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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.
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.
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