Classic of Rites

(ca. 200–100 BCE)


The impact on Chinese society of the Five Classics, in general, and the Classic of Rites, in particular, was profound and continues to this day. Confucian beliefs were founded on morals and ethics that shaped Chinese society for centuries. Confucianism was adopted as the state religion during the Han Dynasty and spread to all corners of China. Its ideas elevated the importance of scholars and officials as moral leaders, and, indeed, men who sat for civil service examinations were expected to know and be able to interpret the Classic of Rites and the other Confucian classics. Moreover, the text’s central ideal of filial piety and obedience to the family continued throughout China’s history into the twenty-first century. As China grew and expanded, it exported the philosophy of Confucianism to other nations, such as Korea and Japan. Its adoption may be due to the inclusiveness of Confucianism: Because it elevated no specific gods, it was not in direct conflict with...

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A Confucian temple (Library of Congress)

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