To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
This chapter examines further changes in elite honor and shame in the Eastern Han. First, it traces the elevation of writing, earlier treated as consolation for a failed political career or entertainment that demeaned the author. During the late Western and Eastern Han, several writers invoked the ideal of the hermit to justify a life of retirement devoted to study and writing. Historical figures such as Confucius or the Duke of Zhou were portrayed as writers, as were the hidden sages of the Zhuangzi. This facilitated new genres—funeral inscription, critical essay, and shorter verse forms for self-expression—where the late Han sought honor through writing. Second, it examines the emergence in the late Han of “factions (dang ?)” defined in part through the practice of “pure discussion (qing yi ??).” These groups, like the newly celebrated writers, cited the ideal of “social eremitism” to justify refusing government offices. They criticized eunuchs and imperial affines, as well as leading officials and scholars who still served the state.
This chapter examines the role of honor and shame in defining the warrior nobility that dominated the valleys of the Yellow and Yangzi Rivers in the early Eastern Zhou (770 - ca. 500 BCE). In this society honor reflected one’s hereditary place in the hierarchy of nobility, and also one’s heroism or success in battle. Shame was primarily a matter of failing to exhibit such heroism. Such honor was entirely masculine, and its two aspects were frequently in conflict, as ascribed status was established by seniority, while the heroism was often a hallmark of youth. This personal honor gained through heroism, which often figured in overthrowing a ruler or destroying a state, is our earliest example of constituting a public order separate from the formal political realm, and how such alternate honor helped to transform the social order.
This monograph has traced how the changing language of honor and shame helped to articulate and justify the transformations of Chinese society between the Warring States and the end of the Han dynasty. This role was made possible by the fact, demonstrated by previous studies, that the honor–shame discourse justified the actions of diverse and potentially rival groups, that groups thus formed often furthered significant social changes, and that honor was particularly important to motivate actions for a public good by people who are not formally part of the state. Over the centuries of early China, the formally recognized political order was intertwined with groups articulating alternative models of honor, groups who both participated in the existing order (without formal recognition) and whose visions of what was truly glorious facilitated the transition to subsequent political structures.
This chapter examines the impact of the emergence of a unified empire on the ideas about honor and shame that defined the social elite that filled state offices, and distinguished them from elite competitors. First, scholars redefined the relation between the ruler and his officials, trying to forge them into a united body where the honor of each party depended on the honor of the other. Second, people increasingly granted status to several forms of intellectual expertise. Masters of the classical language received positions and increasing prestige for their skills. Similarly, titularly low officials who mastered legal texts secured considerable power, and claimed a higher status. Finally, Sima Qian claimed the right, patterned on Confucius, to pass judgments that honored or shamed those about whom he wrote. This developed the tension between scholars and the ruler that had emerged in the Warring States. The chapter also examines how the increasing merger of intellectuals and powerful families was reflected in tensions between the claims of scholarship and careers, and devotion to the family. Han authors carried forward the Warring States discourse distinguishing a true elite that worked for honor or morality, while rejecting conventional devotion to material wealth.
This chapter examines other aspects of the shifting structure of honor that defined Han society. First, it traces the evolution of the bravo (xia) associations in local communities. In the Western Han these were defined by killing or dying for one’s fellows, insisting on honoring one’s word, and devotion to duty. In the Eastern Han, the xia were increasingly defined through forming social networks—often including officials and nobles—in place of the violence that had been central. The chapter also examines how the family was increasingly declared to be both honorable and politically significant. Locally powerful families increasingly claimed the status of scholar or “man of service (shi),” and secured recognition as authorities in their communities. Thus kin-based elements of local society that were not formally part of the state became crucial to its functioning, and remained so in all later empires in continental East Asia. The importance of honor to these families was articulated in the emergent genre of the funerary inscription, which claimed to bestow immortal fame and celebrated the new ideal type of the retired social hermit who served and morally transformed his local community.
This book traces how a discourse of honor and shame helped create the imperial state in China. Through examining changing claims to honor, it studies Warring States articulations of new social roles and networks, early imperial redefinitions of the state’s power and its agents’ status, and how groups not employed by the state asserted a status that matched or exceeded that attributed to the bureaucracy. Such groups also denounced as shameful the elite pursuits of wealth or high office that motivated those who constituted the formal state and political elites. These groups included scholars, hermits, bravoes, writers, and locally powerful families, and, while not formally part of the state-defined public realm, in practice they became essential to the functioning of the imperial order. The roles that they played, and the language in which these were justified, came to define a non-state public realm which remained in permanent tension with the imperial government. Thus the evolving language of honor and shame allows us to move beyond a focus on the court and bureaucracy to achieve a more complete picture of Han imperial state and society.
The Warring States polity that emerged through the destruction of the old nobility and their segmentary polity was centered around an increasingly powerful autocrat, and based on peasants who paid taxes and provided military service. These two poles were linked by bureaucrats who registered the population and extracted taxes and services, and courtiers or counselors who assisted the ruler. States grew by swallowing up others, until only seven or eight remained, in which most peasants served in the armies. In Qin state, and probably others, this culminated in a state order that ranked the entirety of the free peasant population on the basis of service. Received texts and archaeologically-recovered documents show that the ranking of the population in this hierarchy of titles became fundamental to the legal and administrative orders that defined the place of the individual. Thus new ideas of honor and shame, elaborated in legal codes and administrative practices, were fundamental to the new states.
The next two chapters examine changes in the honor-shame discourse in the Warring States period (ca. 500 – 220 BCE), when larger, territorial states replaced the warrior aristocracy with bureaucratic administrators and peasant soldiers. Re-structuring Warring States society entailed forming new groups through elective ties of comradeship or discipleship and of devotion to political superiors. The honor/shame complex defined all these ties. This chapter traces the development of ideas about honor outside of ascribed status and the formal state order. These ideas were articulated by the earliest Chinese critical thinkers, who formed around the figure of Confucius. Defining themselves against conventional values, they claimed honor derived from devotion to study and virtues. They also argued that what others regarded as shameful, low status or poverty, could demonstrate a higher honor that refused to curry favor or pursue wealth. Although they sought rulers’ patronage, and offered them advice, they rejected serving those who refused the virtues they espoused, thus proving their true honor. Several rulers granted such men titles and stipends that did not entail government service. Finally, claims to honor in this period marked the emergence of networks of patrons and clients, as well as those formed by bravoes.
In this major new study, Mark Edward Lewis traces how the changing language of honor and shame helped to articulate and justify transformations in Chinese society between the Warring States and the end of the Han dynasty. Through careful examination of a wide variety of texts, he demonstrates how honor-shame discourse justified the actions of diverse and potentially rival groups. Over centuries, the formally recognized political order came to be intertwined with groups articulating alternative models of honor. These groups both participated in the existing order and, through their own visions of what was truly honourable, paved the way for subsequent political structures. Filling a major lacuna in the study of early China, Lewis presents ways in which the early Chinese empires can be fruitfully considered in comparative context and develops a more systematic understanding of the fundamental role of honor/shame in shaping states and societies.