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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Creating the Past: Memory, Writing and Nostalgia in Medieval China
3: What Makes a Memory: Reflections on the Commemoration of Liu Zongyuan
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Reed College, United States
In this paper I discuss the four offerings (jiwen 祭文) produced in response to the death of Liu Zongyuan. I use these works to explore three related questions. First, comparing Liu Yuxi’s 劉禹錫 (772–842) “Offering to Liu yuanwai” 祭柳員外文 with Han Yu’s 韓愈 (768–824) “Offering to Liu Zihou” 祭柳子厚文, I look at how the memory of a subject is constructed within a jiwen. Moreover, I explore between them, what gets remembered, what gets left out, and to what degree their authors’ choices shape the identity of not just Liu but also of themselves and their relationship with him? Second, comparing Liu Yuxi’s offering with his “Offering to Liu yuanwai, on behalf of Li daifu of Ezhou” 為鄂州李大夫祭柳員外文, I explore how an author’s memory-making changes when speaking in another’s voice? Finally, looking at Liu Yuxi’s “A Second Offering to Liu yuanwai” 重祭柳員外文, I examine how Liu Yuxi’s memory of Liu Zongyuan changes over time, as he gains perspective and distance from the event of Liu’s death. It concludes by speculating on how an awareness of the role played by genre, voice, and time might allow us to better understand commemorative practices and the construction of memory in early 9th c. China.