This was a foundational text for the rise of the Hanfu movement. First posted on Hanwang on November 15th, 2004, Tianya Zai Xiaolou (netname), a journalist from Tianjin, has created massive support from readers all over the world, and this text remains the most quoted and reposted Hanfu essay to date. Its effect in inspiring people to become aware of Han-Manchu history and cultural differences has a historically significant effect.
A Sacrificial Ritual with One Person
By: Tianya zai Xiaolou
Translated by: Juni Yeung
Many years later, I think I will still remember this day, remembering the heavenly sounds of Shao elegant court music, remembering the chanting voices of young children reciting the Confucian Analects, remembering the solemn sacrificial speech in the chilling wind, and remembering the grand performance. But today, under the sun, among the sea of people, although prosperous colours dazzle the eye, and noisy din fills the ears, I still hold a lonely heart, to attend that occasion – a Sacrificial Ritual with only one person.
2004 CE, the 600th founding anniversary of Tianjin.
This year, the Tianjin city administration has done many cultural events: Town of Yangliuqing promotions, Mazu Festival, Examinations exhibit, and now the Confucian Homage ceremony. Even the government – known for putting up shows and hogging all the glory – is realizing the importance of rescuing traditional culture. The rise of the Chinese people [Zhonghua Minzu] seems to be destined to the glorious civilization and heritage our ancestors have left for us. China seems to be falling apart as a nation, and cultural renaissance seems to be nearing our brows, but they seem to overlook the most-most superficial of things – overlooking the “clothes” on our bodies.
Is a piece of clothing really all that important?
I always admired in awe the brilliance of our ancestor’s way of creating our written language. A person (人) and a piece of clothing (衣) becomes “to rely on” (依). If we lose our clothing, our person would have nothing to rely on, as if we were to become rootless spores.
Is there such a terrible difference between this piece of clothing and that piece of clothing?
In differentiating a person from another, asides from their skin colour, it would most likely be in what they wear. Clothing, asides from using it to cover our bodies, is also used to adorn our appearances, but is furthermore used to express a level of spiritual boundary, an ideal. Different clothes, mean a different person.
I remember Wanhuo Tingsong from Hanwang writing an essay on fashion aesthetics, saying how Western couture pursue a three-dimensional beauty, Manchu clothing pursue beauty from complexity, and the Han clothing pursuing the imitation of the essence of nature, “man and heaven as one”. This kind of beauty and aesthetic permeates through all aspects of Han culture.
Homage to Confucius: what we’re paying homage to is not a pile of old bones, but an ideology. Ritual [禮, li], is not for the purpose of pretentious posing, but for expressing sincere sentiments of respect. If we don’t pay homage to him in Hanfu, then this ceremony would then fall into nothing more than a form of process, and the cultural inspiration would be as empty as an edict, written by the despotic power of a dynasty in decline, fooling the ignorant masses.
I am adamant on the idea that in the world we live in today, where the flood of Western thought is in excess, only Han Chinese culture can bear the historical mission of changing the fate of the Huaxia future, and Hanfu is the cord that reconnects the dismembered civilization.
And so I went. Although it is just a Shenyi, although it seems a tad thin in the chilling wind, and although it feels solemn with a touch of tragedy like a lone knight charging into battle, I still returned a faint smile to those who throw their sights of bewilderment upon me. I cannot explain, nor I know from where to begin to explain, that is the sacrificial ritual of one. When all the hustle-bustle have but dispersed, I stubbornly stood in front of altar. There was no music, no speech, no dance – only with a heart truly filled with respect for Master Kong.
Many people took pictures for me. There is no need to explain that to the eyes of the normal people, all they see are the beautiful. Many wounds and scars cannot be remedied, but luckily, I already can contain them with a clear and open heart, and I still am merely being myself…
One set of Shenyi, one set of beliefs, one person.
Many years later, I think I will still remember this day, with a grand sacrificial ceremony, a call out to Confucian culture, and a group of Chinese people who believe in tradition.
However, I still firmly believe, that this is a ceremony of one – with white robes purer than snow, unfazed by dirt and dust.