Book Review: Liang Cai. Witchcraft and the Rise of the First Confucian Empire. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014. 288 Pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-4384-4849-7.)

Research output: Journal PublicationsReview article


In the historiography of the Han dynasty (206 bce–220 CE), the victory of Confucianism is a familiar thesis. While there is hardly any doubt that the four centuries of Han rule saw a growing dominance of those who referred to themselves as Confucians (ru) in the political arena, the question of why and when it first started is a much more perplexing matter. The prevailing narrative, for much of the twentieth century, identifies the origin of this historical victory to the deliberate promotion of Confucianism as a state ideology during the reign of Emperor Wu (141–87 bce). In recent years, however, scholars have called this account into question for the simple reason that the historical sources, upon closer scrutiny, appear to tell a more complicated and far more interesting story. As part of this “revisionist enterprise,” this monograph by Cai Liang offers a novel argument for the rise of the Confucians under the Han (p. 203, n.1).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-113
JournalJournal of Chinese Philosophy
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2018


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