The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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Research Project

Title of Project:
Redefining the West River: Ming and Qing State Building and the Transformation of Native Society

Total Fund:
HK$3,400,000

Principal Investigator:
Professor David FAURE, Department of History, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Abstract of Project:
        The team will work together with Zhongshan Daxue (Sun Yatsen University) in Guangzhou and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

        In this project, we propose that the West River basin can be looked upon as the result of repeated administrative and ritual changes spreading over much of China in different historical periods. Guided by this hypothesis, we seek to reconstruct locality-specific chronological developments of ritual and social changes, and to compare these developmental progressions in the light of known patterns from parts of China which have been well documented, notably the Pearl River delta and Putian, Fujian province. The ritual repertoire that forms the basis of our study includes a bundle of administrative, architectural and ritual markers related to temples and graves: the coincidence of gods and ancestors, the location of graves and related sacrificial halls, the existence or otherwise of the architectural feature related to the "family temple" (jiamiao), the use of written genealogies, agencies involved in the ownership of land, award of degrees through imperial examinations, and the presence or otherwise of various priestly orders in the performance of rituals. By demonstrating that these markers vary systematically in relation to the integration of the locality into the Chinese state at specific historical time, we argue that variations in local culture can be explained as the results of different patterns of negotiation between local society and the state in ritual terms. This project will be jointly conducted with colleagues in the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the Sun Yatsen University in Guangzhou.