Inquiries of “Home” in Modern and Contemporary East Asia
1: Shi Tiesheng and the Imagination of a Spiritual Home
Friday, March 25, 2022
3:30pm – 5:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Iowa State University, United States
This project traces Shi Tiesheng (1951-2010)’s unique journey to imagine a spiritual home against two immediate realities: his sudden paralyzation in his 20s and China’s rapid sociopolitical transformation. The first reality not only dissociated him from the conventional social life, but also pushed him to confront the fundamental questions regarding the meaning of life and death. Why was life still worth living after becoming a “useless” person, and how? Meanwhile, physical disability provided him a vantage point to contemplate the social reality from a disinterested perspective. Many of his contemporary writers followed China’s historical progress to rewrite history or to represent the direct reality. However, Shi took a more philosophical-religious viewpoint to highlight what had been missing or lost in an increasingly material abundant society. The concern of Shi is the meaning of human existence and the pursuit of a spiritual home. To him, the society’s growing interest in religion indicated such a need, but the popular pragmatic religious activities were not the answer. In his imagination, the spiritual home was a connection between the transient individual life, humanity, and a sense of belongingness that individuals had towards the totality of the human existence. These considerations were more important to Shi than material abundance. For Shi, disability did not become a barrier of life, but rather it emancipated him from being constrained by the mainstream ideology in China.