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The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism$
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Michael David Kaulana Ing

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199924899

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199924899.001.0001

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Ritual in the Liji

Ritual in the Liji

(p.18) 1 Ritual in the Liji
The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism

Michael David Kaulana Ing

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a characterization of ritual. It examines various conceptions of li in the Liji and demonstrates that some authors of the text understood li in a more restrictive sense. For them, rituals were ceremonial occasions held at different times of the year or at different moments of one's life. Other authors of the text, however, understood li in an expansive sense—and for them, ritual became a means of properly comporting oneself even in the mundane acts of everyday life. It is shown that the authors or redactors of the Liji were preoccupied with concepts other than li that served as codified performances for creating an ordered world. In exploring the notion of order, the chapter describes the “impressive” and “expressive” functions of ritual. In its impressive sense, rituals act to shape human beings—changing the way they feel and act. Expressively, rituals serve as conduits to make manifest the refined dispositions of cultivated people. Both functions of ritual take into account notions of human “sentiment”or qing—a term translated as “untaught disposition.” Training these dispositions cultivates competent and fluent ritual performers. The chapter closes with a brief discussion of the terms “competency” and “fluency”.

Keywords:   rituals, li, order, impressive function, expressive function, human sentiment, qing, untaught disposition, competency, fluency

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