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Early Medieval China

Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook

Wendy Swartz
Robert Ford Campany
Yang Lu
Jessey J. C. Choo
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 744
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  • Book Info
    Early Medieval China
    Book Description:

    This innovative sourcebook builds a dynamic understanding of China's early medieval period (220--589) through an original selection and arrangement of literary, historical, religious, and critical texts. A tumultuous and formative era, these centuries saw the longest stretch of political fragmentation in China's imperial history, resulting in new ethnic configurations, the rise of powerful clans, and a pervasive divide between north and south.

    Deploying thematic categories, the editors sketch the period in a novel way for students and, by featuring many texts translated into English for the first time, recast the era for specialists. Thematic topics include regional definitions and tensions, governing mechanisms and social reality, ideas of self and other, relations with the unseen world, everyday life, and cultural concepts. Within each section, the editors and translators introduce the selected texts and provide critical commentary on their historical significance, along with suggestions for further reading and research.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53100-9
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The Six Dynasties period is also variously referred to in modern Western scholarship as Early Medieval China, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and the Period of Division or Disunion. It was the longest period of political fragmentation in China’s imperial history and appears to have had a definite beginning and ending. It began when Cao Pi, the head of the powerful Cao family, deposed the last emperor of the Eastern Han and founded the Wei dynasty in 220 C.E. It ended when Yang Jian, the founder of the Sui dynasty, reunified China under his rule in 589. During this span...

  8. PART I The North and the South

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 11-16)
      Jessey J. C. Choo

      “North” and “South” are used in this book as multivalent, relational terms, designating not only a geographic difference but also two sets of cultural and political attributes distinctive to each region. Throughout the history of early and medieval China, no fixed boundaries separated the two, but the North almost always refers to the Yellow River basin, the heart of the cultural and political realm. The South was commonly defined vis-à-vis the North, the perceived center of the Chinese world. Accordingly, the South denoted the area beyond the southernmost reach of the center’s direct control. Even though the South referred to...

    • 1. Return to the North? The Debate on Moving the Capital Back to Luoyang
      (pp. 17-31)

      A proposal that circulated in the court of the Eastern Jin Emperor Ai 东晋哀帝 (r. 361–365) sought to reestablish the recently recovered Luoyang as the capital of the state and to repopulate it with those who had fled to the South. The year was 362 C.E., and by this time, the Jin court had been “temporarily” held in Jiankang 建康 for nearly five decades. The author of this proposal was Huan Wen 桓温 (312–373), an ambitious statesman and the military commander who had reconquered the city.¹ Filled with references to the filial piety of the emperor and, in...

    • 2. The Disputation at Pengcheng: Accounts from the Wei shu and the Song shu
      (pp. 32-59)

      This disputation took place on January 14, 451, outside the city wall of Pengcheng 彭城. The Northern Wei Emperor Shizu 世祖, Tuoba Dao 拓跋道 (r. 424–452), personally led an army to lay siege to the city during his southward campaign against the state of Song. (Song is usually called the Liu Song 劉宋, after the surname of its imperial family, to distinguish it from the later, more famous Song dynasty.) Tuoba Dao sent Li Xiaobo 李孝伯 (d. 459),¹ one of his ministers, to discuss terms with the Seneschal (Zhangshi長史) of the city, Zhang Chang 張暢 (408–457),² but...

    • 3. Between Imitation and Mockery: The Southern Treatments of Northern Cultures
      (pp. 60-76)

      Separating oneself from others is a basic mechanism in crafting one’s identity. Cultural differences, especially those between what was perceived as the center and the periphery, have been constantly reassessed throughout China’s long history. The period beginning with the founding of the Jin dynasty in 265 C.E. and ending with the unification of China by the Sui dynasty in 589 was marked by profound changes. For much of this time, China was politically divided. Gone with political uniformity was the dominance of Confucian classicism as the source of principles that informed cultural practices and social customs. Frequent exposure to political...

    • 4. Literary Imagination of the North and South
      (pp. 77-88)

      The literary history of the Southern Dynasties starts with a poem lamenting the loss of homeland. In this poem, the famous “Rhapsody on Climbing the Tower” (Denglou fu登樓賦), Wang Can 王粲 (177–217) describes the peerless beauty of the southern land of Jing-Chu 荊楚, where he may have lived for more than a decade but which he declines to call home. He recalls the dislocated men of the South and the North alike who tenaciously cling to their wish to return home. Wang Can believes this is a desire innate not only in human beings but also in birds...

