southern Dynasties (317–589 CE), and the nineteenth century. Xiaofei Tian juxtaposes literary, historical, and religious materials from these two periods in comparative study, bringing them together in their unprecedentedly large-scale interactions, and their intense fascination, with foreign cultures.

By examining various cultural forms of representation from the two periods, Tian attempts to sort out modes of seeing the world that inform these writings. These modes, Tian argues, were established in early medieval times and resurfaced, in permutations and metamorphoses, in nineteenth-century writings on encountering the Other. This book is for readers who are interested not only in early medieval or nineteenth-century China but also in issues of representation, travel, visualization, and modernity.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Index

2011
Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China
S. Heilmann and E. J. Perry, Mao's Invisible Hand: The Political Foundations of Adaptive Governance in China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Observers have been predicting the demise of China’s political system since Mao Zedong’s death over thirty years ago. The Chinese Communist state, however, seems to have become increasingly adept at responding to challenges ranging from leadership succession and popular unrest to administrative reorganization, legal institutionalization, and global economic integration. What political techniques and procedures have Chinese policymakers employed to manage the unsettling impact of the fastest sustained economic expansion in world history?

As the authors of these essays demonstrate, China’s political system allows for more diverse and flexible input than would be predicted from its formal structures. Many contemporary methods of governance have their roots in techniques of policy generation and implementation dating to the revolution and early PRC—techniques that emphasize continual experimentation. China’s long revolution had given rise to this guerrilla-style decisionmaking as a way of dealing creatively with pervasive uncertainty. Thus, even in a post-revolutionary PRC, the invisible hand of Chairman Mao—tamed, tweaked, and transformed—plays an important role in China’s adaptive governance.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Chapter One

Coins, Trade, and the State: Economic Growth in Early Medieval Japan
E. I. Segal, Coins, Trade, and the State: Economic Growth in Early Medieval Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Framed by the decline of the Heian aristocracy in the late 1100s and the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 1600s, Japan’s medieval era was a chaotic period of diffuse political power and frequent military strife. This instability prevented central authorities from regulating trade, issuing currency, enforcing contracts, or guaranteeing property rights. But the lack of a strong central government did not inhibit economic growth. Rather, it created opportunities for a wider spectrum of society to participate in trade, markets, and monetization.

Peripheral elites—including merchants, warriors, rural estate managers, and religious leaders—devised new ways to circumvent older forms of exchange by importing Chinese currency, trading in local markets, and building an effective system of long-distance money remittance. Over time, the central government recognized the futility of trying to stifle these developments, and by the sixteenth century it asserted greater control over monetary matters throughout the realm.

Drawing upon diaries, tax ledgers, temple records, and government decrees, Ethan Isaac Segal chronicles how the circulation of copper currency and the expansion of trade led to the start of a market-centered economy and laid the groundwork for Japan’s transformation into an early modern society.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Introduction

Index

Picturing Heaven in Early China
L. L. -ying Tseng, Picturing Heaven in Early China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Tian, or Heaven, had multiple meanings in early China. It had been used since the Western Zhou to indicate both the sky and the highest god, and later came to be regarded as a force driving the movement of the cosmos and as a home to deities and imaginary animals. By the Han dynasty, which saw an outpouring of visual materials depicting Heaven, the concept of Heaven encompassed an immortal realm to which humans could ascend after death.

Using excavated materials, Lillian Tseng shows how Han artisans transformed various notions of Heaven—as the mandate, the fantasy, and the sky—into pictorial entities. The Han Heaven was not indicated by what the artisans looked at, but rather was suggested by what they looked into. Artisans attained the visibility of Heaven by appropriating and modifying related knowledge of cosmology, mythology, astronomy. Thus the depiction of Heaven in Han China reflected an interface of image and knowledge.

By examining Heaven as depicted in ritual buildings, on household utensils, and in the embellishments of funerary settings, Tseng maintains that visibility can hold up a mirror to visuality; Heaven was culturally constructed and should be culturally reconstructed.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Introduction

Index

A Place in Public: Women's Rights in Meiji Japan
M. S. Anderson, A Place in Public: Women's Rights in Meiji Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

 This book addresses how gender became a defining category in the political and social modernization of Japan. During the early decades of the Meiji period (1868–1912), the Japanese encountered an idea with great currency in the West: that the social position of women reflected a country’s level of civilization. Although elites initiated dialogue out of concern for their country’s reputation internationally, the conversation soon moved to a new public sphere where individuals engaged in a wide-ranging debate about women’s roles and rights.

