Where does academic regalia come from?

Membership, Community, Diversity Read more from
Chapter Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Nearly every student who graduates from high school or college makes a passing connection with Confucian tradition. Academic robes with their wide flowing sleeves are at least vaguely similar to those worn by Confucian ritual leaders even today in places like Taiwan and Korea when they celebrate the Master’s birthday or honor royal ancestors. But one look at the headgear and the viewer knows instantly where the so-called “mortar board” came from. Principal participants in important Confucian rituals sport large flat rectangular boards worn with flat sides (rather than corners, as in common graduation practice now) facing the wearer’s front, back, and sides. Confucian mortar boards outdid modern ones in ornamentation, with rows of tassels all along the front and back edges.


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