Creating Confucian Authority

The Field of Ritual Learning in Early China to 9 CE


Ritual Learning is a key driver in the cultural dominance of Confucianism. In early China, Confucian officials derive political influence from the sub-discipline of ritual. Imperial regimes establish legitimacy through their state religion, headed by sacrifices to ancestors and to deities of Heaven and Earth. Ritual Learning allows Confucian-educated officials to assert control over these cults, and reshape dynastic legitimacy according to their own design, claimed to derive from the sage kings of antiquity. Confucianism is not just a philosophical and intellectual tradition. Through its ritual expertise, it has cultural and political power, like that of a religion, allowing it to perpetuate itself successfully over time, even in contemporary China.

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Robert L. Chard, PhD (1990, University of California, Berkeley) is University Lecturer/Associate Professor in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St Anne’s College. He has published on the visible culture of Confucianism in China and Japan.

1 Introduction
 1 A Prologue – The Case of Shusun Tong 叔孫通
 2 Ritual and Ritual Learning

2 The Golden Age of Ritual: The World of the Zuo zhuan, and the Analects (Lun yu) on Confucius
 1 The Western Zhou
 2 The Spring and Autumn Period and the World of the Zuo zhuan
 3 Ritual Learning in the Lun yu (Analects)

3 The Ritual Culture of the Ru – Ritual Learning in the Warring States and Early Han
 1 The Ru (“Confucians”)
 2 Pre-Han Precursors of the Ritual Canon Li 禮
 3 Pre-Han Antecedents of the Li ji 禮記
 4 Non-textual Masters of li – Shusun Tong 叔孫通 and His Successors in the Early Han Court

4 The “Victory” of Ritual Learning – Western Han
 1 Early Western Han – Emperors Wen and Jing (180–141 BCE)
 2 Emperor Wu (141–87 BCE)
 3 Texts on Ritual Learning
 4 Old vs New – Ritual Learning in Late Western Han

5 Conclusion and Final Arguments
Specialists on Early China, Confucianism, cultural history, and ritual studies.
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