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“Confucian” Values and Practices in Han China

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image of T'oung Pao

While identifiable from Tang and Song times onwards, a system that combined ideals and conduct known as “Confucianism” did not characterize public life in Western Han times. As yet the attention paid to Kongzi and the writings associated with him was by no means commonplace; it was only late (after 30 BCE) that Heaven was adopted for worship in imperial cults; social hierarchies rested on the needs of government rather than on idealized kin relationships; Zhou had not been accepted as the ideal; the force of li had as yet to make itself felt. By no means all officials could claim familiarity with ru writings; there was no agreed account of how transmission to rule had been authorized; documents to be banned later as heretical were attracting interest and even promotion. Four stages may be named as significant steps that led eventually to the formation of a “Confucian” tradition.

Affiliations: 1: (Cambridge University)


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