Dancing with Ghosts and Spirits

Observations on Encounters with Supernatural Beings in Chinese Folk Religion and Literature
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room F

  • Organised by Anthony Hu
  • Anthony Hu, “A World of Ghost and Spirits in Ancient China: A Folk-Oriented Perspective”
  • Dirk Kuhlmann, “Getting the gui of the Land: On the Rediscovery of Taiwan’s Supernatural World”
  • Yang Sheng, “Chinese Intellectuals and Their Karmic Beliefs in the Anomaly World—As Shown in the Late Qing Collection Yeyu qiudeng lu
  • Daniela Murillo, “The Souls of Zhongguancun: Ghosts from the Past, Stories of the Present”

The folk religious and literary landscape of China is fascinating not only because it is inhabited by myriad ghosts and spirits including monsters and demons in the shape of animals, plants, birds, insects, and other living beings in heaven and on earth, but also because of their social relations and interactions with each other, in particular their interference in human mundane affairs. They coexist in the framework of a world of ethical-utilitarian dualism, that is, between good and evil. Being determined to pursue good fortune and avoid calamity, countless common people simply conduct ritual performances such as prayers and sacrifices in order to satisfy these supernatural beings whom they believe in, on the one hand; in cases when they fail to live a prosperous life, they believe it is due to the terrible influence of the evil ones and will seek the aid of magical spells, witchcraft, or other forms of exorcism, on the other hand. Ghosts, demons, and strange creatures of this negative kind are depicted in abundance in a wide range of materials, especially in literary accounts of the fantastic. These materials offer a significant glimpse into human lives, popular beliefs, customary regulations, and ritual practices, though some phenomena will still remain inexplicable. Therefore, in order to present an overall view on this aspect of the rich Chinese popular culture and profound religious beliefs, the panellists will explore the world of ghosts and demons in four presentations respectively focusing on the early and late classical literature as well as on modern and recent literature.

Anthony Hu, “A World of Ghost and Spirits in Ancient China: A Folk-Oriented Perspective”

The presentation focuses on the religious landscape of ancient China mainly depicted both in the book of Mozi 墨子 and the manuscript of the Rishu 日書 (Daybook) excavated at Chengguan Shuihudi 城關睡虎地 in Hubei Province in 1975. Although the former presents a world of ghosts and spirits from a socio-political point of view and its orientation is primarily connected with the circle of the elite class and culture, the source of which it makes full use contains anomalous writings from the contemporary popular culture of that time. The latter obviously comprises the hemerological material circulating among common people of ancient China and its foremost concern is ordinary people’s daily life. A holistic approach is thus employed to illustrate the strong visual world of ancient Chinese popular culture and religious beliefs in terms of the authors’ intentions, their writing style and readership, ritual performances, and worldviews. My purpose is not only to present various ghosts and spirits, regardless of being named or unnamed, as well as plants, animals, or other forms of beings by their respective origin, but also to compare those pieces of strange writings in the Mozi and the Rishu in an attempt to obtain an overall understanding of religious culture of Ancient China.

Dirk Kuhlmann, “Getting the gui of the Land: On the Rediscovery of Taiwan’s Supernatural World”

This paper will introduce a fascinating motif within Taiwanese literature: The rediscovery of stories dealing with the supernatural, i.e., ghosts (gui) and monsters (yaoguai), in a Taiwanese context as markers of a cultural identity. The focus of my analysis will be on novels with fantastic elements, two by indigenous authors of Taiwan, Neqou Soqluman’s Tonggu shafei chuanqi (The Legend of Tongku Saveq) and Badai’s Wulü (The Journey of a Wu Practitioner), and one by the Hakka author Gan Yao-ming entitled Sha gui (Killing Ghosts). In addition, I will discuss several publications which are presented as modern “accounts of the strange” (zhiguai) or even catalogues of supernatural beings specific to the island. There is a close interrelation and overlapping between these publications and other subgenres, such as fantasy literature or Manga graphic novels, and some of these records are rather tongue-in-cheek. However, at the same time, the works mentioned above also manage to connect popular culture, literature, and the academic world by cooperating with renowned scholars in folk religion and indigenous culture of Taiwan. The novels, the “accounts of the strange” as well as the catalogues share the genuine motivation to showcase unique features of Taiwanese culture, in particular its diversity, and make the readers aware of Taiwan’s history as a conflux of several cultures.

Yang Sheng, “Chinese Intellectuals and Their Karmic Beliefs in the Anomaly World—As Shown in the Late Qing Collection Yeyu qiudeng lu

Zhiguai 志怪 (records of anomalies)—a category of biji xiaoshuo 筆記小説 (narratives in note-form) – is a special genre in the history of Chinese literature. Such collections mainly contain hearsay narratives about ghosts, immortals, fox fairies, spirits, etc. collected by the authors/compilers in everyday life, and the stories are usually provided with commentaries by the authors. By approaching these stories, we can understand the worldview and values of Chinese intellectuals as well as the world order they believed in. The records of anomalies are not simply meant for the amusement of readers but they reflect the author’s way of thinking. Thus, analyzing the zhiguai stories is not only a study of Chinese literature but also research on the ideology of Chinese intellectuals. The zhiguai collections always include many stories about yebao 業報 (Karma or Vipāka). This paper will focus on Yeyu qiudeng lu 夜雨秋燈錄, an eminent zhiguai-collection of the late Qing period, its author Xuan Ding 宣鼎 (1832–1879) being a typical intellectual of the time in question. Most zhiguai stories in this work are composed with a karmic structure, i.e., the plot development follows a certain karmic logic. This presentation, by examining a typical story in this collection, will show how Chinese traditional intellectuals were influenced by the sanjiao 三教 thought—namely syncretic ideas of Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist origin.

Daniela Murillo, “The Souls of Zhongguancun: Ghosts from the Past, Stories of the Present”

Zhongguancun is one of China’s intellectual powerhouses; it is home for several of the most prestigious universities of the country, as well as for several of the most renowned Chinese tech giants. The “Chinese Silicon Valley” seems to have its eyes fixed in the future. Thus, not many would associate the area as a fertile place for folk beliefs and stories. Its present name “中关村” camouflages the past history of the area. Originally called “中官坟” (meaning “Tomb of middle officials,” or Eunuchs), the area was chosen in Ming and Qing Dynasty to bury high-rank officials, due to its good energy, or Feng Shui 风水. Important historical figures are believed to be buried in the area; such is the case of the Qing poet Nalan Xingde 纳兰性德 (1655–1685), whose family cemetery is believed to be located in nowadays Renmin University Campus. Ancient deaths, as well as more recent ones, give origin to a myriad of legends related to ghosts. As a result, its inhabitants have to find their own mechanisms to deal with these overwhelming interactions of different realms, bringing traditional means of protection into the predominantly intellectual environment. This paper aims to unearth, with the help of local informants, the beliefs on the supernatural present in the area of Zhongguancun, and how they shape the forward-moving spirit of the area.

Papers on Religion III

09:00 am – 10:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Laura Lettere
  • Zi Chen, “An Ethnographical Study of the Producers of Paper-Offerings in Shandong Rural Society”
  • Kai Wang, “The Migration and Its Impacts of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Monks in Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasty”
  • Zhenzi Chen, “The Strategic Features of Publishing Activities of Chinese Missionary Journals in Late Qing Dynasty”
  • Kaiwen Jin, “The Image of Taoism and Folk Belief in the Late Qing Dynasty and the Republican China—From the View of Intellectual Elites in Chengdu”
  • Xin Yang, “Taoism in the New Culture Invention Progress: A Landscape that the Statistic Analysis of Modern Newspapers and Periodicals Exposes”

Zi Chen, “An Ethnographical Study of the Producers of Paper-Offerings in Shandong Rural Society”

This essay is an ethnographical study of the producers of paper-offerings and their households, focusing on the roles played by these producers in the culture logics, social relationships, and religious life in the Chinese local society. Paper-offerings in Chinese belongs to a general category of traditional folk handicrafts and religious materials. They have been customarily used as a form of offering in funerary ceremonies and religious rituals staged for gods, ancestors, and ghosts in Han Chinese society since the Song Dynasty. The producers of paper-offerings could be regarded as craftsmen as well as “the household religious specialists”, and they play a key role to not only support the religious life in the village communities but also participate in the construction and function of the local societies. In the essay, I discuss the nature, characteristics, functions, and identities of the producers of paper-offerings, in order to understand the roles played and the position occupied by this group in the village communities, and the relationships between the people working on religious production and the local society, from the perspective of the producers of religious articles themselves and the villagers. I also compare the producers of paper-offerings to a larger group of household religious service providers (Chau 2006; 2010) to discern the operation of household religious service systems in the local society.

