Negotiating Rites in Imperial China

Christian Meyer

in Negotiating Rites

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199812295
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919390 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

Negotiating Rites in Imperial China

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The chapter is based on a thorough examination of numerous materials of official court documents concerning prominent cases of “ritual debates” in the middle period of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). The debates were centered around the important Chinese matter of “li” which can be translated in Western languages as ritual, but for other aspects also as moral pattern of behavior. Ritual matters, especially those concrete court rituals discussed here, were subject to the expertise of the Confucian educated scholars based on the canonical classics on the one hand, but represented imperial power on the other hand. Imagined to originate from the normative past, they were highly symbolically charged, and therefore matter of permanent negotiation between the emperor, different groups of educated officials as well as scholars outside the court and the “public”. The materials, mostly so called memorials to the throne along with additional writings, can show that the well-known factional struggles till the end of the Northern Song dynasty were clearly connected to the discussion of rituals, however, a position in the ritual debates could also run counter to the usual front lines of factional struggles.

Keywords: ritual debates; northern Song dynasty; educated officials; memorials to the throne

Chapter.  8386 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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