Organizer and Chair: Thomas A. Wilson, Hamilton College
Discussant: Evelyn S. Rawski, University of Pittsburgh
The emphasis in modern studies of Confucianism on philosophical debate has fostered an image of Confucianism as a primarily metaphysical system concerned with ethics; an agnostic, even non-religious, humanism that differed fundamentally from the popular religion of the peasants. This conception of Confucianism as ethical humanism is difficult to reconcile with the biannual slaughter and sacrificial offering of animals to the spirits of Kongzi and his most eminent followers in the Kong temple. This panel is intended to explicate the Kong temple in order to broaden our understanding of the cultic dimension of Confucianism without undermining the importance of the work done on the history of Confucian thought.
The Kong temple was a shrine that existed in a number of distinct, though interrelated cultural realms, thus any general treatment of its place in imperial times needs to view the temple in several contexts, for no single set of overarching assumptions can adequately account for its complexity. By situating the temple in social, ritual, and political contexts, these papers will show how the temple, as the shrine of the Confucian literati cult, provided a location where the state, followers of the teachings of Kongzi, and family descendants of Kongzi confronted one another in their endeavors to define the meaning of Confucianism. This multi-valenced panel on the temple will make clear that Confucianism was more than a philosophy, religion, political program, or educational curriculum, and that to confine it to any one of these realms reduces it in ways that tend to reproduce Western academic divisions of human experiences without contemplating the validity of alternative world views.
Before Kong temples were constructed in government schools throughout the empire, the temple in Qufu, Shandong was the center of an ancestral cult supervised by descendants of Kongzi who performed sacrifices to his spirit. Abigail Lamberton examines the social organization of the Qufu Kongs, and how they perpetuated their elevated status by capitalizing on their descent from Kongzi. Jun Jing draws on enthographic fieldwork on a branch of Kongzi's descendants that settled in Gansu province six hundred years ago to examine the Kong's fate in modern times, from the destruction of the family temple during the Maoist years to the Gansu Kong branch's recent resurgence in the early 1990s, when it rebuilt the clan temple. An often overlooked dimension of Confucian thought, and a critical component of these temple rites and dance, was the music that harmonized them. Joseph Lam draws from Confucian discussions of temple music found in ritual texts to examine the meaning of the sounds of "the bells and drums" as a counterpart to the rites and its role in Confucian governance and moral self-cultivation. Besides its social and ritual significance, the temple played an important role in court politics. Ellen Neskar examines the early tension within Confucian thinking about the temple between its function as a shrine honoring scholarly versus statecraft orthodoxy, and the uses of the temple as a contested space in which Confucian sects vied for privileged positions from which to define the nature of state orthodoxy.
The Kongs of Qufu, Shandong
Abigail Lamberton, University of Pittsburgh
From the birth of Confucius in the Spring and Autumn period, there has been only one constant in Chinese history: namely that the teachings of the First Sage are to be revered. In a culture that exalts continuity and order above all other values, it is not surprising that descendants of the First Sage, who lived their lives in accordance with his teachings, were honored above other men. Accordingly, few lineages in Imperial China could rival the wealth and land holdings of the Kong family of Qufu, gained largely as imperial gifts in celebration of its descent from Confucius. Although the Kong's elevated position in Chinese society was perpetuated through hereditary titles of nobility and other imperial grants, their wealth was based upon extensive land holdings; stretching across their native province of Shandong and reaching into the neighboring Honan, Zhili, and Jiangsu. Together, the wealth and social prominence of the descendants of the First Sage depended upon the Kong lineage's ability to capitalize upon their relationship with both the First Sage and the imperial house. As the hereditary Yansheng Duke, the eldest direct descendant of Confucius lived in a mansion that was a copy of the imperial palace, surrounded by material proof of imperial favor. In addition, the local magistrate of Qufu was a lineage member, who, as a result from his descendance from Confucius, was exempted not only from taking the literary exams, but also from the law of avoidance. This essay will examine how the Kongs increased their wealth and maintained their social position throughout the Qing dynasty. Through their ability to "capitalize" upon imperial favor, the Kongs demonstrate the importance placed upon reverence to the First Sage in the Chinese imperial period.