  9. PART II Governing Mechanisms and Social Reality

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 89-94)
      Yang Lu

      The Six Dynasties period was born in cataclysm. Although the turmoil did not necessarily rip apart the social and political structure established in the Qin 秦 (221–206 B.C.E.) and Han 漢 (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.) dynasties, it affected the pace and direction of subsequent developments. Changes often appeared rapidly and unexpectedly, with some having only transient effects and others leaving a lasting and often idiosyncratic imprint. New political and institutional mechanisms often borrowed from diverse cultural and intellectual traditions. The documents translated in part II showcase the unsettling and inventive nature of the period, as they describe a wide...

    • 5. Managing Locality in Early Medieval China: Evidence from Changsha
      (pp. 95-107)
      YANG LU

      Modern scholars agree that the richest and most reliable information about how the government of early imperial China operated at various levels comes from excavated documents written on bamboo and wooden slips. Spectacular finds in Juyan 居延, Zhangjiashan 張家山, and Yinwan 尹灣 shed much light on the scope and structure of the local Qin and Han administrations. Until two accidental discoveries in Changsha 長沙, however, historians knew very little about the local administration and society during the transitional period between the Eastern Han 東漢 (25–220) and the Three Kingdoms 三國 (220–280), during which political upheavals destroyed the existing...

    • 6. Classical Scholarship in the Shu Region: The Case of Qiao Zhou
      (pp. 108-124)

      Shu 蜀, a geographic and administrative designation for the region occupying much of present-day Sichuan Province and the surrounding areas, was for a long time part of early Chinese polity, but in many ways it maintained its own distinctive intellectual and cultural traditions. Early bronze inscriptions indicate the participation of a state called “Shu” in the Zhou 周 conquest of Yin 殷 in the twelfth century B.C.E., and Shu remained an established part of the Zhou feudal state until its defeat by Qin 秦 in 316 B.C.E. Under Qin rule, Shu was accorded the administrative status of a commandery, a...

    • 7. Ranking Men and Assessing Talent: Xiahou Xuan’s Response to an Inquiry by Sima Yi
      (pp. 125-146)

      As the administrative apparatus of expanding states became increasingly bureaucratic and centralized during the Eastern Zhou 東周 (770–256 B.C.E), the need to accurately assess the talent of retainers and other courtiers emerged as a key concern for the rulers of these domains. Following the unification of the Chinese realm under the Qin 秦 (221–207 B.C.E) and the Han 漢 (202 B.C.E.–220 C.E.) dynasties, the necessity of developing criteria to determine the strengths of potential candidates for government office became all the more pressing. A number of procedures were established to meet these needs.

      During the Han dynasty,...

    • 8. On Land and Wealth: Liu Zishang’s “Petition on Closing Off Mountains and Lakes” and Yang Xi’s “Discussion on Abolishing Old Regulations Regarding Mountains and Marshes”
      (pp. 147-155)

      As the early medieval Chinese economy gradually becomes better understood, the picture that is emerging is of a China that was surprisingly commercialized and prosperous, as well as culturally vibrant and richly cosmopolitan. The contrast with conditions in early medieval Europe is particularly striking and, indeed, calls into question the very assumption that China even had a “medieval” period, at least as defined according to the standard European sequence of historical stages. It is true that Chinese commerce did suffer an abrupt contraction in the fourth century, somewhat parallel to the one that afflicted western Europe, but it was largely...

    • 9. Crime and Punishment: The Case of Liu Hui in the Wei shu
      (pp. 156-165)

      The ruling authorities generally try to systematize the ethics of marriage and family, believing that they often help stabilize society.¹ In western Europe in the Middle Ages, biblical teaching on marriage and family was interpreted and taught by the twelfth-century canonists, not only to direct people toward a more sacred life, but also to increase the church’s secular influence. Through the ecclesiastical courts, the church established its authority to regulate the laity’s marriage customs and to provide spiritual justification for its marital ethics.² In contrast, in China, the Confucian Classics provided the ethics of marriage and family, and the state,...

