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Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China$
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N. Harry Rothschild and Leslie V. Wallace

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824867812

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824867812.001.0001

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Rituals without Rules

Rituals without Rules

Han Dynasty Mourning Practices Revisited

(p.91) 5 Rituals without Rules
Behaving Badly in Early and Medieval China

Miranda Brown

Anna-Alexandra Fodde-Reguer

University of Hawai'i Press

Through a close reading of Ying Shao 應劭‎’s second century essay, “Screwing up Ritual” (Qianli 愆禮‎), this chapter challenges conventional assumptions about mourning ritual in ancient times. Ying Shao did not regard ritual errors as the infringement of rules, but rather as the result of a lack of good ritual sense. Such a conception of error reflected Ying’s understanding of ritual as a type of fengsu風俗‎ or fashion rather than a set of timeless rules. Ying Shao’s theory of ritual error not only offers a window into the beliefs of the late Han elite, but it supplies a framework for understanding transgression more generally. For it explains why some behaviors were and are regarded as incorrect even in the absence of formalized codes of conduct.

Keywords:   Han Dynasty, early China, ritual, rules, fashion, mourning, Ying Shao 應劭

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