6th International Symposium of Familiology: “Family – Ritual – Feast”

Zbigniew Wesołowski SVD (Wei Siqi 魏思齊) :

“Family Rituals in Traditional Chinese Culture”

Online lecture “Family Rituals in Traditional Chinese Culture,” presented at the 6th International Symposium of Familiology, “Family – Ritual – Feast,” Olsztyn, May 12–13, 2022

Organizer: Faculty of Theology of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland


Chinese culture is not the oldest of all human cultures, but it is the culture with the longest continuous duration to this day. The family played a crucial role in Chinese culture, also in a political sense, because in Confucianism state and society were understood as a natural extension of the family. This notion of familism was deeply connected with the ritualization of everyday life. Many actions and processes of daily life were subject to strict regulations. These regulations were mostly prescribed by tradition and can ultimately traced back to the ancestors or leading personalities, so-called masters like Confucius (551–479 BC). With the help of Patricia B. Ebrey’s translation of Zhu Xi’s Family Rituals (published in 1991), Z. Wesołowski looks at some important traditional family rituals, such as the capping ceremony for men (guanli) and the pinning of the hair for women (jili), weddings, funerals, and sacrificial rites. These family rituals were one of the dominating social patterns which defined not only the structure of Chinese society and the Confucian elite’s daily life of, but also impacted the rural folk. We can say that all Chinese family rites were sophisticated and centered around the ancestors. The family rituals, systematized by the Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi, must have worked towards not only strengthening Sino-Confucian familism but also building the Chinese elite’s cultural identity. Family rituals were one of the dominating social patterns which defined daily life in Chinese society through the ages.