“Book Culture in Buddhism and Beyond” Lecture Series: Star-Averting: Ritualisation for Adaptation in the Xiyou ji and Two Chuanqi Plays

Speaker: Zhaokun Xin, University of Manchester

Date and time: Wednesday, February 7, 2024, 16:00 (London)

Location: Room 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies



Already documented in early orthodox works, star-averting primarily aims at driving away astronomical anomalies. The ritual practice also figures prominently in Buddhist and Daoist writings, as well as in late imperial Chinese fiction and drama. This paper first teases out the dismissive attitude prevailing in orthodox statecraft writings toward the ritual practice, in contradistinction to the Buddhist and Daoist textualization of star-averting that assumes its efficacy. Drawing on Catherine Bell’s theory of ritualization, the following discussion further seizes on star-averting in three cases of adaptation, both fictional and dramatic, to demonstrate how typographical and musical strategies differentiate the practice from the quotidian activities that immediately surround it. Across many editions of the Xiyou ji (Journey to the West), mostly from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), distinctive typographical layout contributes to ritualizing star-averting, whereas in the two chuanqi plays entitled Jingzhong ji (The Tale of Pure Loyalty) and Nanyang yue (Music of Nanyang), it is the embedment of an entirely different musical genre that fulfills the ritualizing function. More significant, the ritualization of star-averting by engaging with typographical conventions and musical structures in turn empowers those involved in producing these works to partake in the extended adaptational process. In other words, ritualization serves not only as but also for adaptation.


Speaker: Zhaokun Xin is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Manchester. His research is rooted in late imperial Chinese literature, drawing on the fields of affect and gender studies, ritual theory, and medical humanities. His ongoing project zooms in on anger to explore the discursive reconfiguration of emotional norms in Ming-Qing fiction and drama. He is also broadly interested in translation studies and Sino-Japanese literary exchanges.


“Book Culture in Buddhism and Beyond” Lecture Series:

This new lecture series, launching in Michaelmas Term 2023, features talks on writing and publishing in the Buddhist tradition and in related religious and cultural spheres. Lectures in this series offer insights into the various ways in which writing and printing has been shaping Buddhism, as well as the multifaceted impact of Buddhism on book culture in East Asia, past, present, and future.


Registration is not required. The lectures are free and open to scholars, students, and the public.

Please note: all events take place in person at the University of Cambridge. Exact times and location will be circulated via email and posted on the webpage of Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

This lecture series is organised by Dr Noga Ganany (ng462@cam.ac.uk) in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge with the generous support of the Glorisun Global Network.


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