Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Leadership, Authority, and Religious Roles

Who are some of the principal Confucian and CIT officials or ritual specialists?

Strictly speaking, Confucians have no separate structure of ritual officials. Bureaucrats of the imperial administration were responsible for offerings performed in Confucian memorial halls. The Emperor himself was the supreme ritual specialist in the sense that he exercised sole rights to perform certain ceremonies judged essential to the good order of life under Heaven. All subordinate, regional, and local ceremonies were delegated to the various ranks of the Literati. Today, even in the absence of imperial structures, government officials still play that role. In imperial times, the emperor’s administration was divided into nine departments. Most important in this context was the Imperial Academy, whose chief officer was the Minister of Ceremonies. His function was similar to that of Chief Priest, since he was responsible for rituals performed in all imperial temples. A common ritual at local imperial altars required that a newly appointed local magistrate stay overnight, before his official installation, in the temple of the “spirit magistrate,” a deity who was the earthly magistrate’s celestial model.


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