    • 10. Marriage and Social Status: Shen Yue’s “Impeaching Wang Yuan”
      (pp. 166-175)

      In the period from 490 to 494, while serving at the Southern Qi court, Shen Yue 沈約 (441–513) presented to the emperor a number of petitions requesting the impeachment of officials for improper conduct.¹ The only complete impeachment petition that has survived is “Impeaching Wang Yuan” (Zou tan Wang Yuan奏彈王源), which is preserved in theWen xuan.² When he wrote this impeachment petition, Shen Yue concurrently held the positions of Gentleman Attendant at the Yellow Gate (Jishi huangmen給事黃門), Palace Aide to the Censor in Chief (Yushi zhongcheng御史中丞), and “Impartial and Just” (Zhongzheng中正) from his native...

    • 11. Religion and Society on the Silk Road: The Inscriptional Evidence from Turfan
      (pp. 176-194)

      From the first century B.C.E., when Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty stretched his power to the northwestern corner of his empire, to the eleventh century, when the Tangut empire occupied the area, the Silk Road functioned as a major venue for the exchange of goods, faith, and material culture between central China and Central Asia, India, and Iran. Persian and Sogdian merchants were the most active traders between China and the western regions, traveling from Luoyang and Chang’an to Antioch and Byzantine via India and Bactria. The eastern part of the Silk Road, Chinese Turkestan—nowadays known as the...

  10. PART III Cultural Capital

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 195-200)
      Wendy Swartz

      The Six Dynasties period witnessed important transformations in the conception of cultural supremacy. Cultural phenomena were closely associated with the notion ofwen,which often and specifically referred to “refined literature” or “elegant writings” in this period.¹ The educated class developed a variety of ways to participate in their cultural heritage, such as philosophical conversation, the creation of new literary genres, literary criticism, and the making of anthologies. Part III is concerned with the production, organization, and evaluation of cultural accomplishments in the Six Dynasties. The steady accumulation and transmission of a certain cultural wealth through the subscription to a...

    • 12. The Art of Discourse: Xi Kang’s “Sound Is Without Sadness or Joy”
      (pp. 201-229)

      Retracing the origins of a word or phrase in everyday speech sometimes provides a surprising reminder of the distances separating our familiar mental world from the mental worlds of past ages. The English word “undermine,” for example, is an abstract, though quite ordinary, expression—describing the effect, say, of contradictory evidence on an argument, of embarrassing revelations on someone’s social standing, and so on—yet when we reflect on the word’s origins, we remind ourselves with a slight shock that it began as a concrete word, a word whose currency implied a community of speakers for whom the technologies and...

    • 13. Poetry on the Mysterious: The Writings of Sun Chuo
      (pp. 230-244)

      The first generation of men who reached maturity in the Eastern Jin—that is, those who were born shortly after the large-scale removal south of the Northern aristocracy or who had been young children during the exodus—grew into a different view of their political and geographical surroundings than that of their displaced fathers. It was this generation that established the norms of culture and literature that we now think of as typical of the dynasty and, indeed, held the stage during what were the most thriving decades of the Eastern Jin. No one better embodied the complications and tensions...

    • 14. The Art of Poetry Writing: Liu Xiaochuo’s “Becoming the Number-One Person for the Number-One Position”
      (pp. 245-255)

      An important social change that is reflected in the literary production in the two centuries following the fall of Luoyang in 311 is the waning of hereditary families’ influence over political and cultural matters at the southern court of Jiankang. The conflict between the “high clans” (shizu世族) and the “cold gates” (hanmen寒門) is evident in the reshuffling of social groups. From Liu Yu 劉裕 (363–422, r. 420–422) to Chen Baxian 陳霸先 (503–559, r. 557–559), all four founding emperors of the Southern Dynasties were commoners. Their sudden ascension to the top of the social pyramid...

    • 15. Six Poems from a Liang Dynasty Princely Court
      (pp. 256-266)

      The six poems discussed in this chapter were composed by Xiao Gang 蕭綱 (503–551), the then prince of Jin’an 晉安王, and his courtiers on the topic “Making Off erings in the Temple of the Han Exalted Emperor” (Han Gao miao saishen漢高廟賽神). The temple was dedicated to the founding emperor of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang 劉邦 (r. 206–195 B.C.E.), and it was located in Xiangyang 襄陽 (in modern Hubei), the capital of the Yongzhou region. Xiao Gang, the third son of the Liang Emperor Wu (梁武帝, r. 502–549), served as the Governor of Yongzhou from 523...

