03/29 Yuwei Zhou

Ph.D. Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago

“Was There a Clan Cemetery in Yinxu:
A Spatial and Statistical Approach to Mortuary Practices in the Guojiazhuang Cemetery

Time: Wednesday, March 29, 3:30-5:00 pm CT

Location: LaSalle Banks Room at the Oriental Institute

Please note the unusual time and location

★Co-Sponsored by Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop★

Abstract: Excavated in 1928, the site of Yinxu in Henan, China marks one of the greatest finds in Chinese archaeology. In addition to being the first scientific excavation in China, Yinxu is identified to be the last capital of the Shang dynasty, a period that is believed to be the start of Chinese civilization and the foundation of the Chinese patrimonial political system. The excavation of Yinxu has yielded impressive finds, inducing a palace complex, a royal cemetery, several residential areas, cemeteries, paved roads, canal systems, craft production workshops, and thousands of inscribed bones (also called oracle bone inscriptions) that mark the earliest evidence of writing system in China. Abundant archaeological and textual sources concerning Yinxu make it a focal point for interdisciplinary study and discussion. In 1979, the publication of nearly 1000 burials at the Western Locus cemetery had an extremely influential impact on the method and theory of burial analysis in Yinxu. This report divided the cemetery into eight clusters based primarily on spatial proximity, but also on tomb orientations, burial styles, and burial goods, arguing that each group represents the cemetery of a clan, and the Western locus was a public cemetery for at least eight clans. Such a practice of tomb grouping (muzang fenqu 墓葬分區) was soon adopted in the analysis of other cemeteries in Yinxu, all of which were consequently determined to reflect clan structures. Today, despite minor skepticism on the validity of the tomb grouping methodology, the archaeologically-confirmed clan-based nature of the late Shang society has made its way into various Chinese archaeology textbooks.

This paper discusses the problem with the current tomb grouping methodology and calls into question the concept of “clan cemetery” in Yinxu through a case study of the Guojiazhuang cemetery. It uses computational tools to examine the statistical reliability of the previously proposed grouping methods regarding this cemetery. This paper then proposes an alternative way to understand the Guojiazhuang cemetery through a spatial-temporal and statistical approach.

Presenter: Yuwei Zhou is a Ph.D. student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the archaeology and paleography of Bronze Age China. She is interested in combining archaeology with computational tools such as statistical, geospatial, and network analysis to investigate regional and local interactions.

3/24 Yihui Sheng

Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan

“Making a New Sound:
The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang

Time: Friday, March 24, 3:00-5:00 pm CT

Location:  Wieboldt 408

Please note the unusual location!

★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★

Abstract: Late-Ming China enjoyed an exuberant soundscape of southern arias: people with various levels of literacy sang arias in private studios, touring boats, urban brothels, and public gatherings. Kunshan qiang, a singing style (qiang) of southern arias that originated in the Wu region in southeast China and named after Kunshan, between Shanghai and Lake Taihu, stood out as a dominant new sound. Scholarly discussions about the development of Kunshan qiang have focused on a discourse of ya (orthodox and refined) and su (vulgar and popular), arguing that Kunshan qiang was reformed into a musical manifestation of refined taste. One assumption insinuated in these discussions is that the ya-su division can be clearly defined, so the ways in which Kunshan qiang represents the late-Ming understanding of ya-su are also decipherable. However, as Wai-yee Li has recently pointed out, the ya-su division connotes flexible and sometimes contradictory meanings (Li 2022, 93). For this reason, the representational relation between Kunshan qiang and the cultural conceptions of ya also becomes questionable.

Proposing an alternative framework to the ya-su discourse, I introduce a material perspective to analyze Kunshan qiang. I examine a series of material practices that shaped the reform of Kunshan qiang in the late Ming, including the introduction of melodic instruments, the creation of a singing language through annotating marks, and the promotion of a rhythm technique. I argue that Kunshan qiang hybridized the material practices of northern and southern arias to develop its own musical features. This hybridization is less a top-down process from the cultural elites to the less educated performers than one reflecting mutual influences among practitioners across a broad social spectrum. Such a collaborative effort rendered the reformed Kunshan qiang more accessible and attractive to a broader audience in the late Ming than had previously been the case.

