Special Events

New Developments of Popular Religion in Post-Mao China: Deterritorialization, Feminization, and Budd

Thursday, The Heyman Center

he severe suppression that popular religion suffered in Maoist
China did not prevent its return when a more liberal religious policy
was implemented in the post-Mao years. The revival of popular
religion in contemporary China has been hailed by many scholars.
Based on her fieldwork in Southeast China, Yanfei Sun, however,
discerned several ongoing processes that have accompanied the
resurgence of ancient religious forms and that complicate a simple
“revival” story: firstly, the bonds between popular religion temples
and village communities have been attenuating; secondly, women
have come to play a more significant role in the communal religion,
which used to evince male domination; and finally, many
communal temples have initiated a process of “Buddhification,”installing Buddhist icons, building Buddha halls, holding Buddhist
ritual services, and inviting Buddhist monks or lay leaders to manage
temples, sometimes even at the risk of diluting their popular
religion identity.
Dr. Sun argued that the three interrelated processes have to
be explained by the interaction between the nature of popular
religion and the changing structural conditions of China’s rural
society, which include, above all, the removal of lineage associations
as the dominant power-holder and the outmigration of rural
residents.