Session Abstract: One of the challenges in discussing East Asia is understanding the region for both its synchronicities and its divergences. Biographical writing, a mainstay of historical production in China and those cultures it influenced, is a case in point in examining these changes. On this panel, we will be looking at how politically-focused biographies changed from the 15th through 20th centuries. We examine political figures in three specific case studies: Koryo Korea, mid-Ming China and Ryūkyū Kingdom. Sixiang Wang looks at how the lives of Koryŏ Korean poets were described by the Chinese scholar, Qian Qianyi during the tumultuous mid-17th century of China. In his reading, Wang reflects on how these biographies fit Chinese sensibilities of the early Qing dynasty and what they had to say about larger questions of state history. Ihor Pidhainy writes on the relationships of fathers-sons as seen through a case study of the Yang family from Xindu, Sichuan. He examines how filiality was a key to understanding the shaping of the biographies of three of the family’s patriarchs in biographical writings from the 16th through 19th centuries. Mark McNally looks at changing approaches to the biographies of early Ryūkyūan kings from the 1880s through the 1930s. He focuses on how historians came to see more clearly the divergence of early Ryūkyūan kings from Japanese origins from the early Meiji through the 1930s. In sum, this panel explores how biography worked and changed within and across East Asia over the late imperial and modern periods.
Paper Presenter: Ihor Pidhainy – Journal of Ming Studies
Paper Presenter: Mark McNally – University of Hawaii at Manoa
Paper Presenter: Sixiang Wang – University of California, Los Angeles