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Matthew Wells – The Vision to Restore the Empire: Manufacturing Monarchy and Empire in the Early 4th Century
April 1, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Speaker: Matthew Wells, University of Kentucky
This presentation will discuss part of an ongoing project that attempts to explain how the early leaders of the Eastern Jin understood and executed what Dennis Grafflin has called the “interesting task of reality construction” that was required for establishing their new empire in Yangzhou 揚州 in the early 4th century. We will trace the efforts of Wang Dao 王導 (276-339) to establish the rule of Sima Rui司馬睿 (276-323), who reigned as Emperor Yuan, by focusing on Wang’s efforts to reach out to southern gentry and former Wu officials for support and guidance. In particular, I am interested in the way in which three specific individuals were recruited for the task of building the Eastern Jin regime: Gu Rong 顧榮 (d. 312), He Xun 賀循 (260-319), and Ji Zhan 紀瞻 (253-324). According to the Jin shu editors and sources from the period, this particular group of southern elites was central to the establishment of the first Jiankang empire. Answering the question of what these three men brought to the table and why their recruitment was so important for Wang Dao is fundamental to understanding Wang’s notions of empire and monarchy, and the way in which the construction of these institutions relied on the public imagination for their success.