The ''Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial'' is a Chinese classic text about Zhou dynasty social behavior and ceremonial ritual as it was practiced and understood during the Spring and Autumn period. The ''Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial'', along with the ''Rites of Zhou'' and the ''Book of Rites'', formed the "Three Rites" which guided traditional Confucian understandings of propriety and behavior.


The modern Chinese title ''Yili'' is a compound of two words with many related meanings, leading to a variety of English translations including the ''Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial'', ''Etiquette and Rites'' (Ulrich 2010), the ''Ceremonies and Rites'', ''Ceremonial and Rites'', etc. ''Yi'' may mean "right", "proper", "ceremony" (Baxter & Sagart 2011:80) "demeanor", "appearance", "etiquette", "rite", "present", "gift", or "equipment". ''Li'' , meanwhile, may mean "propriety", "ceremony" (Baxter & Sagart 2011:110) "rite", "ritual", "courtesy", "etiquette", "manners", or "mores". The text was first called the ''Yili'' in the c. 80 CE ''Lunheng''. Prior to that, it was called the ''Rites of the ''Shi (, ''Shili''), the ''Classic of Rites'' (, ''Lijing''), the ''Old Classic of Rites'' (, ''Ligujing''), or simply the ''Rites'' (, ''Li'').


Traditional Chinese scholarship credited the text (along with the ''Rites of Zhou'') to the 11th century BCE Duke of Zhou. Sinologist William Boltz (1993:237) says this tradition is "now generally recognized as untenable", but believes the extant ''Yili'' "is a remnant of "a larger corpus of similar ceremonial and ritual texts dating from pre-Han times, perhaps as early as the time of Confucius; that much of this was lost by Han", while "some may have come to be preserved in the text known today as the 'Liji''. Nylan (2001:191) suggests that multiple strata in the text with slight differences in grammar indicate that the text was compiled over an extended period. Many Chinese texts were irretrievably lost during Qin Shihuang's "Burning of the Books". The ''Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial'' survived in two versions: the "Old Text" supposedly discovered in the walls of Confucius's former residence, and the "New Text". The 2nd century scholar Zheng Xuan compiled an edition from both texts and wrote the first commentary. The 3rd century Wang Su wrote two commentaries and criticized Zheng, but Zheng's version became the basis for later editions and scholarship (Boltz 1993:240). It was among the works carved into the 837 CE Kaicheng Stone Classics and was first printed from woodblocks between 932 and 953 CE (Boltz 1993:240). Three fragmentary manuscripts covering more than seven chapters were discovered in 1st-century Han tombs at Wuwei in Gansu in 1959. The first Western editions of the ''Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial'' were translations into French by Charles-Joseph de Harlez de Deulin in 1890 and Séraphin Couvreur in 1916. John Steele first translated the full text into English in 1917.


After disparaging the repetitive and "unnecessary detail" in the text, John Steele described it as a "picture of the public and private life, education, family interests, and work-a-day religion of an average man in the China of 3,000 years ago" (Steele 1917:vii-viii). It contains one of the earliest references to the Three Obediences and Four Virtues, a set of principles directed exclusively at women that formed a core part of female education during the Zhou. The received text of the ''Yili'' contains seventeen ''pian'' "chapters; sections". Compared with the other ritual texts, the ''Etiquette and Ceremonial'' contains some highly detailed descriptions. Take for instance, this passage about the ceremony for the personator of the dead:
Then the host descends and washes a goblet. The personator and the aide descend also, and the host, laying the cup in the basket, declines the honor. To this the personator makes a suitable reply. When the washing is finished, they salute one another, and the personator goes up, but not the aide. Then the host fills the goblet and pledges the personator. Standing, facing north to the east of the eastern pillar, he sits down, laying down the cup, bows, the personator, to the west of the western pillar, facing north, and bowing in return. Then the host sits, offers of the wine, and drinks. When he has finished off the cup, he bows, the personator bowing in return. He then descends and washes the goblet, the personator descending and declining the honor. The host lays the cup in the basket, and making a suitable reply, finishes the washing and goes up, the personator going up also. Then the host fills the goblet, the personator bowing and receiving it. The host returns to his place and bows in reply. Then the personator faces north, sits, and lays the goblet to the left of the relishes, the personator, aide, and host all going to their mats. (tr. Steele 1917 2:195-6)



Works cited

*Boltz, William G. "I-li" in ''Early Chinese Texts. A Bibliographical Guide'', pp. 234–244. Society for the Study of Early China, 1993. *Couvreur, Séraphin. ''I-li, Cérémonial''. Imprimerie de la Mission Catholique, 1916. * * *Steele, John C.
The I-li: or Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial
'' Probsthain, 1917. *Theobald, Ulrich.

. China Knowledge, 2010.

External links

*''Encyclopædia Britannica''.
. *The
' at the Chinese Text Project

at Chinese Notes with matching English vocabulary {{Authority control Category:Chinese classic texts Category:Confucian texts Category:Cultural conventions Category:Zhou dynasty texts Category:Rituals Category:Thirteen Classics