Lecture -- Thoughtful Descendants and Thought-full Ancestors: How Living Minds Prolong the Existence of the Dead in Early China
A lecture by K. E. Brashier (Reed College), in the series New Approaches to Chinese Studies
Monday, April 28, 2003
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
When depicting afterlife existence in early China, modern scholarship tends to generalize, to distinguish vaguely between elite and popular perspectives or to admit to complexity and leave it at that. Brashier proposes such ambiguity is neither satisfactory nor necessary. Afterlife conceptions fall across a five-fold spectrum denoted by varying degrees of mental investment in the family dead. He suggests that independent ancestors engaging in exchange relationships mark one end of the spectrum and wholly dependent ancestors derived through meditations mark the other. This spectrum is not merely a means of organizing ideas about the dead, but it can advance our understanding of how the mind itself was thought to work in the early years of the imperial period.
K. E. Brashier began his Chinese studies as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and took subsequent degrees at Harvard and Cambridge. A student of the Han dynasty, he now teaches religion at Reed College and writes on the ancestral cult as well as early Chinese cosmology. His most recent publication is in this year's issue of the journal Early China and discusses how concepts of willful gods and impersonal cyclic forces intermix in Han mountain inscriptions. He claims his one goal in life is to figure out the scoring system in mahjong.
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Tel: 310 825-8683
Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies