Universiteit Leiden

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What's in a Name? Sub-elites of Western Han Chang'an

  • Griet Vankeerberghen
Wednesday 7 March 2018
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

The establishment of the Western Han dynasty was accompanied by the move to Chang’an of many of Liu Bang’s comrades-in-arms, where they received a residence, as well as a noble title and a domain. A unique dataset, preserved in the Hanshu tables, provides a window into the lives of the descendants of these men several generations down. Even though their families had lost their noble titles and domains, these descendants still enjoyed certain advantages, linked to their famous ancestors, that helped them survive in the competitive environment of the first century BCE. The dataset, therefore, presents an opportunity to explore the lives of families over multiple generations, and to shine some light on a capital sub-elite almost entirely neglected in the dynastic histories.

Griet Vankeerberghen is a historian of the Western and Eastern Han dynasties. An Associate Professor at the Department of History and Classical Studies of McGill University (Montreal, Canada), she graduated from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium (1986, 1990) and of Princeton University (Ph.D., 1997). She is author of The Huainanzi and Liu An’s Claim to Moral Authority (SUNY Press, 2001), and editor, with Michael Nylan, of Chang’an 26 BCE: An Augustan Age in China (University of Washington Press 2014). She has published articles on several Western Han texts and their social, political and material contexts, including the Huainanzi, Shiji, the Four Lost Classics and Shangshu dazhuan. She is currently engaged in a research project on Western Han Chang’an, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. With Hans Beck, she is co-director of the Global Antiquities Research Network.  You can reach her at griet.vankeerberghen@mcgill.ca.

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