Confucian Rituals and Chinese Villagers

Ritual Change and Social Transformation in a Southeastern Chinese Community, 1368-1949


Author: Yonghua Liu
In Confucian Rituals and Chinese Villagers, Yonghua Liu presents a detailed study of how a southeastern Chinese community experienced and responded to the process whereby Confucian rituals - previously thought unfit for practice by commoners - were adopted in the Chinese countryside and became an integral part of village culture, from the mid fourteenth to mid twentieth centuries.

The book examines the important but understudied ritual specialists, masters of rites ( lisheng), and their ritual handbooks while showing their crucial role in the ritual life of Chinese villagers. This discussion of lisheng and their rituals deepens our understanding of the ritual aspect of popular Confucianism and sheds new light on social and cultural transformations in late imperial China.

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Yonghua Liu, Ph.D. (McGill, 2004), is Professor of History at Xiamen University, China. He has published over two dozen articles on economic, social, and cultural history of late imperial China.
“This thoughtful book is rich in detail (some fascinating, such as how a god became an ancestor), draws on secondary studies in English, Chinese, and Japanese, and is written in impeccable English.”
Conrad Schirokauer, Columbia University, Choice March 2014 Vol. 51 No. 07

"Yonghua Liu 劉永華 of Xiamen University 厦門大學 has produced an outstanding study of Confucian ritual practices and socio-cultural change in rural Fujian 福建 province. Written with the objectivity of a historian and the sensitivity of an ethnographer, Liu builds on the existing scholarship on socio-religious space[...]to reveal an accommodating relationship between state and religion in late imperial China. [...] Liu should be congratulated for publishing this excellent analysis of popular religious practices in Southeast China. The rich ethnographical data and the conceptual insights should appeal to religious specialists, historians, and anthropologists of China."
Joseph Tse-Hei Lee (李榭熙), Pace University, April 2014

“…the book can boast such merits as clarity, painstaking elaboration of details, use of new materials and up-to-date secondary research produced by Western, Chinese and Japanese scholars to support all the arguments.”
Ekaterina Zawidovskaya, Monumenta Serica 62 (2014)

"Based on his careful reading of around 30 genealogies held either in the ancestral halls or private hands of Sibao residents, and ritual texts compiled by Confucian ritual specialists ( lisheng), as well as account books, family division contracts and local archival materials, Yonghua Liu has successfully produced an outstanding study of cultural mediation and the mediators. […] it is an important addition to the rich literature of the Huanan school because of the author’s acuteness as a historian and his mastery of the details. […] the book contributes greatly to our understanding of how the cultural and social fabrics were woven and were constantly changing in a rural setting in late imperial China."
Koh Khee Heong, National University of Singapore, Asian Studies Review, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 3, 521–540

"Using a rich array of local archival materials, oral histories and participant observation, Yonghua Liu carefully analyses the historical impact and significance of a topdown movement to incorporate rituals into the daily lives of villagers that began in the late fourteenth century. [...] Yonghua Liu has given historians a fascinating glimpse of the interplay of the social, economic and cultural forces that supported the ritualization of Chinese illage life in southeast China."
Evelyn S. Rawski, University of Pittsburgh, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 2014, Vol. 77, No. 2, 420-422
Part One: Introduction
Chapter 1: Confucian Rituals in Late Imperial Chinese State and Society
Commoners, Confucian Rituals, and Neo-Confucianism
The Appropriation of Confucian Rituals
A Social History of Rituals in Sibao
Principal Themes

Chapter 2: History at the Periphery: Tingzhou and Sibao
Tingzhou: Banditry, Ethnicity, and the State
Sibao: Making a Center out of a Periphery

Part Two: Lisheng as Cultural Mediations
Chapter 3: Who Are Lisheng?
Lisheng: An Overview
Lisheng and Sibao Society

Chapter 4: Lisheng and Their Rituals
Lisheng and Sibao Rituals
Manuals of Sacrificial Texts

Part Three: Lineage, Ritual, and Corporate Estates
Chapter 5: The Creation of a Lineage Society
Lineage Building
Ancestors, Genealogy, and Lineage Building

Chapter 6: Rites, Land, and Lineages
Ancestral Rites
Land, Lineage, and Local Elite
The Limits of Lineage Building

Part Four: A Strange Community Compact?
Chapter 7: Community Compacts, Village Rituals, and Local Society
Community Compacts in Late Imperial Sibao
Villages and Descent Groups around Shangbao
The Making of a Community Compact
Shangbao Compact and Local Society

Part Five: The Worship of Gods
Chapter 8: Gods, Ancestors and Demons
Zougong: A God Becoming an Ancestor
The Transformation of She and Li

Chapter 9: Temples, Markets, and Village Identity
Temple Building and Village Identity
Temples and Commerce

Chapter 10: Locating Rituals in Time and Space
The Genealogy of a Grand Narrative
Cultural Hybridization as a Historical Process

1. Jinshi (Metropolitan Graduates) in Late Imperial Tingzhou
2. Lisheng and the Rituals Performed by Them in Tingzhou
3. Fifty Sibao Jiwenben (I): Basic Facts
4. Fifty Sibao Jiwenben (II): Breakdown of Contents
5. Five Prohibitions of the Shangbao Compact
6. Villages and Surnames in Sibao
7. Temples and Gods in the Sibao Basin
8. Gods and Texts Dedicated to Them in Three Sibao Jiwenben

All interested in social history and cultural history of late imperial China, as well as anyone concerned with Confucian rituals.