Teacher Tang Yuling will accompany you to read The Analects
56. Book 3 Ba Yi (The Eight-row Dance), Chapter 15
The Master, when he entered the grand temple, asked about everything. Some one said, “Who say that the son of the man of Zou knows the rules of propriety! He has entered the grand temple and asks about everything.” The Master heard the remark, and said, “This is a rule of propriety.”
Highlights of this lecture include:
1. The grant temple is the shrine for the Duke of Zhou
The grand temple was a place for worshipping the ancestors of the state ruler. The first Duke of Zhou (Zhougong周公), being enfiefed in the State of Lu by Zhou Emperor Cheng周成王 but still served as Regent in Zhou’s court at the capital, sent his son, Bo Qin伯禽, to take up the duties in Lu. In Lu, the grand temple was dedicated to its founder Zhougong, therefore it was also called the Temple of the Duke of Zhou. Emperor Cheng granted Zhougong’s descendants, the heads of Lu State, the privilege to worship him as that of a sovereign could do. That is why ancestral worshipping rituals carried out in the Zhougong temple were so well-equipped and the rites performed so comprehensive.
2. Learning by asking
People always wanted to know “why” or “how come”? People can learn in-depth about the questions asked, if they have gone far enough to make things clear and thorough. Confucius’s father was once the magistrate of the township Zou鄹邑. The so-said “the son of the man of Zou” was referred to Confucius. On entering the grand temple, Confucius asked almost each and every thing about ancestral worshipping, about related ceremonies, musical instruments, sacrificial vessels, offering dishes and their arrangements, about the staff entailed and the established protocol.
The circumstance of when Confucius could ask about these questions was probably during rehearsal before formal worshipping began. When the ceremonial rehearsal was conducted, it was opportune time to ask questions valid to the situation. Viewers were confused whether Confucius was really an expert in propriety, because he asked so many questions about the rituals of ancestral worship as if he knew very little. In fact, it was their misapprehension.
3. Why did Confucius ask about the rules of propriety?
It is said in chapter 6, Zhong Yong, “Shun loved to question others, and to study their words, though they might be shallow.” Ancient sageous kings dug deep into questions until they got the answers. This chapter reflected Confucius’s eager to learn and practice. To him, the rules of propriety were not mere codes to follow, he asked about their origins of life force, meanings, significances, efficacy, and their ability to effectuate good fate and negate all doom and gloom. The mastery of the rules of propriety has implicit values in Chinese ethos. Ancestral worship reflects the deep gratifying feelings for our forefathers and the good deeds they had done. If we were to understand how Confucius took every occasion as an opportunity to learn; if we were to understand how he learnt so hard in order to pass on the lineage of Chinese culture and wisdom, it will help us to live a more worthy life.