A Typology of Dysfunction

Michael David Kaulana Ing

in The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199924899
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980437 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Ritual Studies Series

A Typology of Dysfunction

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This chapter examines the notion of “dysfunction.” It begins by recounting the study of dysfunctional ritual in ritual studies and then proceeds to build on this account by providing a typology of dysfunctions rooted in the Liji. It introduces two kinds of dysfunctions and the ways early Confucians dealt with them. It shows that the authors of the Liji sought to avoid failure by emphasizing a program of ritual practice and by “opening the ritual script” in circumstances where following the ritual script would otherwise lead to failure. This latter move allowed early Confucians to advocate the rituals of the past, while at the same time recognize the need to adapt them to contemporary circumstances. It also served to legitimate their role in the sociopolitical structure of early China—in essence claiming that sensitivity to context required more than a textual tradition; it additionally required the presence of trained Confucians to adapt the tradition to living circumstances. The chapter concludes by emphasizing the persistence of ritual failure. In other words, despite the fact that ritual scripts could be altered to account for various circumstances, the authors of the Liji also believed that there were situations where failure was inevitable.

Keywords: Liji; dysfunctional ritual; Confucians; ritual practice; ritual failure; ritual scripts

Chapter.  7599 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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