Buddhist temples and ancestral halls: The reconstruction of native official rituals in western Yunnan

Ruizhi Lian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the process of abolishing the native officialdoms of southwest China, the Ming court justified its actions by citing violations of ethical and ritual principles. During the Zhengtong 正統 period, offices of native officials in Heqing 鶴慶 were abolished and replaced with an office for centrally appointed imperial officials. These imperial officials turned Buddhist temples into Confucian schools and attacked local beliefs regarding living Buddhas. At the same time, local Confucian scholars advocated orthodox ritual in the name of doing away with improper ritual practice. In response, nearby native officials began cautiously handling political issues, and sought to legitimize the foundations for their status by conducting rituals in the classical Confucian tradition. The author examines the history of Lijiang 麗江 and Menghua 蒙化 Prefectures in Yunnan 雲南 and discusses how their native officials used the statuses of ancient nobles as they sought to establish Confucian rituals and temples corresponding to their status within the Ming bureaucracy. Several strategies are identified, including (a) building Buddhist temples, ancestral halls, and official shrines; (b) transforming mythical figures into protective deities by creating mountain and river rituals that conformed to ritual orthodoxy; and (c) establishing official genealogies and using textual methods to incorporate clan myths and legendary lineages into orthodox historical narratives, thereby strengthening the superiority of border native official lineages. By analyzing a series of actions of native officials in this process, the author explores the cultural strategies adopted by native officials to safeguard their prestige and local interests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-147
Number of pages29
JournalChinese Studies in History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 19 Aug 2019


  • ancestral halls
  • Buddhist temples
  • genealogy writing
  • native official ritual and history


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