In the history of chinese religions the Ch'un-ch'iu or Spring and Autumn period (eighth to fifth centuries B.C.E.) was a time of transition between the court rituals of the Western Chou gift-giving society and the private or local cult practices evident in the later Eastern Chou market economy (Cook 1993a). This was the time when the local lords usurped the Chou king's ritual “power” (te) to “charge” (ming) and the Chou lineage lost its authority. The transition is most evident in the speeches (yueh) of the kings and local rulers inscribed on the eating or striking surfaces of the late Western Chou and early Ch'un-ch'iu-period ritual bronze vessels and bells. These speeches or “spoken” liturgies of legitimation initially focused on the spiritually sanctioned right of the ruler to “charge” a gift recipient, but later simply focused on the right of the vessel-maker to charge himself. This shift is most evident after 771 B.C.E. when a western tribal group forced the Chou to flee their ancestral lands and altars. Local lords, originally on the periphery of Chou authority, called themselves kings and manipulated the Chou ideology to legitimate their own independent identities (see Cook on Chu in Cook and Major forthcoming). They relied on the guidance of ritualists (possibly descendants of the Western Chou shih and yin)whose knowledge of Chou liturgy and rites was a valued commodity at local courts (Cook 1993b).

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