Elsley Zeitlyn Lecture on Chinese Archaeology and Culture, delivered by Professor Julia K Murray, on 22 October 2013 (venue: The British Academy).
The veneration of relics is usually identified with Buddhism in China. However, ideas about the special efficacy of things associated with great persons developed long before the introduction of Buddhist practices. For instance, the display of personal items that had once belonged to Confucius (c.551-479 BC) powerfully evoked the ancient sage to later devotees who visited his memorial temple. His possessions, images, and even trees he allegedly planted were believed to harbour his beneficent spirit and possess supernatural power, inspiring paranormal events. Professor Murray's talk explored how auspicious objects could be transferred or replicated elsewhere, bringing blessings to new regions.
About the speaker:
Julia K Murray is Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin and Associate in Research at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University. Her research focuses on the visual and material culture associated with the worship of Confucius, particularly pictorial portraits, sculptural images and hagiographical illustrations. She is currently writing the history of a shrine at the alleged burial site of Confucius' robe and cap.