Rulership and Ritual Action in the Chinese Realm

Evelyn S. Rawski

in The Last Emperors

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 1998 | ISBN: 9780520212893
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520926790 | DOI:
Rulership and Ritual Action in the Chinese Realm

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This chapter focuses on the Confucian state ritual arena. Within Confucian political thought, there was a basic tension between two principles of legitimation—virtue or heredity—that remained unresolved. Qing emperors sought to raise “rule by virtue” over “rule by heredity,” but as analysis of ritual delegation shows, heredity continued to be an element in imperial legitimation. When their legitimacy, as defined by Confucian political theory, was directly challenged by drought, political exigencies demanded that rulers pursue an eclectic policy of religious patronage. Efficacy mattered more than consistency: Confucian virtue could not be the sole arbiter of imperial legitimation.

Keywords: ritual arena; Confucian political thought; virtue; heredity; Qing emperors; imperial legitimation; religious patronage

Chapter.  14363 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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