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EAS Postgraduate Research Seminar

When Feb 07, 2017
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, St John's College Library
Contact Name
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Elena Follador, PhD Candidate, FAMES
Shucharon, a Case Study of How “Diluted Narrativity” Did Not Water Down the Literary Value of Japanese Early Modern Texts

In July, the Japanese social games developer Alt Plus launched “ShuShu,” a new project in which famous illustrators are creating a series of manga characters representing more than thirty different local sakés, each shaped according to the organoleptic features of the respective rice wine. Some of the characters already published online carry weapons, but this is not the first time that anthropomorphised sakès have taken up arms in Japan. 

The earliest literary instance appears in the Edo period printed text Shucharon (“Debate Between Saké and Tea,” early 17th century). The story begins when two attendants at a tea ceremony quarrel over the popularity of saké, but escalates when famous teas and rice wines join the diatribe, each side praising itself and charging the other with scandalous arrogance. This degenerates into a real war between the two imaginary armies, which is eventually resolved through the intervention of fish and birds. 

Shucharon is generally described as a “tale of wars between non-human beings” (irui-gassen mono) that also bears similarities with texts understood as “debate literature” (ronsōmono). Yet how closely does the text adhere to these generic norms? Is there a close relationship with the homonymous manuscript written in 1567? And do the lists of words found scattered throughout it only superficially resemble those of contemporary writing textbooks (ōraimono), as pointed out by scholars, or did they also serve an educational purpose? This paper will try to shed light on the complex intertextual web that underlies Shucharon.

Hajni Elias, PhD Candidate, FAMES
A Reassessment of Burial Practice as Reflected in Eastern Han Cliff Tombs and Decorated Stone Sarcophagi from Sichuan

Cliff tombs and decorated stone sarcophagi of the Eastern Han period are distinct to the southwest, in particular the seat of the former Shu and Ba cultures in present-day Sichuan province. Stone sarcophagi provide a wealth of images on themes related to the after-life, local topography, architecture and animal world. This talk suggests that cliff tomb burial and the use of decorated stone sarcophagi may represent a reassessment of burial practices based on restraint and frugality in reaction to a period when lavish funerary customs prevailed in the wider empire rather than being, as some scholars have suggested, merely the products of a ‘poorer’ form of burial for families with economic constraints. The change in the layout of the cemetery and the absence of public monuments in the approach to the tombs are also consistent with this development in burial practice that entailed a shift in the function of tombs from social or public arenas towards private spaces that focussed more on the deceased and his family members. The talk’s argument is supported by textual sources, in particular information obtained from a number of contemporaneous stele inscriptions which extol the virtues of prudence and restraint in a society that enjoyed great wealth and economic prosperity. This talk bridges the methodological divide between art historians’ focus on material culture, and cultural historians’ attempts to explain early funerary practices through textual sources.

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Welcome to AMES

Cambridge has a long and distinctive tradition in the study of the Middle East and Asia. This Faculty prides itself on exploring these fields through the local languages and encourages students to learn through real world engagement. If you are interested in these world regions and want to discover their languages, cultures, histories, religions, and politics, then this is the home for you. 


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