Remodeling confucian wedding rituals to Address China's Youth culture today: A case of using the classics to respond to recalcitrant problems

Hoyt Tillman, Margaret Mih Tillman


In response to social and cultural problems in the wake of corrosive influences arising from the Cultural Revolution and Western individualism, two intellectuals in China have offered different versions of wedding rituals based upon the Confucian Classics in order to restore ritual as a powerful tool for individual, family, social and national renewal. Zhu Jieren, former director and current CEO of East China Normal University Press, planned a "modern version" of the wedding ceremony from Zhu Xi's Family Rituals for his son's ceremony in Shanghai on December 5, 2009. Zhang Xianglong, a philosophy professor at Peking University in Beijing, orchestrated a more antique Confucian wedding for his son in Beijing on June 20, 2010. Both made some accommodations to modern realities and used the same core quotations from the ancient ritual classics; moreover, both public intellectuals are pursuing reform from the grassroots of society and thus differ significantly from the state's approaches to reviving tradition and strengthening the Chinese family. In addition to explaining why each intellectual undertook his Confucian wedding project, we will explore why conservative proponents of "restoring antiquity" have criticized the Zhu wedding and lauded the Zhang wedding. Our interviews with participants reveal how profoundly moved the young couples were by the traditional ceremonies; thus, both Zhu and Zhang succeeded in giving new life to classical rites and leading participants to reconnect to traditional aesthetics and values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-245
Number of pages25
JournalTaiwan Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013



  • Classics
  • Confucian revival
  • Gender roles
  • Ritual
  • Weddings
  • Zhu Xi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Cultural Studies

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