Robert André Lafleur
Position title: Honorary Fellow (2008-2010)
History and Anthropology, Beloit College
Heaven is Round, Earth is Square: Calendars and Cosmology on China’s Sacred Mountains
During his fellowship year, LaFleur is working on a study of China’s five cardinal peaks (Mt. Tai in the east, Mt. Heng in the south, Mt. Song in the center, Mt. Hua in the west, and another Mt. Heng in the north). Laid out in powerful “cosmic-architectural” fashion, the great Chinese mountains framed political and historical discourse in early China. Since early times, the Chinese imagined heaven as round and earth as square, and their linkage has played a prominent role in three thousand years of political and historical writings. To this day, the mountains remain important as cultural sites and pilgrimage centers. LaFleur’s research has combined fieldwork on and around all five mountains with study of each mountain’s textual tradition—the most prominent fragments of which are carved (by travelers and poets over the millennia) into the mountainsides themselves. Several photographs of the mountains can be seen on LaFleur’s homepage (see link, below).
Robert André LaFleur is a historian and anthropologist who focuses on the intersection of text and culture in Chinese life. His work has included studies of the Chinese almanac and its role in popular religion, the “exilic imagination” in Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) China, and the role of literary borrowing in Chinese historiography. He is the author of China: Global Studies (ABC-Clio, 2003), and a substantially revised second edition due out in late-2009. LaFleur received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought. He is professor of history and anthropology at Beloit College, where he chairs the Asian Studies program and teaches a wide variety of courses on East Asian history and culture. His research project is supported by a Millicent C. McIntosh Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.