Jue Guo

Visiting Research Scholar 2015-16

Jue Guo teaches at Barnard College and co-chairs the Columbia Early China Seminar.  She is a specialist of Early and Medieval China (i.e., 5th century B.C.E.-5th century C.E.), with a focus on material culture, everyday life, and ritual practices. In her research, she emphasizes an integrated approach to the past societies and lives and makes extensive use of archaeologically excavated objects and manuscripts, along with the transmitted history. She has written on divination and spirits, talismanic objects, death rituals, and concepts of the dead in Early and Medieval China. Her broader interests include microhistory, object biographies, and theories and methods in religious studies, archaeology of religion, and cultural anthropology.

During 2015-2016 at ISAW, she will be working on completing her book manuscript, tentatively titled A Life on Display: Reconstructing the Worlds of a Chu Official in Early China. This book focuses on a remarkable fourth-century B.C.E. large-scale tomb, archaeologically known as Baoshan Tomb 2 and scientifically excavated near the last capital of the Chu Kingdom of the Warring States period in present Hubei Province of southern China. By analyzing the undisturbed tomb and well-preserved burial materials including about 1,500 tomb objects and three distinct genres of bamboo manuscripts, this book interrogates these materials in context both archaeologically and historically, and uses them to reimagine a forgotten individual, the tomb occupant identified as Shao Tuo, and snapshots of his lifeworlds--political, personal, and religious--as the minister of legal affairs at the Chu central court. Methodologically, this book draws attention to the “lived” aspect of tomb finds and treats tombs and entombed objects as products of the living and instantiations of social relations and material conditions of the living world. As such, this book argues that excavated tombs do not only house the imaginations of the afterlife but are also windows into the lives of the occupants and their lived worlds.