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Ritual Propriety and Political Intrigue in the Xuande Gate Incident

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image of T'oung Pao

The 1073 incident at the Xuande Gate, involving Wang Anshi's alleged breach of imperial protocol, was a turning point both in his career and in emperor Shenzong's policies. By filling in the gaps and reconciling the discrepancies in various accounts of the incident, this essay demonstrates that, whereas on the surface the controversy centered on the ritual question of whether Wang should have dismounted before entering the gate, what was really at play was the particular political dynamics of the time. Direct instigation came from the ranks of senior eunuchs, among whom there was considerable aversion to Wang. Such aversion reflected the attitude of the conservative members of the imperial family. The incident also marked the beginning of Shenzong's shifting away from his exclusive reliance on Wang in formulating and implementing reform policies.

Affiliations: 1: (University of Notre Dame)


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