Presenter: Yihui Sheng is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on early modern Chinese literature and theater. She has recently defended her dissertation, which is titled, still tentatively, “Performative Reading and Close Listening: Excavating the Media of Chuanqi Song-Drama in Early Modern China (1550s–1750s).” Apart from her academic interests, Yihui has been an amateur singer of Kunqu for almost fifteen years.

Respondents: Judith Zeitlin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Theater & Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is The Voice as Something More: Essays Toward Materiality, co-edited with Martha Feldman (University of Chicago, 2019).

She is the author of Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (1993) and The Phantom Heroine: Ghosts and Gender in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Literature (2007), and co-editor of Writing and Materiality in China (2003), Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History (2007), Chinese Opera Film (2010), Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (2014). She is currently completing a book on the voice, text, and instrument in early modern Chinese entertainment culture. Her next project is to embark on a new, complete, annotated English translation of Pu Songling’s masterpiece Liaozhai’s Strange Tales (Liaozhai zhiyi).

Jacob Reed is a PhD candidate in music theory and history at the University of Chicago. His dissertation project, “Negotiating Grammars: Encounters Between Music and Text” examines domains where language and music supplement, replace, and fight with one another, drawing on examples and tools from sources including hip-hop, pop music, and Kunqu theory. He also performs widely on keyboard instruments, playing organ recitals, collaborative piano, and basso continuo throughout the Chicagoland area.

This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

Spring 2023 Schedule

Dear colleagues, faculty members, and friends,

The Arts and Politics of East Asia Workshop (APEA) is pleased to announce our Spring 2023 schedule. The workshop will meet on Fridays 3:00-5:00 pm in the Spring quarter unless otherwise noted. As usual, we will send reminder emails with location info prior to every workshop session, along with the link to the pre-circulated papers. Please sign up for our listserv if you have not already received those emails.

Spring 2023 Schedule

March 24th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Yihui Sheng, Ph.D. Candidate, Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan
“Beyond the Voice: The Materiality of the Production of Kunshan Qiang”
Discussants: Judith Zeitlin, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor, EALC; Jacob Reed, Ph.D. Candidate, Music
Location: Wieboldt 408
★Co-Sponsored by Theater and Performance Studies Workshop★
This event is co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant.

March 29th, Wednesday (in-person), 3:30–5:00 p.m.
Yuwei Zhou, Ph.D. Student, EALC
“Was There a Clan Cemetery in Yinxu? –– A Spatial and Statistical Approach to Mortuary Practices in Late Shang China”
Location: LaSalle Banks Room, Oriental Institute
★Co-Sponsored by Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop★

April 28th, Friday (in-person), 4:00–6:00 p.m.
Wu Hung, Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Art History and EALC; Director, Center for the Art of East Asia; Consulting Curator, Smart Museum of Art
“Outdoor Exhibitions in Beijing, 1979”
Discussant: Paola Iovene, Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, EALC
Location: Room TBD, Cochrane Woods Art Center
★Co-Sponsored by Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia Workshop★

May 12th, Friday (in-person), 3:00–5:00 p.m.
Ethan Waddell, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC
“Songs to Turn the Tide: Mobilizing Music from the Korean War”
Discussant: Alex Murphy, Visiting Assistance Professor of Japanese, Kenyon College
Location: Wieboldt 408

May 19th, Friday (in-person), 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Alia Goehr, Teaching Fellow, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities
“The Therapeutic Text: Jin Shengtan’s Romance of the Western Chamber Commentary”
Discussant: Pauline Lee, Associate Professor of Chinese Religions and Cultures, Saint Louis University
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)


Please feel free to contact Yuwei (ywzhou@uchicago.edu) and Elvin (emeng@uchicago.edu) with any questions you might have, and we look forward to seeing you at APEA this winter!