Thomas Wilson

Thomas Wilson, the Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of History, was recently awarded a $70,000 grant by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) to complete a book manuscript on the history of the ancestral and official cults of Confucius.

Written for scholars and advanced undergraduates, Historical Constructions and Ritual Formations of the Cult of Confucius “examines the cult’s emergence in Confucius’s birthplace in Qufu (Shandong), its incorporation into the imperial cult system beginning in the seventh century and subsequent changes during late imperial China (960-1911).

“It also examines the nature of ritual practices in Confucius temples by comparing the ancestral rites conducted by Confucius’ descendants in Qufu and the imperial rites conducted by the court in the capital.”

Wilson argues “that the nature and aims of a particular cult depend on its location and proximity to neighboring ritual spaces and yet that official and ancestral cults share key ritual practices that seek to establish connections between spirits invoked in the temple and their living patrons.”

Founded in 1919, the ACLS is a private, non-profit federation of 74 national scholarly organizations. According to its website, the ACLS advances scholarship in the humanities and related social sciences by awarding fellowships and strengthening relations among learned societies.

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