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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 5.1 (2022): 87–166;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Text and Image & Buddhist Biography)

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Kuaiji’s 會稽 ‘Forgotten Century’, the Cult of Yu 大禹, and Kuaiji Today

Michael NYLAN, University of California, Berkeley

Thomas H. Hahn, Independent scholar (Berkeley)

Abstract: This study on Mount Kuaiji, just southeast of Shaoxing in Zhejiang province, consists of two parts: Part I, with its focus on the Qin and two Han dynasties and particularly Kuaiji’s ‘forgotten century’ (roughly 50–150), excavates the literary traditions ascribed to this center of southern learning, while demonstrating the site’s importance in southern communications and in local industries. Its aim is to complicate the usual story of center and periphery, of assimilation and validation, and of provincial backwaters. Part II discusses the curious development in modern times of Mount Kuaiji into a state cult site in honour of the primeval flood-queller, Yu the Great. Among others, Sun Yatsen, Zhou Enlai, and Jiang Zemin have duly paid homage to Yu and worshipped the cultural icon at his temple. Over the past twenty years, large investments have created in a vast complex a hybrid family-oriented playground and a site of worship that now ranks only second to that of the Yellow Emperor at Huangdiling in Shaanxi.

Keywords: Kuaiji, Eastern Han, local traditions, modern cultural industries, sacrificial schedules, mythicization of Great Yu 大禹, water resources, pirates


About the Authors: Michael Nylan is Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes on a wide range of topics, early and modern, in more popular and more scholarly venues. She is deeply interested in human diversity and cultural changes over time. Most recently, she has been slogging through the Documents classic, writing with a co-author on the ‘Four Fathers of History’ (Herodotus and Thucydides, Sima Qian, and Ban Gu), and trying to make sense of classical learning during the early empires.

Thomas H. Hahn received his Ph.D. from Heidelberg University with a thesis on China’s sacred mountains and alpine spaces. He has taught courses on regional planning, urban ecology and environmental history at Cornell University and UC Berkeley. His latest project addresses the conversion (by way of ISO certified administrative measures and infrastructural integration) of so-called sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) into national or UNESCO accredited global Geoparks in China.


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