SOAS University of London

Special Lecture in Celebration of Michael Loewe’s 95th Birthday

Michael Loewe

Date: 3 November 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 3 November 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: First Floor

Type of Event: Lecture

Accounts of the Eastern Han empire tend to concentrate on the parts played by an emperor’s relatives and their families or the eunuchs. We may however examine other factors that affected the loss of imperial authority, and suggest that a lack of cohesion and a loosening of the central government’s powers was growing at an earlier time than is generally recognised. The prestige attached to the person of the emperor was diminishing from 89; the importance of the kings and the nobles grew weaker from 107 and 132; personal land holdings grew in size and number with the cessation of official allocations of land from 147; official measures to relieve the distress of the vagrants ceased from 132. In intellectual and religious terms, appeals to the authority of the Tian ming 天命 were confined to moments of crisis or insurrection, and may have conflicted with a trust in the cosmic sequences of the wu xing 五行. The circulation of questionable texts that might lend support to divisive moves may have been one reason for calling the conference of the Bo hu tong 白虎通 in 79. Possibly a spread of Buddhism may have given further reason for doing so. This foreign faith could raise doubts on the value of imperial authority and the force of existing social distinctions, and might prove to be dangerous. It had drawn the interest of one senior member of the imperial family by 70, when large numbers of other persons who had succumbed to its attraction were also punished.

Contact email: