China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper seeks to study the propagation of Confucian rituals in the popular lecture series on the Three Character Classic (2009) and Disciple Rules (dizigui) (2010) on the China Central Television program Lecture Room. Against the background of growing individualism and more market- oriented TV programs on the one hand, and the revival of Confucian schools and teachings in society on the other, these TV lectures should not be simply perceived as efforts for the state to reassert more conservative practices in a society that was gradually opening up. The very Confucian practices discussed such as filial piety and (other) moral imperatives, once denounced, now reappear in TV lectures and tap into traditional Chinese perception of education. The articulate and engaging professors in these programs remind the audience of the popular social appeal of the Confucian scholar. What these lectures teach, however, is often a rather individualized interpretation of the classics, allowing personal engagement with the latter, while at the same time bringing history to life. This approach toward the Confucian classics in a semi-ritualized teaching format helps build an individualized continuum between Confucian historical practices and the present that is simultaneously socially meaningful and community building. The paper provides a detailed study of the use of Confucian ritual studies to create compelling social cohesion through the mass media. It also studies the social and political implications of such state sponsored programs and the role of TV intellectuals in the perpetuation of those rituals.