Kai Wang, “The Migration and Its Impacts of Jiangsu and Zhejiang Monks in Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasty”

The monks’ travelling around or migration is a long-established tradition of Buddhism. The social changes in Jiangsu and Zhejiang in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties gave this tradition lots of new characteristics: On the one hand, the changes in the political situation has made monks more and more concerned about their own survival and promoted secularisation of Buddhism. For example, the form of chanting gradually changed from catering to the tastes of intellectuals to satisfying the tastes of the masses, the economy of monasteries changed from relying on gentry class donations to relying on commercial operation, and the daily life of monks shifted from traditional meditation work to religious rite work; these efforts of Buddhist monks to actively take part in social affairs in their migration have made people in the middle and lower classes more and more involved in Buddhism, which has triggered the movement of Buddhist life. For example, in the funeral ritual, it changed from traditional burial to Buddhist cremation, in the concept of wealth from traditional self-sufficiency to the multi-sufficiency, and in daily life, it changed from focusing on the family to focusing on the neighbors. These interesting changes not only reflect the internal logic of the development of Chinese Buddhism, but also the diverse evolution of social beliefs during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

Zhenzi Chen, “The Strategic Features of Publishing Activities of Chinese Missionary Journals in Late Qing Dynasty”

In the late Qing Dynasty, the publication of periodicals was one of the most influential activities of Western “Social Gospel” Protestant missionaries in China. This paper focuses on the “strategic” characters of these Chinese missionary journals published in the last 50 years of the late Qing Dynasty. The underlying assumption of the paper is that the “Social Gospel” faction in China was not only a theological direction but also a strategic choice to attract Chinese potential readership. Publishing of these journals as the main vehicle of “social gospel” should also be regarded as a strategic activity, to ensure the legitimacy of its existence, explore the needs and tastes of readers, seek economic self-support and maximise its role. Based on this assumption the following characters of these journals should be noticed and discussed: from the external perspective, these journals were strategically positioned in the interwoven social network of missionaries and secular world in China. From the internal perspective, the scientific, informational, and religious materials were strategically organised according to the changing situation. The Confucian discourses were strategically reconstructed to serve as a contrast and foil to Christianity. In the explanation of the nature of a journal, the missionaries combined this newly imported western medium with the tradition of collection of folk songs (采风) in ancient China at the political level. And the identification of missionaries themselves in the journals always swayed between western “scientists” and traditional Confucian scholars, but their identity as missionaries was always intentionally concealed.

Kaiwen Jin, “The Image of Taoism and Folk Belief in the Late Qing Dynasty and the Republican China—From the View of Intellectual Elites in Chengdu”

Under the impact of western culture in the late Qing Dynasty and the Republican China, the conflict between tradition and modernisation became more intense in China. Under such circumstance, Taoism, as a native religion, together with its related folk beliefs, suffered much more queries and criticism as never before from Chinese intellectuals. Although Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, was located in southwest China, which was more isolated and uninformed than the coastal areas in theory, and enjoyed a high status in Taoist history, many traditional concepts here were still greatly affected by western culture. Besides individual publications and local chronicles, the intellectual elites could express their various kinds of opinions through new media at that time like newspaper, magazine, and periodical, which were more popular and widespread than traditional ways. Most of them preferred to show their dissatisfaction, rather than sympathy to Taoism and were even more radical when talking about folk beliefs, though they sometimes admitted that the tradition did have its positive and valuable side.

Xin Yang, “Taoism in the New Culture Invention Progress: A Landscape that the Statistic Analysis of Modern Newspapers and Periodicals Exposes”

Newspapers and Periodicals were active media in the formation of new knowledge and common sense in Late Imperial China after 1840 and Republican China. It is not hard to figure out that when observing the concept, knowledge, belief, and mind change in the first half 20th century China, they are important sources. At the same time, as the new-emerging Digital Humanity approach rapidly developing, it exposed to us some new landscape. It is commonly agreed that Taoism was heavily criticised under the background of embracing modernity in the 20th century. However, when searching the keyword “Taoism” based on Quanguo baokan suoyin, a database that collects Newspaper and Periodicals from 1833–1951 and includes more than 50 million literature, it is surprising to notice that the keyword “Taoism” is no more often mentioned during 1910–1920, when the “New Culture Movement” that characterised itself as radically against “tradition occurred, than in 1930–1940. This article firstly tries to explain this phenomenon that why Taoism seemingly didn’t generate so much attention during the decade when it was supposed to be, but why suddenly more discussion in 1930–1940? Secondly, in the whole results, the two English publication: North-China Herald and Supreme Court & Consular Gazette, count nearly half of the total records mentioned “Taoism”. This article aims to compare the content emphasis difference between Chinese and English written world. In this way, through the lens of the important media at that time, it contributes to reveal position of Taoism in the so-called New Culture Invention Progress.

Papers on Religion VI

11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Friederike Assandri
  • Jakub Otčenášek, “Time Against Time: Types of Millennialism in the Early Way of the Celestial Masters”
  • Valente Lee, “New Light from Chu Divinatory Bamboo Slips: Issues on the Practices of Divination in ca. 4th Century BC”
  • Ann Heirman, “Insects in Chinese Buddhist vinaya Commentaries: From Non-Killing to Release and Protection”
  • Mariia Lepneva, “The Life-Giving Power of the Word: Generation Demarcation Stanzas and Buddhist Lineage Formation in Early Modern China”
  • Tsintsin Peng, “Evolution and Enlightenment. Taixu and His Writing of Buddhist History”

Jakub Otčenášek, “Time Against Time: Types of Millennialism in the Early Way of the Celestial Masters”

Chinese millennialism (millenarianism, messianism etc.) has been distinguished mainly by two features—the notion of the Great Peace (as a Chinese version of Millennium) and the cyclic time. Tianshidao, or the Way of the Celestial Masters, has been often presented as crucial for the development of Chinese millennialism. This paper is focused on the texts of its early stage (2nd–5th century) with the following questions: Does the term Great Peace always refer to millennialism? Is there a unified millennial worldview or are we dealing with various kinds of millennialism? Is there just a one-time model associated with the Great Peace? Is the cyclic character its dominant feature? The conclusions are based on the observation of the relations between different worldviews presented by the texts and the models of time they employ.

Valente Lee, “New Light from Chu Divinatory Bamboo Slips: Issues on the Practices of Divination in ca. 4th Century BC”

Divination is an important occult ritual which correlates not only to the religious realm but also aids the crafting of one’s secular life. Bu (pyromancy) and shi (stalk divination), both categorised as “inductive divination” in technical terms, were the most dominant forms of divination in early China. They required not only observation and interpretation of portents but also artificial “production” of portents, which allows human manipulation of divinatory events.
Previous scholarship has revealed a dramatic change in the function of divination, namely that divination became not only a means of informing the diviners about the future, but of also controlling the future, during the late Shang and early Western Zhou (i.e. ca. 11th c. BC), but its subsequent development in later periods remains under-explored.
New documentary evidence shows that the use of divination as a fate-controlling agent was regularised and systematised toward the 4th century BC. The paper surveys a cache of the Warring States divinatory records, commonly known as divinatory bamboo slips (bushi jian) of the Chu State. The evidence bears witnesses to unprecedentedly systematic practices of “repeated divination” and “secondary divination”, through which diviners were able to direct the ultimate divinatory results to fulfil his pre-expected outcomes. It is suggested that more than a consultant, diviners had taken a more active role as the moderator of divinatory results. The article analyses the role of men’s will and intervention in divination and argues that divination was deliberately “made” into an agent that achieved a desirable life in ca. 4th century BC.

Ann Heirman, “Insects in Chinese Buddhist vinaya Commentaries: From Non-Killing to Release and Protection”

While it is well-known that Buddhist texts call for the protection of all living beings, humans and animals alike, it is less clear what this exactly implies. What does protection involve? How far does it go? Are guidelines equal to all animals? In this paper, we pay attention to the tiniest animals, the insects, often seen as insignificant or annoying, but sometimes also as dangerous, or, on the contrary, useful to human beings. Our study focuses on a crucial period of Chinese Buddhism, going from the fifth century to the Tang Dynasty (618–907), a period when a wealth of major Indian vinaya (disciplinary) texts was translated to Chinese, laying the foundation of Chinese Buddhism. We rely particularly on the commentaries and guidelines of Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667), who laid down the standard for monastic behaviour in China for centuries to come, even up to contemporary times. In his texts, Daoxuan strongly adheres to the Indian vinayas, and in this way, he argues for a ban on killing and harming animal life, including insects. As we will see, however, Daoxuan extends the vinaya arguments to advocate for the protection of insects in all situations. As a consequence, he cannot but plea against many economic realities, such as agricultural practices or the harvest of honey and silk, even if this is strongly opposed to Chinese customs and, in the case of silk, even to Chinese identity.

