China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
From the “Age of Division” to the unified empires of Sui and Tang, the period of Chinese history spanning the fifth to the ninth centuries saw dramatic social transformations when existing claims to authority were contested and new cultural identities formed. This panel examines texts produced and circulated during this period that negotiated the changing boundaries of knowledge, political legitimacy, and historical imagination. Focusing on four historical moments, namely Liu Song, Northern Wei, Sui, and Tang, and investigating a wide variety of genres including liturgy, poetry, historiography, and commemorative writings, the four papers shed light on the issues of ritual and symbolism, memory-making, and political legitimation in the context of China’s middle period and gauge the complicated relationship between rhetoric and politics.
Harrison Huang examines the problem of ritual efficacy and “ritualized reality” constructed in a Song dynasty liturgical text. Nina Duthie explores the representations of state ritual in Northern Wei historiography and the dynasty’s claim of cultural legitimacy. Lu Kou examines the strategic use of songs in the Sui to reimagine the Southland and represent imperial unification. Alexei Ditter focuses on mid-Tang commemorative writings and the verbal fashioning of memories. This panel brings together papers on different periods, genres, and disciplines for an in-depth discussion of the ideology and the performative functions of texts in their historical contexts. It thus deepens our understanding of the persuasive power of words and rhetoric to (re-)shape history, identity, and reality.