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Ritual and Law in Political Discourse in Mid-Tang China: The Case of Bai Juyi
Ritual,Law,political discourse,Bai Juyi,Ce Lin (Forest of Dissertations),Baidao Pan (A Hundred Articles of Decisions),
|Publication Year :||2019|
Rtual and Law were important social regulations in traditional Chinese society, and they were also essential ideas in Chinese political thoughts. In Mid-Tang dynasty (755-840), after the An Lushan rebellion, utilizing social regulations to rebuild the order of the state became a crucial issue. Until recently, most of the previous research on the Ritual and Law of the Tang government mostly study the problem from the perspectives of legal or ritual history; however, this thesis would adopt the perspective of the history of thought and look into two questions: in Mid-Tang China, how were Ritual and Law used to govern the Empire? What were the contemporary intellectuals’ ideas of Ritual and Law?
To answer these questions, this thesis chose Bai Juyi as a representative, for his political discourses were popular in both the intellectual circle and the government. The main approach of the thesis is “Contextualism,” and accordingly Bai's political essays were classified into two kinds. The first kind, which includes Ce Lin and Baidao Pan, was written in his early age when he was preparing for the imperial examination and election, and the second kind consisted of individual treatises written throughout the rest of his life. The former roughly reflected the mainstream political view of Bai’s time and were more politically correct, while the latter revealed more of his personal ideas. Through a thorough analysis of these two kinds of essays, this thesis attempts to throw light on the concepts of Ritual and Law in Mid-Tang dynasty.
As the results show, in Mid-Tang China, the appropriate application of Ritual and Law was seen as more important than their philosophical meanings. In addition, Bai’s political essays argue that Ritual and Law played a crucial role in maintaining the ethics and order of the state. Also, the political and social functions of Ritual were far more important than its function to induce self-cultivation and introspection. This means that, to Mid-Tang intellectuals, the most important thing is the application of social regulations to real-life politics, and Bai’s thoughts were no different from the trend. Consequently, in his essays, Bai championed Ritual and Law as ways to consolidate the political authority of the Tang central government and to constrain the power of military commissioners (Fan Zhen).
In summary, this thesis not only expands our vision of Ritual and Law in political discourses in Mid-Tang dynasty but also helps us examine more carefully how Ritual and Law may be held by the intellectuals in the early ninth century.
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