A heavenly aura: Confucian modes of relic veneration

by Julia K. Murray

14 Apr 2016
Digital Object Identifier

Full text of article by Julia K Murray posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 2, pp. 59-99.

Abstract: Although concepts and practices related to the veneration of relics are usually identified with Buddhism in China, this article will suggest that they are also relevant to Confucius (551-479 BC) and 'Confucianism'. Ideas about the special efficacy of great persons and things associated with them predate Buddhism, which spread from India to China in the 1st century AD. The display of personal items that had once belonged to Confucius and places that figured in his biography powerfully evoked the ancient sage to scholarly pilgrims who visited his home area and temple in Qufu, Shandong. Drawing on Buddhist scholarship for working definitions and typologies, I investigate the material forms of relic-related practices in the Confucian milieu, particularly at Qufu. I also analyse a now-destroyed shrine, near modern Shanghai, in which multiple media were employed to replicate relics of Confucius and bring his beneficent presence to a place he never visited.

Keywords: Confucius, relics, Qufu, Kongzhai, shrine, Confucian Religion Association, Kong lineage

Elsley Zeitlyn Lecture on Chinese Archaeology and Culture, read on 22 October 2013 (video recording).

Lower resolution b&w version (PDF file - 2.8 MB)

Text printed 2015 in British Academy Lectures 2013-14

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)

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