Historical Constructions and Ritual Formations of the Cult of Confucius


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

supported in part by the Frederic E. Wakeman, Jr. Fund for Chinese History named award


This is a study of the ancestral and official cults of Confucius in China. It examines the emergence of the ancestral cult in Confucius’s birthplace, the incorporation of rites devoted to Confucius into the imperial cult system, and subsequent changes in late imperial times from 960 to 1911. It shows that ancestral and imperial liturgies sought to establish connections between spirits invoked at the altar and their living patrons, though key details varied depending upon a particular rite’s location, its proximity to neighboring ritual spaces, and the person who consecrated the offering. This study concludes with a reexamination of the cult in light of the emergence of popular veneration of Confucius in China’s post-socialist order and contemporary practice in Taiwan.