This chapter investigates attitudes toward preventable failures in ritual. It begins with an account of failures in competency and examines how early Confucians strived to prevent these failures. Since the Liji, however, tends to presume that its readers are already competent ritual performers, it discusses failures in competency less than failures in efficacy. The majority of this chapter, therefore, focuses on how early Confucians accounted for dysfunctions in efficacy. In doing this, it considers several failures of the ritual script. These failures are discussed in terms of the various situations that render the ritual script inefficacious and how early Confucians sought to alter the script in order to ensure the success of ritual. These situations include temporal and geographic variation in the contexts where rituals are performed, situations where ritual agents cannot physically perform the actions demanded by a script, novel situations the ritual script did not account for, as well as a host of other circumstances. After discussing how fluent ritual agents adapt ritual scripts in order to account for dysfunctions in efficacy, the chapter also examines so-called “failures in fluency”, which occurs when a ritual agent misperceives or mishandles a potential dysfunction in efficacy.
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