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Peculiar Living Shrines and Yuan Governance as Background to Ming Populism

  • Author(s): Schneewind, Sarah
  • et al.

Although post-mortem apotheosis and secular honor in temples have received more attention, shrines to living men were also ordinary institutions from Han times onwards in Chinese history. The limited scholarship so far on premortem shrines in Tang and Song is bound up with premortem commemoration in inscribed records of local commendation on the one hand and Neo-Confucian daoxue Shrines to Local Worthies on the other. The work suggests that Tang and Song premortem shrines when political were basically elite institutions; and that when common people were involved their motivations were religious rather than political. In Ming times, by contrast, premortem shrines were normatively established by commoners and constituted a venue for popular political participation, while the steles commemorating the shrines explicitly argued that non-elite people had the right to political speech. This paper speculates, as a hypothesis awaiting further research, that both Yuan modes of government generally, and creative uses of premortem enshrinement in Yuan times specifically, may have contributed to Ming populism.

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