From Filial Subjects to Loyal Citizens: Representations of the Emperor in Late Imperial and Modern China
Pär Cassel - Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan
When historians and social scientists have tried to account for the different personality cults that emerged in the twentieth century, they have often treated those movements as regressions into an “emperor worship,” which was supposedly intrinsic to the political culture of imperial China. However, the vast mass of commoners did not stand in any direct ritual relationship to the state or the emperor in late imperial China; the name, the countenance or personal qualities of the Ming and Qing Emperors were not known to the common people, and they were not called upon to participate in official rituals to worship the sovereign. Yet the emperor was ever-present to his commoners in a variety of ways, and he spoke directly to them in a number of political documents that were designed to exalt the image of the ruling house through promotion of Confucian virtues. This talk looks at one of those documents, the Sacred Edict of the Kangxi and Yongzheng emperors, and explores how it shaped the political culture of late imperial China.
For more information about Professor Pär Cassel, please visit his website: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/cassel/english