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Royal Courts and Local Cultures: The Case of Liang

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

Abstract

Liang was one of many kingdoms dotting the North China Plain during the first century BCE. The royal lineage of Liang was a side-branch of the Liu imperial family, and, as such, closely connected to the center of power in the imperial capital. Nonetheless, it had a relatively long presence in Liang, and many members of its own lineage had settled in or near Liang. My paper will pose two questions. (1) Did the presence of a peripheral court matter as inhabitants of Liang sought to maintain or improve their status? (2) Did the location of Liang in the densely populated and economically developed Central Plain, and in relative proximity to the capital area, determine how the central court treated this particular kingdom? Excavated and received sources indicate that, during this period of Western Han, the common people of Liang were drafted and taxed in the same way as elsewhere in the empire, and that the same channels for promotion were available. But they also tell us that the presence of a royal lineage created a unique social environment as the royal lineage was integrated into economic and marriage networks with locally prominent families, and as royal culture was on display via rituals and architecture. Can the central court’s efforts to assert its control over the Liang court be related to its fears about the possible emergence of new local cultures? Did Liang’s location close to the empire’s core area prompt the central court to extra vigilance?

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