The Four Categories of Literature
The Yili 儀禮 "Etiquette and Rites" is one of the three Confucian ritual books (sanli 三禮) and belongs to the 13 Confucian classics. It might be that it was also originally part of the Five Confucian Classics (wujing 五經), the core writings of the Classics corpus, as the Li 禮. The Yili was originally known with the name of Lijing 禮經 "Classic of Rites", or Shili 士禮 "Rites of the Lower Noblemen", or short: Li 禮 "The Rites". It is therefore easily confounded with the Liji 禮記 "Records of Rites" which today possesses the status of a core classic.
All ancient dynasties had certain state rituals for which almost no rules are preserved. It was only the Confucian scholars who started writing down the rules for etiquette and rituals for all levels of society and thus created a kind of handbook for everybody's use. The ritual rules for the lower nobility – to which a great part of the Confucians belonged – was therefore of special interest, and in the early Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 AD) 17 chapters of a book on etiquette survived in the hand of Gaotang Sheng 高堂生. Their content reached from manhood capping, marriage, symposia or banquets, and interstate missions to funeral rites. During the reign of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE) three different versions of the ritual classics were taught in the National University (taixue 太學): The version by Dai De 戴德, that by his nephew Dai Sheng 戴聖, and that by Qing Jin 慶晉. To these so-called new text versions (jinwenjing 今文經) several old text versions (guwenjing 古文經) had to be added which were discovered in the walls of the mansion of the Kong family. The latter were called Ligujing 禮古經 "The Old Classic on Rites", in 17 chapters, and 39 chapters of "Additional rites" (Yijing 逸經), which have not survived. The new text ritual texts survived until the end of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 AD) before they were superseded by Zheng Xuan's 鄭玄 newly arranged version near the end of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220). Only this version has survived and obtained the name of Yili during the Jin period 晉 (265-420) which is still known today. During that period a lot of books were written on funeral rituals which can be seen as complements to the Yili text.
Zheng Xuan was also the first to comment the ritual classic. He made also comparisons between the old text and new text versions. During the Tang period 唐 (618-907) Jia Gongyan 賈公彥 compiled a commentary, the Yili shu 儀禮疏, with a length of 17 juan "scrolls". It was printed together with Zheng Xuan’s commentray during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) as Yili zhushu 儀禮注疏. For a short time in the eleventh century the Yili had even been expelled from the canon of Confucian classics. The most important commentary from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) is Hu Peihui's 胡培翬 Yili zhengyi 儀禮正義.
1. 士冠禮 Shiguanli Capping of an ordinary officer's son
2. 士昏（＝婚）禮 Shihunli Marriage of an ordinary officer
3. 士相見禮 Shi xiangjian li Visit of one ordinary officer to another
4. 鄉飲酒禮 Xiang yinjiu li District symposium
5. 鄉射禮 Xiang sheli District archery contest
6. 燕禮 Yanli The banquet
7. 大射 Dashe The great archery contest
8. 聘禮 Pinli Interstate Missions
9. 公食大夫禮 Gongshi dafu li The dinner to the commissioner
10. 覲禮 Jinli The audience
11. 喪服 Sangfu Mourning garments
12. 士喪禮 Shi sangli Obsequies of an ordinary officer I
13. 既夕禮 Jixi li Obsequies of an ordinary officer II
14. 士虞禮 Shi yuli The sacrifices of repose
15. 特牲饋食禮 Tesheng kuishi li The single beast offered in food to the ancestor
16. 少牢饋食禮 Shaolao kuishi li The smaller set of beasts offered as food to the ancestor
17. 有司徹 Yousi che The assistant clears away
Source: Liu Qiyu 劉起釪 (1992), "Yili 儀禮", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 3, pp. 1392-1393.
July 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
Chinese Literature over time