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Tang-Song Transition and Material Culture: A Case Study of Tombs in Hubei

UC Berkeley's Center for Chinese studies presents Huang Yijun's discussion on the regional diversity of tomb types during the Tang-Song Transition.

April 29, 2009 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Huang Yijun, Associate Professor, History Department of Central University for Nationalities; 2008-2009 Visiting Scholar of Harvard-Yenching Institute

As noted by the Japanese scholar Naito Konan in the early decades of the twentieth century, the Tang and Song dynasties witnessed a number of unprecedented developments in Chinese history.  This led Naito to define the late Tang and Five Dynasties periods as a transitional period leading to China’s ‘Early Modern Age.’  Most previous assessments of the Naito hypothesis have emphasized political and intellectual changes, while overlooking developments in material culture.  Based on a case study of Hubei tombs dated to the relevant centuries, this essay seeks a deeper understanding of the Naito hypothesis via a consideration of the underlying causes for the increasing regional diversity exhibited among tomb types over the course of Tang and Song.  This case study suggests that an influx of new immigrants to the region was responsible for the increasing regional diversity in tomb types, a picture that tallies well with observations registered in the historical and literary sources.  This paper illuminates only one small corner of the so-called "Tang-Song Transition," as viewed from the single perspective of material culture.  How researchers may best connect changes in material culture with those in the political and intellectual realms remains an open question requiring further exploration.