Yang Chaoming: China's Rites and Music Traditions-from Zhou Gong to Confucius

From:chinakongziAuthor: 2021-10-18 09:53

A few days ago, the second session of the "Qilu Culture and Chinese Civilization" open class hosted by the Qilu Culture Research Institute of Shandong Normal University, a key research base of the Ministry of Education's humanities and social sciences, was held at Shandong Normal University. The open class invited Yang Chaoming, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, deputy director of Nishan World Center for Confucian Studies, and President of the Confucius Research Institute, as the guest. In the lecture titled China's Rites and Music Traditions-from Zhou Gong to Confucius, Yang Chaoming introduced Zhou Gong’s special identity and life history using Confucius’ "Dream of Zhou Gong" as a reference. He elaborated on Zhou Gong's historical achievements in state governance, establishment of institutions and systems and creating of rites and music, summarized major contributions and far-reaching influence of rites and music on Chinese civilization and offered a unique interpretation of the development and evolution of Chinese rites and music traditions from Zhou Gong to Confucius.
A look at rites and music culture and Zhou Gong from the perspective of Confucius 
In the lecture, Yang Chaoming first clarified that Zhou Gong was the founder of Chinese rites and music culture. Zhou Gong laid the foundation for Chinese rites and music traditions, and also shaped the basis of Chinese humanistic spirit. He cited Confucius' "Dream of Zhou Gong" as a reference, pointing out that Confucius respected Zhou Gong throughout his life and regarded "bringing back the social order of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty" as his life pursuit. Confucius sighed in his later years: "I am really old. For a long time I have never dreamed of Zhou Gong!" (The Analects of Confucius • Shu'er)  This was a metaphorical expression of the decline of the great way at that time.
At the end of the Spring and Autumn Period, the rites and music system collapsed. Confucius, in an effort to restore the rites and music system of the Zhou Dynasty, summarized, sorted out and championed the rituals of the Zhou Dynasty. Yang Chaoming said that Confucius believed that the Zhou Dynasty’s ritual system developed from the Xia and Shang dynasties. It is necessary to learn about rituals of the Zhou Dynasty, as well as to understand rituals in the Xia and Shang dynasties. When Confucius came to the states of Qi and Song to learn about rituals, he found that the extensive ritual system of Zhou drew experience from Xia and Shang. He said that he will abide by the ritual system of Zhou. (The Analects of Confucius • Bayi) He concluded that rituals of the Zhou Dynasty represented the peak of civilization.
Yang Chaoming believes that the ritual system is the core of Chinese civilization, and the form of this system has been constantly changing over the five thousand years of history, but the essence has remained the same. Zhou Gong and the "pre-Confucianism era" had a profound influence on the rites and music traditions of China and Confucianism.
Historical achievements of Zhou Gong 
At the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty following the downfall of the Shang Dynasty, Zhou Gong played an extremely important role. He assisted King Wu of Zhou to become the highest ruler, and assisted King Cheng of Zhou to consolidate the governance. A book recording the life of Zhou Gong summarized the achievements of Zhou Gong as follows: "In the first year, he brought peace to the country. In the second year he defeated the rebellion of remaining forces of Shang Dynasty. In the third year, he put down the upsurge of the State of Yan. In the fourth year, he established the enfeoffment system. In the fifth year, he built the new capital. In the sixth year, he established the rites and music system. In the seventh year, he returned the power of governance to King Cheng of Zhou. The efforts of Zhou Gong to build the new capital, and establish the enfeoffment system and the rites and music system aimed at stabilizing the political system at that time and maintaining the long-term stability of the Zhou Dynasty. The modern historian Xia Zengyou once pointed out that before Confucius and after the Yellow Emperor, Zhou Gong was the only one person who had a major influence over China. 
Using historical documents, Yang Chaoming gave a detailed overview of Zhou Gong's historical achievements from three levels. First, at the beginning of the establishment of the Western Zhou Dynasty, when the authority was still weak, Zhou Gong defeated the rebellion, unified the east, established its military supremacy, and consolidated the rule of the Zhou Dynasty. Second, in the seventh year of the reign of King Cheng of Zhou, Zhou Gong returned the highest power to the king and established the lineal primogeniture system and the enfeoffment system. This kind of system with patriarchal blood as a link combined politics and ethics, and integrated the country and the family into one, forming a regime culture of "the internal bond between the country and family, and between loyalty and filial piety". Third, Zhou Gong "made rites and music" and abandoned the primitive religious elements in rites and music, making rites and music people's behavioral rules in daily life in society, and gradually evolving into a humanistic culture.
