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Fig 2.17 – Ancestor Worship

Text: Page 57

Ancestor worship is part of the ritual of li in which there is an inner psychological veneration of family lineage, often on altars in Chinese family homes. Even in death, the family lives because Confucius believed the family was the foundation of civilization. The family cultivates morality, ethics, virtue, and filial piety and, like good parents, political leaders should lead by parental example. Political leaders should practice daily psychological self-cultivation because highly conscious leaders produce a highly conscious people. Confucius advised leaders to refrain from violence and punishment because when leaders modeled morality and goodness, the people found those characteristics in themselves. Confucius predicted that 100 years of moral leadership would end killing and violence.

Because of his belief in social harmony, rituals were performed for the welfare of the state. Rituals were meant to improve interpersonal relationships to reform the political world and provide a process to fulfill hierarchical roles, Confucius also understood that human beings needed rituals to respond psychologically to major events in life. This included rituals for birth, marriage, and death to honor developmental changes in the life cycle. After the death of a family member, people were often heartbroken and did know how to respond.

Confucian rituals provided a way to process highly emotional human experiences and honor family ancestors. Rituals enlivened one psychologically and often had a magical quality. To receive the full emotional impact of a ritual required the correct attitude, the conscious effort to psychologically engage the true meaning of the ritual.

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