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Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China$
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N. Harry Rothschild and Leslie V. Wallace

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824867812

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824867812.001.0001

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Flouting, Flashing, and Favoritism

Flouting, Flashing, and Favoritism

An Insouciant Buddhist Monk Bares His Midriff before the Confucian Court; Or Smile, You’ve been Tanfu’ed!

(p.154) 9 Flouting, Flashing, and Favoritism
Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China

N. Harry Rothschild

University of Hawai'i Press

In 695, in the Zhou court of female emperor Wu Zhao 武曌‎, Xue Huaiyi 薛懷義‎, improbably risen from male favorite of humble origins to become a Buddhist abbot, an influential ideologue, a veteran general of many expeditions, a visionary architect of grand imperial ritual constructions, lay on a bench and bared his midriff (tanfu坦腹‎). The eccentric Huaiyi’s wanton disregard for protocol, for the dignity and solemnity of venue, scandalized and profoundly outraged the Confucian establishment, creating a furor in court. To better couch Xue Huaiyi’s bared midriff in the complex historical and ideological context of the times, the chapter examines different aspects of meaning underlying the eccentric and unorthodox monk’s irreverent gesture—Buddhist, Confucian, folk/popular, etymological.

Keywords:   Xue Huaiyi 薛懷義, Wu Zhao 武曌 (Wu Zetian 武則天), gestures, Wang Xizhi 王羲之, Du Fu 杜甫, Maitreya

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