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The Religious as Secular: Space, Ritual Practice, and Power Relations at Imperial and Confucian Sacred Sites

Tue, June 23, 9:00 to 10:55am, South Building, Floor: 5th Floor, S519

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel Proposal Application


Partly due to its image as a highly scholastic tradition, scholars tend to view Confucian teachings predominantly as a philosophical or an ethical system while overlooking its religious dimensions. To understand how the influence of Confucianism reaches out to society beyond the literati, this panel proposes to study Confucian ritual as a way of life and sociopolitical processes revolving around the rituals and sacred sites associated with Confucianism and the state.

The four papers here address these concerns from historical and sociological approaches, emphasizing their spatial dimension and the participation of both state and non-state actors. Yi-Fang Liao’s paper examines how the evolution of the worship of emperors of previous dynasties (lidai diwang jisi) related to the consolidation of political power from the local to the central level from the Northern Wei to the Ming dynasties. Hsi-yüan Chen’s paper explores the social dynamic between state authority, local official, and the Suzhou populace during the performance of the state li (the unworshipped dead) sacrifice in the Qing dynasty. Hsüeh-Yi Lin examines how local and state powers conflicted or coalesced during the reconstructions of the Donglin Academy from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. Anna Sun describes the linked ecological systems of different religious traditions as seen in the contemporary setting of the Confucius temple. Together, these papers scrutinize and offer fresh perspectives on the interactions and interpermeability between state power and local concerns as well as between Confucian and non-Confucian beliefs and practices.

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