Yang Chaoming believes that Zhou Gong has extraordinary courage and excellent insight. Although he was not the emperor, he has the virtue of an emperor. In the eighth year of King Cheng of Zhou, Boqin was granted the State of Lu as his fief. The royal family of Zhou rewarded a large number of classics and documents, and allowed the State of Lu to enjoy the rites and music of the emperor. Boqin followed his father's teachings, inherited the rules and rites and music established by Zhou Gong, and reformed the customs and rituals, which brought a new cultural outlook to the State of Lu, laying the foundation of rites and music traditions of the Chinese civilization. 
Confucius learned from Zhou Gong  
Confucianism had a close relationship with the tradition of rites and music in the State of Lu. The State of Lu inherited the emperor’s rites and music, forming a unique cultural fashion, and providing a solid cultural foundation for the formation of Confucianism. Yang Chaoming believes that although Confucius lived in an era where rituals and music collapsed, the classics of the Zhou Dynasty were still there, and Confucius could still see a lot of early Zhou history, which enabled him to understand and imitate the system of Zhou. According to Analects of Confucius, Confucius "entered the Temple of Zhou Gong in the State of Lu and asked for advice in case of doubt." The Temple of Zhou Gong, also known as Temple of King Wenxian, was an important place to teach rituals and music. This fully demonstrated the sincerity and practical attitude of Confucius to learn about rites and music. At the same time, Confucius also went to Luoyi for field study, visited important political and cultural places, and showed his yearning for the rites and music system of the Western Zhou Dynasty. He admired Zhou Gong very much, often quoted Zhou Gong's famous words, and praised Zhou Gong. 
Yang Chaoming pointed out that Confucius was very familiar with the story of Zhou Gong and the "System of Zhou Gong", and used the "Rules of Zhou Gong" as the law for later generations. Zhou Gong was honored as the "Sage of all Sages" by the later world. His political and ethical thoughts of "promoting virtue", "protecting the people", "diligence", "appreciation of talent" and "cautiousness in imposing punishment" were the root of Confucius' thought of "rule by virtue" and Confucianism as a whole. The thoughts of "acting in accordance with the change of time" put forward by Zhou Gong provided a theoretical source for the Confucian theory of "progress with the time". Under the influence of Zhou Gong's character, Confucius placed great importance on the virtues and moral standard of rulers. 
Inheritance of the rites and music traditions 
The rites and music traditions are an important part of the fine traditional Chinese culture. The thoughts of rule of virtue, benevolent government, self-cultivation, and benevolence have very positive significance for the development of today's society. At the end of the lecture, Yang Chaoming emphasized the inheritance and contemporary value of the rites and music traditions. He believes that the great role of rites and music traditions in the State of Lu is mainly about the founding of Confucianism, which has an important influence on later generations. 
Yang Chaoming said that Confucianism is directly related to Zhou Gong's thought. In his view, Confucius' achievements in teaching students on the rites and music system, establishing private schools, and founding Confucianism reflect the influence of the rites and music traditions of Zhou Gong. After the death of Confucius, the followers of Confucius traveled to different states to explain the significance of ritual, which made the influence of Confucianism gradually spread. He believes that Confucianism’s interpretation of ritual has important contemporary value. Taking Confucian emphasis on rituals to mark the beginning of adulthood of a person as an example, he pointed out that the role of rites and music in adult education lies not only in mastering certain skills or cultivating certain aspects of quality, but also paying more attention to shaping the world outlook, and outlook on life and values. This is of great significance to the cultivation of young people's moral personality and the formation of their outlook on life. Today, only by earnestly studying the traditional culture of rites and music and drawing upon the fine traditions can we achieve its creative transformation and innovative development.
Yang Chaoming's lecture focused on Zhou Gong, Confucius and Chinese rites and music traditions, and elaborated on Zhou Gong's major contributions to Chinese civilization, the contemporary value and unique charm of rites and music traditions, providing new ideas to understand and study Qilu culture and the Chinese civilization. 


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