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Chinese Religiosities

Chinese Religiosities: Afflictions of Modernity and State Formation

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 472
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Religiosities
    Book Description:

    The long twentieth century in China and Taiwan has seen both a dramatic process of state-driven secularization and modernization and a vigorous revival of contemporary religious life.Chinese Religiositiesexplores the often vexed relationship between the modern Chinese state and religious practice. The essays in this comprehensive, multidisciplinary collection cover a wide range of traditions, including Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Confucianism, Protestantism, Falungong, popular religion, and redemptive societies. Contributors: José Cabezón, Prasenjit Duara, Ryan Dunch, Dru C. Gladney, Vincent Goossaert, Ji Zhe, Ya-pei Kuo, Richard Madsen, Rebecca Nedostup, David Palmer, Benjamin Penny, Mayfair Mei-hui Yang

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91620-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)
    Mayfair Mei-hui Yang

    At a conference at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2004, I gave a paper on the revival of popular religion based on my fieldwork in rural Wenzhou, on the southeastern coast of China (M. Yang n.d.).¹ Afterward, a U. S.-trained Chinese scholar with an academic position in the U. S, but born and raised in China, asked why I was studying religion when it has never been very important in China and the Chinese people have always been pragmatic and secular, even in imperial times. This was a view familiar to me from the 1980s, in conversations with intellectuals...


    • 1 Religion and Citizenship in China and the Diaspora
      (pp. 43-64)
      Prasenjit Duara

      Why is it that religion is foregrounded in the knowledge of some societies, whereas in others—most notably, China—it emerges as largely irrelevant to developments, particularly to modern history? One could posit various explanations that incorporate the power (or powerlessness) of institutionalized religion in relation to the state, but here I want to explore a different track. I want to show that the energies, needs, and ideals that are frequently understood under the rubric of religion become reorganized and channeled into different institutions and practices that we have come to call secular—and that at the same time, what...

    • 2 Redeploying Confucius: The Imperial State Dreams of the Nation, 1902–1911
      (pp. 65-84)
      Ya-pei Kuo

      Few periods in Chinese history were more tumultuous than the seventeen years from 1895 to 1911. In every aspect of social, political, and cultural life, the advent of global modernity fueled drastic changes. The momentum of these changes started in the mid-nineteenth century. After the Opium Wars, Euro-American and Japanese powers of colonial expansion increasingly encroached on the Manchu empire of the Qing with demands for political and territorial concessions, trade expansion, and the right to spread foreign culture and religion in China. Armed with treaties from their home countries signed under duress by the Qing government, Western missionaries, merchants,...


    • 3 Ritual Competition and the Modernizing Nation-State
      (pp. 87-112)
      Rebecca Nedostup

      It is National Day, 1930, and cadres of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang, or GMD) are trying for the third year in a row to force the public to adopt the “national” (i.e., combined Republican and Gregorian) calendar.¹ It is, they argue, a marker of modernity, of China’s entry into the world, of a unified, strong, and scientific nation. The old calendar—based on the movements of the moon and sun and a variety of other cycles, and full of dangerous festivals—is, in contrast, the epitome of backwardness. Its harm ranges far beyond the symbolic, however. An official propaganda...

    • 4 Heretical Doctrines, Reactionary Secret Societies, Evil Cults: Labeling Heterodoxy in Twentieth-Century China
      (pp. 113-134)
      David A. Palmer

      Since the repression of Falungong (法輪功, Practice of the Wheel of the Law) in 1999, the question of “cults” has become a critical issue in the Chinese religious field, leading Chinese scholars and ideologues to elaborate a new discourse on the category of “evil cults” (邪教,xiejiao). This was a term from imperial times that had fallen into disuse but was now reactivated to replace the concept of “reactionary secret societies” (反動會道門,fandong huidaomen), which had been used in the 1950s in the campaigns to exterminate unorthodox religious groups such as the Yiguandao (一貫道, Way of Pervading Unity).¹ This discourse...

    • 5 Animal Spirits, Karmic Retribution, Falungong, and the State
      (pp. 135-154)
      Benjamin Penny

      On April 25, 1999, between ten and fifteen thousand Falungong (法輪功, Practice of the Wheel of the Law) practitioners gathered outside Zhongnanhai in central Beijing, the compound that houses the most senior officers of the Chinese government and the Communist Party. This was the moment when the name “Falungong” became familiar to the wider world, even if that audience had little idea at the time as to what constituted the movement. It was also the moment when China’s leaders became concerned about the profound threat they perceived Falungong to pose. Press reports at the time indicated that practitioners hoped to...

