High-ranking Officials Offering Sacrifices, Beijing, First Year of the Republic


Beijing min guo chu nian gao ji guan yuan ji si (High-ranking officials offering sacrifices, Beijing, first year of the Republic) is a collection of photographs by Puyiya (Chinese name of Georges Bouillard, 1862‒1930), an engineer at the Institut National des Métiers d’Art (National Institute of Art Crafts). Born in France, Bouillard went to China in 1898 to work as chief engineer on the northern section of the Beijing‒Hankou Railway. He was very interested in sinology and in his free time engaged in photography, focusing mainly on Beijing as well as the areas near the Beijing‒Hankou Railway. After his death, his wife Zhu Derong donated his large collection of maps, survey charts and graphs, and photographs to the National Beijing Library (predecessor of the National Library of China). People in China began to offer sacrifices to Confucius as early as 478 BC, the year after his death. After Xuanzong (reigned 712‒756) of Tang dynasty conferred on Confucius the title of Wen xuan wang (King of Culture Manifestation), the scale of such ceremonies expanded. Sacrificial offering ceremonies were held at the Confucian temple in Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, and at schools in various locations. During the Dade reign (1297‒1307) of Yuan dynasty a Confucian temple was built in Beijing. It became the site of sacrificial offerings to Confucius throughout the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. In the early Republican era, educator Cai Yuanpei (1868‒1940) considered worship of Confucius obsolete. However, in 1914 Yuan Shikai issued a decree reestablishing the tradition and stipulating that central and local governments were to hold a Confucian worship ceremony each year on the birthday of Confucius. Presented here is a group of 25 photographs taken by Bouillard that record scenes from such a ceremony at the Confucius Temple in Beijing early in the Republic. The photographs depict officials in robes embroidered with flowers, who, led by their attendants, carry out the various ceremonies with music, song, dance, and rites, in the midst of fragrant incense in sacrificial utensils. The officials kneeled three times and kowtowed nine times.

Last updated: June 7, 2017