By examining these debates throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Marnie S. Anderson argues that shifts in the gender system led to contradictory consequences for women. On the one hand, as gender displaced status as the primary system of social and legal classification, women gained access to the language of rights and the chance to represent themselves in public and play a limited political role; on the other, the modern Japanese state permitted women’s political participation only as an expression of their “citizenship through the household” and codified their formal exclusion from the political process through a series of laws enacted in 1890. This book shows how “a woman’s place” in late-nineteenth-century Japan was characterized by contradictions and unexpected consequences, by new opportunities and new constraints.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Index

Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing
D. B. Lurie, Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

In the world history of writing, Japan presents an unusually detailed record of transition to literacy. Extant materials attest to the social, cultural, and political contexts and consequences of the advent of writing and reading, from the earliest appearance of imported artifacts with Chinese inscriptions in the first century BCE, through the production of texts within the Japanese archipelago in the fifth century, to the widespread literacies and the simultaneous rise of a full-fledged state in the late seventh and eighth centuries.

David B. Lurie explores the complex processes of adaptation and invention that defined the early Japanese transition from orality to textuality. Drawing on archaeological and archival sources varying in content, style, and medium, this book highlights the diverse modes and uses of writing that coexisted in a variety of configurations among different social groups. It offers new perspectives on the pragmatic contexts and varied natures of multiple simultaneous literacies, the relations between languages and systems of inscription, and the aesthetic dimensions of writing. Lurie’s investigation into the textual practices of early Japan illuminates not only the cultural history of East Asia but also the broader comparative history of writing and literacy in the ancient world.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Maps, Tables, and Figures

Introduction

Index

Sailor Diplomat: Nomura Kichisaburo and the Japanese-American War
P. Mauch, Sailor Diplomat: Nomura Kichisaburo and the Japanese-American War. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

As Japan’s pre–Pearl Harbor ambassador to the United States, Admiral Nomura Kichisaburo (1877–1964) played a significant role in a tense and turbulent period in Japanese–U.S. relations. Scholars tend to view his actions and missteps as ambassador as representing the failure of diplomacy to avert the outbreak of hostilities between the two paramount Pacific powers.

This extensively researched biography casts new light on the life and career of this important figure. Connecting his experiences as a naval officer to his service as foreign minister and ambassador, and later as “father” of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Forces and proponent of the U.S.–Japanese alliance, this study reassesses Nomura’s contributions as a hard-nosed realist whose grasp of the underlying realities of Japanese–U.S. relations went largely unappreciated by the Japanese political and military establishment.

In highlighting the complexities and conundrums of Nomura’s position, as well as the role of the Imperial Navy in the formulation of Japan’s foreign policy, Peter Mauch draws upon rarely accessed materials from naval and diplomatic archives in Japan as well as various collections of personal papers, including Nomura’s, which Mauch discovered in 2005 and which are now housed in the National Diet Library.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Preface

Index

Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity, and Body Culture in Modern Japan
D. J. Frost, Seeing Stars: Sports Celebrity, Identity, and Body Culture in Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

In Seeing Stars, Dennis J. Frost traces the emergence and evolution of sports celebrity in Japan from the seventeenth through the twenty-first centuries. Frost explores how various constituencies have repeatedly molded and deployed representations of individual athletes, revealing that sports stars are socially constructed phenomena, the products of both particular historical moments and broader discourses of celebrity.

Drawing from media coverage, biographies, literary works, athletes’ memoirs, bureaucratic memoranda, interviews, and films, Frost argues that the largely unquestioned mass of information about sports stars not only reflects, but also shapes society and body culture. He examines the lives and times of star athletes—including sumo grand champion Hitachiyama, female Olympic medalist Hitomi Kinue, legendary pitcher Sawamura Eiji, and world champion boxer Gushiken Yokoō—demonstrating how representations of such sports stars mediated Japan’s emergence into the putatively universal realm of sports, unsettled orthodox notions of gender, facilitated wartime mobilization of physically fit men and women, and masked lingering inequalities in postwar Japanese society.

As the first critical examination of the history of sports celebrity outside a Euro-American context, this book also sheds new light on the transnational forces at play in the production and impact of celebrity images and dispels misconceptions that sports stars in the non-West are mere imitations of their Western counterparts.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Figures

Introduction

Index

The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi
W. Denecke, The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

The importance of the rich corpus of “Masters Literature” that developed in early China since the fifth century BCE has long been recognized. But just what are these texts? Scholars have often approached them as philosophy, but these writings have also been studied as literature, history, and anthropological, religious, and paleographic records. How should we translate these texts for our times?

