The beginning of the ceremony is announced. In the background, fireworks are set off to indicate the beginning of the ceremony. The ritual officers, dancers, and others involved in the ritual are asked to line up and prepare to enter the temple. The warning drum announces the beginning of the ceremony. As the drum beats, the participants of the sacrificial rite enter the temple in an orderly fashion and take their positions. Although we cannot see it here, the officers file into various smaller altars, as well as the main hall. As the main sacrifice to Confucius happens, a number of smaller sacrifices occur on the periphery.

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Warning Drum

The Warning Drum by the gate

The rhythmic sounding of the warning drum begins the ceremony, which sets the musical pattern for the remainder of the ceremony. As described in more detail on the close-up of the instruments, music plays a significant role in Confucian ritual. The hymns used in the ritual are all symmetrical in construction; first, the sound of wood to initiate the hymn, and then a bronze bell began each measure and a jade chime concluded each measure. At the conclusion of the hymn, the sound of wood ends the song. During the hymn, a drum, considered the sound of skin, punctuated the measure. (Wilson, The Cultic Confucius in the Imperial Temple and Ancestral Shrine).

Ritual Officers

There's a large number of ritual officers involved in this ceremony. Just to give you an idea about the number of people involved in this ritual and how much coordination it requires to perform, here are some of the main participants: Principal Consecration officer, Eastern Cloister Consecration officer, Western Cloister Consecration officer, Eastern Savants, Western Savants, Secondary Eastern Cloister officer, Secondary Western Cloister officer, Local officials Consecration officer, Loyal and Filial Consecration officer, Wenchang Consecration officer, Ritual Tutor, Prayer singer, Invocator, and the ritual dancers.

Peripheral Sacrifices

From early on, the sacrifice to Kongzi did not consist simply of a sacrifice to Kongzi; rather, the ritual also consisted of offerings to Kongzi’s disciples and correlates. According to Wilson, the Jin (265-316) offered an ox, goat, and pig to Kongzi and his seventy-two disciples, which was based on the Record of Rites.

During the ceremony, sacrifices are offered first to the correlates, then to the savants, the remaining disciples, and then the canonical exegetes. Each of the correlates is offered a small beast sacrifice of a goat and pig, as well as the same libations and foods and Kongzi with the exception that they received less grain. The savants shared a pig, silk and wine, and received a reduced amount of grain, while the remaining spirits shared a pig, silk, three goblets of wine, and reduced food offerings.

Just as the principal consecration official offers silk, wine, incense, and the feast to Kongzi’s spirit, so do the secondary consecration officials to the other spirits. The sequence is repeated for the second and final offering, just as it is in the main sacrifice. At the conclusion of the final offering, the consecration official drinks some of the wine and receives a portion of the meat to complete the sacrifice.

Portraits and Spirit Tablets

For Confucians, death does not sever the relationship between the living and the dead. The relationship is maintained through the practice of ancestor worship, and those ancestors that are properly cared for bestow wealth, good luck, and many sons for their descendants. In ancestral ritual worship, the descendants were expected to spend significant periods of time studying the portraits and lives of their ancestors. The Book of Rites says to “Think of your ancestors’ daily activities, their smiles, their preoccupations, and the things that gave them joy” (Wilson, 169). Only through proper contemplation of the spirits can one perform the ritual correctly.

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