Forming the Early Chinese Court
Rituals, Spaces, Roles
- PUBLISHED: January 2018
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, History, Literary Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 256 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 8 b&w illus., 1 map
- ISBN: 9780295742601
Forming the Early Chinese Court builds on new directions in comparative studies of royal courts in the ancient world to present a pioneering study of early Chinese court culture. Rejecting divides between literary, political, and administrative texts, Luke Habberstad examines sources from the Qin, Western Han, and Xin periods (221 BCE–23 CE) for insights into court society and ritual, rank, the development of the bureaucracy, and the role of the emperor. These diverse sources show that a large, but not necessarily cohesive, body of courtiers drove the consolidation, distribution, and representation of power in court institutions. Forming the Early Chinese Court encourages us to see China’s imperial unification as a surprisingly idiosyncratic process that allowed different actors to stake claims in a world of increasing population, wealth, and power.
Authors & Contributors
Luke Habberstad is assistant professor of Chinese literature at the University of Oregon.
Chronology of Dynasties and Han Reign Periods
Introduction: Forming the Early Chinese Court
Part One | Rituals
1. Sumptuary Regulations and the Rhetoric of Equivalency
2. Who Gets to Praise the Emperor?
Part Two | Spaces
3. Parks, Palaces, and Prestige
Part Three | Roles
4. Politics, Rank, and Duty in Institutional Change
5. The Literary Invention of Bureaucracy
Forming the Early Chinese Court will be an informative and thought-provoking read not only to more specialized readers already acquainted with aspects of Han political culture, but also to students of Han government and the bureaucracy in Chinese history more generally.- China Review International: A Journal of Reviews of Scholarly Literature in Chinese Studies
Habberstad approaches the “court” not as a thing . . . but as a complex set of evolving relations. The result is an adventurous account of the history of the Han that brings to light heretofore little-noted conversations, contention, and anxiety that were very much constitutive of the history of the Han empire.- Journal of Chinese History
Habberstad should be congratulated for his book. Scholars of early Han history will surely benefit from his manifold astute observations.- Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS)
Few ‘China topics’ concern contemporary scholars more than the structures, functions, and powers of the central state. This book will be important for scholars teaching and writing about the evolution of centralized power. Its significance lies in re-envisioning and re-narrating the historical processes that led to the formation of formal government bureaucracy in the Former Han, as a series of personal relationships evolved toward a structure of offices, each with rank, functions, and rewards.- Jonathan Lipman, Mount Holyoke College
An interesting and important contribution to our knowledge about early China.- Hans van Ess, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich