Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Pacing the Void for My State: Textual Sources and Religious Thought of the Song Imperial “Pacing the Void” (Buxu 步虛) Poetry Public Deposited

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  • This thesis studies three suites of poems with the title “Pacing the Void” (Buxu 步虛), composed by three emperors of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). It outlines the threefold identity of these three suites: these poems are simultaneously Daoist liturgical hymns, literary compositions, and state ritual texts. The first chapter introduces “Pacing the Void” poetry as a sub-genre of Daoist liturgical hymns and as literary compositions from early medieval period to the Song dynasty. It considers this genre as both ritual texts and a developing structure for human authors. The second chapter discusses how the Song Imperial “Pacing the Void” poetry retained the Daoist features and was employed in the Golden Register Retreat, a Daoist liturgy exclusively for the imperial court. It analyzes the combinations of lyrics in Daoist liturgies before, during, and after the Northern Song Dynasty and concludes that the Imperial “Pacing the Void” poetry might be a part of the revised ritual system. The third chapter focuses on “Pacing the Void” poetry as literary compositions. It examines how each “Pacing the Void” suite fits in each emperor’s writing style and religious predilection. It seeks out clues to how the emperors view the function of “Pacing the Void” poetry. The last chapter analyzes how the Song Imperial “Pacing the Void” poems functioned as state ritual texts by considering the public elements and modified pantheon in the poetry and by giving examples of parallel patterns in state ritual texts. This thesis highlights the threefold identity of these understudied suites. It examines textual sources and religious thought from three aspects. A broader concern is to rethink the interaction between secular and religious power reflected in writings. On the one hand, the analysis of the text leads us to reflect on the employment of religious ritual for political purposes in the Northern Song Dynasty. On the other hand, the analysis of religious-political background sheds light on how various forces interact to form certain texts.

Date Issued
  • 2022-07-06
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Last Modified
  • 2022-09-14
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