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Social Memory and Cultural Construction: A Case Study of the Imperial Screen of Lijiao Village, Panyu County, Guangzhou

Jianping SHI (Wuyi University)
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This paper centers on a magnificent carved wooden screen, a legend about the emperor bestowing such a screen, and a local ritual tradition of feasting to celebrate the longevity of local worthies, in order to discuss how a village lineage near Guangzhou in mid- Qing, responding to calls by the imperial court to strengthen the village drinking ritual and transform village custom through education (jiaohua), used imperial orthodox ritual in order to create a new lineage ritual. As part of this newly created lineage ritual they made flexible use of such cultural mechanisms and strategies as feasts to celebrate longevity, composition of congratulatory texts and stone inscriptions, oral legends about imperially bestowed screens, and the various subjective impressions attached to them, in order to create a tradition, transform ritual behavior, and manipulate social memory, as part of the legitimization of powerful lineages in local society. At different times, social elites under different historical circumstances use distinctive cultural strategies to attach different social significance and meanings to a single text, constructing thereby the richness and complexity of village culture.

Journal of History and Anthropology