Embodied Virtue: How Was Loyalty Edited and Performed in Late Imperial China?
This talk investigates how the idea of loyalty is embodied in the actions of historical figures and dramatic characters, and the affective power generated through these embodiments. Particularly, how was this ethical virtue taught and disseminated during the late imperial period, when it eventually became a prominent subject of discourse and cultural code? By examining the narratives and illustrations of the exemplary figures in Stories of Rulers and the Subjects (Junchen gushi 君臣故事) and Stories of the Past to be Recorded and Remembered Daily (Riji gushi 日記故事), two popular compendia (tongsu leishu 通俗類書) first published in the Yuan dynasty then continually edited and reprinted throughout the Ming dynasty, this talk explores how the earlier discourse on loyalty was popularized and simultaneously reformulated through the publication of storybooks. The story compendia further interacted with stage performances. The textual, visual and theatrical media together shaped the field of moral imagination and cultural practice, addressing and negotiating the conflicts between ideal and reality, the state and the individual, reconciliation and violence, human agency and its constraints.