Religion, Poetry, and Memory in Ancient China
EAS/REL 327 (Spring 2009)
Prof. Martin Kern
210 Jones Hall
Office hours: Th 1:30-2:30
Description: The seminar explores the interplay of religious and aesthetic—especially poetic—
practice in ancient China, and how the performance of texts in religious contexts contributed to
the formation of Chinese cultural memory and identity. Combining anthropological, art
historical, and literary analysis, the discussion centers on the performative nature and functions
of texts and artifacts (including texts as material artifacts) in their social and religious spaces.
Emphasis on close analysis of original texts (in English translation) and visuals, including
objects in the Princeton Art Museum, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in an exhibition at
the China Institute. We will make two trips to the Princeton Art Museum and a day trip to New
York City to visit the China Institute and the Metropolitan Museum.
Readings: 150-200 pages per week. Readings are online on Blackboard or (if marked as such)
Writing Assignments: Midterm Paper (10 pp.), final Paper (16 pp.).
Grading: Midterm paper 20%, Final paper 40%, Participation 40%
Introduction to the Course
* The Scribe Qiang Water Basin inscription
2/5 Religion and Memory
* Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember, 41-71, 109-113.
* Rosalind Thomas, Literacy and Orality in Ancient Greece, 101-127.
* Jan Assmann, Religion and Cultural Memory, 1-45, 122-138.
2/10 Worshipping the Ancestors: The Earliest Records
* David N. Keightley, “The Making of the Ancestors,” in John Lagerwey (ed.), Religion
and Chinese Society, vol. 1, 3-63.
* Robert Eno, “Shang State Religion and the Pantheon of the Oracle Texts,” in John
Lagerwey and Marc Kalinowski (eds.), Early Chinese Religion, Part One: Shang through
Han (1250 BC-220 AD), vol. 1, 41-102.
2/12 Performance and Authority
* Stanley J. Tambiah, Culture, Thought, an