Li is a key concept in Confucian thought and is variously translated as “ritual,” “rites,” “custom,” or “propriety.” It refers at the collective level to the time-honored code of ritual conduct that was to govern all social interaction in the ideal Confucian society. As an individual virtue, li is the ability to follow that code and to enter into each and every human relationship with a full awareness of one's position, rights, and duties toward the others involved and with a full recognition and acceptance of them as moral beings. Mastery of li was part and parcel of the formation of the noble person (junzi) and key to the full realization of his humanity—a humanity that could only be practiced and perfected in social interactions ...

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