Canonization of Confucius

The imperial court promoted Confucianism by posthumously ennobling Kongzi, first as duke and later as king. In addition to elevating the figure of Kongzi to ever greater status, emperors also conferred hereditary titles of nobility upon his descendants, initially as marquises, and by Song times as dukes; a position Kongzi's descendants held until the 1940s. Critical to this careful attention to the person of Kongzi as the embodiment of the literati tradition was the state cult, which centered upon offering sacrifices to Kongzi's spirit in the Kong temple.

An altar with offerings for sacrifice

The sacrifices to the spirit of Kongzi was part of a larger system of cult sacrifices to other gods and spirits. This pantheon was headed by Heaven, to which only the emperor offered sacrifices at an altar in the southern suburbs of the imperial city, followed by Earth, which received sacrifices at an altar in the northern suburbs.

An important event in the canonizing process occurred in 195 B.C., when the founding emperor of the Han dynasty, Han Gaozu (r. 206-195 B.C.), offered a Great Sacrifice to the spirit of Confucius at his tomb in Qufu. As early as 241, sacrfices to the spirits of Kongzi and his most prominent disciple, Yan Hui, were offered in the Imperial University (Biyong). The picture on the left shows the Imperial University in Beijing.

Posthumous Titles Conferred to Kongzi