Tuesday, January 12, 2010

子曰:八佾舞於庭 Confucius Said: Having Eight Rows of Dancers to Perform in Courtyard


The Confucian theories on music and dance stressed that music and rites were indispensable in performing their education role, and that music and dance were vital in purifying people's mind. Rites set down social class differences, while music was a mediator in the society of all classes. This mediation could maintain the social stability and reach the rulers' political goal to well run the world.
In performing rites, what must be emphasised is that one has to perform them with the correct attitude. For example, when performing a sacrifice, one has to feel reverence for the spirits; when carrying out the rites of mourning, one has to feel grief for the decreased. Similarly, in serving his lord, a minister was to be respectful; in governing his people, a ruler was to be benevolent. Without this emotional component, ritual becomes a hollow performance. Acting in conformity with the rules of proper conduct requires an inner dimension for its foundation. Otherwise, ritual will only be the mechanism of regulating people’s behaviour.
Rites therefore have prominent role in the creation of social mores, as they inform people about their duties to others and also of their reasonable expectations of them. Formalized behavior becomes progressively internalized, desires are channeled and personal cultivation becomes the mark of social correctness.
Since rites are paramount social law, people have to act according to them. He was therefore very upset when he heard of Jisun family’s violation of rites by getting eight rows of dancers to perform in his courtyard. During Zhou dynasty, different ranks in society were allowed different number of dancers to perform outside the ancestral hall during memorial ceremony: the King could have eight rows of eight dancers, feudal lords six rows, minister four rows, and official two rows. The head of Jisun family officially held only the position of minister, and his use of eight rows of eight dancers thus shown an outrageous usurpation of ritual prerogatives of the Zhou king.
Confucius said of the head of the Ji family, ‘He is having eight rows of dancers to perform in his courtyard. If he can bear to do this, what may he not bear to do?’

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