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Xunzi’s Theory of Ritual Revisited: Reading Ritual as Corporal Technology

Abstract

This essay offers a new reading of Xunzi’s ritual theory against the backdrop of excavated technical manuals from the Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan collections. While most studies tend to focus on the sociopolitical and moral aspects of Xunzi’s thought, I attempt to demonstrate that in composing his theory of ritual, Xunzi was not only concerned with defending the Confucian tradition against the criticism of his fellow philosophical masters, but was also responding to the emergence of bio-spiritual practices such as meditation, sexual cultivation, and gymnastic exercises. Alarmed by the growing popularity of these individual corporal techniques among the Warring States elite, Xunzi opted to repackage and redefine ritual as a superior technology of the body that would enable humans to transform their bodies and minds and obtain physical and spiritual bounties while at the same time enhancing sociopolitical stability and harmony by creating an organic communal body.

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Correspondence to Ori Tavor.

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Tavor, O. Xunzi’s Theory of Ritual Revisited: Reading Ritual as Corporal Technology. Dao 12, 313–330 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11712-013-9331-4

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Keywords

  • Xunzi
  • Ritual
  • Music
  • Corporal Technologies
  • Excavated Manuscripts