Cai Yong 蔡邕 and his colleagues, eager to produce an authoritative version of the classical canon, persuaded Emperor Ling 靈 of Eastern Han to commission an edition literally engraved in stone. Production of the resulting Xiping stone Classics (Xiping shijing 熹平石經) began in 175 CE, during the Xiping era (hence the name). The stone Classics comprised forty-six steles, each more than eight feet high and three feet wide, on which were engraved a set of seven classical texts, more than 200,000 characters in all. The steles were erected outside the dynastic academy in Luoyang.
They were broken or destroyed during the fighting at the end of the Han and only fragments now survive. The image on the cover is a rubbing of one such fragment. It was made during the Republican era from a stone held at the National Beiping Library (now the National Library of China). It appears to be a passage from a postface to the entire Classics. Among other things, the fragment is interesting because it corroborates the involvement of the eunuch Li Xun 李巡 in the conception and execution of the stone Classics project. HJAS thanks the Harvard-Yenching Library for permission to reproduce the image. The Journal also sincerely thanks Professor Michael Hunter of Yale University for his generous guidance in interpreting the significance of the rubbing.
In Memoriam, Timothy Conner, 1942–2015
The Music Teacher
The Professionalization of Singing and the Development of Erotic Vocal Style During Late Ming China
I focus on the professional singing teacher as a new social identity during the late Ming, particularly their social transformation from anonymous grifters to meaningful names in the elite singing culture of kunqu. A close, intertextual reading of different versions of Wei Liangfu’s (fl. 16th century) singing thesis, Nanci yinzheng—combined with historical, fictional, dramatic, and poetic accounts of musical performance given by professional singing masters and their courtesan students—reveals how the professionalization of teaching music resulted in the low rate of musical literacy among commoner-singers and the renowned erotic vocal style of the late Ming. In this process, moral critique, sensual pleasure, and technical criticism were more closely intertwined than has been generally believed.
The Boy Who Lived
The Transfigurations of Chigo in the Medieval Japanese Short Story Ashibiki
This article casts new light on the fifteenth-century “acolyte tale” Ashibiki (The mountain) as well as on the genre as a whole. In an archetypal acolyte tale, the protagonist (chigo)—often an avatar of a bodhisattva—dies a tragic death, awakening his surviving lover, a monk, to the emptiness of carnal desire. Perhaps due to the adversities the chigo endures in Ashibiki, previous scholarship has likened this tale to the archetype, although Ashibiki makes a stark contrast within the genre. By employing the “stepchild story” as a framework for re-interpretation, I argue that Ashibiki is a triumph story of a stepchild who is initiated into adulthood by surviving numerous hardships. Furthermore, based on careful analyses of several acolyte tales, this article challenges prevalent assumptions that chigo-monk relationships were inherently exploitative and acolyte tales were created for legitimating the institutional sexual abuse of adolescent boys.
Unearthed Documents and the Question of the Oral versus Written Nature of the Classic of Poetry
Prominent Western scholars have proposed that the Shijing was produced in a largely oral context and that writing played little role in the creation and subsequent transmission of the poems. Recent discoveries of several manuscripts of and about these poems call into question this view. I examine these recently published manuscripts as well as other types of paleographic evidence to show that writing played a crucial role in each of the three phases of the Classic of Poetry’s early history: its redaction during the Han dynasty, its transmission over the course of the Eastern Zhou period, and the original creation of at least some of the poems during the Western Zhou dynasty. I do not claim that oral influences played no role in the creation, transmission, and redaction of the text, but I do suggest that these influences have been overemphasized in recent Western scholarship.
On a Han-era Postface (Xu 序) to the Documents
Qu Wanli once wrote, “Of all the Classics, the Documents is the most difficult to put in good order.” In an attempt to untangle the complex, often contradictory statements about that text found in pre-Han, Han, and immediately post Han sources, this article takes on a seemingly minor part of the larger puzzle requiring resolution: did there exist during pre-Han and Han times a preface/postface (xu 序) to a 100-pian Documents, representing a compilation by Kongzi (Confucius) himself that passed down uninterruptedly for centuries within the Kong family? Clearly, if such a work existed, it would have served as a supremely authoritative guide for how to read the classic, and hence a reliable witness to the entire history of the distant Chinese past with its many sage-kings and worthy ministers. Contra much recent scholarship devoted to the so-called 100-pian xu, this article adopts the view that no such genuinely early xu existed for the Documents.