The Yili 儀禮 "Etiquette and Rites" is one of the three Confucian ritual books (sanli 三禮) and belongs to the 13 Confucian classics. It might be that it was also originally part of the Five Confucian Classics (wujing 五經), the core writings of the Classics corpus, as the Li 禮. The Yili was originally known with the name of Lijing 禮經 "Classic of Rites", or Shili 士禮 "Rites of the Lower Noblemen", or short: Li 禮 "The Rites". It is therefore easily confounded with the Liji 禮記 "Records of Rites" which today possesses the status of a core classic.|
All ancient dynasties had certain state rituals for which almost no rules are preserved. It was only the Confucian scholars who started writing down the rules for etiquette and rituals for all levels of society and thus created a kind of handbook for everybody's use. The ritual rules for the lower nobility – to which a great part of the Confucians belonged – was therefore of special interest, and in the early Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 AD) 17 chapters of a book on etiquette survived in the hand of Gao Shengtang 高生堂. Their content reached from manhood capping, marriage, symposia or banquets, and interstate missions to funeral rites. During the reign of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE) three different versions of the ritual classics were taught in the National University (taixue 太學): The version by Dai De 戴德, that by his nephew Dai Sheng 戴聖, and that by Qing Jin 慶晉. To these so-called new text versions (jinwenjing 今文經) several old text versions (guwenjing 古文經) had to be added which were discovered in the walls of the mansion of the Kong family. The latter were called Ligujing 禮古經 "The Old Classic on Rites", in 17 chapters, and 39 chapters of "Additional rites" (Yijing 逸經), which have not survived. The new text ritual texts survived until the end of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 AD) before they were superseded by Zheng Xuan's 鄭玄 newly arranged version near the end of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220). Only this version has survived and obtained the name of Yili during the Jin period 晉 (265-420) which is still known today. During that period a lot of books were written on funeral rituals which can be seen as complements to the Yili text.
Zheng Xuan was also the first to comment the ritual classic. He made also comparisons between the old text and new text versions. During the Tang period 唐 (618-907) Jia Gongyan 賈公彥 compiled a commentary, the Yili shu 儀禮疏, with a length of 17 juan "scrolls". It was printed together with Zheng Xuan’s commentray during the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) as Yili zhushu 儀禮注疏. For a short time in the eleventh century the Yili had even been expelled from the canon of Confucian classics. The most important commentary from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) is Hu Peihui's 胡培翬 Yili zhengyi 儀禮正義.
Source: Liu Qiyu 劉起釪 (1992). "Yili 儀禮", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 3, pp. 1392-1393. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.
1. 士冠禮 Shiguanli Capping of an ordinary officer's son
2. 士昏（＝婚）禮 Shihunli Marriage of an ordinary officer
3. 士相見禮 Shi xiangjian li Visit of one ordinary officer to another
4. 鄉飲酒禮 Xiang yinjiu li District symposium
5. 鄉射禮 Xiang sheli District archery contest
6. 燕禮 Yanli The banquet
7. 大射 Dashe The great archery contest
8. 聘禮 Pinli Interstate Missions
9. 公食大夫禮 Gongshi dafu li The dinner to the commissioner
10. 覲禮 Jinli The audience
11. 喪服 Sangfu Mourning garments
12. 士喪禮 Shi sangli Obsequies of an ordinary officer I
13. 既夕禮 Jixi li Obsequies of an ordinary officer II
14. 士虞禮 Shi yuli The sacrifices of repose
15. 特牲饋食禮 Tesheng kuishi li The single beast offered in food to the ancestor
16. 少牢饋食禮 Shaolao kuishi li The smaller set of beasts offered as food to the ancestor
17. 有司徹 Yousi che The assistant clears away
昏禮：下達，納采，用雁。主人筵于戶西，西上，右几。使者玄端至，擯者出 請事，入告。主人如賓服，迎于門外，再拜，賓不答拜。揖入。至于廟門， 揖入；三揖，至于階，三讓。主人以賓升，西面。賓升西階，當阿，東面致命。 主人阼階上北面再拜；授于楹間，南面。賓降，出。主人降，授老雁。擯者出請 ，賓執雁，請問名，主人許。賓入授，如初禮。
Chapter 3: The Marriage of an ordinary officer (1)
In making known his intentions to the father of the girl, the father of the young man sends a wild goose.