Mariia Lepneva, “The Life-Giving Power of the Word: Generation Demarcation Stanzas and Buddhist Lineage Formation in Early Modern China”

When Buddhist masters in Early Modern China wished to establish a new lineage, they did so by composing ‘generation demarcation stanzas’ (paibeishi 派輩詩), according to which the names of neophytes would be reshaped to show their spiritual succession and factional fraternity. A character from the verse would be grafted into the clerical name of a novice at tonsure, and for the most outstanding monastics another naming metamorphose would occur at the time of dharma transmission. This paper probes into how far Buddhist masters could fare in forming new lineages, and what were the pitfalls of applying this poetic tool to fuel partisanship. The case under scrutiny here is a reformist move by an eighteenth-century Vinaya patriarch Wenhai Fuju who sought to shift the point of ascribing lineage affiliation from tonsure or dharma transmission to precepts reception. Through the close reading of relevant writings by Vinaya masters from the sixteenth through the early twentieth century, the current research reveals how personal attribution to a lineage and its alteration was perceived, and then moves on to unveil the intricacies and implications of calibrating the wording of a generation demarcation stanza. Finally, the actual fortunes of Wenhai Fuju’s reform are traced and the main factors affecting its implementation are identified by analysing at the biographies of his disciples.

Tsintsin Peng, “Evolution and Enlightenment. Taixu and His Writing of Buddhist History”

From Late Qing to Republican China, the traditional narrative of Buddhism has been challenged by the concept of linear time and the modern evolutionary view of history. Taixu 太虛, the leader of the ‘doctrinal reform’ of Buddhism, is one representative figure who made his effort to establish a pragmatic, critical, and structured Buddhist history focused on change, continuity, and relationship. The aim of my study is to demonstrate Taixu’s understanding of the origin, development, and periodisation of Buddhism and his fundamental concept of history. Based on a preliminary investigation of Taixu’s literature on history, I point to his endeavor to reconcile the cosmological conflicts between Buddhism and the modern worldview and his concerns about the future of Buddhism in the project of Chinese modernisation. I argue that the writing of Buddhist history represents how Chinese Buddhists interpreted the past of Chinese Buddhism beyond the traditional sectarian narrative and understood the causality behind historical changes from a ‘modern’ Buddhist perspective. This historiographical approach toward Buddhism not only demonstrates the new paradigm of the formation of Buddhist knowledge in practice and in discourse, but also contextualises the tension between the ‘theological truth’ and ‘historical truth’ in modern Buddhist scholarship. The inherent paradox of ‘evolution’ and ‘decline’ in Taixu’s narrative also inspires reflections on the dominant model of ‘revival’ in current studies of modern Chinese Buddhism, which is deeply influenced by the modern presupposition of revolution and Buddhist modernists’ self-construction.

Religious Literacy and Moral Education in Republican Texts

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room F

  • Organised by Richard Ellguth
  • Richard Ellguth, Chair
  • Eugenia Werzner, “Between Politics and Science: Paving the Way for ‘Religious Studies’ (zongjiaoxue) in Late Qing and Early Republican China”
  • Lisa Lindkvist Zhang, “’Elevated Religion’: Narrations of Indian Philosophy in Republican China”
  • Marius Oesterheld, “From Dieting to Savings Accounts–Asceticism in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Advice Literature”

During the late Qing dynasty, China experienced a gradual disintegration of the traditional taxonomy of the ‘‘three teachings‘‘ (sanjiao 三教) and a readjustment of previous categories such as heresy (xiejiao 邪教) and orthodoxy (zhengjiao 正教) became necessary. This period, marked by a growing influence of Christian missionary groups, new educational institutions and advancements in print technology gave rise to entirely differentiated discourses on ‘’religion(s)’’ (zongjiao 宗教). In the early 20th century, the actual multiplicity of voices in the Chinese spiritual landscape was starting to be reflected in the domestic print culture. Given the stipulation of freedom of religious belief and the official recognition of five religions (Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism and Daoism) in 1912, it became clear to many intellectuals and large parts of the public that foreign religious groups could no longer be ignored or simply classified as ‘‘heterodox‘‘. At the same time, popular sects and local cults increasingly came under attack from state-led anti-superstition campaigns.
In Republican China, this new environment played itself out in a spectrum of diverse discourses and the one that can be labelled as ‘‘religious literacy‘‘ turned out to be of vital significance. Writings concerned with promoting religious literacy cover on the one hand texts that introduced new knowledge on religion(s), religious groups and spiritual traditions, thus pursuing purely scholarly or educational ends. On the other hand, we find highly creative continuations of the tradition of writings concerned with the moral cultivation of individuals. These texts, which drew inspiration from a wide range of sources, including Japanese ethics textbooks, academic works on psychology and education, English-language self-help books and Christian devotional literature, developed various strategies of reconciling universalist categories like civilisation and progress with China’s philosophical and religious heritage.
The papers in this panel investigate particular genres of texts that engaged with these concerns while emphasising the development of concepts, neologisms, and discursive strategies.

Eugenia Werzner, “Between Politics and Science: Paving the Way for ‘Religious Studies’ (zongjiaoxue) in Late Qing and Early Republican China”

This paper will address writings from the late Qing and early Republican period (ca. 1900–1930) that dealt with “religious studies.” These writings show that the ideas on the object, methodology, and motivation of this new academic discipline underwent an evolution in the first three decades of the 20th century. At first sight, this evolution could be described as a change from a politically motivated talk on “religion” to the persuasion of purely scholarly ends. Indeed, while Liu Shipei 劉師培 and his contemporaries emphasised the superiority of the “original” religion of the Han (ancestor worship) over the “polytheism” of the “barbarians” and the foreign religions like Christianity and Islam, the scholars of the later decades seemed to approach “religion” in a purely scientific, disinterested way. Apart from introducing new knowledge and data on religion(s), they reframed the traditional ancestor worship, regarding it either as one of the numerous “primitive religions” or as a manifestation of “animism” or “fetishism.” A closer look at the Republican research shows that it was not as objective as it might appear since it also tried to meet the political demands of the day. Tracing the emergence and usage of some key concepts (“religion(s)”, “religious scholar”, “primitive religion”) in the period of 1900–1930, this presentation tries to discern different positions communicated in public and scientific texts. At the same time, it tries to reconstruct the deeper concerns of what at first sight seems to be the promotion of religious literacy and the introduction of “religious studies”.

Lisa Lindkvist Zhang, “’Elevated Religion’: Narrations of Indian Philosophy in Republican China”

The limited scholarship that exists about Indian philosophy in Republican China has tended to focus on Buddhist philosophy, with most of the attention centred on the supposed ‘‘scientificity’’ of Yogacara philosophy. In this paper, I argue that while ‘’science’’ was an important constituent in descriptions of ‘’Indian philosophy’’, most Republican accounts of this late 19th century East Asian neologism, regarded it not as scientific but as the religious philosophy par excellence. Liang Shuming 梁漱溟 claimed that the foundation for Indian philosophy was “elevated religion” (gao zongjiao 高宗教)—religion which was philosophical and transmundane or chushi 出世, and Zhang Zhengfan 張正藩 maintained that “what is called Indian philosophy is completely derived from religion”. If the emergence of Yogacara philosophy as a scientific philosophy was in large part a home-grown East-Asian idea, operating as a discursive strategy to counter Western colonialism, then the depiction of Indian philosophy as ‘’religious’’ can be ascribed to the accelerated worldwide circulation of shared knowledge at the turn of the last century. The main concerns of scholars who researched Indian philosophy in Europe and India at the time were related to its “religiosity”’ and/or “spirituality,” due to its perceived indebtedness to Hinduism/Brahmanism, or the Astika/Orthodox schools. As these considerations were carried over the seas and transplanted in East Asia contexts, they equally became questions for scholars of Indian philosophy there, leading to novel articulations of this “superior religious” philosophy.