    • 6 Christianity and “Adaptation to Socialism”
      (pp. 155-178)
      Ryan Dunch

      The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is uncomfortable with religion. Religious adherence in Chinese society is growing extremely rapidly. Two simple and incontestable statements, yet in the contradictions between them lie tensions with profound implications for Chinese society. Those tensions, particularly as they pertain to Protestant Christianity, are the subject of this chapter.

      When “freedom of religious belief” was reinstated in 1978, Chinese Communist Party leaders expected that only a small remnant of elderly religious believers remained, and that the disappearance of religion from socialist China was only a matter of time. Permitting open religious activities was, therefore, initially seen as...

    • 7 Islam and Modernity in China: Secularization or Separatism?
      (pp. 179-206)
      Dru C. Gladney

      China’s Muslims are now facing their second millennium under Chinese rule. Many of the challenges they confront remain the same as they have for the last thirteen hundred years of continuous interaction with Chinese society, but many others are a result of China’s transformed and increasingly globalized society. Muslims in China live as minority communities amid a sea of people who, in their view, are largely pork-eating, polytheist, secularist, and “heathen” (kafir). Nevertheless, many of their small and isolated communities have survived in rather inhospitable circumstances for nearly two millennia.

      Though small in population percentage (about 2 percent in China,...


    • 8 Republican Church Engineering: The National Religious Associations in 1912 China
      (pp. 209-232)
      Vincent Goossaert

      Western paradigms of the political management of religion have been clearly and explicitly influential in China since the early twentieth century. These paradigms are quite varied, from the U.S. “wall of separation” to Frenchlaïcitéand northern Europe’s national churches, but they all have in common a post-Enlightenment definition of religion as a churchlike institution separate from society, and processes of negotiation between church and state for privileges and uses of the public sphere.

      The effect on the Chinese world of these paradigms began at the turn of the twentieth century, when the Western categories that underpin these paradigms were...

    • 9 Secularization as Religious Restructuring: Statist Institutionalization of Chinese Buddhism and Its Paradoxes
      (pp. 233-260)
      Ji Zhe

      This chapter undertakes to analyze the statist institutionalization of Buddhism in modern China and suggests that there are some paradoxes in the process of secularization, and in the relationship between the state and religion. I would like to show that secularization in China, understood as a state policy to restrain religion, may also produce what is, in essence, contrary to its aim: that is to say, some constructive consequences for religion. In fact, secularization could be understood to be a process of social restructuring, rather than a unidirectional decline of religion or religious institutions.

      In the sociology of religion, “secularization”...

    • 10 State Control of Tibetan Buddhist Monasticism in the People’s Republic of China
      (pp. 261-294)
      José Ignacio Cabezón

      On March 10, 1959, after a popular Tibetan uprising against Chinese troops stationed in Lhasa, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama fled Tibet and received political asylum in India.¹ Approximately a hundred thousand Tibetans followed him into exile. The vast majority of Tibetans—both those living in exile and those still in Tibet—consider this date to mark the beginning of Chinese colonial occupation of their homeland, an occupation that brought with it the most widespread destruction of Buddhism ever witnessed in Tibetan history. From the point of view of the Chinese government, 1959 marks the final stage in the “peaceful liberation”...


    • 11 Religious Renaissance and Taiwan’s Modern Middle Classes
      (pp. 295-322)
      Richard Madsen

      A remarkable religious renaissance has been taking place in Taiwan from the mid-1980s down to the present (Madsen 2007)—a time period that, not coincidentally, corresponds to Taiwan’s transition to economic prosperity and political democracy (Gold 1987; Rigger 1999).¹ Taiwan has always been an island full of folk religion. The months of the lunar calendar are punctuated with many festivals. All phases of the life cycle are marked by colorful rituals. But until recently, popular Taiwanese religious practices have mostly represented the parochial, particularistic, habit-driven aspects of traditional Taiwanese life rather than the cosmopolitan, rationalized, reflexive aspirations of its modernizers...

    • 12 Goddess across the Taiwan Strait: Matrifocal Ritual Space, Nation-State, and Satellite Television Footprints
      (pp. 323-348)
      Mayfair Mei-hui Yang

      This chapter examines the complex interactions among the forces of nationstate, popular religion, media capitalism, and gendered territorialization as these are inflected across the Taiwan Strait.¹ Relations across the Strait have been fraught with political tension and military preparations over the question of whether Taiwan is part of China or an independent state. Since the 2000 presidential elections in Taiwan, the new government there has been more vociferous about Taiwan independence, and Mainland China’s Communist Party has responded with more vigorous claims on Taiwan, which had earlier included the launching of a warning missile over the island in 1996. Under...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 349-376)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 377-436)
  11. Glossary and Chinese Proper Names
    (pp. 437-450)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 451-454)
  13. Index
    (pp. 455-464)