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  • Magnus Fiskesjö (a1)

Twelve years after Professor Keightley published The Ancestral Landscape, which was a fascinating, elegant summary of decades of investigations of the Bronze-Age Late Shang dynasty, he has now published another wonderful book on the same era, under the title Working for His Majesty. As the title suggests, and as he recounts in a highly personal preface looking back at the origins of this work, he returns in this book to the topic of his doctoral dissertation on Shang labor (Public Work in Ancient China: A Study of Forced Labor in the Shang and Western Chou, Columbia University, 1969).

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1. Finley, Moses, Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology (Expanded edition, edited by Shaw, Brent D.. Princeton: Markus Wiener, 1998).

2. Friedman, Jonathan, System, Structure, and Contradiction in the Evolution of “Asiatic” Social Formations (2nd ed., Walnut Creek: Altamira, 1998 [orig. 1979]); 273–95; on royalty as a mystery apart, also see Quigley, Declan, “Introduction: The Character of Kingship,” in The Character of Kingship (Oxford; New York: Berg, 2005).

3. But see 224–25 on the treatment of the royal dead (and also, Keightley, David, “The Making of the Ancestors: Late Shang Religion and Its Legacy,” in Religion and Chinese Society, volume 1: Ancient and Medieval China, ed. Lagerwey, John [Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2004], 363).

4. Friedman, System, Structure and Contradiction, 278; see too Michael Puett on the still-continuing tension between the manipulation of dynastic ancestor-worship and the manipulation of a radically distinct supreme and heavenly deity, whose “Son” the emperor would presume to be (Puett, Michael, “Human and Divine Kingship in Early China: Comparative Reflections,” in Religion and Power: Divine Kingship in the Ancient World and Beyond., ed. Nicole Brisch [Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2008, 207–20]).

5. As well as Keightley's many other contributions, including the forthcoming collection advertised as These Bones Shall Rise Again: Selected Writings on Early China (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014), and as well as unpublished papers which are to be housed at Berkeley's East Asian Library (says Working for His Majesty, 412 n. 1)—why not also publish in a web archive for the benefit of non-Californians?

6. Yoffee, Norman, Myths of the Archaic State: Evolution of the Earliest Cities, States and Civilizations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004); Maisels, Charles K., Archaeology of Politics and Power: Where, When, and Why the First States Formed (Oxford: Oxbow Books; Oakville, CA: David Brown, 2010).

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Early China
  • ISSN: 0362-5028
  • EISSN: 2325-2324
  • URL: /core/journals/early-china
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