Rethinking “Traditions”: Reading the Classics as Ritual

in Journal of Chinese Humanities
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How do generations of Chinese remain connected across history? How do the anthropological studies of religion help us to reconceptualize the realm of sociality and historicity? This paper argues that reading the classics is a ritual to bring together many heterogeneous traditions in a subjunctive historical community. In the Chinese context, reading is first done aloud in the presence of other people, in what can be broadly envisioned as a teacher-student relationship. Reading as such is rhythmic, public, and historical, by which both the deceased and the yet-to-be-born are brought together by readers’ embodied acceptance of “sages.” Thus “traditions” in China could be discussed more in terms of orthopraxy than orthodoxy. This perspective of reading suggests one is capable of understanding by “doing” rather than by “thinking” alone; and reading activities serve not only to regenerate but also to create new relationships among and between contemporaries and their historical relatives.

Rethinking “Traditions”: Reading the Classics as Ritual

in Journal of Chinese Humanities

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References

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1

Arjun AppaduraiModernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press2005); David A. Bell “This Is What Happens When Historians Overuse the Idea of the Network” New Republic October 25 2013; Maurice Bloch “The Past and the Present in the Present” Man 12 (1977); Dipesh Chakrabarty Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2009); Arif Dirlik “Confucius in the Borderlands: Global Capitalism and the Reinvention of Confucianism” Boundary 2 (1995); Keith Hart “What Anthropologists Really Do” Anthropology Today 20 no. 1 (2004); Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2005); Eric R. Wolf Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press 1982).

2

Robert N. BellahHabits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press2008); Robert W. Hefner “Religious Resurgence in Contemporary Asia: Southeast Asian Perspectives on Capitalism the State and the New Piety” Journal of Asian Studies 69 no. 4 (2010); Robert D. Putnam Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York: Simon & Schuster 2000); Robert P. Weller Alternate Civilities: Democracy and Culture in China and Taiwan (Boulder: Westview Press 1999).

3

See Maurice Bloch“Symbols, Song, Dance and Features of Articulation: Is Religion an Extreme Form of Traditional Authority?” European Journal of Sociology 15 no. 1 (1974); Richard Gombrich Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (London: Routledge 2006) 6.

5

Ibid.105.

8

Fredrik BarthBalinese Worlds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1993) 332.

9

Jacques Gernet and Janet LloydChina and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1985) 7-16; Henrietta Harrison The Man Awakened from Dreams: One Man’s Life in a North China Village 1857-1942 (Stanford: Stanford University Press 2005) 24-26.

12

Roy A. RappaportRitual and Religion in the Making of Humanity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1999) 24; Adam B. Seligman and Robert P. Weller Rethinking Pluralism: Ritual Experience and Ambiguity (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012) 93.

13

Adam Yuet ChauMiraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China (Stanford: Stanford University Press2005) 2.

15

Francis L.K. HsuUnder the Ancestors’ Shadow: Kinship Personality and Social Mobility in China (Stanford: Stanford University Press1971); Ching-Kun Yang Religion in Chinese Society (Berkeley: University of California Press 1961).

18

Peter BurkeLanguages and Communities in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2004). Also Brian Stock The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1983).

19

Xu Jianshun 徐建順“Yin song yu jiao yu 吟誦與教育 [Intonation and Education],” Renmin jiaoyu 人民教育 [People’s Education] 23 (2009): 16.

21

Billioud and Thoraval“Jiaohua” 14; Xu “Yin song yu jiao yu.”

22

Lu Xun“Cong bai cao yuan dao san wei shu wu 從百草園到三味書屋 [From Herbs Garden to Three Tastes School],” in Lu Xun quan ji 魯迅全集 [Complete Works of Lu Xun] (Beijing: People’s Literature Press 2005) 2: 290-291.

25

Jeffrey Samuels“Learning to Be Novices: Monastic Education and the Construction of Vocation,” in Attracting the Heart: Social Relations and the Aesthetics of Emotion in Sri Lankan Monastic Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press2010) 77.

27

Thorsten PattbergShengren (New York: LoD Press2011).

29

Shu-hsien Liu“The Confucian Approach to the Problem of Transcendence and Immanence,” Philosophy East and West 22 no. 1 (1972).

31

Robert N. BellahReligion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press2011); Tu The Global Significance of Concrete Humanity.

32

Herbert FingaretteConfucius—The Secular as Sacred (New York: Harper & Row1972) 6.

33

Cf. Stanley Jeyaraja TambiahWorld Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand Against a Historical Background (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1976).

36

Weiming Tu“The Confucian Perception of Adulthood,” Daedalus 105 no. 2 (1976): 109.

38

Tu“The Confucian Perception of Adulthood” 120.

39

Max WeberThe Religion of China: Confucianism and Taoism (New York: Macmillan1964).

40

GombrichTheravada Buddhism9.

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