Kenneth Brashier Public Memory in Early China

Harvard University Asia Center, 2014

by Carla Nappi on October 29, 2014

Kenneth Brashier

View on Amazon

Ken Brashier’s new book is another tour de force and must-read for scholars of Chinese studies. Public Memory in Early China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) offers a history of identity and public memory in early China. An extensive introductory chapter lays a foundation for the rest of the book by exploring Han understandings of memory as concept and practice, including the import and nature of memorization within early manuscript culture and the ways that writing and recitation may have helped shape the cultural and political history of the Han dynasty. This introduction is followed by three parts of the book (I-III) that respectively examine the significance of the most important parameters of identity – name, age, and kinship – by understanding how each helped position individuals in relative terms. These are followed by two parts (IV & V) devoted to the tangible and intangible tools that facilitated such positioning. In each case, Brashier helps readers understand the major ways that early Chinese notions of self and identity (and the concepts that undergirded them) were importantly different or (in one case) fascinatingly similar to comparable notions in Western texts. As a result of this comparative attention, Public Memory in Early China is also a wonderful instrument for helping rethink our most basic assumptions about time, aging, and death. It is an important books well worth reading and remembering.

For my interview with Brashier about his earlier book, see here

For his wonderful website on the Hell Scrolls, see here.

{ 0 comments }

Paul CoppThe Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

October 27, 2014

[Cross-posted on New Books in Buddhist Studies] Paul Copp’s new book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on Chinese interpretations and uses of two written dhāraṇī during the last few centuries of the first millennium.  Based on extensive research on the material forms that these dhāraṇī took, [...]

Read the full article →

Eugene Y. ParkA Family of No Prominence: The Descendants of Pak Tokhwa and the Birth of Modern Korea

October 20, 2014

Eugene Y. Park‘s A Family of No Prominence: The Descendants of Pak Tokhwa and the Birth of Modern Korea (Stanford University Press, 2014) traces this history by focusing on the Miryang Pak family. The history of transformations in the family’s social status and geography parallels that of modern Korea, and each chapter treats these different [...]

Read the full article →

Chun-fang YuPassing the Light: The Incense Light Community and Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Taiwan

October 14, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Buddhist Studies] Chün-fang Yü’s new book, Passing the Light: The Incense Light Community and Buddhist Nuns in Contemporary Taiwan (University of Hawaii Press, 2013), focuses on a community of nuns in Taiwan founded in the early 1980s, and discusses the appearance and development of this community within the context of rapidly changing social and [...]

Read the full article →

Robert StolzBad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950

October 2, 2014

Robert Stolz’s new book explores the emergence of an environmental turn in modern Japan. Bad Water: Nature, Pollution & Politics in Japan, 1870-1950 (Duke University Press, 2014) guides readers through the unfolding of successive eco-historical periods in Japan. Stolz charts the transformations of an “environmental unconscious” lying at the foundation of modern social and political [...]

Read the full article →

Shengqing WuModern Archaics: Continuity and Innovation in the Chinese Lyric Tradition, 1900-1937

September 25, 2014

Shengqing Wu’s gorgeous new book begins by exploring the image of the treasure pagoda to introduce readers to an aesthetics of ornamental lyricism in Chinese poetry at the turn of the twentieth-century. Modern Archaics: Continuity and Innovation in the Chinese Lyric Tradition, 1900-1937 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) then continues gorgeously, exploring practices and discourses [...]

Read the full article →

Todd A. HenryAssimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945

September 21, 2014

Todd Henry’s new book is a wonderful study of public space as a laboratory for producing the experiences and engines of colonial society. Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945 (University of California Press, 2014) explores the forms of spatialization of colonial Keijō as a way of getting [...]

Read the full article →

Lara Jaishree NettingA Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese Art and Culture

September 11, 2014

Lara Netting’s new book explores the life, career, and work of one man as a window into the history and associated practices of “Chinese art” during a period of massive transformation in the China of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While reading A Perpetual Fire: John C. Ferguson and His Quest for Chinese [...]

Read the full article →

Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, eds.Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America

September 10, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Modernity and religion have often been seen as fundamentally at odds. However, the articles in Encountering Modernity: Christianity in East Asia and Asian America (University of Hawaii Press, 2014 ), edited by Albert L. Park and David K. Yoo, argue that Protestant Christianity has played an important role in how East Asians understood and adapted [...]

Read the full article →

Jolyon ThomasDrawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan

September 6, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Religion] The worlds of cinema and illustrated fiction are replete with exciting data for the historian of religion. Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University Of Hawai’i Press, 2012), by author Jolyon Thomas, sets up a robust theoretical model for examining how the concept of religion is deployed in these mediums. [...]

Read the full article →