The body in the politics and society of early China
He, Jianjun, 1970-
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He, Jianjun, 1970-
This dissertation discusses the political conceptualization and social practice of the body in early China through a close examination of the texts and documents produced from the Spring and Autumn period to the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. It demonstrates that, in addition to medical concerns, the body in early China was transformed into a political concept and a ritual subject that served indispensably in state construction and social control. It is divided into the following three chapters. Chapter one, "Physiognomy and the Body," examines the relationship between physiognomy and the body. Following a roughly chronological order, this chapter shows how physiognomy, a divination technique, read the body for political purposes. In addition to this, the chapter also discusses philosophical reactions to this political interpretation of the body by looking at criticisms in the works of Mengzi, Xunzi, Dong Zhongshu, Wang Chong and Wang Fu. Chapter two, "Politics and the Body," discusses the political theory and practice of the body in early China. It begins with a description of the metaphorical meanings of the body in early political discourse, focusing on their role in defining the competitive relationship between the ruler and the minister, as well as their significance in defending the political and ethical legitimacy of the state. The use of the body as an actual political tool forms the second consideration of this chapter. I demonstrate how the political symbolism of the body weighted significantly in Han China's foreign policy making. Chapter three, "Ritual and the Body," deals with the issue of ritualization of the body in early China. The chapter is organized in accordance with two issues concerning the body in early ritual theories: ritualizing the body and embodying the ritual. I show how ritual trains the body to be acceptable to the society and how the ritualized body facilitates the maintenance of a hierarchical social order.