New Frontiers in the Study of Medieval China

Second Annual Workshop: On Muzhiming

Monday, May 23–Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Performing Arts Building 332, Reed College

This workshop is co-organized by Jessey Choo, Alexei Ditter, and LU Yang, with the generous support of the Tang Research Foundation, with additional assistance provided by the Office of the Dean of Faculty and the Chinese Department, Reed College.

This workshop will sharpen analysis of presented muzhiming by asking participants to focus more closely on the following four areas—historiography, representation, practice and materiality—that were identified in the Rutgers 2015 workshop as those areas that would most useful to the study of medieval China.
  1. Historiography: The Rutgers 2015 workshop highlighted how muzhiming could be used in concert with other forms of commemorative and historical materials to shed light on little known historical figures or provide insights into important historical events. This workshop will explore in greater detail how families deliberately used muzhiming to establish a multi-generational sense of family identity and strengthen claims to elite status.

  2. Representation: In the Rutgers 2015 workshop, participants fortuitously presented muzhiming treating people of different ethnicity, gender, religious conviction, and socio-political status. This workshop will ask participants to explore more deliberately variations in styles and conventions used in portraying people of different backgrounds—Daoists vs. Buddhists, laypeople vs. clergy, officials vs. non-officials—or different locales—Chang’an vs. Luoyang, North vs. South, capital cities vs. distant provinces.

  3. Practice: In the Rutgers 2015 workshop some presentations touched upon issues of changes in muzhiming practice from the Eastern Jin to the end of the Southern Dynasties in the South. In this workshop, we will more broadly explore the evolving practice of muzhiming from the Northern Dynasties to the Five Dynasties in the North. We will consider how muzhiming across this period were gradually adapted to serve several new purposes, such as to advertise the talents and accomplishments of authors or family and friends of the deceased, to make polemical arguments about social ills, or even as a media for writing autobiographical accounts in a bid to shape how one might be viewed by posterity.

  4. Materiality: Some presentations at the Rutgers 2015 workshop convincingly demonstrated the vital importance of studying the text and image of the muzhiming side-by-side. This workshop will explore how understanding of muzhiming changes when focus is broadened to include some aspects of its materiality, such as calligraphic scripts, decorative designs, spatial arrangement of text and imagery, and the size and value of the stone.