Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "Rural Religion in Early China."
Click here for the introduction to "La Pensée Cyclique" the "umbrella topic for this series.
|[a] Exchange RF|
The muting of the domestic spirit is the overarching effect of the communal festivals, even though the festivals lead directly back to the domestic order itself. Note that Granet describes this muting as coming (“little by little”) from the long incantations themselves. Poetry is a driving force, not a mere addition to the “mood” of the gathering. Sexual modesty and family spirit are linked, for both are described as closed. It is the poetry that creates the assemblage and breathes life into a larger social unit. What began as banter as families crossed streams and climbed hills to the holy place became rhythmic chanting by the adolescent members of those very same families. Song broke the tension.
Little by little, by the effect of this long incantation, feelings of sexual
modesty and family spirit were muted within them. The power of the
poetry finally brought them together, and they no longer resisted the
duty to unite.
Peu à peu, par l'effet de cette longue incantation, s'assourdissaient
puissance de la poésie les rapprochait enfin et ils ne résistaient plus
au devoir de s'unir.
|[b] Unity RF|
The seasonal rhythms have everything to do with the mating rituals that began at the spring festival. Even though the young people surged with energy and emotion, it was necessary to retreat into the gender-divided domestic order when the festival ended…and wait until autumn to marry. Of course, that is not completely possible, for the energy of youth is not always constrained by the toil of long days in the fields or the injunctions of parents and neighbors. The Shijing is filled with examples of young men jumping hedges (which divide villages) and expressing their amorous intentions to their betrothed. Granet is, in fact, so literal in his use of the Shijing in the passage below that he makes a statement about the cock crow, when it was in fact a part of a poetic setting in the world of the Shijing.
Their first unions were celebrated in the Festivals of Spring, but they
could set up house only after the Autumn Festivals. As long as the work
in the fields lasted, even old couples were kept apart; nor were suitors
allowed to join their betrothed except by night and furtively. They jumped
the hedges and, hiding from their kin, courted each other; especially at
the full moon, they sang their aubades, taking great care not to be
surprised by the cock crow.
Leur première union était célébrée aux Fêtes de printemps, mais ils ne
pouvaient entrer en ménage qu'après les Fêtes d'automne. Tant que
duraient les travaux des champs, les vieux couples eux-mêmes étaient
séparés ; les galants n'avaient pas non plus permission de rejoindre
leurs promises, sinon de nuit et furtivement. Ils sautaient la haie et, se
cachant des parents, faisaient leur cour ; surtout aux temps de la pleine
lune, ils chantaient leurs aubades, en prenant grand soin de ne pas se
laisser surprendre par le chant du coq.
|[c] Raw RF|
Granet insists that such meetings were chaste, and not only because of the watchful protection of kin groups. Some might think this foolish, but it does not require a very great interpretive leap to understand the stifling effect of an absolute division of the sexes in even domestic affairs, and an agricultural lifestyle that required even more time spent apart, with the timidity and awkwardness that is an outgrowth of it. Chastity comes not from parental injunction, then, as much as it does from confusion.
These meetings at night were doubtless chaste. The opposition of the
sexes was so strong that a long preparation and favorable times were
needed to bring them together; sexual union seemed so frightening
that it was forbidden for long periods. But when it was allowed and
regulated, when in the spring festivals all the young people of the
community came together for the first time, what a unique and moving
moment it was!
Sans doute, ces entrevues nocturnes étaient chastes. L'opposition
entre les sexes était forte au point d'exiger pour leur rapprochement
une longue préparation et des temps favorables ; l'union sexuelle
paraissait si redoutable qu'elle était interdite pendant de longues
périodes. Mais, quand elle était permise et ordonnée, quand, aux
fêtes printanières, tous les jeunes gens de la communauté
s'unissaient pour la première fois, quel moment unique et pathétique !
|[d] Holy Rolling RF|
They were poetically inspired and, not being able any longer to sing
once they were married, they knew of a sudden how to improvise
dances and songs in the traditional spirit of their race.
L'inspiration poétique leur venait et, eux qui ne devaient plus chanter
après le mariage, ils savaient tout d'un coup improviser des danses
et des chants selon le génie traditionnel de leur race.
Their unions thus carried with them a sense of urgency that goes far beyond the sexual urgency that is biologically driven. They engaged in songs long before they engaged in other forms of social intercourse. Sexual intercourse was the last step, and it led back down the closed path of the domestic order. Thus, youth moved from closed orders with their parents and kin toward a vibrant openness at the festivals, where they sang on behalf of all of their kin, who were either too young or too old for songs and incantations. The entire circle of social intercourse and sexuality, however, led back to the closed domestic order—which was reinvigorated through youth and change—as generation gave way to generation.
|[e] Winding RF|
Harper & Row, 1975.