National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Anthony J. Barbieri

Affiliation: University of California, Santa Barbara

Anthony Barbieri is Professor of History with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and he holds his Ph.D. in Chinese Art and Archaeology from Princeton University.  His areas of specialization are the social, legal, economic, and material-culture history of early imperial China, and Chinese archaeology and epigraphy.  His publications include the forthcoming Perspectives on the First Emperor of China (University of Washington Press).


Lecture summary: This lecture compares mortuary culture and conceptions of the afterlife realm from Middle and New Kingdom Egypt and early imperial China. While there was no historical connection between the two civilizations, parallel developments between the two allow us to understand each culture better and to differentiate between shared structural traits and cultural particularities. It focuses on three areas: scribal culture as reflected in the tombs of scribes, tomb models and figurines, and ritual board games that give access to paradisaical realms.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

This lecture takes us back to the late 3rd century BCE in China, to experience the momentous creation of the first empire in East Asia, as seen through excavated documents and tombs.  These restore some of the voices of those silenced by the ravages of time and by the biased editing of ancient historians. The lecture is divided thematically into “voices of the state” and “voices of the people.”  For the voices of state actors, we hear an announcement from a governor in recently-conquered territory in the south which informs us that the Qin were determined to stamp out “deviant” religious practices and sexual habits among its new subjects; a scribe’s aide-memoire, thrown in a well at the end of the dynasty, tells of Qin attempts to control language after the unification; an ordinance promulgated by the First Emperor calls for conserving peasant agricultural labor; and an edict of the Second Emperor of Qin displays surprising sympathy for his subjects.  For the voices of commoners and soldiers caught up in these events, we hear legal cases from the time just before and after the unification that narrate the difficult lives and legal plight of those ensnared by the Qin laws. A state musician appeals his wrongful conviction for cattle rustling and tries to free his impounded family; a destitute Qin army veteran confesses to a brazen assault and robbery in the capital; and a woman denounces herself for engaging in a street brawl that led to a miscarriage.  We shall also hear touching letters from Qin soldiers that give poignant voice to the concern of two young men for their friends and relatives back home. And finally, we will hear the voices of the fallen victims to the Qin conquest, see through the mass graves of soldiers, exposing the enormity and horror of war.

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