Early Chinese writers rose above particular descriptions of spirits and sacrifices to a meta-discourse about the nature of spirits and the meaning of sacrifices. That is, they themselves mused about the broader meaning of religious phenomena. They recognized diverse ideas about spirits (e.g. whether they possessed agency); they theorized on dependency relationships between spirits and humans (e.g. the nature of reciprocity); they identified secular justifications behind religious discourses (e.g. the orthopraxy of affirming community or sanctioning ethics); they justified religious pluralism (e.g. by recognizing one’s own tradition as the trunk tradition and others as merely branch traditions); and they even permitted personal religious diversity (e.g. the same person could explain away immortals in one setting and yet glorify them in another). Because they themselves theorized about the nature of religious phenomena, we should become cognizant of those theories before projecting our own understandings of religion onto their spirits and sacrifices.