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Sanitizing Filiality

"Sanitizing Filiality: The Changing Iconography and Pantheon of Images of Filial Piety Tales in pre-modern China” by Professor Keith Knapp

Time: Feb. 24, 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Location: TBA, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322

Open and free to the public

Beginning in the Han Dynasty, stories of filial heroes became ubiquitous. Images of these tales were commonly used to decorate tombs and funerary goods. This paper examines how these illustrations changed from their first appearance in the Han Dynasty through the late imperial period. Although a small number of stories were continuously depicted, there were significant changes in which tales were isplayed and how their details were portrayed. Han dynasty illustrations emphasize the father-son relationship, whereas Northern Wei ones stress filiality’s miraculous power. The Song/Yuan pantheon of illustrated filial children is noteworthy for its large number of female exemplars. Reflecting the influence of Guo Jujing’s canonical “Poems of the Twenty-four Filial Exemplars,” late Yuan and Ming portrayals marginalize filial females and omit tales hat mention parental wrongdoing. In sum, there is a gradual shift to eradicate unsavory filial practices, such as filial cannibalism, and emphasize the importance of sonly obedience.

About the speaker

A native of Pound Ridge, New York, Keith Knapp received his B.A. in History and Asian Studies from the State University of New York at Albany and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in East Asian History from the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the cultural and social history of early medieval China (AD 100-600); he is particularly interested in exploring how people make sense of their world. He has written Selfless ffspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China, as well as a numerous book chapters and articles. He is one of the co-editors of the soon to be published Early Medieval Chinese Texts: A Bibliographic Guide. Together with Albert Dien, he is editing the long-awaited Cambridge History of China: Volume Two, The Six Dynasties 220-581.Presently, he is finishing a manuscript entitled "The Lives of Filial Children: A Study of Two Medieval Chinese Manuscripts Preserved in Kyoto."

He is the President of the Early Medieval China Group and the Chair of the Southeast Early China Roundtable. He regularly compiles and distributes the "Early China Archaeological Digest," which provides links to articles about recent archaeological discoveries and historic preservation in China.