Books of Fate and Popular Culture in Early China is a comprehensive introduction to the manuscripts known as daybooks, examples of which have been found in Warring States, Qin, and Han tombs (453 BCE–220 CE). Their main content concerns hemerology, or “knowledge of good and bad days.” Daybooks reveal the place of hemerology in daily life and are invaluable sources for the study of popular culture.
Eleven scholars have contributed chapters examining the daybooks from different perspectives, detailing their significance as manuscript-objects intended for everyday use and showing their connection to almanacs still popular in Chinese communities today as well as to hemerological literature in medieval Europe and ancient Babylon.
Contributors include: Marianne Bujard, László Sándor Chardonnens, Christopher Cullen, Donald Harper, Marc Kalinowski, Li Ling, Liu Lexian, Alasdair Livingstone, Richard Smith, Alain Thote, and Yan Changgui.
Eight studies examine key features of Chinese visual and material cultures, ranging from tomb design, metalware, ceramic pillows, and bronze mirrors, to printed illustrations, calligraphic rubbings, colophons, and paintings on Buddhist, landscape, and narrative themes. Questions addressed include how artists and artisans made their works, the ways both popular literature and market forces could shape ways of looking, and how practices and imagery spread across regions. The authors connect visual materials to funeral and religious practices, drama, poetry, literati life, travel, and trade, showing ways visual images and practices reflected, adapted to, and reproduced the culture and society around them. Readers will gain a stronger appreciation of the richness of the visual and material cultures of Middle Period China.
Monks in Glaze is a complete reassessment of the famous group of large glazed ceramic sculptures known as the
Yixian Luohans. Drawing upon hitherto-unknown epigraphic documents, Eileen Hsiang-ling Hsu proposes a new date (1511–1519) for the group’s production and, for the first time, identifies the kiln centre near Beijing as its birthplace.
Removed more than one hundred years ago from a massive grotto in northern China, the group’s provenance disappeared after its dispersal between 1913 and 1933. Delving into the social and economic issues of religious patronage, imperial workshop practice, and nuanced style of post-Yuan Buddhist art, Hsu convincingly shows that such a large group of masterworks were products of well-developed commercial economy of the Ming dynasty.
Michael Loewe calls on literary and material evidence to examine three problems that arose in administering China’s early empires. Religious rites due to an emperor’s predecessors must both pay the correct services to his ancestors and demonstrate his right to succeed to the throne. In practical terms, tax collectors, merchants, farmers and townsmen required the establishment of a standard set of weights and measures that was universally operative and which they could trust. Those who saw reason to criticise the decisions taken by the emperor and his immediate advisors, whether on grounds of moral principles or political expediency, needed opportunities and the means of expressing their views, whether as remonstrants to the throne, by withdrawal from public life or as authors of private writings.