    • 16. Pei Ziye’s “Discourse on Insect Carving”
      (pp. 267-273)
      JACK W. CHEN

      Pei Ziye 裴子野 (469–530) was an eminent historian and literary writer of the Liang dynasty.¹ He is best known now for his staunchly conservative views on literature, which are preserved in the essay “Discourse on Insect Carving” (Diaochong lun雕蟲論). Pei was born into a prominent official family with a distinguished tradition of historical scholarship; his grandfather, Pei Yin 裴駰, wrote annotations for Sima Qian’sRecords of the Historian(Shiji史記), and his father, Pei Zhaoming 裴昭明, served as an erudite in the Grand Academy (Taixue boshi太學博士). Most famous of all was his great-grandfather, Pei Songzhi 裴松支 (372...

    • 17. Classifying the Literary Tradition: Zhi Yu’s “Discourse on Literary Compositions Divided by Genre”
      (pp. 274-286)

      “Discourse on Literary Compositions Divided by Genre” (Wenzhang liubie lun文章流別論; hereafter, “Discourse”) by Zhi Yu 摯虞 (d. 311) is a rare early example of Chinese genre study. As with many texts from the early medieval period, it has not survived intact, and the received version has been pieced together from quotations found in several encyclopedias.¹ In what has remained, we may easily discern that Zhi Yu traces the origins, delineates the developments, gives the characteristics, and identifies examples of various literary genres. Of the particular examples he provides, Zhi Yu further evaluates their merits or demerits. According to an...

    • 18. Zhong Rong’s Preface to Grades of the Poets
      (pp. 287-306)

      Grades of the Poets(Shipin詩品) by Zhong Rong 鍾嶸 (ca. 468–518) is one of the classics of early medieval literary criticism and the earliest critical work devoted exclusively to classical Chinese poetry—that is, poetry after theClassic of Poetry(Shijing詩經) andLyrics of Chu(Chuci楚辭). Although the work is not dated, Zhong Rong claims not to have included anyone still living, which places it securely in the last years of his life. It thus postdates the other extant monument of literary criticism of the age,Literary Pattern in the Mind or Carved Dragons(Wenxin diaolong...

    • 19. Book Collecting and Cataloging in the Age of Manuscript Culture: Xiao Yi’s Master of the Golden Tower and Ruan Xiaoxu’s Preface to Seven Records
      (pp. 307-324)

      Literary and scholarly activities reached an unprecedented height in the early sixth century, coinciding with the rule of the Liang Emperor Wu (r. 502–549). Scholars from the Liang capital Jiankang in the late fifth and early sixth centuries had indeed “fixed” early Chinese literary history as we have it today by their anthology making, editorial decisions, and works of literary criticism. For this chapter, I have chosen two pieces of writing from the Liang to throw some light on one cultural activity in particular: book collecting and book cataloging.

      The first piece was written by Xiao Yi 蕭繹 (508...

  11. PART IV Imaging Self and Other

    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 325-332)
      Wendy Swartz

      The early medieval period of China has often been described in the following terms: “rise of individualism,” “growth of self-awareness,” and “cult of the personality.”¹ While there is no doubt that the social values and behavioral norms of the Han were seriously (and, incidentally, in some cases, comically) challenged in the Wei and Jin dynasties, it is equally certain that people living before this era had experienced self-awareness as unique individuals. One would not need to search far and wide for examples: Qu Yuan 屈原 (343–277 B.C.E.), who expressed in no uncertain terms a feeling of being different from...

    • 20. Biographies of Recluses: Huangfu Mi’s Accounts of High-Minded Men
      (pp. 333-349)

      In China as elsewhere, accounts of individuals contribute to the construction of cultural memory. But readers of Chinese literature through the ages cannot help but be struck by the immediacy and fullness of the recounting of actions and words. Indeed, China’s past has largely been expressed through its individuals, for of the roughly four thousand or so scrolls (juan卷) of the twenty-five now standard dynastic histories, some two-thirds are extensive expositions of individuals or are grouped biographical accounts, and more than half of these are categorized biographies, that is, accounts of individuals whose lives reflect particular sectors of endeavor....