The girl's father spreads a mat for the ancestral spirit to the west of the door of the room in the ancestral temple, the upper end of it being to the west; and at the right end of the mat he places a body-rest.
When the messenger with the present arrives, dressed in dark square-clothes, the usher goes out to ask his business, and then enters and announces it. The host, dressed like the messenger, goes to meet him outside the door, and bows twice, the messenger not bowing in reply. Then the host invites him with a salute to enter.
When they come to the temple gate, the host invites the guest with a salute to enter. In their progress up the court there are the three customary salutes; and when they come to the steps they yield precedence three times.
The host precedes the guest, going up the eastern steps, and faces westward, while the guest goes up the west steps, and, standing under the main beam of the hall, delivers his message, the host boing twice at the top of the eastern steps, with his face north. The host, standing between the pillars, and facing south, receives the goose. Thereafter the visitor descends the steps and leaves. The host also descends, and hands the goose to his head servant.
When the messenger from the father arrives, the usher goes out and holding a goose in his hands, requests permission to be allowed to ask the girl's name, and the host, through the usher, consents. The visitor then enters and hands over the present to the host, observing the ceremonial already described.
為人後者。＜傳＞曰：何以三年也﹖受重者，必以尊服服之。何如而可為之後﹖ 同宗則可為之後。何如而可以為人後﹖支子可也。為所後者之祖父母、妻，妻之 父母、昆弟，昆弟之子，若子。
Chapter 22: Mourning garments (1)
[The three year's untrimmed mourning]
This mourning dress consists of an untrimmed sackcloth coat and skirt, fillets of the female nettle hemp, a staff, a twisted girdle, a hat whose hat-string is of cord, and rush shoes.
<The Commentary> says: Why untrimmed? Because it is not hemmed. The hempen fillet is made from the plant when it has sprouted a second time, [and thus is ill-favoured.]...
[This mourning is worn for] a father, <The Commentary> says: Why? Because the father is the most honourable person [in the familiy].
The feudal lords wear it for the Son of Heaven, <The Commentary> says: He is the most honourable person [in the empire].
[The ministers] wear it for their ruler, <The Commentary> says: The ruler is the most honourable person [in his domain].
A father wears it for his oldest son, <The Commentary> says: Why does he have to mourn for three years? Because he is the proper representative of those who have preceded him in the line. It also lays emphasis on what is involved in the [father's] transmission [of the patriarchal right to his posterity]. A son other than the oldest one does not have this three year's [mourning worn] for him, as he does not succeed his ancestors.
For the person whom he has adopted to succeed him, <The Commentary> says: Why does he have to mourn for three years? This is because he has received a place in the succession, and so is entitled to have the deepest grade of mourning worn for him. What is the qualification that one must possess to be thus adopted? He must be in the same family line as the man himself. Who may be called on to take up the succession to another? Anyone but the direct heir. The adopted heir wears mourning for the grandparents of the man whom he succeeds, and for his wife, his wife's father, mother, and brothers, and the children of these last. In all these cases he acts as if he were the regular son.
A wife wears this mourning for her husband, <The Commentary> says: The husband is the most honourable person [in the marital relationship].
A concubine wears it for her lord and master, <The Commentary> says: The lord is the most honourable person [in this relationship]...
[The trimmed mourning with the staff] While the father is still alive this mourning is assumed on the death of the mother, <The Commentary> says: Why to wear this mourning the time [of three years]? As a sign of inferiority. While the most honourable person [in the marriage relationship] is still alive, the son does not dare to exhibit to the full the respect he feels privately for his mother. The father shall abstain from taking another wife for three years, however, as an indication that he appreciates the feelings of his son in this matter.
A husband wears it for his wife [three years long], <The Commentary> says: Because the wife's relationship to him is the closest possible...
If the father have died, and his stepmother have married again, [the children who] follow her to her new home wear this mourning for her when she dies, as an act of grace, <The Commentary> says: Why? In acknowledgement of her love for them to the end.
Translated by John Steele (1917). The I-Li or Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial. London: Probsthain.