Research Project


Elite Religiosity in Late Imperial Suzhou: Peng Dingqiu (1645-1719) and Self-Fashioned Literati Piety

Dr. Daniel Burton-Rose

From the early to mid-Qing dynasty the Pengs were arguably the most successful corporate lineage in the entire empire in terms of civil examination performance. They were also pioneers of a charitable style of status justification in which the Pengs explained their worldly success as divine reward for their good works. By the early eighteenth century, many of the Pengs' peers and social inferiors promulgated their claims as well. In the thriving genre of morality books (shanshu) particularly successful Peng patriarchs served as iconic shorthand for the terrestrial reward of civil examination success for philanthropic acts. Examination hopefuls and morality book consumers throughout the empire sought to obtain a portion of the prosperity of the Pengs by emulating their charitable commitments. While the Pengs have received periodic attention from a diverse array of scholars writing in English, French, Chinese, and Japanese, mine is the first study to address the lineage as a whole and gauge its impact on the role of philanthropy in literati self-representation in late imperial China.

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