Spring 2018
Visual and Textual Lineages in Premodern East Asia

Organized by Yuanxin Chen and Caitlin Karyadi

Sponsored by the Tang Center, with funding from the East Asian Studies Program and the Graduate School, Princeton University

Throughout the various sub-disciplines and regions of East Asian studies, scholars invariably come across received accounts of illustrious individuals. These biographies, genealogies, and lineages demonstrate various overlaps in rhetorical strategies, material construction, textual compilation, and subsequent circulation and preservation. More importantly, these premodern texts often tell us less about their ostensible subjects and more about the later contexts in which these works were produced and circulated. Thus, despite shared issues and considerations, such individual-centered accounts are also specific to the periods, cultures, and discourses in question. Through an interdisciplinary and multiregional conversation, this workshop will identify both commonalities and divergences in the study of particular biographies, genealogies, and lineages. Questions to be addressed include: How do these sources mythologize, canonize, and institutionalize their veritable progenitors? Why do descendants or followers construct and perpetuate these narratives? What does the materiality of these sources reveal about their production and use? What role did these sources perform both at the time of compilation and through later dissemination?

This workshop brought together emerging and established scholars specializing in different fields, periods, and regions to discuss issues related to biographies, genealogies, and lineages. Participants considered the centrality of biographies, genealogies, and lineages to the study of premodern East Asia both in and beyond field- and region-specific concerns.