The Material Culture of Temples in North China, 1400–1900

The Material Culture of Temples in North China, 1400–1900

Susan Naquin

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The stone and iron works at the Guandi Temple in Bozhou, Anhui.

This study of the material culture embodied in Chinese temples and their paraphernalia in the late imperial era attempted to demonstrate how the North China plain was constituted as a cultural region by the familiarity created not only by an area-wide religious cult but by the local availability of material and technical resources. Drawing on widely scattered fragments of textual and material evidence, Susan Naquin showed the importance of temples as high public art, making regional culture a subject of study, and brought craftsmen and their materials to the fore. Specifically, she connected the production of temple buildings, paper prints, stone stelae, clay statues, iron flagpoles, bronze bells, and other objects to show how—even in a well-integrated early modern empire—geology restricted the distribution of craft skills and so helped create the familiarity that underlay the regional culture of North China. This book project continued the emphasis in Naquin's previous work on the importance of late imperial Chinese religion, in this case concentrating on the community temple as a locus of public artistic and craft accomplishment, and a place of intersection between the local and the empire-wide.