Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Holidays and Regular Observances

What regular or annual observances have been part of Confucian tradition?

For many centuries Confucians celebrated with large feasts in the Master’s honor at both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, corresponding with the second and eighth lunar months. During the fourth of the night’s five watches, celebrants paid homage to Confucius’ ancestors and then moved to the central memorial hall at sunrise. Arrayed carefully across the entire main courtyard were row upon row of participants, arranged according to rank, with imperial bureaucrats along the sides and six groupings of students in the center. Before and within the memorial hall the offerings and sacrificial animals were arranged. These offerings included a roll of silk; vessels full of wine, soup and various foods; and a ritually slaughtered ox flanked by a pig and a lamb. A lengthy order of ceremony included specific offerings of each item, first to Confucius and then to the other sages enshrined in the main hall. This was accompanied by profound bowing and prostration and songs of praise. A full classical Chinese orchestra punctuated by booming drum beats marked changes in the action. In addition to those semiannual festivities, smaller semimonthly observances included offerings to the spirit of Confucius at each new and full moon. In Korea, at the spring and autumn equinoxes, Confucians honor both Korean and Chinese sages at the Confucian University’s shrine.


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