Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Rembrandt Wolpert

Committee Member

Elizabeth Markham

Second Committee Member

Liang Cai


Early China, Mountain, Sacred Space, Shang Dynasty, Shanhaijing, Yugong


In this thesis I explore the conception of the mountain as a "sacred space" based on the definition provided by Mircea Eliade in The Sacred and The Profane and other works. I recognize three major elements in Eliadean sacral spatiality: a) order and orientation b) liminality and c) reality. Using various sources but mainly the oracle bones inscriptions, the Yugong ("Tributes of Yu") of the Shujing ("Book of Documents") and the Shanjing ("Classic of Mountains") of the Shanhaijing ("Classic of Mountains and Seas"), I demonstrate how the three basic components of sacrality are to be found in each of the aforementioned sources, therefore showing the prevalence of the understanding of the mountain as a sacred space from the late Shang, through the Warring States, until the early imperial periods; and explaining its epochal variations throughout the course of early Chinese history. In doing this, I also argue that the acquisition of numinous properties from mountains was quintessential to the construction of religious power and political legitimacy in Early China.