Of Body and Brush: Grand Sacrifice as Text/Performance in Eighteenth-Century China

The Qianlong emperor, who dominated the religious and political life of 18th-century China, was in turn ruled by elaborate ritual prescriptions. These texts determined what he wore and ate, how he moved, and above all how he performed the yearly Grand Sacrifices. In this study, Angela Zito offers an analysis of the way ritualizing power was produced jointly by the throne and the official literati who dictated these prescriptions. Forging a critical cultural historical method that challenges traditional categories of Chinese studies, Zito shows that in their performance , the ritual texts literally embodied the metaphysics upon which imperial power rested. By combining rule through the brush (the production of ritual texts), with rule through the body (mandated performance), the throne both exhibited its power and attempted to control resistance to it. Encompassing Chinese history, anthropology, religion, and performance and cultural studies, this book seeks to bring a new perspective to the human sciences.