More than just jade and silk

子曰:「禮云禮云,玉帛云乎哉?樂云樂云,鐘鼓云乎哉?」
Confucius said: “The rites, the rites, surely there is more to them than just jade and silk! Music, music, surely there is more to it than just bells and drums!”

Confucius regarded ritual ceremonies and music as the ultimate embodiment of civilization and tradition, and urged his contemporaries to treat them with due sincerity and respect.

Judging by his comments here and especially in Book 3 of the Analects, his appeals seem to have largely fallen on deaf ears – with people showing more interest in admiring the superficial external trappings of the ceremonies and music than in exploring their inner meaning. Indeed, much to the sage’s great chagrin, they even went so far as to use such occasions as excuses for extravagant entertainment and gift-giving.

With such flagrant abuses of the rites taking place around him, Confucius believed that the end of civilization was nigh. To make matters worse, for all his complaints he was powerless to stop them.

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