Modernizing Tradition or Restoring Antiquity as Confucian Alternatives: A View from Reading Wedding Rituals in Contemporary China

  • Margaret Mih TillmanEmail author
  • Hoyt Cleveland Tillman
Part of the China Academic Library book series (CHINALIBR)


This article explores the range of stances within the revival of Confucian ritual in China today. Symbols are a touchstone for disagreement among non-state intellectuals who have constructed new Confucian wedding ceremonies. Intellectuals contest each other’s selection of historical sources, especially as indicators of the importance of the family and/or interpretations of Confucianism. Zhang Xianglong and Zhu Jieren or chestrated these rituals as a way to impart their visions of Chinese family values onto their children, whereas Lei Bo and his bride constructed their own wedding based on their Ph.D. studies and activism as new Confucians. Peking University Professor Zhang’s ritual draws upon naturalistic Daoist geomancy and openly invites the sanction of Confucian dignitaries to endorse his formulation of ancient Chinese culture. Lei Bo looks especially to 11th-century philosopher Zhang Zai in his formulation of “Heideggerian Confucianism,” which recognizes the importance of cosmology to achieve true personhood. East China Normal University Press editor Zhu Jieren subordinates aesthetics to ancient text, and only reconstructs an ancient cupping ritual because it is based on ancient texts; his elimination of non-textual elements has the overall effect of recognizing contemporary gender equality in Shanghai in ways that tend to offend other new Confucians. These contemporary intellectuals disagree regarding not only the semiotics of imminent naturalistic elements to reconstruct the historical contexts of wedding ceremonies, but also the degree to which contemporary Confucianism should be a cosmological or social construction.


Gender Equality Young Couple Authentic Revival Wedding Ceremony Ritual Propriety 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Zhu Jieren 朱杰人, “Zhuzi Jiali: cong wenben dao shiyan – yi hunli wei li” 朱子家礼:从文本到实验——以婚礼为例 (Zhu Xi’s Family Rituals: From Text to Trial Performance), in Chen Lai and Zhu Jieren, eds., Renwen yu jiazhi, pp. 211–224.Google Scholar
  2. Andrew Jacobs, “Confucius Statue Vanishes Near Tiananmen Square,” The New York Times, April 22, 2011, sec. World / Asia Pacific,
  3. Chen Lai 陈来and Zhu Jieren 朱杰人, eds., Renwen yu jiazhi 人文与价值 (Humanities and Values), (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2011), pp. 225–241.Google Scholar
  4. Zhu Xi 朱熹, Zhuzi quanshu 朱子全书 (Complete works of Zhu Xi), edited by Zhu Jieren, Yan Zuozhi 严佐之, Liu Yongxiang 刘永翔, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, and Hefei: Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe, 2003, Volume 7, juan 3.Google Scholar
  5. Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi), Chu Hsi’s Family Rituals: A Twelfth-Century Chinese Manual for the Performance of Cappings, Weddings, Funerals, and Ancestral Rites (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  6. Yin Hui 殷慧: “Zhu Xi lixue sixiang yanjiu” 朱熹礼学思想研究 (Research on Zhu Xi’s Thought about Ritual Studies), Ph.D. dissertation, Hunan University, 2009.Google Scholar
  7. Zhang Xianglong 张祥龙, “Is Political Confucianism a Universalism: An Analysis of Jiang Qing’s Philosophical Tendency,” in Ruiping Fan, ed., The Renaissance of Confucianism in Contemporary China (Dordrecht: Springer, 2011), pp. 225–237.Google Scholar
  8. Jiang Qing 蒋庆, Zhengzhi ruxue 政治儒学 (Political Confucianism) (Beijing: SDX Joint Publishing [Sanlian]: 2004.Google Scholar
  9. Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 497.Google Scholar
  10. Wang Zuoxin 王作新, Yu Yan Min Su 语言民俗 [The Language of Customs] (Wuhan Shi: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe, 2001).Google Scholar
  11. Christian de Pee, The Writing of Weddings in Middle-period China: Text and Ritual Practice in the Eighth Through Fourteenth Centuries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  12. Hoyt Tillman, Utilitarian Confucianism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), pp. 42–44.Google Scholar
  13. Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book of Chinese Philosophy, 158; Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), vol. 1, p. 87Google Scholar
  14. Cheung Chan Fai 张灿辉, “The Chinese Reception of Heidegger's Philosophy,” paper presented in the International Conference on Translation Conceptions of the German Classical Philosophy of the Century, organized by St. Petersburg Association of Scientist and Scholars, 1998.
  15. Margaret Mih Tillman and Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, "A Joyful Union: The Modernization of the Zhu Xi Family Wedding Ceremony,” Oriens Extremus, No. 49, (2010), pp. 115–142.Google Scholar
  16. Chen Lai and Zhu Jieren, eds., Zhexue yu shidai 哲学与时代 (Philosophy and Times) (Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2012).Google Scholar
  17. Wang Zuoxin, Sanxia Xia Kou Fang Yan Ci Hui Yu Min Su 三家口放言词汇与民俗 [Dialect Vocabulary and Folk Custom in the Entrance Districts of the Three Gorges] (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2009).Google Scholar
  18. Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, Ch’en Liang on Law and the Public Interest (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994), pp. 49–54.Google Scholar
  19. Wen-hsin Yeh, Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843–1949 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  20. Leo Ou-fan Lee, Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945 (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1999).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Foreign Language Teaching and Research Publishing Co., Ltd and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Mih Tillman
    • 1
  • Hoyt Cleveland Tillman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of HistoryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations