This essay explores the ritual dimension of the formation of Confucian orthodoxy in China from around the fifteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. Recent scholarship on orthodoxy has shown how the civil service examination system bound together hundreds of thousands of educated men with the court in pedagogical practices that effectively regulated what constituted acceptable knowledge of the classics used to legitimate the imperial regime and its policies. Without questioning the central importance of the examinations in the propagation of orthodoxy, in this essay I expand the scope of this problem to consider the role of ritual in reproducing orthodoxy by focusing on the uneasy convergence of the state cult of Kongzi—known in the West as Confucius—with the family cult of his flesh-and-blood descendants.

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