This book explores these questions through close readings of seven examples of Masters Literature and asks what proponents of a “Chinese philosophy” gained by creating a Chinese equivalent of philosophy and what we might gain by approaching these texts through other disciplines, questions, and concerns. What happens when we remove the accrued disciplinary and conceptual baggage from the Masters Texts? What neglected problems, concepts, and strategies come to light? And can those concepts and strategies help us see the history of philosophy in a different light and engender new approaches to philosophical and intellectual inquiry? By historicizing the notion of Chinese philosophy, we can, the author contends, answer not only the question of whether there is a Chinese philosophy but also the more interesting question of the future of philosophical thought around the world.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Index

A Northern Alternative: Xue Xuan (1389-1464) and the Hedong School
K. H. Koh, A Northern Alternative: Xue Xuan (1389-1464) and the Hedong School. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Conventional portraits of Neo-Confucianism in China are built on studies of scholars active in the south, yet Xue Xuan (1389–1464), the first Ming Neo-Confucian to be enshrined in the Temple to Confucius, was a northerner. Why has Xue been so overlooked in the history of Neo-Confucianism? In this first systematic study in English of the highly influential thinker, author Khee Heong Koh seeks to redress Xue’s marginalization while showing how a study interested mainly in “ideas” can integrate social and intellectual history to offer a broader picture of history.

Significant in its attention to Xue as well as its approach, the book situates the ideas of Xue and his Hedong School in comparative perspective. Koh first provides in-depth analysis of Xue’s philosophy, as well as his ideas on kinship organizations, educational institutions, and intellectual networks, and then places them in the context of Xue’s life and the actual practices of his descendants and students. Through this new approach to intellectual history, Koh demonstrates the complexity of the Neo-Confucian tradition and gives voice to a group of northern scholars who identified themselves as Neo-Confucians but had a vision that was distinctly different from their southern counterparts.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Index

Buy this book from Harvard University Press

Ten Thousand Scrolls: Reading and Writing in the Poetics of Huang Tingjian and the Late Northern Song
Y. Wang, Ten Thousand Scrolls: Reading and Writing in the Poetics of Huang Tingjian and the Late Northern Song. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

The Northern Song (960–1126) was one of the most transformative periods in Chinese literary history, characterized by the emergence of printing and an ensuing proliferation of books. The poet Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), writing at the height of this period, both defined and was defined by these changes. The first focused study on the cultural consequences of printing in Northern Song China, this book examines how the nascent print culture shaped the poetic theory and practice of Huang Tingjian and the Jiangxi School of Poetry he founded.

Author Yugen Wang argues that at the core of Huang and the Jiangxi School’s search for poetic methods was their desire to find a new way of reading and writing that could effectively address the changed literary landscape of the eleventh century. Wang chronicles the historical and cultural negotiation Huang and his colleagues were conducting as they responded to the new book culture, and opens new ground for investigating the literary interpretive and hermeneutical effects of printing. This book should be of interest not only to scholars and readers of classical Chinese poetry but to anyone concerned with how the material interacts with the intellectual and how technology has influenced our conception and practice of reading and writing throughout history.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

Introduction

Index

Ancestral Memory in Early China
K. E. Brashier, Ancestral Memory in Early China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Ancestral ritual in early China was an orchestrated dance between what was present (the offerings and the living) and what was absent (the ancestors). The interconnections among the tangible elements of the sacrifice were overt and almost mechanical, but extending those connections to the invisible guests required a medium that was itself invisible. Thus in early China, ancestral sacrifice was associated with focused thinking about the ancestors, with a structured mental effort by the living to reach out to the absent forebears and to give them shape and existence. Thinking about the ancestors—about those who had become distant—required active deliberation and meditation, qualities that had to be nurtured and learned.

This study is a history of the early Chinese ancestral cult, particularly its cognitive aspects. Its goals are to excavate the cult’s color and vitality and to quell assumptions that it was no more than a simplistic and uninspired exchange of food for longevity, of prayers for prosperity. Ancestor worship was not, the author contends, merely mechanical and thoughtless. Rather, it was an idea system that aroused serious debates about the nature of postmortem existence, served as the religious backbone to Confucianism, and may even have been the forerunner of Daoist and Buddhist meditation practices.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures

Introduction

Index

'Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern’: The Spatial Organization of the Song State
R. Mostern, 'Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern’: The Spatial Organization of the Song State. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2011. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

States are inherently and fundamentally geographical. Sovereignty is based on control of territory. This book uses Song China to explain how a pre-industrial regime organized itself spatially in order to exercise authority. On more than a thousand occasions, the Song court founded, abolished, promoted, demoted, and reordered jurisdictions in an attempt to maximize the effectiveness of limited resources in a climate of shifting priorities, to placate competing constituencies, and to address military and economic crises. Spatial transformations in the Song field administration changed the geography of commerce, taxation, revenue accumulation, warfare, foreign relations, and social organization, and even determined the terms of debates about imperial power.

