Name Taboo in Ancient China
The Role of the Supernatural in Its Origin
Keywords:Name taboo, Ancient China, Taboo, Belief, Supernatural
This essay introduces the name taboo (bihui) phenomenon prevalent throughout China’s imperial history. Under this convention, the names of sovereigns and a person’s ancestors were proscribed from writing and speech. Past scholarship in Chinese tends to view the phenomenon as purely secular and explore merely its political and social implications, without exploring in depth the possible influences of the beliefs about the supernatural on the behavior of those that practiced name-tabooing. In this essay, we undertake an exploration of the hypothetical motives for name tabooing rooted in the supernatural dimension. At the same time, we will also examine the inadequacies in the rationalization tendency of past scholars, and furthermore reflect on the general difficulties that modern rationalism created for the study of the past.
References or Bibliography
Adamek, Piotr. “A Good Son Is Sad If He Hears the Name of His Father: The Tabooing of Names in China as a Way of Implementing Social Values.” PhD Thesis, Leiden University, 2012. https://scholarlypublications.universiteitleiden.nl/access/item%3A2962891/view.
Bodde, Derk. Festivals in Classical China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.
Chang, Kwang-Chih. Art, Myth, and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Chen, Yuan. Shihui Juli (Examples of Taboo Names in Historical Writing). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 2016.
Ching, Julia. Chinese Religions. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 1993.
Cook, Constance A. Death in Ancient China: The Tale of One Man’s Journey. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
Dai, Sheng. Liji: Yinghan Duizhao (The Book of Rites: Chinese and English Bilingual Edition). Translated by James Legge. Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe, 2016.
Ebrey, Patricia Buckley. Confucianism and Family Rituals in Imperial China: A Social History of Writing about Rites. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.
Fan, Ye, eds. Hou Hanshu (History of Later Han). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975.
Goldin, Paul R. “Introduction: What Is Early Chinese History?” In Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, edited by Paul R. Goldin. London: Routledge, 2018.
Gu, Jiegang, and Shuye Tong. Guoshi Jianghua: Chunqiu (Speeches on National History: Spring and Autumn Period). Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 2015.
Gu, Yanwu. Rizhilu Jishi (Collected Commentaries on “Record of Daily Knowledge”). Edited by Rucheng Huang. Beijing: Zhonghua shiju, 2020.
Guo, Jue. “The Spirit World.” In Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, edited by Paul R. Goldin. London: Routledge, 2018.
Gwynn, David M. Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Han, Fei. Hanfeizi (Master Hanfei). Edited by Huaping Gao, Qizhou Wang, and Sanxi Zhang. 2nd ed. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2015.
Hansen, Valerie. Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
Kaneko, Shuuichi. Gudai Zhongguo Yu Huangdi Jisi (Ancient China and the Emperors’ Sacrifices). Translated by Shengzhong Xiao, Sisi Wu, and Caojie Wang. Shanghai: Fudan University Press, 2017.
Kubuya, Paulin Batairwa. Meaning and Controversy within Chinese Ancestor Religion. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Liu, Xu et al, eds. Jiu Tangshu (Old Tang History). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975.
Liu, Zongyuan. Liuzongyuan Quanji (Complete Works by Liu Zongyuan). Edited by Minggang Cao. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1997.
Luo, Xinhui. “Early Chinese Writing.” In Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, edited by Paul R. Goldin. London: Routledge, 2018.
Quan Song Bi Ji (Complete Miscellaneous Notes from the Song Dynasty). Edited by Shanghai Normal University Committee on the Collation of Ancient Texts. Zhengzhou, China: Daxiang chubanshe, 2012.
Shao, Fengli. Zhuzi Jiali Yu Chuantong Shehui Minjian Jizu Shijian (“Family Rituals” by Zhuzi and Folk Ancestral Worship Practices in Traditional Societies). Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe, 2019.
Shirakawa, Shizuka. Hanzi de Shijie Shang (the World of Chinese Characters I). Translated by Qiang Chen. Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 2018.
Sima, Guang et al, eds. Zizhi Tongjian (Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of the Government). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2013.
Sun, Yinggang. The Weft Prophecy Texts and Political Legitimation in Medieval China. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2015.
Traver, Ori. “Religious thought.” In Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, edited by Paul R. Goldin. London: Routledge, 2018.
Wang, Jian. Zhongguo Gudai Bihui Xiaoshi (a Short History of Name Taboo in Ancient China). Beijing: Zhongguo chang’an chubanshe, 2014.
Wang, Xinhua. Bihui Yanjiu (Research on Name Taboo). Jinan: Qilu shushe, 2007.
Wei, Bin. “Xingxing Xingzhan Yu Songdai Zhengzhi (Planetary Astrology and Song Dynasty Politics).” Shehuikexue Yanju (Social Science Research), no. 06 (2012): 166–71. https://kns.cnki.net/kcms/detail/detail.aspx?FileName=SHYJ201206030&DbName=CJFQ2012.
Xu, Shen. Shuowen Jiezi (Discussing Writing and Explaining Characters). Edited by Xuan Xu. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2015.
Yang, Junfeng. The State and Cisi between the Tang and Song Dynasties: on the Interaction between the State and the Custom of Worshipping the Gods in the South. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2019.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Leqi Zhou; Kaishuo Chen
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Copyright holder(s) granted JSR a perpetual, non-exclusive license to distriute & display this article.