An article by Thomas Wilson, the Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies, appears in the November issue of History of Religions. In “The Ritual Construction of Confucian Gods in Imperial China: The Case of Vast Heaven High God,” he explores Confucian cult rites devoted to gods at official temples and altar terraces during China’s premodern era.
Wilson studied these cult rites, which were formulated and conducted by officers of the imperial court and recorded by official archivists, with the final versions codified by liturgists in the Collected Statutes.
According to Wilson, modern scholars of Confucianism have tended to erase the long history of official cult rites devoted to canonical gods. He said his careful study of the documentation of the rites “divulges a complex understanding of the gods and human ritual interactions with them that contrasts conspicuously with modernist conceptions of Confucianism as a secular philosophy.”
History of Religions is published quarterly by The University of Chicago Press.