Our notions of grief and mourning (and their relationship) are based heavily on experience in the West. As anticipated by the conference’s emphasis on culture, historical and anthropological research in other societies suggests alternative perspectives, such as the difficulty of universalizing “grief” and abstracting it from mourning rituals. Focusing on the standard early modern Chinese funeral (1368-1911), which blends canonical Confucian forms with Buddhist and some Daoist folk practices, I discuss various emotions linked with grief and their treatment in mourning rituals, and examine the roles of sincerity, tears and filial piety in Chinese thinking about death.
Donald S. Sutton is Professor of History at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. 1971 Ph.D. Cambridge University. He teaches at Carnegie Mellon since 1969. He is a China historian working at the juncture of history and anthropology. Besides early studies of the origins of 20th century warlordism, he has mostly focused on ritual or folk religion, seen in a variety of contexts. Recent research, again combining history with fieldwork, explores ethnicity and religion in two remote areas: West Hunan and the Tibetan borderlands. Selected publications: Provincial Militarism and the Chinese Republic: The Yunnan Army, 1905–25 (1980); Steps of Perfection: Exorcistic Performance and Chinese Religion in 20th Century Taiwan (2003); Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity and Frontier in Early Modern China (ed. with Pamela K. Crossley and Helen F. Siu, 2006); “Death Rites and Chinese Culture”, in: Modern China (2007); Faiths on Display: Religious Revival and Tourism in China (ed. with Tim Oakes, forthcoming).