Distinguished Lecture in Medieval Studies


"What is Middle in the Middle Ages?
Center and Periphery in the Middle Kingdom"

Presented by Stephen West

Foundation Prof. of Chinese in the School of International Letters & Cultures, ASU

Co-sponsored by the School of International Letters & Cultures at ASU

Eventbrite - Distinguished Lecture in Medieval Studies

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 7:00pm
Phoenix Art Museum
1625 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Free and open to the public

About the Program
The conception of the world in the medieval period was one in which the Central Kingdom (Zhongguo) was true to its name. Everything—order, bureaucracy, text, charismatic virtue of the ruler, and power—radiated from the central node of the emperor, who occupied a seat at the juncture of geographical and astral space. The capital of the medieval empires reflected this sense of order and regularity in its planning, layout, and naming. From this highly organized and regular center, the power of the emperor reached to the very fringes of an empire woven together by a bureaucracy with highly developed hierarchies of reporting and advanced communication. The concept of "border" was not a linear enclosure but the reach, instead, of the civilizing influence of Chinese culture. In the borderlands, which were meant to be in a state of flux between a yang China and a yin periphery, the sense of order disintegrated into the chaos of various contending tribes of nomads. A signal change, however, came in the period from the 9th to the 11th century, when warfare and the rise of commerce along well-established land and riverine routes changed the nature of urban life, including the capitals, to a economically centered configuration associated with cities in China into the late 20th century. This change is interesting in its own right, but it also re-calibrated the relationship between the order and regularity associated with a civilizing aristocracy constituted by lineage and ethical training and a rising proto-capitalist and merchant class that had access to enormous wealth. What had been typical of the border now became the norm in the middle of China.

About Stephen West
Stephen H. West is a Foundation Professor of Chinese in ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures. He is currently the Director of Graduate Studies and the Head of East and Southeast Asian Faculty in SILC. He received his Bachelors Degree in Oriental Studies from the University of Arizona and his Ph.D. in Far Eastern Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. He has done research in Japanese at the University of Texas at Austin, in Chinese at the University of Minnesota, and received a certificate from the Goethe Institute in Germany. He currently teaches Chinese language, history, religion, and drama at ASU.