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Liji 禮記 Chik, HinMingFrankie


The Liji 禮記, translated as "Record of Rites" or "Book of Rites", is a collection of essays on rituals and ritual principles written between the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.E.) to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.E.-220). Scholars conventionally believed that this anthology belonged to the Confucian tradition and was recorded and compiled by Confucius’s disciples. The received Liji has been said to be transmitted by Dai Sheng 戴聖 (fl. 1th century B.C.E.) in the Han and called Xiao Dai Liji 小戴禮記 alternatively to differ from the Da Dai Liji 大 戴禮記 transmitted by Dai Sheng’s uncle Dai De 戴德 (fl. 1th century B.C.E.). The Liji, the Yili 儀禮, and the Zhouli 周禮 were known together as Sanli 三禮. Nevertheless, the three Classics have different focuses. The received Liji has 49 chapters in total, and although they also touch upon various idealized rituals which were thought to be institutionalized in high antiquity, including sacrifice, wedding, capping, and funerary rituals, the Liji chapters concentrate on discussing the principles behind the ritual and social norms. For instance, the "Daxue" 大學 chapter detailed the steps through which one could successfully govern the world, while the "Liyun" 禮運 chapter illustrated how an ordered society could be achieved when propriety could be applied in reality. Zheng Xuan’s 鄭玄 (127-200) commentary on the Liji, which we can now read from the Wujing Zhengyi 五經正義 recension in which Kong Yingda’s 孔穎達 (574-648) sub-commentary were also included, is probably the earliest surviving and most authoritative commentary among others, even though revisions and criticisms of Zheng Xuan’s commentary can still be found in our available materials. Recent archeological excavations have discovered numerous manuscripts which are counterparts and variants of the chapters being incorporated into the anthology under discussion. The textual parallels of certain Liji chapters suggest that the chapters (or even sections) of the Liji had been circulated separately and independently before they reached their current form. For instance, both the Guodian and Shanghai Museum collections of the Chu bamboo-slips contain counterparts of a chapter entitled “Zi Yi” 緇衣 in the Liji. The excavated versions of the “Zi Yi” are different from the transmitted one. Putting aside the difference in their wordings and lengths, scholars have recognized that a major difference is their sequences. That Liji chapters were first transmitted and circulated separately and that there was the difference in the textual sequence of certain received Liji chapters were also acknowledged by certain Daoxue 道學 (better known as Neo-Confucian) fellows, such as Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) in the Song Dynasty. Arguing that the “Daoxue” 大學 and “Zhongyong” 中庸 chapters of the Liji should be extracted from the anthology, Zhu Xi believed that both texts were as of equal importance to the Analects and the Mencius and that the four texts should be put together to form the Sishu 四書 (Four Books). Zhu Xi even rearranged the sequence of the “Daxue” and added a new sentence. Zhu Xi’s recension of the “Daxue” and “Zhongyong” had become the standard version for imperial examinations since 13th century when Zhu Xi’s teachings were accepted as state orthodoxy.

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