chapter  2
36 Pages

Imperial Confucian constitutionalism

This chapter demonstrates how the constitutionalist ideas in classical Confucianism were put into practice by imperial governments in East Asia. The practice of imperial Confucianism was limited due to the lack of institutional independence and popular mobilization, but could be achieved to a certain degree due to the power of tradition. The political norms stemming from the Confucian Classics could function as "constitutional norms" in the sense that they were paramount standards for rectifying the practice of the royal power. The invocation of the precedent institutions remained the distinctive character of institutional arrangements. The recruitment of officials through the mechanism of royal examination therefore constricted the imperial authority in the matter of personnel. The imperial lectures can be recognized as an institutionalized forum for the scholar-officials to rectify the use of royal power. In a more positive scenario, traditional Confucian norms and institutions may be used and integrated in the modern projects of promoting constitutionalism in modern East Asia.