    • 21. Classifications of People and Conduct: Liu Shao’s Treatise on Personality and Liu Yiqing’s Recent Anecdotes from the Talk of the Ages
      (pp. 350-369)
      JACK W. CHEN

      Both theTreatise on Personality(Renwu zhi人物志) andRecent Anecdotes from the Talk of the Ages(Shishuo xinyu世說新語) emerged from the early medieval practice of evaluating character traits and personalities (renlun jianshi人倫鑑識).¹ Many scholars have noted that in the early medieval period, philosophical and literary subjectivity, as well as personal selfhood and self-consciousness, began. Nevertheless, even though there may have been much interest in the concept of the person, as opposed to normative social roles, it is difficult to say whether this constituted an authentically free notion of selfhood or was merely an expansion of typological models....

    • 22. The Literary Community at the Court of the Liang Crown Prince
      (pp. 370-381)

      The court’s patronage of men of letters can be traced back in Chinese history as early as the third century B.C.E. in the state of Chu (part of modern Hubei and Hunan Prefectures, south of the middle reaches of the Yangzi River). King Xiang of Chu 楚襄王 (297–263 B.C.E.) is said to have surrounded himself with notable literary figures such as Song Yu 宋玉, Tang Le 唐勒, and Jing Cuo 景差, who were “fond of words” and famous for writing in a genre known asfu.¹ Although all three men were said to be disciples of Qu Yuan 屈原,...

    • 23. Self-Narration: Tao Yuanming’s “Biography of the Master of Five Willows” and Yuan Can’s “Biography of the Master of Wonderful Virtue”
      (pp. 382-387)

      The “Biography of the Master of Five Willows” (Wuliu xiansheng zhuan五柳先生傳) by Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365?–427) is generally considered the first fictionalized autobiography in China. Written in the third person, the autobiography describes the personality and habits of the so-called Master of Five Willows. Although Tao Yuanming’s experimentation with methods of selfnarration verges on play when he uses a fictional rather than a documentary mode to narrate his own life, since its earliest reception, the “Biography of the Master of Five Willows” has been read unequivocally as a genuine testimony.¹ Two factors may have led to this understanding:...

    • 24. On Political and Personal Fate: Three Selections from Jiang Yan’s Prose and Verse
      (pp. 388-404)

      Jiang Yan 江淹 (444–505, byname Wentong 文通) is remembered today mainly for two compositions in thefu賦 form—the “Rhapsody on Regret” (Hen fu恨賦) and the “Rhapsody on Separation” (Bie fu別賦)—and a set of thirtyshi-poems imitative of various earlier poets (Zati sanshishou雜體三十首). These works were included by Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501–531) in his anthologyWen xuan文選, whose great influence has ensured their recognition to this day. Jiang Yan was also the author of many other fine works in verse and much official prose and during his life was a prominent figure...

    • 25. The Shadow Image in the Cave: Discourse on Icons
      (pp. 405-428)

      Buddha images appeared in China as early as the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.), according to some accounts, but it was not until around 400 C.E. that the making of Buddhist images became a widespread practice there. The movement was accompanied by serious theoretical inquiries into the nature of images, and the body of writings inspired by a shadow image in a proverbial cave best epitomized this new interest.

      At the same time, around 400, the lore of the “Shadow Cave,” allegedly located in the region of Nagarahāra (west of present-day Jalalabad, Afghanistan), was circulating in China. The interior...

  12. PART V Everyday Life

    • [PART V Introduction]
      (pp. 429-446)
      Jessey J. C. Choo and Albert E. Dien

      Like the culture, economy, politics, social institutions, and religions of early medieval China, everyday life came under the influence of sociopolitical turmoil, the frequent and extensive deracination of people, as well as the introduction of foreign ideas and practices. Changes were often rapid and drastic. The responses to them varied, some of which were as sweeping, disruptive, and vehemently resistant as the changes themselves. The efforts of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei to sinicize the elite by prohibiting Xianbei clothing and language is one such example. While these measures were intended to address a reality in which people of...

    • 26. Dietary Habits: Shu Xi’s “Rhapsody on Pasta”
      (pp. 447-457)

      Among the many foods of the Chinese culinary tradition, the most memorable are the delectable dumplings, stuffed buns, and noodles. During the Six Dynasties period, these types of foods were all included in the generic category ofbing餅. Although there are various anecdotal accounts ofbingfrom Han times on, the most detailed is a poem, “Rhapsody on Pasta” (Bing fu餅賦), by the Western Jin scholar Shu Xi 束皙 (263–302).¹ Shu Xi was a native of Yuancheng 元城 (east of modern Daming 大名, Hebei), which was the administrative seat of Yangping 陽平 Commandery. Shu Xi was reputed...

