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Theater of the DeadA Social Turn in Chinese Funerary Art, 1000-1400$
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Jeehee Hong

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824855376

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824855376.001.0001

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Theater for the Dead

Theater for the Dead

(p.43) 2 Theater for the Dead
Theater of the Dead

Jeehee Hong

University of Hawai'i Press

The second mode of representing theatrical performances is a more complex visual phenomenon than the first. The principal object of inquiry is a set of brick reliefs representing five actors, found in a Song-dynasty tomb in Yanshi, Henan Province. In sharp contrast to the other brick reliefs of different placed in the same burial space, their animating visual effect resonating with the motif of theatrical performance created an intense sense of spectacle that served to link the space within the burial chamber to the space outside and beyond the tomb. This set of reliefs portraying actors was conceived as “projecting” (ying) a prototypical performance from the realm of the living into the space for the dead, and was deeply rooted in the contemporary visual interest in illusionism. The particular visuality of these reliefs speaks to the ways in which contemporary viewers configured the tomb as a densely socialized space.

Keywords:   Chinese, tomb, relief, actor, zaju, performance, Song dynasty, socialization, visuality, illusionism

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