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Thursday, August 16, 2012

La Pensée Cyclique—Rural Religion in China (12)

[a] Exchange RF
Click here for other posts in Round and Square's "Rural Religion in China" series:
Rural 1          Rural 2          Rural 3          Rural 4          Rural 5          Rural 6          Rural 7          Rural 8
Rural 9          Rural 10        Rural 11        Rural 12        Rural 13        Rural 14        Rural 15

Amorous Youth and Marriage Exchange
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.[1]   

          Peu à peu, par l'effet de cette longue incantation, s'assourdissaient 
          en eux les sentiments de pudeur sexuelle et d'esprit domestique. La 
          puissance de la poésie les rapprochait enfin et ils ne résistaient plus 
          au devoir de s'unir.[2]

[b] Unity RF
Unity is resisted at first, and must be broken down. The transitional stage cannot be passed through without the effect of the songs, the incantations. The larger social network is created, as it were, by song. More specifically, it is created by singers in ecstatic union. Song and social interaction go together just as notes and words do. The blending creates a language, and, if we are to follow Granet precisely, language is a result of movement, rhythm, and interaction. There is no language without social connection, and no social connection without language—at least of a sort, for wolf cries in the distance and bird calls (as well as human echoes of them) are among the things that elicit the spiritual union of human beings. The incantations gave the fragmented social groups a larger purpose.

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.[3]  

          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.[4]

[c] Raw RF
Note the importance of the moon in the passage above, and the inability of the young to keep their amorous energy in check. In fact, the original Shijing poem describes raw sexual energy that is stifled, or at least deflected, by the social order. It is the fear of father, brothers, and kin that prevents the young woman in the poem from giving in to the amorous demands of her betrothed love, not any lack of desire on her own part.

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![5]   

          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 ![5]

[d] Holy Rolling RF
The opposition of the sexes is based on the division of labor, and it goes far beyond mere shyness in separating even unbridled youth. The spring festival was when it all came together, as young people began to form new alliances and new communities.
Sexual union on an individual scale perpetuates the species; poetic union on a grand scale, uniting otherwise closed domestic orders, sets the universe in motion. Once they were married, as the sentence below makes clear, the door of the domestic order—opened to its widest points at the spring and autumn festivals—began to shut again. It is almost as though there were a small sliver of opportunity, and they knew it.

          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.[7]   

          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.[8]

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
Click here for other posts in Round and Square's "Rural Religion in China" series:
Rural 1          Rural 2          Rural 3          Rural 4          Rural 5          Rural 6          Rural 7          Rural 8
Rural 9          Rural 10        Rural 11        Rural 12        Rural 13        Rural 14        Rural 15 
[1] Marcel Granet, The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman] (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 42.
[2] Marcel Granet, La religion des chinois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922), 15.
[3] Granet, Religion, 42.
[4] Granet, La religion, 15.
[5] Granet, Religion, 2-43.
[6] Granet, La religion, 15.
[5] Granet, Religion, 2-43.
[6] Granet, La religion, 15.
Granet, Marcel. The Religion of the Chinese People [Translated by Maurice Freedman]. New York: 
     Harper & Row, 1975.
Granet, Marcel. La religion des chinois. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1922.

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