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Memory, Rite, and Tradition: A Comparative Confucian-Christian Literary Analysis

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I The Confucian Classics and Christian Scriptures speak often about the role “the past” plays in shaping individual and communal character, life, perception, morality and purpose. In both Christianity and classical Confucianism, memory, rite and tradition are each accorded a central place in preserving and interpreting the past as a dynamic force in the present. The first part of this paper studies points of thematic similarity in Christian and Confucian interpretation of memory, rite and tradition. In the second part of the paper, however, critical points of divergence are addressed; for behind the formal similarities lie deeper intellectual, relational and moral differences in understanding the nature and function of “the past” in determining both the present and the future. Comparative literary analysis provides a rich resource for contemporary application of the Confucian Classics and Christian Scriptures to discussion of cultural memory and global harmony. The comparative reading of ‘texts’ also provides an important point of access for understanding the role literature itself plays in determining the form, content and power of memory, ritual and tradition in both Confucianism and Christianity.


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