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The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism
     

The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism

by Michael David Kaulana Ing
 

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In The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism Michael Ing describes how early Confucians coped with situations where their rituals failed to achieve their intended aims. In contrast to most contemporary interpreters of Confucianism, Ing demonstrates that early Confucian texts can be read as arguments for ambiguity in ritual failure. If, as discussed in one

Overview

In The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism Michael Ing describes how early Confucians coped with situations where their rituals failed to achieve their intended aims. In contrast to most contemporary interpreters of Confucianism, Ing demonstrates that early Confucian texts can be read as arguments for ambiguity in ritual failure. If, as discussed in one text, Confucius builds a tomb for his parents unlike the tombs of antiquity, and rains fall causing the tomb to collapse, it is not immediately clear whether this failure was the result of random misfortune or the result of Confucius straying from the ritual script by building a tomb incongruent with those of antiquity.

The Liji (Record of Ritual)—one of the most significant, yet least studied, texts of Confucianism—poses many of these situations and suggests that the line between preventable and unpreventable failures of ritual is not always clear. Ritual performance, in this view, is a performance of risk. It entails rendering oneself vulnerable to the agency of others; and resigning oneself to the need to vary from the successful rituals of past, thereby moving into untested and uncertain territory. Ing's book is the first monograph in English about the Liji—a text that purports to be the writings of Confucius's immediate disciples, and included in the earliest canon of Confucian texts called ''The Five Classics,'' several centuries before the Analects. It challenges some common assumptions of contemporary interpreters of Confucian ethics—in particular the idea that a cultivated ritual agent is able to recognize which failures are within his sphere of control to prevent and thereby render his happiness invulnerable to ritual failure.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Dysfunction of Ritual in Early Confucianism brings readers into the intricacies of the text of the Liji. Michael Ing respects the diversity of perspectives in the text while paying close attention to the ways that its authors shared a central concern with failures in ritual practice."—New Book in East Asian Studies

"Ing's work is simply brilliant! He has brought both the right text and the right method to bear on the central question of the religious nature of the Confucian tradition. By focusing upon the Liji with its probing account of ritual performance and meaning and by applying the method and theory of religious studies, Ing has been able to probe the depths of religious meaning within the Confucian context specifically and larger Chinese context more generally."—Rodney L. Taylor, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199924912
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/24/2012
Series:
Oxford Ritual Studies Series
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Michael David Kaulana Ing is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

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