The 2012/13 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
with Professor Wang Fan-sen (Academia Sinica)
Lecture: Shoes, Umbrellas, and Tofu: Appraising Local Officials in Late Imperial China
Historians have long been interested in the rituals of appraisals for officials that took place in local temples. This is so for good reasons. For most scholar-officials in late imperial China, earning a place in a Confucius Temple (thus securing one’s privilege to accept offerings of cold pork left by worshippers) was indeed a lifelong aspiration. And as a result, rituals of appraisals did generate a sense of anticipation and were an important part of socialization and social order in late imperial times.
In this talk, I would like to explore a related though lesser-known phenomenon: the appraisal of local officials by common people. In examining popular responses to state power, scholars have tended to focus on resistance and revolts (e.g., James Scott’s Weapons of the Weak). By contrast, in this lecture I will examine another way people responded to state authority: ritual demonstrations of approval and praise for “good officials.”
Among the ritual behaviours to be discussed are the taking off of shoes, the gifting of so-called umbrellas of ten-thousand-names (wan ming san; that is, umbrellas with names of villagers written on them), and the placing of pieces of tofu on incense burners. Such rituals were typically preformed on the occasion of an official’s leaving office. As such, they were understood to have strong evaluative implications.
Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
7:00pm-9:00pm (Pacific Time)
Asian Centre Auditorium, 1871 West Mall, Vancouver, BC
Free & open to the public. Registration is now closed.
About the Speaker
Professor Wang Fan-sen is an historian specializing in the cultural-intellectual history of early modern and modern China. Among his most acclaimed works are Zhang Taiyan de si xiang (The thought of Zhang Taiyan; 1985), Gu shi bian yun dong de xing qi (The rise of the doubting-antiquity movement; 1987), Fu Ssu-nien: A Life in Chinese History and Politics (2000), Zhongguo jin dai si xiang yu xue shu de xi pu (The geneology of modern Chinese thought; 2003), and Wan Ming Qing chu si xiang shi lun (Ten essays on Ming and Qing intellectual history; 2004). Wang Fan-sen received his M.A. in History from the National Taiwan University and Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from Princeton University.
About the Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture. Please visit the full lecture list here.