Join UCLA in a research presentation by scholars in Chinese music to discuss the Guqin, a traditional Chinese instrument. Hosted by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.
Please join UCI Center for Asian Studies in a discussion by Dr. Mu-Chou Poo, discussing the use of witchcraft in court politics and palace intrigues in early and medieval China from the Han to the Tang dynasties.
This talk examines the changing meaning of ding-tripod in the cultural memory of ancient China. It shows how an object of daily use could be invested with all sorts of cultural memories: during the Shang, personal achievement and family prestige were transmitted through the bronze ding and the engravings on it; during the Zhou, ding became the symbol of political authority; during the Han, through the recounting of the stories of the Yellow Emperor’s gaining the divine ding, it was elevated to the status of an auspicious omen that could legitimize the political power as well as personal virtue of the sovereign. Meanwhile, this expanded and mythical significance of ding gradually faded way after the Han dynasty. It was the physical aspects of the bronze ding—heavy and stable, finely decorated and expensively made, and the political implication of ding that were remembered and transmitted to the later eras. In modern Chinese, ding is a serious word, one with a certain aura of dignity. Only in the southern Fukien dialect, diang (=ding) is still a word of mundane use: an ordinary cooking pot in daily life, a meaning that goes back to the Neolithic period. The meaning of an object, or a word, therefore, is determined and affected by cultural memory. Meaning changes when cultural memory changes, new meanings were formed, old meanings were forgotten, or resurface after a lapse of time.