The chronology of tenth-century imperial consolidation, eleventh-century political reform, and twelfth-century localism traced in this book is a familiar one. But by detailing the relationship between the court and local administration, this book complicates the received paradigm of Song centralization and decentralization. Song frontier policies formed a coherent imperial approach to administering peripheral regions with inaccessible resources and limited infrastructure. And the well-known events of the Song—wars and reforms—were often responses to long-term spatial and demographic change.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Tables, Maps, Illustrations, and Figures

Introduction

Index

2010
Gender Struggles: Wage-Earning Women and Male-Dominated Unions in Postwar Japan
C. Gerteis, Gender Struggles: Wage-Earning Women and Male-Dominated Unions in Postwar Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

In the formative years of the Japanese labor movement after World War II, the socialist unions affiliated with the General Council of Trade Unions (the labor federation known colloquially as Sohyo) formally endorsed the principles of women’s equality in the workforce and put in place measures to promote women’s active participation in union activities. However, union leaders did not embrace the legal framework for gender equality mandated by their American occupiers; rather, they pressured thousands of women labor activists to assume supportive roles that privileged a male-centered social agenda. By the late 1950s, even Japan’s radical socialist unions had reestablished the primacy of conservative gender norms, channeling women’s labor activism to support political campaigns that advantaged a male-headed household and that relegated women’s wage-earning value to the periphery of the household economy.

By showing how unions raised the wages of male workers in part by transforming working-class women into middle-class housewives, Christopher Gerteis demonstrates that organized labor’s discourse on womanhood not only undermined women’s status within the labor movement but also prevented unions from linking with the emerging woman-led, neighborhood-centered organizations that typified social movements in the 1960s—a misstep that contributed to the decline of the socialist labor movement in subsequent decades.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables

Introduction

Index

Negotiating Urban Space: Urbanization and Late Ming Nanjing
S. -yen Fei, Negotiating Urban Space: Urbanization and Late Ming Nanjing. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

Urbanization was central to development in late imperial China. Yet its impact is heatedly debated, although scholars agree that it triggered neither Weberian urban autonomy nor Habermasian civil society. This book argues that this conceptual impasse derives from the fact that the seemingly continuous urban expansion was in fact punctuated by a wide variety of “dynastic urbanisms.” Historians should, the author contends, view urbanization not as an automatic by-product of commercial forces but as a process shaped by institutional frameworks and cultural trends in each dynasty.

This characteristic is particularly evident in the Ming. As the empire grew increasingly urbanized, the gap between the early Ming valorization of the rural and late Ming reality infringed upon the livelihood and identity of urban residents. This contradiction went almost unremarked in court forums and discussions among elites, leaving its resolution to local initiatives and negotiations. Using Nanjing—a metropolis along the Yangzi River and onetime capital of the Ming—as a central case, the author demonstrates that, prompted by this unique form of urban–rural contradiction, the actions and creations of urban residents transformed the city on multiple levels: as an urban community, as a metropolitan region, as an imagined space, and, finally, as a discursive subject.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Maps, and Table

Introduction

Index

Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China
D. Johnson, Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010. Buy this book from Harvard University PressAbstract

This book is about the ritual world of a group of rural settlements in Shanxi province in pre-1949 North China. Temple festivals, with their giant processions, elaborate rituals, and operas, were the most important influence on the symbolic universe of ordinary villagers and demonstrate their remarkable capacity for religious and artistic creation. The great festivals described in this book were their supreme collective achievements and were carried out virtually without assistance from local officials or educated elites, clerical or lay.

Chinese culture was a performance culture, and ritual was the highest form of performance. Village ritual life everywhere in pre-revolutionary China was complex, conservative, and extraordinarily diverse. Festivals and their associated rituals and operas provided the emotional and intellectual materials out of which ordinary people constructed their ideas about the world of men and the realm of the gods. It is, David Johnson argues, impossible to form an adequate idea of traditional Chinese society without a thorough understanding of village ritual. Newly discovered liturgical manuscripts allow him to reconstruct North Chinese temple festivals in unprecedented detail and prove that they are sharply different from the Daoist- and Buddhist-based communal rituals of South China.

Available PDF downloads for this publication

Table of Contents

List of Maps, Figures, and Table

Introduction

Index

Pages