The Kongs of Qufu
The Descendants of Confucius in Late Imperial China
- PUBLISHED: September 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Anthropology
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 256 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 4 maps, 2 charts, 4 tables
- ISBN: 9780295745930
The city of Qufu, in north China’s Shandong Province, is famous as the hometown of Kong Qiu (551–479 BCE)—known as Confucius in English and as Kongzi or Kong Fuzi in Chinese. In The Kongs of Qufu, Christopher Agnew chronicles the history of the sage’s direct descendants from the inception of the hereditary title Duke for Fulfilling the Sage in 1055 CE through its dissolution in 1935, after the fall of China’s dynastic system in 1911.
Drawing on archival materials, Agnew reveals how a kinship group used genealogical privilege to shape Chinese social and economic history. The Kongs’ power under a hereditary dukedom enabled them to oversee agricultural labor, dominate rural markets, and profit from commercial enterprises. The Kongs of Qufu demonstrates that the ducal institution and Confucian ritual were both a means to reproduce existing social hierarchies and a potential site of conflict and subversion.
Authors & Contributors
Christopher S. Agnew is associate professor of history at the University of Dayton.
As Agnew recounts the compelling stories of how the Kong family negotiated with the state and regional powers to maintain social hierarchies, he presents the ducal institution (1055–1935) as a remarkable case for the study of institutional history at both regional and state levels. This is perfect supplemental reading to Michael Szonyi’s Practicing Kinship for readers interested in Chinese lineages. . . . Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty.- Choice
This is a meticulously documented social history. Professor Agnew shows how the Kongs deployed their considerable social, economic, political and cultural capital to sustain their estates in western Shandong for over 700 years. The book will appeal to anyone in early modern or modern history concerned about the Kong family or the state.- R. Kent Guy, Department of History, University of Washington
Christopher Agnew delivers a cast of extraordinary characters and a litany of compelling stories in this study of China’s most notable lineage. The Kong family’s millennium-long quest to establish or “invent” a noble ancestry, and to use that construct to exert territorial control is by no means typical of Chinese kinship organizations. Yet Agnew merges that family experience with the institutional history of late-imperial China to provide us with remarkable new insights into the vagaries and processes of both regional and state power.- James Flath, Department of History, Western University
This groundbreaking study of the Yansheng Dukes brings together the scattered primary and secondary literature on a unique descent group that was a part of the elite stratum of Chinese society over a period encompassing multiple dynasties. Agnew does a good job of placing the vacillating fortunes of the Kongs within a broader backdrop of events occurring on the empire-wide, regional, and local levels.- Evelyn S. Rawski, Distinguished University Professor Emerita of History, University of Pittsburgh