    • 27. The Epitaph of a Third-Century Wet Nurse, Xu Yi
      (pp. 458-467)

      Lower-class women have been employed to breast-feed and rear upper-class children in societies around the world,¹ and the consequent blurring or crossing of class and gender boundaries that this practice entails has frequently invited critical evaluation by contemporary moralists and intellectuals. But the specific issues that such debates raise with respect to gender, status, and social advancement through the female body have provided historians with many insights into broader aspects of politics and culture.² Historians studying ancient and medieval Europe have investigated various facets of wet nursing, ranging from the sexual regulations of wet nurses in Roman Egypt and a...

    • 28. Festival and Ritual Calendar: Selections from Record of the Year and Seasons of Jing-Chu
      (pp. 468-493)

      The lone bird in flight is an enduring image of Six Dynasties poetry and philosophy, and it is often with nonconformist or elitist sentiments that we associate this period’s cultural creativity. Yet the “vulgar” crowd, of high or low status, was also a busy innovator, and often its creations were of lasting influence. One text to embrace the common wasRecord of the Year and Seasons of Jing-Chu(Jing-Chu suishiji荊楚歲時記). This annotated festival calendar of the mid-sixth to the early seventh century not only charted important changes in religion, ritual, food, and entertainment—and in particular the formation of...

    • 29. Custom and Society: The Family Instructions of Mr. Yan
      (pp. 494-510)

      The Family Instructions of Mr. Yan(Yanshi jiaxun顏氏家訓) by Yan Zhitui 顏之推 (531–after 591) is divided into twenty sections, each of which deals with a specific topic. These include the education of children, the relations between brothers, supervision of the family, personal conduct, literature, the dangers of the military career, care for one’s health, a defense of Buddhism, and directions for the author’s funeral and tomb. The format is a general statement, with relevant citations from the Classics, some sage judgments, and a few anecdotes, often from personal experience, that bear out the validity of the advice. At...

    • 30. Adoption and Motherhood: “The Petition Submitted by Lady [née] Yu”
      (pp. 511-529)

      Adoption was not uncommon in early medieval China, where the practice of ancestral worship required that each married couple produce a male heir. “The Petition Submitted by Lady [neé] Yu in the Fifth Year of the Xianhe Reign of the Eastern Jin Emperor Cheng [330 C.E.]” (Dong-Jin Chengdi xianhe wunian Sanqi cilang Qiao He qi Yushi shangbiao東晉成帝咸和五年散騎侍郎賀喬妻于氏上表) documents a complex case of adoption and its effects on an aristocratic family. The petition directly touches on a number of issues of interest to historians, such as divorce, child custody, motherhood, patrilineal principles and their implementation through law and ritual, and,...

    • 31. Estate Culture in Early Medieval China: The Case of Shi Chong
      (pp. 530-538)

      Already in the Western Jin period, wealthy persons created large gardens on their private estates. The most famous garden owner of this period is Shi Chong 石崇 (249–303),¹ whose Golden Valley Garden (Jingu yuan 金谷園) was the most lavish country estate in the Luoyang area, if not the entire realm.² Shi Chong was the youngest of the six sons of Shi Bao 石苞 (d. 273), a wealthy and powerful supporter of the Sima clan at the end of the Wei dynasty. When Shi Bao was on his deathbed, he distributed his property to all his sons except Chong, on...

  13. PART VI Relations with the Unseen World

    • [PART VI Introduction]
      (pp. 539-542)
      Robert Ford Campany

      Most religious texts portray aspects of a normally unseen world of divine beings, spiritual presences, or numinous zones that are argued to impinge somehow on human life. From among the enormous number of such texts that have come down to us from early medieval China, the seven chapters in part VI present all or part of a dozen or so. They represent a range of textual genres, religious traditions, communal concerns, and persuasive goals. Taken as a whole, they constitute a strong body of counterevidence to a pervasive tendency among some Sinologists to see traditional China as essentially secular or...

