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The Granting of Robes and the Corresponding Establishment of Offices and Division of Functions in the Western Zhou

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.12, 2019

 

The Granting of Robes and the Corresponding Establishment of Offices and Division of Functions in the Western Zhou

(Abstract)

 

Jia Haisheng

 

Granting titles and robes to high officials and generals was a Western Zhou ritual practice. The robes (mingfu 命服) mentioned in literature and bronze inscriptions that have come down from ancient times differ in name but have the same connotations. There was a hierarchy of robes corresponding to rank, with variegated colors in line with the ordained designation. Ensuring the coordination and compatibility of designations and robes required the setting up of a special office in charge of robes and the related adornments. The recording of this office in the Rites of Zhou (Zhou Li) attribute the same function to different offices due to lack of care; mix up later offices with earlier ones due to failure to keep up with changes; confuse the posts of palace staff with those of ministers at court due to failure to make checks; and fail to provide a specific account of the function or responsibility of particular offices due to poor generalization. These defects all arise from the fact that the Rites of Zhou deals simultaneously with the setting up, continuation, addition, merging, conversion and abolition of different offices.