AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 682

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Session 682: Canon, Canonicity, and Canonization in Premodern East Asia

Organizer: Junghwan Lee, Kookmin University, South Korea

Chair: Grace E. Koh, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Discussant: Grace E. Koh, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

Recent studies on canon and related issues have provided fresh methods to investigate broader contexts of a society in questions. Scholars have shifted the focus from the “fixed” or “closed” characteristics of canon to their “fluidity” and “openness,’ highlighting the correlation between the canonization process and the social, political, and cultural settings of a given society in which canons are formed, perpetuated, and revised. Yet, it is noted that canonization studies have been geographically and temporally concentrated on the modern period of the Western tradition and its worldwide impact. In contrast, this panel seeks to show the significance of canon formation in premodern East Asia by means that each paper explores a representative canonical work of China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, respectively. Particularly, the panel draws special attention to the diversity of genre, gender, and authorities involved in canonization. Instead of focusing on a particular genre, this panel crosses the borders between philosophy, literature, and history. It also shows that the male-dominant pre-modern East Asian culture did not completely eliminate female authors in canonization processes. Although the papers of this panel commonly illuminate the central role of the state in canonization, their main priority is to properly depict the considerable diversity of authorities involved in the dynamics of canonization and revision.

Criteria for Literary Canon Formation and Politics in Pre-modern Korea: The Compilation and Circulation of the Tong Mun Son (Korean Literary Anthology)
Hyok Key Song, Korea University, South Korea

Tong Mun Son is a comprehensive anthology of Korean literary works, covering works from the earliest period through the 15th century when it was compiled. It is of great importance that this massive project was carried out by a group of distinguished scholar-officials in obedience to a royal edict, when the “universal” value of Chinese literature was widely accepted by Korean intellectuals. Consequently, this anthology stands as the first state-sponsored literary collection in Korean history as well as the oldest one among the extant Korean literary collections. Owing to its importance, scores of studies have been devoted to it, but due attention has not been paid to the fact that this anthology was the first canon formation project in Korea. This paper examines what ‘criteria’ for canon formation the compilers employed and how such criteria were accepted or challenged by their contemporaries, as well as by later compilers of similar anthologies. Furthermore, in order to properly understand the context surrounding this state-sponsored canon formation process, this paper, on the one hand, explores the correlation between the criteria applied in this canon formation project and the changes of intellectual authorities in the court politics, and on the other hand, the shifts in Korean intellectuals’ attitudes towards China-centered universalism.

Ceremonies and the Rise of the Genji Monogatari as a Canon in Pre-modern Japan
Soomi Kim, Korea University, South Korea

Genji Monogatari, written by a woman named Murasaki Sikibu in the early 11th century, achieved canonical status before the end of the 12th century. Due to the fact that literary works of female authors were hardly ever accepted as canons in such early periods of time, Genji Monogatari has attracted considerable attention. Haruo Shirane has recently explained this phenomenon by enumerating various factors: this text was used as a guide for Waka composition; men in the aristocratic strata had scholarly interests in the text; the text was monopolized by the ruling class, and so forth. In contrast, my paper approaches this issue by paying special attention to its rich descriptions of ceremonies. According to Towazukatari, a dairy of a 13th-century woman, a ceremony was performed in 1277 at an imperial place of Gohukasaka-in. In this ceremony, the “Wakana” chapter of the Genji was played out in great details, from the roles to play to musical instruments to costumes, indicating the court’s recognition of its authority. In fact, the text contains numerous detailed descriptions of ceremonies, which come from the author’s personal experience living in the imperial court. This paper investigates how such rich descriptions of ceremonies facilitated the text’s rise as a canon and its following permeation into the cultures of the ruling class. On this basis, this paper also provides a fresh answer to the question of how the Genji could maintain canonical status for such a long period of time under the male- dominant culture of a premodern Japan.

National Pride Expressed in a Universal Format: Dai Viet Suky Toanthu and the Dynamics of a Canonization in the 15th Century Vietnamese Historiography
Kwi Muk Choi, Independent Scholar, South Korea

Dai Viet Suky Toanthu (Complete Historical Records of Great Viet) was compiled by a Confucian scholar-official named Ngo Si Lien and was presented to King Thanh-Tong in 1479. In 1460 the king had formerly issued a royal edict, ordering Confucian officials to compile an official national history. Yet, Ngo’s work came to completely overshadow the official history, functioning as the paragon for later historiography throughout the premodern history of Vietnam. In terms of structure, language, and ideology, this Vietnamese canon of historiography provides a typical example of Chinese universalism in premodern East Asia. As the title represents, its structure was modeled after Sima Qian’s Shi Ji. In terms of language, Ngo adopted the “ancient style” as “standard Chinese.” It is also noteworthy that he attempted to embody Confucian values through his evaluative judgments. On the other hand, it is of great importance that this history was written shortly after the kingdom had driven out Ming imperialism. Ngo made extensive use of not only official documents and Chinese sources, but also of unofficial sources and the legends of the prehistoric Vietnamese dynasties to celebrate the country’s independence and national pride, as well as to glorify the root of the Vietnamese people against the “other.” This paper unravels the dynamics of such cultural, linguistic, ideological, and political authorities involved in the compilation of Dai Viet Suky Toanthu and its emergence as a canon of historiography.

Canonization Facilitated by a State-Independent Intellectual Community in 13th Century China: Zhu Xi and his Commentaries to the Four Books
Junghwan Lee, Kookmin University, South Korea

In 1244, the Song Dynasty enshrined Zhu Xi (1130-1200), the genuine founder of Neo-Confucianism, in the national Confucian temple and officially incorporated his commentaries to the Four Books into the system of the civil service examination, which would permanently alter East Asian intellectual history. This event also epitomizes the comparative “openness” and “fluidity” of Chinese canon formation process. Surprisingly, however, the preceding course that Zhu and his followers had taken before canonization remains under-examined. This paper explores the period between 1200 when Zhu died and 1244 when the canonization occurred. Particularly, this paper calls attention to the roles played by the increasing circle of Zhu’s followers in the canonization process. After the death of their master, a few of them participated in the government to facilitate this process, but most of them had no leverage in court politics. It is less likely that those in the government alone could have achieved this canonization than that the collaboration of the entire community of Zhu’s posthumous followers eventually brought out such a consequence. This paper examines following questions: how these two distinct groups of Zhu’s followers cooperated towards the common goal, in what ways the followers could affect court politics involved in the canonization process independently of the state, and how wide apart such independent communities were geographically located at the time.