Memory and Identity: A Study of Two Kong Temples
Jun Jing, City University of New York
My presentation focuses on the reconstruction of two ancestral-Confucius temples in Yongjing County, Gansu Province, northwest China. Destroyed in the Maoist era, these temples were rebuilt in the early 1990s by a multi-village lineage, the members of which claim to be descendants of Confucius and explain their presence in this part of China by historical migration. Their descent claim is recognized in a 1937 edition of the Kong clan genealogy, printed in Qufu, namely, Confucius' hometown in Shandong Province. Initially, the central settlement of the Kongs in Yonkjing was the village of Dachuan. There, a Confucius temple became, during the Ming Dynasty, the site an annual cycle of ancestral rituals. Some Kongs later moved to nearby places, including the village of Xiaochuan where another Confucius temple was built. In the 1960s-70s, one temple was dismantled during the construction of a high dam while the other was leveled at the onset of an anti-Confucius campaign. Both temples were rebuilt at new sites in 1992-93. Using written documents, oral narratives, and field observations of ritual ceremonies, I examine the historical and contemporary significance of these temples by emphasizing the interaction of social memory, ritual politics, cultural invention, and common identity. In particular, I analyze the workings of cohort memories and contested symbols by focusing on the enshrinement of spirit tablets at one temple and the installment of a Confucius statue at the other.
"Music! Music! Does It Mean No More Than Bells And Drums?" Theories and
Practices of Confucian Ceremonial Music
Joseph S. C. Lam, University of California, Santa Barbara
Confucius once questioned whether music was no more than sounds played on bells and drums. He did not give any definitive and comprehensive answers, but his challenging question suggested a humanistic approach which was universally adopted by Confucians in imperial China, and which is still influential in contemporary China. As theorized by Confucians, music is a counterpart of ritual (li), and is not only a political and social means of governance and self-cultivation, but also a personal and truthful communication of thoughts and emotions. As practiced by Confucians, music is dynamic and flexible: there is a diversity of historical and contemporary genres of Chinese music, each a unique representation of Confucianism and Confucians. In this paper, I will examine Confucian ceremonial music (ji Kong yinyue), namely music performed at the Kong temple to honor the philosopher, as an illustrative case of the theories and practices of the Confucian approach. Through comparison of historical (Song through Qing dynasties) and contemporary performances of the music, which are recorded in textual, notated, and audio documents, I will discuss the ways the music embodies Confucian ideals and adjusts itself to changing times and needs. I will argue that Confucian ceremonial music provides a sonic dimension for Confucians to cultivate themselves and harmonize their society, expressing their philosophical aspirations as well as realities of life.
Court Politics and the Confucian Temple during the Tang and Song
Ellen Neskar, Stanford University
During the Tang and Song dynasties debates over the Temple to Confucius centered on the distinction between statecraft and scholarship and asked which of these positions the Temple would represent. An early Tang attempt to reconcile statecraft and scholarship may be seen in its establishment of a temple honoring the Duke of Zhou and Confucius. However, the final form of the temple, which honored Confucius and his disciple Yan Hui, indicates that the Temple would become the symbolic locus of scholarly orthodoxy. The Tang further emphasized classical scholarship when it enshrined Han dynasty exegetes, such as Kong Anguo and Liu Xiang.
Although the Song adopted this version of the Tang temple, debates over statecraft and scholarship did not end. In addition to the Temple to Confucius, the Song also established the Temple to Meritorious Ministers in the imperial ancestral temple (Taimiao), which regularly honored chief ministers for their contributions to statecraft. By 1104 Wang Anshi had gained the unprecedented honor of enshrinement in both the Kongmial and the Taimaio. This sparked a 137 year struggle at court, which pitted the supporters of Wang Anshi against members of Daoxue and once again focused attention on the distinction between statecraft and scholarship. The greatest significance of this struggle lies in the fact that the "winners" helped to set the agenda for state orthodoxy for the next several hundred years.