Marius Oesterheld, “From Dieting to Savings Accounts—Asceticism in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Advice Literature”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Max Weber argued in his reflections on the Protestant ethic that the spirit of capitalism—in his eyes a Western invention—was rooted in inner-worldly asceticism. Of course, the causal relationship between religious value systems and economic development he postulated has since been discredited as overly simplistic. Nevertheless, Weber’s depiction of a Protestant entrepreneurial spirit based on self-denial as the motor of progress follows a master narrative of the time that informed discourses on moral education in Europe and the US and even exerted considerable influence in China. There, it encountered a system of moral thought built on Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian elements which were held together, among other things, by shared apprehensions about wantonness and excess. The results of this encounter are reflected for instance in debates on dietary and spending habits. During the early Republican era, Daoist and Buddhist views on nutrition were reframed as scientifically proven methods of improving hygiene and public health. Time-honoured exhortations not to drink, gamble, and womanise were combined with information on personal savings accounts to transform frugality into a civic virtue.
Drawing mainly on works by Liu Renhang 劉仁航 and Zhu Lin 朱麟, this paper will examine how, by adopting the vocabulary of self-restraint that permeated earlier prescriptive literature, blending it with corresponding aspects of Euro-American self-help literature, and linking it to overarching narratives of nation-building, imperialism, and civilisational progress, Chinese advice literature of the early twentieth century created a new syncretic ethos of self-mastery.

Papers on Religion V

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Yee Yak Elliot Lee
  • Lu Chen, “The Moving Temple一A Study on the Religious Associations of Fishermen in the Eastern Part of Tai Lake”
  • Yeh-Ying Shen, “The Role of Women in Yiguan Dao 一貫道”
  • Yuanjie Zhang, “Mass Communication of Religious Culture in E-Commerce: Taking Religious Products in ‘Taobao’ and ‘Weidian’ as Examples”
  • Grete Schönebeck, “Contemporary Graves as a Space of Change and Continuity”

Lu Chen, “The Moving Temple一A Study on the Religious Associations of Fishermen in the Eastern Part of Tai Lake”

Fishermen from the east Tai Lake constituted a marginalized group that was at the bottom of local social stratification. From the oral history of fishermen, a large number of religious associations were founded around the 1930s. These associations played an important role not only for fishermen’s religious life but also in regard to their-self-governance as a marginalized community. After the Chinese Cultural Revolution, fishermen’s religious associations revived. Though the state control on Chinese popular religion and local society is increasing in recent years, fishermen’s religious associations have well-organized structure and still play a certain role on self-governance, and every year they organize several big temple festivals which have been legitimized by the state in the name of “Intangible culture heritage”.
This project will exam fishermen’s religious associations as a folk social institution in
contemporary Chinese society. I will look at how fishermen’s religious associations recreate a sense of fishermen’s religious community and identity which displays a certain amount of autonomy from the state authority in this huge transforming Chinese society, and fishermen’s personal understanding of their religious life in this changing society.
Through ethnographic research, this project provides a thick description of fishermen’s religious associations and their interaction of different actors in the local context; it also provides a lens to through which to understand how religious transformation connects with other spheres of social transformation, such as an economic change in modernizing China.

Yeh-Ying Shen, “The Role of Women in Yiguan Dao 一貫道”

The role of women in Yiguan Dao is related to their significant teachings: The Rise of the Female Era (kundao yingyun 坤道應運). This notion emerged as China’s modernization began. Kundao 坤道, which originates from I-Ching, refers to the female gender; and yingyun 應運 indicates that women could have more opportunities to present themselves alongside having influences on all the domains of our societies.
Sun Huiming 孫慧明, who is one of Yiguan Dao’s 18th patriarchs, represents the symbol of kundao yingyun as she was the single female patriarch for the entirety of their duration. Sun’s characteristics, which appeared to be forbearing, self-sacrificing, yet with good leadership, also provide a model for women who convert to Yiguan Dao.
In contemporary Yiguan Dao, women do enrich the communities via their participation. They play a supportive role, as well as undertake the responsibility of being clergy. Some of them are also freed from the traditional patriarchalism in Chinese society through the religious missions they opt for. Modern feminism should not be the major reason for women’s progressive role in Yiguan Dao. However, it is the notion of kundao yingyun that promotes the trend. Thus, Sun Huiming’s image appears to be important and implies that women have gained the right to speech through cultivation.

Yuanjie Zhang, “Mass Communication of Religious Culture in E-Commerce: Taking Religious Products in ‘Taobao’ and ‘Weidian’ as Examples”

This paper will analyze the new features of the spread of religious culture in the new media by analyzing the phenomenon of religious products selling well in online shopping platforms represented by Weidian 微店 and Taobao 淘宝 in recent years. Some scholars have studied the monk’s using of the Internet and social media. However, this article observes that the innovation of religious communication is constantly improving on the Internet, and has expanded to the fields of e-commerce and cultural creativity industry. With the development of the self-media, many religious groups or monks have begun to attach importance to cultural communication and image building on the Internet. They attracted a large number of young, highly educated, non-local believers, and gradually formed new religious communication communities. Facing new media and audiences, the innovation of religious products makes it easier for religious culture to adapt to the development of the times and meet the actual needs of believers. Moreover, from the innovative expression methods and tools一expanding the influence of the network-spreading religious culture-selling creative religious products-building a new image, a more complete religious-cultural communication chain is being formed on the Internet

Grete Schönebeck, “Contemporary Graves as a Space of Change and Continuity”

Since the early 20th century, Chinese politicians repeatedly engaged in the question of how to deal with the dead. Different regulations and reform plans promoted the change of what is being named traditional funeral culture (chuantong binzang wenhua 传统殡葬文化) into a modern, sanitary, space, and resource-saving practice of dealing with the deceased. Regularly, Chinese media reported, how people did not oblige to those standards. This paper presents findings based on field research on some 30 graveyards all over mainland China in 2014/15 that show how graves reveal on the one hand the state’s commitment to overthrowing old wasteful practices and on the other hand, people’s search for the adequate burial of their ancestors. It is further argued that the interaction between administrative restrictions and the bereaved create new burial practices that undergo continuous modifications but at the same time this process of negotiating guarantees that the needs of the bereaved as individuals and in the more extensive context of their families are being met.

A Historical Semantics Perspective on ling

2:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised and chaired by Christian Meyer
  • Joachim Gentz, “How ling is ling? Ling 靈 as an Exanimate Classifier Relating to a Conceptual Religious Realm”
  • Friederike Assandri, “Ling in Early Medieval Daoism”
  • Vincent Goossaert, “Ling as Divine Presence in Daoist Narrative and Ritual”
  • Esther-Maria Guggenmos, “The Plot-Engine—Ling 靈 as a Narrative Means in Early Buddhist Biograhies”
  • Stefania Travagnin, “Meanings of ling in Modern Buddhist Discourses”
  • Matthias Schumann, “The Powers of the Psyche: Hypnotism, Psychical Research, and the Secularisation of ling 靈 in Republican China”
  • Nikolas Broy, “‘This Numinous Light’: The Notion of lingguang in Late Imperial and Contemporary Chinese Popular Sects”
  • Adam Yuet Chau, “Storied Spirits: Constructing Efficacy (lingying 靈應) and the Strange (lingyi 靈異) Through Telling Tales”

This double-panel presents and discusses results from a specialized workshop on the Chinese term ling 靈 that took place in 2019. The character is widely known in academia as a key term for understanding Chinese local or popular religion where it is often translated as ‚efficacy‘ denoting the miraculous power of a temple or deity. The character, however, has older roots in antiquity. Later meanings were added through its uses by Buddhism and Daoism creating a broader notion of ‘numinous’ or ‘superhuman’. Until today such usages are effective when it comes to traditional Chinese medicine, divination, medium practices, Qigong, or, Japanese reiki 霊気. The story took a new turn when monotheistic traditions (Islam, Christianity) entered the Chinese linguistic field and the term was also adopted by missionaries as translation of the “holy spirit” as shengling 聖靈 in the protestant Bible. From this base, the term broadened again in the early 20th century when it became used for ‚spiritual practice‘ (lingxiu 靈修) or ‚spirituality‘ (lingxing 靈性) in general.
The project related to this double-panel aims to reconstruct the complex processes by which the premodern term ling has developed into a widespread and still puzzling term. The selected papers concentrate on various premodern traditions (panel 1), but also look at the continuities and transformations in the modern period (panel 2). Based on short presentations the panel will offer space to discuss relevant questions of translation as well as methodological problems with a wider audience.

Joachim Gentz, “How ling is ling? Ling 靈 as an Exanimate Classifier Relating to a Conceptual Religious Realm”

In early Chinese texts, the term ling has manifold meanings. The HYDCD lists 20 meanings of the term. Yet, if the meanings of the term are reconstructed in their respective contexts then a particular function rather than a meaning of the term seem to dominate the usage of the graph in early Chinese texts. Ling in most cases takes on a classificatory function as a label that qualifies something as belonging to a spiritual realm that is not defined in more specific detail. While thus acknowledging some general kind of spiritual quality it avoids to commit itself to any specifity. In early Chinese texts ling, therefore, appears mainly as an alienated term, a term in quotation marks, a categoriser, an indicator of an exanimate conceptual space that assigns a quasi-religious quality to something without determining the exact mode of its usage. The usage of ling can be metaphorical, allegorical, ritual, aesthetic or, indeed, religious in some indistinct way. It can, in a loose associative sense, refer to aspects of spiritual qualities such as goodness, power, superiority or auspiciousness. It can also de-secularise something in a very general sense and for various reasons. The paper will provide an analysis of textual examples from early Chinese texts to further support the hypothesis that ling is best understood as a graph with a classificatory function rather than a term with a range of lexical meanings.

