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Shrine, Images, and Power: The Worship of Former Worthies in Early Nineteenth Century Suzhou

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In the 1820s, the literati of Suzhou embarked on a project to build a shrine devoted to the worship of local former worthies and engraved almost six hundred portraits of the latter on the shrine's inner walls. Since the locality already had a paired shrine of eminent officials and local worthies, as had become the case across the empire since the mid-Ming period, why did they need to create a shrine of a similar nature? What was the cultural significance of introducing visual representations of the worthies in the worship? By analyzing the multiple layers of meaning surrounding this shrine-building activity, the present study attempts to illuminate an aspect of the changing state-elite relations in the early nineteenth century. Au cours des années 1820 les lettrés de Suzhou s'engagèrent dans un projet de construction d'un sanctuaire dédié au culte des anciennes personnalités locales éminentes, sur les murs duquel furent gravés les portraits de près de six cents d'entre elles. Dans la mesure, où Suzhou possédait déjà deux sanctuaires, l'un pour les fonctionnaires éminents et l'autre pour les personnalités locales, comme c'était le cas partout dans l'Empire depuis le milieu des Ming, pourquoi fut-il jugé nécessaire d'en créer un autre de même nature? Que signifiait d'un point de vue culturel le fait d'introduire des représentations visuelles des personnalités en question dans les célébrations? En analysant les niveaux de sens multiples qui entourent cette activité de construction, le présent article s'efforce de mettre en lumière un aspect particulier du changement dans les relations entre l'État et les élites au début du xixe siècle.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica


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