Neo-Confucianism and the Patriarchal Clan System

2010-12-08 作者: China Today   信息来源: China Today

As for philosophy’s stamp on the Hui culture, Neo-Confucianism is an important form of Confucianism. It was first accepted and highly praised by the ruling class at the end of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and became an officially recognized creed during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Chinese philosophers Cheng Hao (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi (1033-1107) paved the ground for the Neo-Confucianism and Zhu Xi (1130-1200) was one of the most important exponents of the doctrine. Their families all originated in Huizhou. Neo-Confucianism reached its zenith in Huizhou during a period of 600 years from the early Southern Song Dynasty to Emperor Qianlong’s reign of the Qing Dynasty, and during that period it exerted a far-reaching influence on Huizhou’s society, economy and culture. “Following the way of nature and stifling corporal desires” is considered to be the core thinking of the Neo-Confucianism. It also emphasizes the importance of book learning by advocating that one must be literate to know and use rational principles.

Families in Huizhou were formed based on a sophisticated system of lineage, which essentially meant people sharing the same lineage would live under the same roof as a big family; this basic social institution was dominated by a strict patriarchal clan system.

In the past every big family in Huizhou would have its own ancestral hall, where family members honored their ancestors, discussed important events and exercised their household disciplines. The ancestral halls can be subdivided to serve smaller groups of closer kinship. A hall was regarded as a sacred place that only the male family members were allowed to enter at will, while females gained passage only on the occasion of marriage into the family or when they were being punished for transgressions. The ancestral hall, together with the family disciplines and the family tree, is the symbol of Huizhou’s patriarchal clan system.

In Chengkan Village of Huizhou District in Huangshan City there is the Luo Dongshu Ci (Luo Dongshu Ancestral Hall) which was built in 1539 during the Jiajing Reign (1521-1567) of the Ming Dynasty. The hall is positioned to the west and facing the east and the whole complex covers a total area of 3,300 square meters, including a screen wall facing the gate of the hall, a Lingxing Gate, the front patio, two pavilions that each shelter a stone tablet, the front gate, the main court, the hall and the bedchamber. Its majestic scale and exquisite construction has brought it fame as the “No. 1 ancestral hall of the areas south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.”

Memorial arch (paifang) is a kind of monument built in feudal times mainly to commemorate figures of great virtues, such as a highest graded scholar in the imperial examination, a benevolent administrator, and people of loyalty, filial piety, chastity or charity. It is also an embodiment of the patriarchal clan system. Memorial arches in Huizhou are divided into two categories: the merits and virtues arch and the chastity arch. Today there are 108 well-preserved memorial arches in Huizhou, with 88 located in Shexian County. The most renowned example in Shexian is the Tangyue memorial heptad. Three of the seven arches were constructed in the Ming Dynasty and four were erected in the Qing Dynasty. All of them were dedicated to members of the Bao family of Tangyue Village and they stand in order of “loyalty, filial piety, chastity and charity.”