Julia Murray to Examine Cult of Confucius in Goldberg Lecture

Julia K. Murray, professor of art history in the departments of art history, East Asian studies, and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will deliver the Goldberg Lecture in Art History on Thursday, November 8, at 4:10 p.m. in Cohen Hall 203. Her lecture is entitled “The Cult of Confucius and the Shrine of His Robe and Cap.”

Recognized throughout the world as the symbol of Chinese civilization, Confucius (551-479 BCE) is venerated as ancient philosopher, statesman, and teacher. Less familiar is his role in a religious cult supported over the centuries by Chinese emperors, officials, and scholars. After his death, a memorial shrine to Confucius in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong, gradually evolved into a large and magnificent temple. From the seventh century onward, schools throughout China also had temples for official worship.

The focus of Murray’s lecture is a shrine on the outskirts of Shanghai, whose 17th-century patrons claimed that it marked the place where his robe and cap had been buried a thousand years after his death. Using these unseen relics as a pretext, they built a ritual complex where scholarly pilgrims could offer sacrifices to the ancient sage and experience his beneficent presence. Like many sites associated with Confucius, Kongzhai was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), but unlike most others, it has not been rebuilt. In presenting the history of the shrine, Murray will explore several ways that material forms of Chinese religious expression shaped Kongzhai’s architectural and artistic features and will conclude by speculating on the prospects for its revival.

Murray has held several research and curatorial positions in art museums with major East Asian collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Freer Gallery, and Harvard University Museum. She is the author of numerous scholarly articles and several monographs and exhibition catalogs, including Confucius: His Life and Legacy in Art (with Wensheng Lu, 2010), Mirror of Morality: Chinese Narrative Illustration and Confucian Ideology (2007), Ma Hezhi and the Illustration of the Book of Odes (1993), and Last of the Mandarins: Chinese Calligraphy and Painting from the F.Y. Chang Collection (1987).

Sponsored by the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Lecture Series (department of history of art), department of religious studies, and the Asian studies program, the lecture is free and open to the public. Cohen Memorial Hall is at 1220 21st Avenue South on the western edge of the Peabody College campus.

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