Friederike Assandri, “Ling in Early Medieval Daoism”

The paper will present an inquiry into the use of the term ling in early medieval Daoism. One major focus of the analysis is the question of cosmological realms where ling is imagined or comes from.
The most prominent usage of the term ling occurs as part of the compound lingbao, which marks “a new Daoist lineage, with a new ritual program and cosmological conceptions” (Raz 2004, 6). In this context, the meaning of the term ling has been interpreted as “heavenly, divine, numinous” (Kaltenmark 1960).
This paper will expand the discussion, presenting an analysis of the usage of the term in different Daoist texts. Beginning with the “classic” Daode jing, where the single occurrence seems to point rather to the underworld than to the heavens as a “location” for ling, the paper will analyse different occurrences of the term ling in several early medieval Daoist texts, including the Purple Texts and the Scripture of Salvation, in order to establish semantic fields of the usage of ling.
It emerges that in early medieval Daoist texts the term ling if divorced from the term lingbao, has a broad range of semantic meaning. Thus the established notion of ling as the heavenly divine numinous, as it has been discussed in Daoist studies in the context of the term lingbao and the associated scriptural corpus, is but one of several notions that are associated with the term ling.

Vincent Goossaert, “Ling as Divine Presence in Daoist Narrative and Ritual”

One of the things ritual does is to create divine presence that can be sensed (seen, heard, felt…). One of the key terms used to describe this presence is ling 靈; notably, a frequent technical phrase I want to explore is “to make ling present in this world,” jiangling 降靈. This paper will look at both narratives (primarily, Daoist hagiographies) and liturgies (primarily, daofa 道法 manuals from the Daoist canon) from the Song to the late imperial period in order to chart the different ritual methods used to create such presence, and thereby to define the array of ways ling can be apprehended. A non-exhaustive list includes spirit-possession, dreams, spirit-writing, visualisations, and consecrating powerful images. All of these involve a priest who knows how to make ling present.

Esther-Maria Guggenmos, “The Plot-Engine—Ling 靈 as a Narrative Means in Early Buddhist Biograhies”

This paper traces the terminological field of so-called “spiritual efficacy”—ling 靈—in early medieval Buddhist biographical writing. The respective narrations in the Biographies of Eminent Monks (Gaoseng zhuan 高僧傳) partly borrow material from zhiguai literature. It is in these miracle tales that ling-related terminology is playing a crucial role as a narrative device. Ling is not only used in the context of designating certain supernormal abilities (shentong li 神通力). It is also applied in accordance with early medieval miracle tales as a means to denote efficacy—e.g. of a temple, a certain god, or by stating the power of a Buddhist relic. This also makes it a negotiated term in early Buddhism as it can mark the simple demand for proofs of efficacy and consistently the craving for such proofs can be seen as evidence of missing spiritual progress. The paper will delineate these various usages of ling-related terminology by focusing on how it is embedded in the narrations. While the concept of resonance, ganying, is by far the most prevalent organising concept of these early miracle tales (Campany), the deeper look at how the concept of “spiritual efficacy” is applied in the narrations reveals its central role as a “plot-engine” in some of the early Buddhist biographical literature.

Stefania Travagnin, “Meanings of ling in Modern Buddhist Discourses”

During the late Qing and the Republican period, Chinese Buddhism was characterised by a ‘narrative of reform’, which included a more conservative recovery of a lost tradition from the past as well as drastic innovations and significant changes to that tradition. Often, the study of the narrative of reform has intersected with the argument of a possible ‘revival’ of Buddhism at the dawn of the twentieth century. This paper will discuss definitions and uses of ling within the framework of the intellectual and practical spheres of modern Buddhism, especially in relation to the contemporary ‘narrative of reform’ and framework of ‘revival’. The first part of the presentation will address semantic patterns of ling that were shared by both premodern China and the Republican era, so to show the level of diachronic continuity; the paper will continue highlighting different nuances and new messages regarding ling that Chinese sources from the Republican period offer. The third section will look at intellectual debates from Taiwan in the first half of the twentieth century, hence during the Japanese occupation of the island. The last two parts of the presentation will demonstrate to what extent Christianity and Western cultural systems might have reshaped Chinese and Taiwanese Buddhist usages and understanding of ling and its compounds; moreover, especially for what concerns Taiwanese arguments, I will question degree and modalities of impact from Japanese intellectual and Buddhist discourses.

Matthias Schumann, “The Powers of the Psyche: Hypnotism, Psychical Research, and the Secularisation of ling 靈 in Republican China”

During the Republican period (1911–1949), the meaning of the term ling 靈 became increasingly complex as it picked up new scientific connotations stemming from psychology, physics, and psychical research (xinling yanjiu 心靈研究). In its scientific guise, it proved especially appealing to an urban constituency that sought novel ways of coming to terms with the spiritual dimension of human life but wanted to avoid the contested category of “religion.” In particular, a number of newly-founded psychical organisations used ling or xinling 心靈 to translate the novel term “psyche.” Most of these organisations devoted themselves to the study and application of hypnotism (cuimianshu 催眠術), which served as a self-cultivation method able to confer “psychic powers” on the practitioner and improve his or her physical and mental health. The functions of hypnotism were explained by reference to a universal psyche (ling/xinling) to which the individual human mind was connected. This psyche, practitioners argued, accounted for specific psychic phenomena but also offered the hope of providing a comprehensive understanding of the relation between matter and spirit. Borrowings from religious discourses notwithstanding, psychical researchers generally stressed the secular nature of their theories and criticised a belief in spirits and deities as “superstitious.” The changing meaning of ling thereby also illustrates some of the larger debates about science, religion, and spirituality during the Republican period.

Nikolas Broy, “‘This Numinous Light’: The Notion of lingguang in Late Imperial and Contemporary Chinese Popular Sects”

This paper explores the use of the compounds “numinous light” (lingguang 靈光), “numinous brightness” (lingming 靈明 or mingling 明靈), and “numinous nature” (lingxing 靈性) in Chinese popular religious sects from the Song period (960–1279) onward. In particular, it looks at discourses about the nature of human selves and the teachings that aim to restore them through spiritual cultivation and moral progression. Moreover, some sectarian tracts argue that humans’ primordial souls existed already before the creation of the cosmos, but they had been corrupted by mundane desires. In the first part, the paper investigates how Song period Buddhist and Daoist texts introduce lingguang and related terms as referring to humans’ innate capabilities of spiritual enlightenment. Part two looks at various sectarian writings from the Ming and Qing (1368–1911) periods and how they develop narratives of lingguang as referring to eternal selves. In particular, it analyses texts related to the Patriarch Luo 羅祖 (ca. 16th century) and “Former Heaven” (Xiantiandao 先天道) traditions. Finally, part three explores how the modern “redemptive society” Yiguandao一貫道 (“Way of Pervading Unity”) synthesises previous accounts and Neo-Confucian the concept of the “open, numinous, and unobscured” (xu ling bumei 虛靈不昧) nature of humans’ natures into a coherent spiritual system.

Adam Yuet Chau, “Storied Spirits: Constructing Efficacy (lingying 靈應) and the Strange (lingyi 靈異) Through Telling Tales”

The telling of tales (orally, in print or via modern audiovisual and electronic media) involving supernatural occurrences is one of the most prevalent and important activities in Chinese popular religion. These tales recount divine interventions as miraculous responses to pleas from worshippers, divine retribution for improper behaviour, divine reward for exceptional piety, ghost hauntings, and exorcisms or simply strange occurrences that defy rational explanation. But the contexts for telling these tales are as important as the tales themselves. This paper will examine some of these contexts (amongst festival-goers at temple festivals, during orientation camps for university freshers as well as in TV programmes dedicated to ‘strange tales’). The continuous reproduction of a culture of magical efficacy and the strange depends on the active participation of audience members and the construction of an ‘atmospheric’ suitable for telling such tales. For every actual experience of divine intervention or uncanny occurrence, there are ten-thousand fold tellings and retellings of the experience, through many mouths and on many different occasions.