    • 32. Biographies of Eight Autocremators and Huijiao’s “Critical Evaluation”
      (pp. 543-560)

      In this selection of early medieval hagiographical material, the theme of “relations between humans and nonhuman others” is exemplified by dealings not with the demons and deities of traditional China but with a set of actors relatively new to the Chinese religious scene: the buddhas and bodhisattvas of theLotus Sutra. As we shall see, such interactions between human devotees and the heroes found in Buddhist literature translated from Indian sources did not drive out other kinds of relations with nonhuman beings. Signs that had roots in the much larger world of medieval religion and culture—dragons, golden deer, miraculous...

    • 33. Divine Instructions for an Official:
      (pp. 561-575)

      During the years 363 to 370, Yang Xi 楊羲 (b. 330), a medium employed by a Southern gentry family, began to receive visits from a group of deities descended from the Heavens of Upper Clarity (Shangqing 上清).¹ In addition to instructing him in ways more advanced than those known to other Daoists, these deities ministered to the spiritual needs of the Southern family that Yang served, answering such questions as “What is the fate of my ancestors in the spirit world?” “Which deities and practices are to be trusted?” “What must I do to better both my worldly and my...

    • 34. Tales of Strange Events
      (pp. 576-591)

      Beginning by at least the third century B.C.E., and in much greater numbers from the late second to the early seventh centuries C.E., official-class literati wrote a huge number of accounts of phenomena whose one common trait was that they were deemed marvelous, strange, and incongruous. The vast majority of these accounts describe ordinary people’s encounters with normally unseen denizens of the spirit world (from celestial deities to local gods, ghosts, demons, and ancestors), with humanlike animals and animal spirits or with religious adepts displaying extraordinary abilities. Perhaps as much as 80 percent of the original contents of these so-called...

    • 35. Texts for Stabilizing Tombs
      (pp. 592-612)

      Over the past half century, archaeologists have unearthed hundreds of texts buried in ancient Chinese tombs. The variety of interred writing is remarkable. From about the fifth century B.C.E. on, works of philosophy, literature, and history appear with some frequency among the grave goods buried with the dead, as do documents concerned with legal, administrative, ritual, and military issues; treatises on medicine, macrobiotics, divination, and portent reading; and almanacs and examples of sacred cartography.¹ These manuscripts, written on silk and bamboo or wooden slips, were the treasured personal property of the deceased, and their placement in the tomb made them...

    • 36. Reciting Scriptures to Move the Spirits
      (pp. 613-639)

      The text translated in this chapter is an early Lingbao 靈寶 (Numinous Treasure) scripture.¹ The first Lingbao scriptures were anonymously composed by Ge Chaofu 葛巢甫, a grand-nephew of Ge Hong 葛洪 (283–343), around 400 C.E. Ge Chaofu and his imitators drew on several sources: Shangqing 上清 scriptures, the older religious traditions of the region (as found in Ge Hong’s writings), and certain Buddhist sutras.² The text seems to present itself as a series of extracts from an earlier text,Most High Concealed Commentary on the Jade Scripture(Shangqing taiji yinzhu yujing baojue上清太極隱注玉經寶訣), with further comments by the Perfected...

    • 37. Confucian Views of the Supernatural
      (pp. 640-651)

      Common wisdom says that Confucianism, if not atheistic, was at most disinterested in the supernatural. After all, it was Confucius who said, “We are still not able to [properly] serve men. How is it possible, then, that we can talk about serving the spirits?” and “We still do not understand life. How is it possible that we can understand death?”¹ Nevertheless, in the early medieval period, Confucians assumed that the spiritual world affected our lives in many ways. Sacrifices not merely were exercises in reinvigorating communal solidarity, but were truly meant to provide for, or at least placate, the deities...

    • 38. Encounters in Mountains
      (pp. 652-682)
      GIL RAZ

      In traditional China, as in many other cultures, mountains were sacred sites, mysterious and dangerous. The best-known mountains in China were the Five Marchmounts (wuyue五嶽).¹ As the terrestrial correlates of the five phases (earth, water, metal, wood, and fire) in the cosmo-political theory that supported the imperial edifice since the Han, these peaks were thought to secure the realm with their very presence.² Among imperial rites, few were more sacred and awesome than thefengandshan封禪 rites at Mount Tai, the Eastern Peak.³ But these five peaks were not the only sacred sites. In fact, any mountain...

  14. List of Contributors
    (pp. 683-688)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 689-720)