2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226


The Ideas and Practice of Intellectuals on Reforming the Funeral Customs in Late Ming China

Shu-yi Ho

Department of History, National Taiwan Normal University

    After the middle period of Ming dynasty the intellectuals were very concerned about the luxury of funeral customs among the ordinary people, which urged them to devote themselves to eliminating the abuses of current funeral customs. Three organizations which were the clan, hsiang-yüeh(), and funeral societies took the responsibility of reform.

    I attempt to explain the intellectuals’ intention to build up a Confucian society by means of carrying out Confucian rites during reform. The intellectuals succeeded the tradition of prescription of the ordinary people by li which starting from Sung dynasty. Their ways of reforming were different from the Confucians in Ch’ing period that showed great concern in studying classics and advocated that government led the reform.

    Instead, they cared much about putting the rites into practice and chose to face the ordinary people directly. Therefore, the process of their reforming was actually through the family to the local society. These three organizations mentioned in this article often worked together and could sometimes take over each other’s part in the reforming action.

    The intellectuals mainly used popular meetings to publicize Confucian ethics to improve social customs. One of the most concrete principles was to admonish and prohibit the customs, which were against the funeral rites in the Confucian orthodox. Not only the intellectuals but also the ordinary people should do as the rites allowed. Consequently, the Confucian rites advocated in the late Ming period mixed with some of the ordinary people’s opinions and customs instead of restoring the traditional rites totally. This blend played an important role in funeral rite reform.


Key Words: Li, funeral customs, clan, hsiang-yüeh, funeral societies