The Inevitability of Failure

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

The Inevitability of Failure

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This chapter provides a close reading of the account contained in the “Liyun” chapter of the Liji, which describes the coming forth of ritual into the world. It argues that the Liji constructs a narrative of dysfunctional ritual that is not simply about incompetent people making mistakes in the performance of ritual. Additionally, it constructs a narrative about the inevitability of ritual failure owing to necessary changes made in the world to support the flourishing of a more complex and more interdependent human population. Ritual, in this view, must change in order to maintain its efficacy but also struggles to capture perfectly the dao, or the process of flourishing where all things in the world maximize their potential for growth and development. Other chapters of the Liji are also discussed in reference to this narrative. The significance of this chapter is that it provides a hermeneutic for understanding unpreventable failures in ritual.

Keywords: Liji; Liyun; dysfunctional ritual; dao; flourishing

Chapter.  9928 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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