Long live the king! The ideology of power between ritual and morality in the Gongyang Zhuan

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Against these trends, Joachim Gentz, in his “Long Live the King! The Ideology of Power between Ritual and Morality in the Gongyang zhuan 公羊傳,” sets out to restore the original outlook of the Gongyang zhuan and its major ideological premises. Gentz’s study is based on his earlier explorations of the nature and exegetical strategies of the Gongyang zhuan (Gentz 2001, 2005) but goes further toward demonstrating the complexity of Gongyang exegesis and the intrinsic link between its form and its content. Gentz analyzes the peculiarity of the text by highlighting not just its explicit ideas but also its “meaningful silences that have to be interpreted as specific statements of a particular ideological position” (p. 101). These silences are revealing: for instance, crucial ethical terms that permeate Zhou literature, such as “virtue” (de 德) and “filial piety” (xiao 孝), are absent from the Gongyang zhuan, markedly distinguishing this text from those of Confucian lore. Gentz furthermore explores internal tensions in the Gongyang zhuan between rigid and supposedly unshakable ritual rules, on the one hand, and the importance of expediency, or “weighing” (quan 權), which should guide moral action outside the ritual framework, on the other. In Gentz’s analysis, the Gongyang zhuan is far more sophisticated than most readers would admit; and it is also a highly distinctive work whose
ideological stance has no clear parallels among pre-imperial texts. Gentz places its stance “somewhere between a traditional person-centered monarchy, in which the concepts of virtue (de), loyalty, and filial piety are central, and a new, impersonal system operating on the basis of an abstract set of highly efficient ruling techniques and bureaucratic rules” (p. 105). The text furthermore defines “an ideal realm of royal authority and power independent from the actual existence of an adequate ruler” (p. 116). As Gentz shows, the sublime message of the Gongyang zhuan was flexible enough to be endorsed by both Emperor Wu and his critics in Early Han times.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdeology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China
EditorsYuri Pines, Paul Goldin, Martin Kern
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages49
ISBN (Print)9789004299290
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2015


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