鄉飲酒禮 敬老 地方社會
Degrades into Denigration: The Permutation of the Ming Dynasty Community
Drinking Rituals and Their Interplay with Local Society
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
The community drinking rituals, held once every first and tenth months of each year by the lunar calendar, served as an important vehicle to promote moral values to the masses during the Ming Dynasty. In addition to rituals held at the provincial, county and city levels, each village head would also hold gatherings in his village or neighborhood. The Hongwu Emperor, who established the institution of the drinking rituals, originally intended the system as a means to venerate the elders. The ritual was relied upon to educate the public in basic law and social values, but these functions were afterwards abandoned. In this article, we investigate permutations in the character of the community drinking rituals and the social impact of its transformation. The paper will touch upon the following main points: the original design of the ritual system and its fall from that lofty ideal after it was implemented; disputes within the local organizing body over issues of reimbursement; the process of electing participating elders, as well as granting honorary positions and distinguishing titles; and the exploitation of the rituals by its organizing body. It is my opinion that after the 15th century, this ritual became tantamount to a champs wherein local powers could compete for, compare and exchange social capital. Even local officials, educational officials, students, bureaucrats and yamen runners, charged with putting on the rituals, manipulated it to their own material advantage. Furthermore, disreputable yet wealthy older men relied on their monetary resources to secure seats at the gathering; as a result, over time, the most distinguished retired officials refused to take part because they were ashamed to associated with the former group. Over the two and a half centuries of its operation, the rituals became farther and farther removed from the ideals of its founder. In the end, it became reduced to a mere excuse for officials to exploit the elders of the community. As it came to this, a ritual created to venerate the elders became a source of vexation to them.
Keywords: Ming Dynasty, community drinking rituals, homage to the elders, local society