National Etiquette in Tradition of China

Chinese national etiquette

Grand national etiquettes are the ceremonies held by sovereigns in ancient history, to worship heaven, earth, mountains, ancestors, celestial, religious deities, etc.

Some routinely auspicious etiquette are in regard to pursuing stable governance, well-being, harvest, and protection.

Meanwhile, some rites are held to pray for current particular occurrences, like drought, flood, disease, war, etc.

Feng Shan

Among different types of auspicious ceremonies in the history of China, the most honorable one was the Rite of Feng Shan on Mount Tai, which some outstanding emperors did before, to show their exceptional power and achievement to the world.

 

In the history of China, only extremely accomplished emperors were entitled to stage it, like Emperor Qin Shi Hang and Emperor Liu Che

Inscriptions on Mount Tai, Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang

Inscriptions Written by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang to Memorize his Grand Feng Shan Ceremony (the Gold Characters on the Right) on Mount Tai.

Military Rites

Military etiquette in the history of China included military-related wars, parades, taxes, periodic hunting, instruction activities, and the definition of the border. 

 

Before Battle

In ancient Chinese culture, there should be some ceremonies before the battle, usually the offering of sacrificial ceremonies to the heaven, earth, ancestors, Gods of War, and the ensign, on a day that was chosen through divination.

 

  • Offering sacrifices rites to heaven meant to report the battle, under the name of heaven and justice;

 

  • To the earth, meaning the battle was to protect the homeland and pray for protection;

 

  • To the ancestors and Gods of War, was to inform the upcoming battle and pray for good luck. 

 

In these rites, blood (usually animals) was always needed to sacrifice the ensign. 

 

Afterward, an important pledge statement would be announced, to inform soldiers of the battle’s goal, reasons, and important rules, as well as to mobilize and encourage them for the upcoming war.  

Unearthed Bronze Weapon Ge with Inlaying Gold Patterns and Inscriptions (Wang Zi Yu Ge)

Ritual Bronze Weapon Ge of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC) with Inlaying Gold Patterns and Inscriptions (Wang Zi Yu Ge) — Shanxi Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

After Battle

 

If a regime won, the emperor would send honorable prime ministers and nobles to welcome his army; sometimes emperors would do this in person.

 

Then there would be a big ceremony to inform the heaven, earth, and ancestors about the success.

 

Sometimes the victorious army would also dedicate slaves to the emperor.

 

Later, countless solemn awards and feasts of celebration will be held for these excellent generals and soldiers. 

 

If they failed in a war, the army would return wearing mourning clothes, crying, and memorializing the dead, as in a funeral ceremony.

Terracotta Warriors and Horses of the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang

Terracotta Army of the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC), Photo by Zhao Zhen.