Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Are there any organizations or institutions that have their own distinctive structures of leadership within Confucianism?

Throughout history, various Confucian societies of laypeople have come and gone. Few of those have been more than local or regional. But since the Confucian community is composed exclusively of laity, there has been no Confucian priesthood, no religious orders, and no monastic life. The single most important organizational structure has been that of the Literati class with its elaborate hierarchy and system of advancement determined by examinations. Apart from that, Chinese authorities have often regarded as subversive all attempts to form separate groups within society as a whole. There have been times in Chinese history when prominent Literati have withdrawn from society, opting for the eremitical life. These reclusive types borrowed a page from the Buddhist phenomenon of the solitary monk, but the Confucian hermits were by definition loners and not at all inclined to band together.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App