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3 Because such reports from the underworld were, by their nature, oral and not the sort of anecdote regularly recorded for posterity, we have no way of judging just how widespread or early the phenomenon might have been. 4 As we saw in the introduction, the tendency among modern scholars is to attribute this apparent new interest in the structure and denizens of the underworld to the influence of Buddhism and the consequent changes in attitudes toward the dead. As we shall see, Yang Xi’s account of Fengdu does not easily support this hypothesis.

While Kern’s primary concern in this article is with cultural memory, we shall see that many of these features operate as well in the discontinuous and ad hoc ritual texts we analyze below. 17. See Kern, “Shi jing Songs,” esp. 103–6; and Lothar von Falkenhausen, “Reflections on the Role of Spirit Mediums in Early China: The Wu Officials in the Zhou Li,” Early China 20 (1995): 297–99. 18. 2528–30, of Wang Yin’s 王隱 (fl. 318) now lost Jinshu 晉書. 19 His highest rank was that of Governor of Zhongmou20.

Proper ritual offerings to the ancestors fostered correct remembrance on the part of descendants. 16 The voices of the ancestors were heard through the mouths of lineal male descendants, as in the story we discuss below. 17 Significantly, while our story’s vision of a dead ancestor occurs outside of this tightly controlled ritual context, familial sacrifice does play a prominent role in the tale. And, for all their evidential weight, visions of the dead can be doubted. 18 15. Liji, chap. 47, SSJZS 2:1592c; see also James Legge, Li Chi: Book of Rites, An Encyclopedia of Ancient Ceremonial Usages, Religious Creeds, and Social Institutions, 2 vols.

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