Excavating the Afterlife
The Archaeology of Early Chinese Religion
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In Excavating the Afterlife, Guolong Lai explores the dialectical relationship between sociopolitical change and mortuary religion from an archaeological perspective. By examining burial structure, grave goods, and religious documents unearthed from groups of well-preserved tombs in southern China, Lai shows that new attitudes toward the dead, resulting from the trauma of violent political struggle and warfare, permanently altered the early Chinese conceptions of this world and the afterlife. The book grounds the important changes in religious beliefs and ritual practices firmly in the sociopolitical transition from the Warring States (ca. 453-221 BCE) to the early empires (3rd century-1st century BCE).
- Published: March 2015
- Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Archaeology
- Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 95 illus., 14 in color, 1 map, 7 x 10 in.
- Territorial rights: World Rights
- Series: Art History Publication Initiative Books
A methodologically sophisticated synthesis of archaeological, art historical, and textual sources, Excavating the Afterlife will be of interest to art historians, archaeologists, and textual scholars of China, as well as to students of comparative religions.
For more information: http://arthistorypi.org/books/excavating-the-afterlife
Guolong Lai is associate professor of Chinese art and archaeology at the University of Florida and a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
"Lai rightly prioritizes the archaeological remains over the textual tradition to uncover how people in the territory of Chu actually treated the dead and how they viewed the spirits, uncovering new insights into early Chinese religion. This is an invaluable contribution to the field."
-Anthony Barbieri-Low, author of Artisans in Early Imperial China
"Lai's explanation of the shift in attitude toward the dead-from a neutral notion of the ancestral spirits to fear of the spirits as unmoored and malevolent entities who need to be guided-is very provocative."
-Amy McNair, author of Upright Brush: Yan Zhenqing's Calligraphy and Song Literati Politics
Chronology of Early Chinese Dynasties
1. The Dead Who Would Not Be Ancestors
2. The Transformation of Burial Space
3. The Presence of the Invisible
4. Letters to the Underworld
5. Journey to the Northwest
Glossary of Chinese Characters