Discourse Analysis of Chinese Buddhism

New Dimensions and Directions
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised and chaired by Wu Amiao
  • Wu Amiao, “A Study of Chinese Chan (Zen) Discourse from the Perspective of Postclassical Narratology”
  • Ke Xu, “Heterogeneous Isomorphism: Re-Interpretation of Xu Dishan’s Fate-Sharing Bird and The Web-Mending Toiling Spider
  • Xueting Wang, “Chinese Buddhism and Images of Tang Poetry”

In a massive body of scholarly study of religious discourse, Chinese Buddhism in particular, has been embellished with a broad and comprehensive investigation from various modern perspectives, spanning a historical survey to a cognitive analysis. However, specific research work needs to be done to address recurring research questions in terms of new perspectives and directions. This panel aims to present detailed research projects of Chinese Buddhist discourse from different lenses. We may hopefully direct our attention to areas that have been neglected and to spark more resourceful approaches to religious discourse. The first presenter Wu Amiao Wu will approach a widespread contention about Chinese Chan (Zen) discourse for its “special transmission”—no dependence on the written words, pointing directly to the mind. She believes that theories from post-classical narratology will help address the question “how to speak the unspeakable” for Chan discourse. Ke Xu will reinterpret two stories written by an esteemed Chinese writer Xu Dishan and make a comparative analysis of his works in terms of their different religious representations, in order to find out a common thread running through his works. Xueting Wang will focus on how Buddhist discourse connects and influence the poetry of the Tang Dynasty of China, and provide concrete case studies concerning the influence of monasteries on Tang literature.

Wu Amiao Wu, “A Study of Chinese Chan (Zen) Discourse from the Perspective of Postclassical Narratology”

Through the lens of postclassical narratology, the study will present an exploratory study of how Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhism stands on non-dualistic enlightenment by transcending words and pointing directly to the mind. The objectives of this study are 1) to explore how Chan masters go beyond conventional linguistic framework by employing Kōan system as a means to achieve their religious goal; 2) to try out if a postclassical narratological approach complements the interpretive study of Chan discourse. The study posits that the semantic significances of the dialogic exchanges in Chan do not reside in the isolated elements such as masters’ shouting, hitting, body language, and enigmatic language, but in the way, these strange acts and articulation are combined to defy the basic parameters of conventional narrative. Hence their unusual teaching could be well expounded and explored by postclassical narratology which is much directed toward an investigation of improbable and antiemetic discourse like Chan Kōans that violate standard narrative form and produce logically impossible and defamiliarising scenes or events. By taking a close look at unnatural elements in classic texts of Chan Buddhism Blue Cliff Record, we seek to find the rationale for Chan masters’ preoccupation with unnatural narrative strategies. Hence the study may reveal the role of postclassical narratology in analysing Chan discourse and demonstrate another way of probing and understanding the wisdom of Chinese Chan Buddhism.

Ke Xu, “Heterogeneous Isomorphism: Re-Interpretation of Xu Dishan’s Fate-Sharing Bird and The Web-Mending Toiling Spider

Xu Dishan was born in a family with a strong atmosphere of Buddhism but converted to Christianity in his youth. This special background enabled him to use different religious recourses to compose his early writings. Fate-sharing Bird, Xu Dishan’s first short story, was published by Novel Monthly in 1921, which borrows Buddhist allusions to tell a love story of a pair of young lovers. One year later, The Web-mending Toiling Spider, another short story written by Xu Dishan was also published by Novel Monthly, which tells about the love entanglements between a female Christian Shangjie and her husband Zhangsun Kewang. Normally speaking, Fate-sharing Bird is regarded as a Buddhism novel. At the same time, The Web-mending Toiling Spider is usually considered as Christian fiction. However, the similarities between these two fictions have never been discussed before. In terms of character portrayal, the dilemma of love is a common trouble faced by heroes. They both need to face impervious heroines who filled with a religious spirit. In terms of the structure of fictions, the exterior frameworks and the internal sensibility of both fictions are polyphonic. Specifically, the relationship between human nature and religion is the topic Xu Dishan focuses on, and the conflict and fusion between human nature and religion constitute the mainline structure of the two fictions.

Xueting Wang, “Chinese Buddhism and Images of Tang Poetry”

As a peak time for Chinese Buddhism and the golden age of literature, the Tang Dynasty of ancient China has been the object of much scholarly research. This research focuses on how Buddhism, especially its religious doctrine, has influenced Tang Dynasty poems. To be specific, since when and in what forms, this religion affects Tang poetry. Little has been explored on another important aspect of Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty, that is, the monasteries and religious life in its literature. By paying attention to the “High Tang”(Sheng Tang) period, the paper attempts to analyse these phenomena and discuss how they influenced the poets and the poetry of the Tang Dynasty. After the Tang Dynasty, Buddhist culture and poetry showed a new fusion in image expression. Most of the poems involve Zen language and Zen scriptures. The excavation of images concerned with temples and monks in the poems have enriched the expression of Tang poetry, such as “Vatican,” “Clock,” “To pass on the light of Buddha,” “Curly curtain,” and “Green Lotus.” Words with strong temple culture frequently appeared, and eventually became a specific image. This project will further investigate specific works to capture representative images, explain their meaning and significance, discuss the formation of Tang Zen poetic interest, and analyses its influence on the construction of artistic conception in Tang poetry.

Our Best Friends and Us

Reflections on the Manifold Relations of Human Beings and Animals
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 4

  • Organised by Markus Samuel Haselbeck
  • Chaired by Roderich Ptak
  • Markus Samuel Haselbeck, “Collecting the Inexistent—Mythical Creatures and Marvelous Birds in Early Qing Scientific Encyclopediae”
  • Phillip Grimberg, “Bestiarium Illustratum or Paintings as Documents—Animal Paintings at the Court of Emperor Song Huizong”
  • Marco Pouget, “Portents or Equals: Animals in Relation to Human Beings and Heaven in Wang Chong’s Lunheng
  • Raffaela Rettinger, “Birds of a Feather—The Changing Image of the Owl and Its Moral Instrumentalisation in Ancient and Imperial China”

Throughout the last few years, society’s view on our environment has strongly shifted; it is no more us humans alone, who are situated at the core of our world view, but our horizon has broadened, now also encompassing animals, plants and other forms of life as integral parts of our world. Animal ethics and environmental protection have made it necessary to review the complex relationship between us and other creatures. This shift alone clearly shows the need for further investigation of the relationship between us humans and our environment, both in the past and the present. The goal of this panel is to present conceptions of this relationship from three vastly differing epochs in Chinese history. Through their analyses of man-made media, i.e. literature, art, and philosophy, the three papers shall try to elucidate how humanity perceived of animals and reflected on them, during those times.

Markus Samuel Haselbeck, “Collecting the Inexistent—Mythical Creatures and Marvelous Birds in Early Qing Scientific Encyclopediae”

Animals have, since the beginning of time, occupied an important space in classical Chinese literature and sciences. People’s interest in the vast variety of creatures roaming all over our planet has sparked marvellous tales and collections of stories on fairytale-like animals in books like the Shanhai jing 山海經, the Bowu zhi 博物志 and many other examples from the zhiguai-genre. Early Qing Encyclopediae like Qu Dajun’s 屈大均 (1630–1696) Guangdong xinyu 廣東新語 or Song Guangye‘s 宋廣業 (Qing?) Luofu shan zhi huibian 羅浮山志會編, on the other hand, were trying to collect real information on topics such as natural phenomena, scientific explorations, geographical features as well as human, animal and plant life. Yet, taking a closer look at these Encyclopediae will quickly reveal several kinds of mythical creatures amid the real animals otherwise featured in those books. In this paper, I will set out to show how these creatures ended up in scientific literature and encyclopediae, and what implications this has not just on the understanding of animal life during Qing dynasty but furthermore on the relationship of humankind with other life forms.

Phillip Grimberg, “Bestiarium Illustratum or Paintings as Documents—Animal Paintings at the Court of Emperor Song Huizong”

Early on, animals like birds, insects, and fish, but also tigers, horses, and monkeys as well as a wide range of domestic animals have played an important role in Chinese painting, manifesting both symbolic and narrative qualities. Ever since the late Tang, nature, i.e. landscapes, became more and more popular as a subject among court painters and developed from a mere background motif to a fully-fledged genre during the early Northern Song period. Following this development, the painting of animals—and plants for that matter—became one of the most important subjects for the artists at the Imperial Academy of Painting (founded in 1104) under Emperor Huizong (1101–1125). In this paper, I shall try and show how and to what extend the naturalistic depiction of animals by Emperor Huizong himself as well as his court painters not only served an aesthetic purpose that was related to Daoist notions of naturalness and unsophistication but also demonstrates an almost documentary approach to the subject, echoing the Emperor´s proto-scientific interests in collecting, cataloguing, and antiquarianism.

