China Perspectives 2009/4


Religious Reconfigurations in the People’s Republic of China

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China Perspectives 2009/4

Special Feature

Religious Revival and Exit from Religion in Contemporary China Page 4

Benoît Vermander

This paper examines both the revival of religious organisations and practices in China and what could be coined the “exit from religion” exemplified by the loss of religious basis for social togetherness and the instrumentalisation of religious organisations and discourse. It argues that “revival” and “exit” taken as a twofold phenomenon facilitate an understanding of the evolving and often disputed nature of China’s religious sphere throughout history as well as the socio-political stage that the country is entering.

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China’s Religious Danwei Page 17

David Palmer

This article is a study of the continuities and changes in the state-led institutionalisation of religion in the PRC from 1979 to 2009 and their effects on the structuring of China’s religious field. A normative discourse on religion is constituted by a network of Party leaders, officials, academics, and religious leaders. Official religious institutions have become hybrids of religious culture with the institutional habitus of work units ( danwei) in the socialist market economy. A wide range of religious practices have found legitimacy under secular labels such as health, science, culture, tourism, or heritage. Religious affairs authorities have begun to acknowledge the existence of this expanding realm of religious life, and to accord discursive legitimacy to the previously stigmatised or ignored categories of popular religion and new religions, but hesitate to propose an explicit change in policy.

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Temples and Daoists in Urban China Since 1980 Page 32

Fang LingVincent Goossaert

Since 1980, the revival of Daoist temples in China’s urban environment has been developing in two different directions. On the one hand, “official” temples operated by the Daoist Association claim to embody a modern form of Daoism and offer a number of different religious services to the people. On the other hand, community temples refashion the religious life of neighbourhoods, often on the outskirt of cities. This article explores the complex relationships between these different kinds of temples, the lay groups who visit them, and the Daoist clergy who serve them.

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Rural Women, Old Age, and Temple Work Page 42

Kang Xiaofei

This article examines the interface of religion, gender, and old age in contemporary China through the case of a group of rural Han elder women and their community temple in northwestern Sichuan. Without access to monastic resources and charismatic leadership, the women have made the temple a gendered ritual space of their own to obtain social company, spiritual comfort, and moral capital for themselves and their families. Neither victims of feudal superstition nor obstacles to modernisation, they are a dynamic transformative force in contemporary rural China.

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Raising the Quality of Belief Page 54

Nanlai Cao

The paper addresses the changing dynamics of Protestantism in contemporary urban China through the lens of the Christian discourse of quality ( suzhi). Linking suzhi with processes of identity and subject formation in the Chinese Protestant community, the paper shows that the religiosity of today’s Chinese Protestants is not so much related to acts of spiritual seeking in a state-centred political framework as it is shaped by desires and practices of self-making among neoliberal individuals under rapid marketisation. It also demonstrates that Chinese Protestantism has undergone not just a quantitative increase but also a qualitative change that counters the one-dimensional representation of Christian religiosity in the post-Mao era.

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Social experimentation and “popular Confucianism” Page 67

Guillaume DutournierJi Zhe

The multiplicity of initiatives in China today that claim to be inspired by “Confucianism” calls for particular attention to the diversity of their practical application. In this case study, we analyse the formation and workings of a new kind of educational institution: initiated three years ago in the town of Tangchi (Anhui) by a Taiwanese Buddhist, but nonetheless strongly influenced by Confucian traditionalism, this “Cultural Education Centre” is inventing, somewhere between political control and moral proselytism, a new form of governmentality that could gain widespread acceptance.

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Lijiao: The Return of Ceremonies Honouring Confucius in Mainland China Page 82

Joël ThoravalSébastien Billioud

Part of a larger project on the revival of Confucianism in Mainland China, this article explores the case of the Confucius ceremonies performed at the end of September each year in the city of Qufu, Shandong Province. In order to put things into perspective, it first traces the history of the cult at different periods of time. This is followed by a factual description of the events taking place during the so-called “Confucius festival,” which provides insight into the complexity of the issue and the variety of situations encountered. The contrast between the authorities and minjian Confucian revivalists, as well as their necessary interactions, ultimately illustrates the complex use and abuse of Confucius in post-Maoist China.

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Kang Xiaoguang: Social Science, Civil Society, and Confucian Religion Page 101

David Ownby

This article examines the academic and intellectual career of Kang Xiaoguang, a prominent advocate of Confucianism and of the establishment of Confucianism as China’s state religion. It argues that Kang’s advocacy is rooted in a utilitarian vision of religion, and a pragmatic desire to encourage the development of healthy state-society relations in twenty-first century China.

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Current Affairs

China Analysis – The Petitioning System: A Major Challenge to “Social Harmony”? – Can Taiwan’s opposition reconstruct itself? Page 112

Candice Tran DaiHubert Kilian

Review Essay

Three Trends in Recent Studies of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Page 118

Wang Xiaoping

Book Reviews

Richard Madsen, Democracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan Page 130

David Palmer

Qian Liqun, Jujue yiwang: “1957 nian xue” yanjiu biji (Refusal to forget: Notes for “1957 studies”) Page 138

Yinde Zhang

Sergey Radchenko, Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967 Page 139

Steven M. Goldstein

Angus Maddison, Chinese Economic Performance in the Long Run Page 141

Jean-Paul Maréchal

Kevin J. O’Brien (ed.), Popular Protest in China Page 142

Dorothy J. Solinger

Laurence Roulleau-Berger and Guo Yuhua, Li Peilin, Liu Shiding (eds.), La nouvelle sociologie chinoise (New Chinese Sociology) Page 144

Aurore Merle

Su Chi, Taiwan’s Relations with Mainland China: A Tail Wagging Two Dogs Page 145

Jean-Pierre Cabestan



























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