The ceremony of coming age of children成童礼in Jianshui Confucius Temple

“Coming-of-Age Ceremony” is a ritual performed in ancient China as part of the aristocratic education for children. According to the “Book of Rites”: “Upon coming of age, dance with an elephant, learn archery, and practice chariot riding.” In ancient times, this ceremony was conducted when a person reached the age of 15. In modern times, it is suitable for students after completing primary school or entering the first year of junior high school. The purpose is to “bid farewell to childhood, express gratitude, and set goals,” marking the transition into adolescence. Junior high school is a critical period of differentiation for students, making this ceremony crucial for cultivating their character.

The process of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony includes:

  1. Platform Ritual: The master of ceremonies is dressed in ceremonial attire, and the ceremonial music is played.
  2. Preparation to Cross the Lingxing Gate: After a purification ritual, the students prepare to cross the Lingxing Gate. Lingxing, also known as the Literary Star, refers to the ancient astronomical “Wen Xing,” or Wen Qu Xing, believed to be Confucius descending to the mortal world. Passing through the Lingxing Gate symbolizes receiving the teachings of Confucius, gaining the essence of Confucianism and wisdom.
  3. Incense Offering: The master of ceremonies, representing parents and the young students, offers incense. This involves three bows and nine prostrations.
  4. Cinnabar Dotting to Awaken Wisdom: Cinnabar symbolizes wisdom. The dotting of cinnabar marks the opening of the door to wisdom. This act is a symbolic invitation to interpret various classics and gain profound knowledge. Opening the wisdom gate leads to keen perception and clear vision, fostering a spirit of diligent learning.
  5. Initiation and First Writing: With the help of their parents, the children earnestly write a dignified character in front of Confucius. This act signifies the beginning of learning how to be a good person and the commencement of dedicated study.
  6. Respecting the Sage and Bowing to the First Teacher: The ceremony includes three bows, symbolizing humility, eagerness to learn, developing a wise heart, understanding and reasoning, and gaining insight and wisdom.