Marco Pouget, “Portents or Equals: Animals in Relation to Human Beings and Heaven in Wang Chong’s Lunheng

How animals are treated is a crucial indicator of a society’s set of values. In modern times, animal ethics have coined terms such as “speciesism” or “anthropocentrism” to denote a society that places the human species in a supreme position. Ancient China seems equally as anthropocentric, relying on animals for ritual slaughter, food, medicine, transportation and agriculture. Animals were additionally viewed as signifiers of celestial will. Be they auspicious dragons or calamitous plagues of insects, in Han dynasty China, these animals were mostly reduced to their functions as portents. Their appearance and behaviour were made use of to illustrate philosophical and political arguments. In his monumental work, the Lunheng 論衡, Eastern Han thinker Wang Chong 王充 (27–97?) criticised the excessive superstitions and practices that had come to be associated with this omenology. Animals in Lunheng came to be assigned a different position in relation to humans and heaven. While they are still seen as useful for sage rulers to observe nature’s workings and determine political action therefrom, animals in Wang Chong’s view appear to exist out of themselves and without a predetermined role as portents. This, I argue, elevates them from their purpose-driven state. Wang Chong even seems to concede to animals the same position humans occupy between heaven and earth, with only the boundaries of their category (lei 類) separating them.

Raffaela Rettinger, “Birds of a Feather—The Changing Image of the Owl and Its Moral Instrumentalisation in Ancient and Imperial China”

Chinese tradition has ever since made use of animals as metaphors for human behaviour and gives them different moral understandings. While some are perceived positive, such as the phoenix or the swallow, others are interpreted negatively. A good example for such an understanding is the owl. While often associated as the bird of wisdom in the West, it came to symbolise being non-filial (bu xiao 不孝) starting with an entry in the Shuo wen jiezi 說文解字. From its first appearances in texts such as the Shan hai jing 山海經 and Shi jing 詩經, this paper explores how the image of the owl came to be, changed over time, and what might have led to these developments. A special focus lies on the utilisation of the owl for moral and political representation in works such as the Xunzi 荀子, or the Da dai li ji 大戴禮記 and their influence on later depictions in collectanea such as the Taiping guang ji 太平廣記 and the Ling biao lu yi 嶺表錄異. Here, problems such as the choice of characters and the utilisation of the owl’s image in philosophical and historical writings prove that the owl has a controversial stance in the Chinese tradition of using animals as a reflection of human behaviour.

Religious History of Modern Sichuan

Discussing Local Identities, Inter-Religious Borrowing, and Cross-Regional Networks
9:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room F

  • Organised by Stefania Travagnin
  • Stefania Travagnin, Chair
  • Stefania Travagnin, “From the Center to the Periphery: the Modern Buddhist History of Neijiang”
  • Lars Peter Laamann, “Catholic Smalltown Life in Late-Qing Sichuan”
  • Chongfu Zhang, “Origin and Spread of the Chuanzhu 川主 Worship”
  • Volker Olles, “The Twin-Monasteries–A Case Study of Urban Sacred Space in Sichuan”
  • Jiechen Hu, “Confucianisation of Taoist Rituals: ‘Dipper Altar Attributed to Wenchang’ in Late Qing Guizhou and its Sichuan Origin”
  • Yiqiao Yan, “Mapping Redemptive Societies in Wartime Chengdu, 1937–1945

Sichuan is a geographical area of China that so far has been less studied than other urban or coastal centers; yet, Sichuan was and remains an extremely influential region, especially for the formation and development of religious groups, modern political and military history, ethnic diversity, and transnational connections.

These two panels reflect on the religious and social texture of modern Sichuan, and thus contribute to the study of Southwest China as well as the field of modern history of Chinese religions. The panelists are part of the multi-year research project ‘Mapping Religious Diversity in Modern Sichuan’ (funded by the CCKF, 2017-2020), which analyses the five officially recognised religions and other religious manifestations (like Confucio-Daoist traditions, philanthropic organisations, new religious movements, spirit writing communities).

Organiser and chair of both panels will give an introduction to the narrative underlying and connecting the six presentations. The papers, which are based on archive research and fieldwork interviews, will explore different religious traditions and social groups; some papers will focus on the capital Chengdu and the Southeastern town of Neijiang 內江, others will address a plurality of sites; some papers will cover a few decades of religious history, others will emphasize specific moments like the second Sino-Japanese conflict. All papers will highlight unique features of the local identity of Sichuan religious history, and some will also underline the process of inter-religious borrowing and the formation of cross-regional networks.

Stefania Travagnin, “From the Center to the Periphery: the Modern Buddhist History of Neijiang”

Studies on modern history of Sichuan Buddhism have been limited mostly (or even only) to analyses of the monks Nenghai 能海 and Fazun 法尊, the nun Longlian 隆莲, the Sino-Tibetan tradition; and Chengdu, Chongqing and Mt. Emei emerged as the key places. However, an in-depth research on the history of Buddhism in Sichuan, from the Qing up to the mid twentieth century, reveals a richer picture, involving several rural and urban centers, overlapping monastic and lay networks, and a wide range of activities.

This presentation will contribute to the current scholarship on the modern history of Sichuan Buddhism with the study of the Buddhist communities of the town of Neijiang 內江, in Central Sichuan. My research will address three main elements: the historical development of Shengshui Monastery 聖水寺; the impact of the lay intellectual Wang Enyang 王恩洋 (1897-1964), especially the Eastern Culture and Education Research Center (Dongfang wenjiao yanjiuyuan 東方文教研究院); the modern history of ‘invisible’ yet relevant female communities, like the Xilin Nunnery 西林寺 and the nun Yuanhui 圓慧 (1902-1984).

‘Neijiang Buddhism’ mirrors key features of Han Buddhism in modern Sichuan, elements of the unique local culture from the Southeast of the province, but also shares significant patterns with the overall Chinese Buddhism during the first half of the twentieth-century.

Lars Peter Laamann, “Catholic Smalltown Life in Late-Qing Sichuan”

The Western missionaries who entered Qing China following the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858, concluded with resigned determination that China was a land of heathens, whose Christian beginnings had been extinguished after the Yongzheng edict of 1724. However, nothing could be farther removed from the truth. As the present paper will show, the communities founded by missionary congregations between 1600 and the 1720s continued to thrive, albeit by adapting to the changing political conditions. For Sichuan, the most important incision were not the missionary prohibition policies of the Yongzheng era, but the destruction wrought by the Three Feudatories warfare marking the middle of the Kangxi reign. In the subsequent economic reconstruction boom, millions of migrants arrived from other provinces, including many Christians. These Christian migrants either contributed to the existing Christian activity in the market towns and cities which they visited or even gained new converts, to their very own brand of Christianity. Importantly, most churches were not visible from the outside, being accommodated by wealthy Christian families in their homes. This paper cites evidence from the Baxian and Nanbu archives in historical Sichuan, combined with evidence from The Number One Historical Archives in Beijing and also some Western accounts.

Chongfu Zhang, “Origin and Spread of the Chuanzhu 川主 Worship”

The Chuanzhu 川主 worship is a cross-regional and cross-border cultural phenomenon, which is centred on the culture of water management. It is an important folk belief in China; yet, it still lacks a comprehensive and in-depth research. Historically, the Chuanzhu worship originated in Sichuan; it became soon extremely popular in southwestern provinces, in the Tibetan and Qiang regions, eventually spread throughout the whole country, and has even reached other areas in Southeast Asia, so to turn into a transnational phenomenon. This paper, which is based on historical documents and fieldwork research, discusses four main aspects of this religious and cultural reality: the paper will start with a discussion on toponymy of the Chuanzhu worship; the second part will provide an answer to the question “Who is Chuanzhu,” hence will shed light on the ambiguities around this deity; the third part of the presentation will explore the historical development and geographical spread of this belife; the final part of this study will explain texts and rituals associated to the worship of Chuanzhu.

Volker Olles, “The Twin-Monasteries–A Case Study of Urban Sacred Space in Sichuan”

The Longmen 龙门 (Dragon Gate) branch of Quanzhen Daoism spread rapidly across the area of Sichuan during the Kangxi reign (1662–1722) of the Qing dynasty, and the majority of Daoist temples in this region came under the management of Longmen masters. Two Quanzhen monasteries remain the most important Daoist sanctuaries in today’s Chengdu City. The first of these, the Qingyang gong 青羊宫, has a long history, it was and remains the major center of Quanzhen Daoism in Chengdu. Situated in close proximity to the Qingyang gong and regarded as the latter’s branch monastery, the Erxian an 二仙庵 was then turned into a public (shifang 十方) monastery, where large-scale ordinations were held, and was the location of a publishing and printing house for Daoist scriptures. Both Daoist monasteries maintained close contacts with the Liumen tradition in late Qing and Republican times. Based on the teachings of the Confucian scholar Liu Yuan 劉沅 (1768–1856), Liumen developed into a quasi-religious movement that constituted an important part of Sichuan’s civil society. The present splendor of the Qingyang gong is mainly based on extensive renovations that were funded by the Liumen community during the Qing dynasty. Furthermore, it appears that the Liu family and Liumen adherents sponsored liturgical festivals of the Qingyang gong and were involved in the publishing work of the Erxian an. Analyzing relevant epigraphical sources, this paper outlines the interaction between Liumen and the “twin-monasteries.”

