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Flourishing under a Centralized Bureaucracy: Social Network Analysis of the Shandong Region in Western Han

Sat, April 2, 5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 6th Floor, Room 611


In the Western Han dynasty, the area corresponding to modern day Shandong produced a large number of people who made their names empire wide, such as high officials, celebrated classicists (ru), and literary persons. This paper will use social network analysis theory to examine their career paths and social network patterns. In particular, the paper will ask 1) What was the social mechanism that allowed people to distinguish themselves at both the local and national levels?; 2) Did these celebrated men from Shandong serve as bridges to the capital, directing resources back to the region and helping others from their localities achieve success?; or on the contrary, 3) did the positions in the central government remove them from local society and transform them into new capital elites who were primarily concerned with their families’ success in the central government? By answering these questions, the paper will explore the relationship between bureaucratic hierarchy and the flow of talents and resources. It will investigate understandings of and strategies to achieve prestige in relation to the ladder of bureaucratic success and advancement. The paper will also ask which forms of social prestige established in the local region— for example academic reputation, wealth—could override the hierarchical system imposed by the imperial bureaucracy. This paper will engage in dialogue with other papers in the panel to see if patterns of success of Shandong people reflect a bias of sources, constitute a regional variation, or provide a universal model for success in early imperial China.


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