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TWOC TV EP. 15: The Heritage of Etiquette

Experts discuss how China’s 3,000-year-old “rites and music” tradition evolved into modern etiquette

In this frantic age, experiencing China’s 3,000-year tradition of ceremonial etiquette usually involves fighting over a bill or trying to decide how much cash to stuff inside those red envelopes.

Things were much different, though, in the Western Zhou dynasty (1046 – 771 BCE), when the Duke of Zhou combined ritual systems from the preceding Xia (2070 – 1600 BCE) and Shang dynasties (1760 – 1520 BCE) to create a unified system of “rites and music”—or 周公制礼作乐 (Zhōu gōng zhì lǐ zuò yuè), as the story is known in China. Known simply as liyue (礼乐 lǐ yuè), or “Rites and Music,” the system became the core of Confucian values and was inherited by subsequent dynasties for more than 2,000 years, before it was abolished at the end of Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912 CE).

At its core, liyue aim to promote virtuous behavior within society, emphasizing respect, benevolence, and good character. In this episode, The World of Chinese invites professors Peng Lin, from the department of history at Tsinghua University, and Han Xing, of the National College at Renmin University of China, to discuss the evolution of etiquette and its impact on modern traditions from dining to gift-giving to salutation.

TWOC TV EP. 15 – Part 1

TWOC TV EP. 15 – Part 2


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