Extreme Asceticism: Confucian Practice and Riesebrodt's Religious Virtuoso

Submitted by James Miller on Sat, 02/09/2013 - 13:17
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TitleExtreme Asceticism: Confucian Practice and Riesebrodt's Religious Virtuoso
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsChoi, M.
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
ISBN Number0021-8294
KeywordsAsceticism, Confucianism, CULTS, Intervention, Religion, Riesebrodt, Self control, SOCIAL aspects, Traditions, Weber

The ascetic ideals initially established by Confucius are moderate and rational. Yet, virtuoso asceticism became a social phenomenon when the state desired to institute a more powerful channel to disseminate Confucian values in the broader populace beyond the literati. The reason that the cult of the virtuoso particularly served this purpose was that the enshrinement of virtuoso generated social power within community. That social power, somewhat equivalent to charisma, derived from the enshrined spirit's connection with transcendence having official and public offerings from community. The social process in the formation of the ascetic virtuoso and its social function in the Confucian tradition follow a pattern similar to that laid out by Martin Riesebrodt: denial of the physical self, restructuring of social relations, and spiritual transformation. Ascetic virtuosos stemming from the tradition of “inner‐worldly” asceticism closed a gap between a rationalized system of behavior‐regulating practices and interventionist practice with reference to transcendence.