China and Inner Asia
California State University, Los Angeles, United States
On a winter day in 850, the eldest daughter of Cui Yan, a Left Rectifier of Omissions (ranked 7b1), died of illness at the age of 13 sui. It took nearly two months for the Cui household to prepare for her burial, but the father was relieved that his daughter was now in a “suitable and secure” place and “would not be disappointed.” Cui Yan composed a moving epitaph, had the text carved in neat regular script onto an unusually large stone slab (54x52.5x11cm), and decorated it with the twelve zodiac animals and four beast gods. This paper will argue that the “Epitaph for Zhongshang Daughter Guangniangzi” (Zhongshangnü Guangniangzi muzhiming 中殤女廣娘子墓誌銘) embodied unique aspects of the extant 118 Tang epitaphs for children who died before the age of twenty. First, by addressing Cui Guang as a shang daughter, the epitaph shows that during the Tang, the function of funeral writing had expanded to include both the commemoration of the dead and the expression of parent-child bond. Second, the epitaph mirrored the rise of intimate remembrance and elaborate burial for daughters in the ninth century, likely a result of a strong influence of Buddhist perception of death and Buddhist mourning rituals. The epitaph for Guangniangzi also provides us a great opportunity to examine the interconnections between Tang epitaph writing and Tang popular beliefs, Buddhist prayers, and requiem literature.