Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (1): 55-83.

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The Succession of Chong and the Principle of Zunzun: The Ethicalization of Political Power in Traditional China from the Perspective of Clan Lineage and Monarch Lineage

WU Liucai   

  • Published:2023-03-08
  • Supported by:
    This paper is sponsored by the Youth Project of Beijing Social Sciences Fund "Research on the Rule of Li Tradition of Chinese Social Governance System and Its Modern Transformation" (21SRC019).

Abstract: The traditional Chinese domination type is characterized by a human relationship-based rather than matter-of-fact based approach. This is because of the internal structure and ethical logic of traditional domination. Power comes from "zun"(尊 respect), and the essence of domination is a type of "zunzun"(尊尊). According to the meaning of "zunzun"(尊尊), there are clan power within the patriarchal system and monarchal power outside the patriarchal system. The process of power succession is the process of establishing the lineage of "zunzun"(尊尊), which is specifically divided into two parts:the monarch lineage and the clan lineage. Monarchy and patriarchy are different in terms of the specific institutional level as the former refers to political power and the latter patriarchal power, but they share the same set of ethical order based on father-son ethics. Specifically, the implementation of power succession depends on the system of succession of chong (重) with the latter being the key link for the purpose of establishing the lineage order of "zunzun"(尊尊). "Succession of chong(重)" has two meanings:one is to inherit and continue the spirit of the deceased ancestors, and the other is the wife's-first-son succession rule in the patriarchal and feudal system. These two meanings reveal the ethical connotation of power. In this process, the primogeniture system is the core of power succession and its legitimacy comes from the principle of "zunzun"(尊尊), reflecting the ultimate manifestation of the political destiny of Heaven's Mandate and men's ethical virtues since the Zhou dynasty. Therefore, the common law of the wife's-first-son succession embodies the ethical and moral characteristics of traditional power. In addition, the succession variation of "weirenhou"(为人后,being-the-descendant) complements and maintains the ethical foundation of the traditional power succession. The succession of the clan lineage adheres to the principle of generational order, while the succession of the monarch lineage embodies the principle of ethical analogy. In general, the traditional politics is rooted in the father-son ethics. Traditional China presents the characteristics of ethicalization of political power and is a "family-polity community" entity.

Key words: succession of chong(重), clan lineage, monarch lineage, father and son, ethicalization of politics