Jiechen Hu, “Confucianisation of Taoist Rituals: ‘Dipper Altar Attributed to Wenchang’ in Late Qing Guizhou and its Sichuan Origin”

Dipper Altar attributed to Wenchang (Wenchang Doutan 文昌斗壇) was a community active in Guizhou area in Late Qing. The members produced several full-fledged collections of liturgical texts, namely Full Collection of Rituals in the Dipper Altar Attributed to Wenchang (Wenchang Doutan Quanke 文昌斗壇全科), “Ritual Systematisation of Wenchang (Wenchang Yizhi 文昌儀製), and Mysterious Documentation of Wenchang (Wenchang Midian 文昌秘典). The collections included varieties of rituals, especially Retreats for the deceased and Offerings for the deities, which were usually performed by Taoist ritual masters. They were nevertheless categorised as “Confucian” rituals by the editors. By comparing them with earlier texts, I will argue that these liturgical texts produced in late Qing Guzhou had several origins from early-mid Qing Sichuan, including: 1) Jin Bencun’s 金本存 Wenchang spirit-writing altars in Yongzheng and Qianlong reign; 2) the collection of Ritual Systematisation of Master Guangcheng (Guangcheng Yizhi 廣成儀製) in Qianlong reign; 3) the soteriological movements initiated by Longnü Temple 龍女寺 in Daoguang reign. And it was the Wenchang spirit-writing cult directed by Confucian literati that attempted to expand the boundary of “Confucian teaching” and absorb the ritual elements from Taoism and other traditions.

Yiqiao Yan, “Mapping Redemptive Societies in Wartime Chengdu, 1937–1945

Much of what has been written in English and Chinese about redemptive societies in Republic China shares the interpretation that these civic groups decreased in social importance during the Second Sino-Japanese War, gradually ceding their authority to the state. This document-based study of redemptive societies in wartime Chengdu questions this current understanding of the field by looking at crisis relief activities that flourished in the city during the 1940s. Rather than simply being locally organised and endorsed by local elites, like Wang Di, Stapleton and others conclude, these societies were led by the elites who were closely associated with government relief action at provincial and municipal levels. The social networks and activities of these social elites and their religious affiliations are therefore a crucial dimension to consider when examining the role of redemptive societies during the wartime. This study turns the focus to an analysis of the deeply rooted Daoist-influenced spiritual writing tradition that shaped the trajectory of the development of local charities. The archival files, social survey and other locally documented sources examined in this paper offer an opportunity to both deepen our understanding of Sichuan redemptive societies in the war years and to reflect on the broader historical development of modern Sichuan religion.

Papers on Religion IV

Family and Gender
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Anna Sokolova
  • Susan Naquin, “Chinese Female Deities: A History?”
  • Wanrong Zhang, “Women as Sex Object: The Female Image in the Religious Morality Text on Prohibiting Debauchery in the Qing Dynasty”
  • Thomas Jansen, “The Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷): A Late Imperial Chinese Marriage Guide?”
  • Stefan Kukowka, “Family Ethics in the Context of a Confucian-Buddhist Discourse—A Discourse Analysis of the Lay Education of ‘The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan’”

Susan Naquin, “Chinese Female Deities: A History?”

Prior to around the year 1000, most Chinese deities with wide followings were represented as either clearly male, comfortably androgynous, or not human at all. In the following centuries, gods who were explicitly female appeared and became ever more popular. This transformation has been recognised by those who are interested in such matters but not studied directly or systematically. Drawing on my own book-length research and adding to the more familiar histories of Guanyin 觀音 and Tianhou 天后 (Mazu 媽祖), this presentation will first examine the comparably regionally based but different processes behind the expansion of the worship of Bixia Yuanjun 碧霞元君in North China from the Song through the Qing.
The rise of these and other female deities and their prominence down to the present day has been understood as a success. Even research on China since 1850 has emphasised not only the destruction of the physical and organisational religious infrastructure but also its more recent and vigorous revival. For this period, however, the history of Bixia Yuanjun suggests a different story.
My presentation will therefore also use this northern example to invoke another trajectory. I will suggest instead that other processes have also been at work in the last century, processes that have undermined and diminished all female gods and even the pantheon more generally: amalgamation, homogenisation, and banalisation. I invite comparison with parts of China.

Wanrong Zhang, “Women as Sex Object: The Female Image in the Religious Morality Text on Prohibiting Debauchery in the Qing Dynasty”

This paper shows the female image in the male vision in the Chinese religions of the Qing dynasty by studying the Jieyinshu 戒淫书. Jieyinshu, the morality text on prohibition the debauchery, is a kind of book about sexual morality since the late ming dynasty, produced mainly by the religious groups and the literati. Man is the primary character in the books, taught by the gods in Taoism and Buddhism and the Confucians, and woman is the sex object, described as a dangerous and sexually seductive existent. This is different from the female teaching books (Nüjiaoshu 女教书), which focus on the teaching of female fidelity and have been studied by many scholars. Jieyinshu discusses the female body basing on the ancient religious disciplines and discourses, which require men to restrain women at their families to reduce the sexual temptation (Sugui 肃闺), in order to achieve the purpose of prohibition the debauchery. My paper compares the similarities and differences in sexual morality between Jieyinshu and Nvjiaoshu, and then studies the ideas and the ways of Sugui. As a group of material rarely studied, jieyinshu will provide a new perspective to understand the women’s body and social status at that time, particularly in terms of sexual behaviours and psychology.

Thomas Jansen, “The Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷): A Late Imperial Chinese Marriage Guide?”

The seventeenth-century witnessed a challenge to Confucian family virtues among the non-elite population. The ‘fierce wife’ or ‘shrew’ is a prominent theme in Pu Songling’s 蒲松齡 (1640–1715) collection Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋志異 (Strange Tales from the Liaozhai Studio). In an essay on the topic, Pu urged people to donate money for the printing of a Buddhist sutra which was supposed to restore the traditional power balance between husband and wife. The view that religious texts could be manipulated by their users to handle everyday affairs is occasionally echoed in the scholarly literature on Chinese religions but rarely examined in more detail. In my paper I will explore the use of religious texts as guidebooks for solving everyday problems, using a manuscript copy of the Precious Scroll of Henpecked Husbands (Pa laopo baojuan 怕老婆寳卷) as my case study. First, I will briefly summarise the content of this baojuan and then focus the analysis of the text on three questions: What information does the text yield about how it was used? Is it a text for men, women or both? How is the relationship between husband and wife conceptualised in this baojuan compared to, for example, the stories in Liaozhai zhiyi?

Stefan Kukowka, “Family Ethics in the Context of a Confucian-Buddhist Discourse—A Discourse Analysis of the Lay Education of ‘The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan’”

Founded by Ven. Jingkong (1927–) in 1989 and run by Ven. Wudao (1951–), “The Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan Society” (huazang jingzong xuehui 華藏淨宗學會) displays distinct characteristics in terms of its advocated path towards rebirth into Amitābha’s Pure Land. The mindful recollection or mere invocation of Amitābha’s name (nianfo 念佛) is not enough to achieve rebirth, instead, monastics and laypeople have to focus on this-worldly cultivation based on Confucian and Daoist scriptures. Jingkong and Hwa Dzan emphasise that the improvement of one’s fate—and therefore the chance to be reborn into the Pure Land—is not the result of humble worship or the efficaciousness of rituals or even the renunciation of all worldly distractions, it is rather based on moral conduct in daily life, through acts of filial piety, loyalty, honesty, and humility—which are de facto Confucian values. These ‘Buddhicised’ Confucian values are propagated through various channels (online media, press, dharma talks etc.) and address specifically the sphere of family ethics. Hence, this paper aims at analysing Jingkong’s and Hwa Dzan’s construction of a Confucian-Buddhist discourse community by applying Michel Foucault’s theoretical concept of ‘discourse.’ It became apparent that Hwa Dzan’s propagation reflects a strong centripetal inclination towards the centre of authority (Jingkong), thus creating an exclusive discourse community, and Hwa Dzan’s incorporation of non-Buddhist scriptures reflects a relative openness towards other traditions when supporting certain aspects of their interpretation of the Dharma.