Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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State, cult of the
(1,358 words)

From its earliest manifestations under the Shang to the fall of the Chinese Empire, the Chinese state was always a structure based on religion and providing meaning and order by integrating cosmos and society. The ruler functioned as high priest and as an intermediary who communicated with the dynastical ancestors and cosmic powers. During the Shang dynasty, the kings secured political legitimacy, longevity, and dynastic continuity with sacrifices to the mighty ancestors, who in turn were able to influence the paramount deity Di. During the Zhou period, ancestor worship was complem…

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Kern, Martin, “State, cult of the”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 04 December 2023 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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