Joohee Suh G'15
Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Pre-dissertation Grants for Research in China 2015
Washington University in St. Louis
The Afterlife of Corpses: The Fear of Animated Dead Bodies (jiangshi) and the Qing (1644-1911) Culture of the Macabre
In the Qing dynasty, the fear of stiff corpses that do not decay (jiangshi) was expressed in a variety of venues, such as literary tales, anecdotes, local histories, and even lawsuits. This collective anxiety over animated dead bodies reveals that, in the late imperial conception of the worlds of the living and the dead, the dead body was far from lifeless but constituted an active part of social conflicts. My dissertation attempts to identify the social foundation of the fear of animated corpses by examining the interplay between the practice of burial, the knowledge of human physiology, and the elite discourse of social degeneration. In so doing, I take an interdisciplinary approach by drawing upon several different fields—literature, medicine, death ritual, and social history.