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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Repentance and Confession: A Study of the Concept of Guilt in Medieval China

Vol. 40 No. 4   12/2010    


Repentance and Confession: A Study of the Concept of Guilt in Medieval China


Hsieh, Shu-wei









Key words

Guilt, Repentance, Confession, Daoism, Lingbao   


    Through the examination of the concept of guilt in medieval China and the different confession rituals in various religious traditions, this paper discusses how literati and common people identified their transgressions and released their guilt. In medieval China, guilt was not personal but related to family, ancestors, or previous lives. The sins of the dead were visited upon descendants by afflicting them with suffering and disease, in accordance with the records of misdeeds that were kept by heavenly officials. The religious systems of punishment and retribution for transgressions were either enacted by heavenly officials or the law of karma. People availed themselves of elements from multiple traditions, and they used contemporary religious culture in complex and varying ways on various occasions, shifting their cultural framing in order to gain prestigious or preferable allegiances. In the Lingbao scriptures in particular, confession acted as a link or a model to integrate into an organic whole all the medieval precepts and ideas of morality, judgment, illness, law, and salvation.



Author: Hsieh, Shu-wei
Genre: Article
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