The Kongs of Qufu: The Descendants of Confucius in Late Imperial China

Univ. of Washington. Sept. 2019. 272p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780295745923. $95; pap. ISBN 9780295745930. $30ebk. ISBN 9780295745947. HIST
Using archival Kong family records and other primary sources, Agnew (history, Univ. of Dayton) tells the fascinating story of the descendants of Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 BCE), also known as Kong Fuzi. Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), rulers of China honored the offspring of Confucius with various titles and privileges. In 1055, the Song Dynasty (960–1279) regularized this tradition with the creation of the hereditary title Duke for Fulfilling the Sage, passed down to male members of the Kong family until 1935. The duke was granted a vast tax-exempted estate in and around the city of Qufu, the proceeds of which were used to maintain the cemetery and temple of Confucius and finance the performance of rituals associated with that sacred city. The duke’s office was an unusual situation in the Chinese imperial bureaucracy, which resulted in conflicts over competing jurisdictions with local county magistrates. The author offers a thorough exploration of how the Kong family managed interfamily disputes and the changing political landscape throughout the centuries.
VERDICT An enjoyable read that sheds light on Chinese feudal arrangements of the late imperial era. Highly recommended for all Chinese history enthusiasts

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