Popularizing the Sage: Wang Yangming and Vernacular Confucian Hagiographies in Late Imperial China


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation Travel Grants to China


Premodern Chinese Literature


This dissertation investigates the expansion of the Confucian hagiographical tradition in late imperial China beginning with the Neo-Confucian figure Wang Yangming (1472-1529). As a result of the development of print culture and different religious traditions in the late Ming, hagiographical texts featuring this heterodox and influential figure took various forms such as vernacular literature, illustrated manuals, chronicles, and recorded sayings. I term these texts as “vernacular Confucian hagiographies,” and by juxtaposing these different textual genres with visual presentations of Wang, I argue that these hagiographies played the function of popularizing and elevating Wang, thus reshaping Neo-Confucianism and popular literature in late imperial China.