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Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 21:31:28 -0800 Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
From: Marilyn Levine, Lewis-Clark State College <mlevine@lcsc.edu>
Subject: H-Asia: Kowtow Inquiry


A dialog from H-Asia list, December 1998

From: dunnell@kenyon.edu

Can anyone direct me to sources (preferably not in Chinese, unless its a dictionary) or a discussion of the origins and significance of the three kneelings and nine bows of the head that comprise the late imperial ritual act of ketou (kowtow)? Students are curious about the significance of this act.

Thank you,

Ruth Dunnell
Kenyon College
Gambier, OH 43022

Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 11:12:27 -0800
From: Eric Reinders <ereinde@emory.edu>

Hi Ruth,

Two books address the contested meanings of the ketou in the context of the British diplomatic mission of 1792-94: James L. Hevia, _Cherishing Men From Afar: Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793_. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995. And Alain Peyrefitte, _The Collision of Two Civilizations_ (Harvil,, 1993). Hevia's book is the deeper of the two, but Peyrefitte is a better story-teller. They are drawing from sources such as: George Staunton, _An Authentic Account of an Embassy from The King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China_, vol. 2. London: W. Bulmer, 1797, which might be available to your students.

Hevia has two related articles: The Scandal of Inequality: Koutou as Signifier, positions: east asia cultures critique 3:1 (1995), 97-118. And Sovereignty and Subject: Constituting Relations of Power in Qing Guest Ritual in _Body, Subject and Power in China_, ed. Angela Zito & Tani E. Barlow, 181-200. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Andrew Kipnis' chapter in _Body, Subject and Power_ is also worth looking at: (Re)inventing Li: Koutou and Subjectification in Rural Shandong, He is writing about the ketou in present-day Shandong. Also, Kipnis' book _Producing Guanxi_ (Duke, 1997) has some similar material.

Perhaps also: David McMullen, Bureaucrats and cosmology: the ritual code of Tang China, in _Rituals of Royalty: Power and Ceremonial in Traditional Societies_, ed. David Cannadine & Simon Price, 181-236. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

There are also many books and articles which address the question of what bowing means, in which the ketou appears as one example. And as you know there are several sources on Medieval debates about obeisance & Buddhism.

Eric Reinders

Emory University

From: Jonathan Ocko <jkohi@unity.ncsu.edu>

One excellent place to turn is Jim Hevia's _Cherishing Guests_ (Duke University Press)

Jonathan Ocko
Dept. History
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC

Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 11:22:45 -0800
From: Raymond Lum <rlum@fas.harvard.edu>

A good starting place might be the venerable _HOBSON-JOBSON, A GLOSSARY OF COLLOQUIAL ANGLO-INDIAN WORDS AND PHRASES_...by Henry Yule (1903 and later editions, reprints), which contains an extensive entry on the origins of this custom (under kotow).

Raymond Lum
Harvard College Library
Harvard University

From: Charlotte Beahan <charlotte.beahan@murraystate.edu>

You might start with James L. Hevia's article, Sovereignty and Subject: Constituting Relations of Power in Qing Guest Ritual, in Angela Zito and Tani Barlow, _Body, Subject and Power in China_, University of Chicago,1994, pp. 181-200.

Best, Charlotte Beahan
Murray State