The many volumes of The Book of Rites (Lĭjì) contain no small number of provisions regarding cases of overlapping mourning of relatives. In principle, where two relatives have died, priority should be given to the more serious mourning. However, as the stages of mourning change with the passage of time from the date of death, the response of the bereaved will differ depending on which stage of the ongoing mourning period has been reached when the newly deceased family member passes away.
This essay examines the provisions for the overlapping mourning of relatives described in various volumes of The Book of Rites, analyzes the thought behind each of these rules, and by establishing the sequence of relations between them, elucidates an important aspect of the study of the early Rites.
The discussion of overlapping mourning is inseparable from the argument over Biànchúlĭ (regulations regarding the kind of mourning clothes to wear according to changes in the stage of mourning) and the “Treatise on Subsidiary Points in Mourning Usages” (Vol. 37, Jiānzhuàn), which contains the most complete records on Biànchúlĭ of any volume of The Book of Rites, also includes the most comprehensive specifications of principles governing cases of overlapping mourning. However, this volume does not contain considerations of applying rank with hemp rope decorations based on the presence or absence of hemp roots, as seen in “Subjects For Questioning About the Mourning Dress” (Vol. 36, Fúwèn). This suggests that this volume does not reflect the final form of the discussion of overlapping mourning in The Book of Rites.