Ancestral rites

Zengzi said: “When the dead are shown proper reverence and the memory of distant ancestors is kept alive, the people’s virtue is at its highest.”

If there is one eternal truism about traditional values it’s that they’re always in decline, leading to unspeakable levels of immorality and depravity among the people.

In this chapter, Zengzi warns the ruling class that the only way to put the people back on the path to virtue is to set the right example by strictly adhering to traditional funeral rites and mourning practices for long-dead ancestors.

Given the huge costs of holding such ceremonies and the challenges of maintaining extended mourning periods that could last for years, it’s not surprising that Zengzi’s plea fell on deaf ears. Not even the richest and most powerful families of the time could afford the expense and time that following these elaborate rites to the letter entailed.

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