A Reflection of the Interactions between Christianity and China

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised by Marco Lazzarotti
  • Marco Lazzarotti, “Rituals Encounters and Cultural Dialogue: Two Taiwanese Case Studies”
  • Raissa De Gruttola, “Transmitting Christianity in China through Written Texts: History and Linguistic Features of the Sigao shengjing 思高聖經”
  • Magdaléna Rychetská, “Cooperation or Resistance? Christian Mission in Authoritarian Chinese Societies”
  • Aleksandrs Dmitrenko, “The Image of Christianity in Chinese History Textbooks (1900–1949)”

The history of evangelisation in China has witnessed divergent developments according to the approaches used by the different Churches and, within the same Church, by different religious orders. Despite this difference, all the missionaries who have worked—and are working—in China have clashed with what Eric Zurcher defined as the “Cultural Imperative” of Chinese Culture. To deal with this Cultural Imperative, the missionaries have constantly sought the best way to transmit the Gospel by adapting it to the local culture without distorting it. Transmission is here conceived with a broad meaning, considering that this concept can be declined as cultural transmission, as well as historical or linguistic transmission. Moreover, the panel will try to place the transmission model in a wider and more complex context, namely the dialogic one. Within the dialogic approach, the papers will try to answer the following questions: How has the message been preserved in the transition from one culture to another? How much have loyalty and the effort to preserve the integrity of the message influenced its reception by the Chinese people? This Panel aims to present some examples of how the transmission of the Christian message has adapted in China during different historical periods and according to the reactions of the local people and the political situation.

Marco Lazzarotti, “Rituals Encounters and Cultural Dialogue: Two Taiwanese Case Studies”

This paper looks at two case studies of the way in which the Catholic Church in Taiwan has adapted to the local culture. The author describes two funerals set in the same parish in Taipei but performed very differently to meet the needs of the participants. The author analyses these funeral ceremonies as an encounter between cultures that he looks at the exchange of religions. Culture is analysed according to the anthropology of Clifford Geertz, whilst religious dialogue is presented according to two documents issued by the Vatican in 1984 (Dialogue and Mission) and 1991 (Dialogue and Proclamation). Particular attention is drawn to the role of a third party in any dialogue, in the case here, those non-Catholics who did not accept Catholicism.  The person as the place where dialogue is carried out is very important. The paper concludes that in Taiwan there is reciprocal interpretation of two cultural systems. In dialogue, people find the symbols which give meaning to their everyday life. The symbols of one cultural system slowly penetrate and root themselves in another, and vice versa. It is this endless (re)interpretation, negotiation, and accommodation that is called cultural dialogue.

Raissa De Gruttola, “Transmitting Christianity in China through Written Texts: History and Linguistic Features of the Sigao shengjing 思高聖經”

Despite the presence of Christian missionaries in China dates back to the end of the thirteenth century, at the beginning of the twenty-first century the Chinese Catholics did not have a complete translation of the Bible in the Chinese language. Up to the end of the nineteenth century, the role of the Bible in the evangelisation methods of the Catholics was not central while, on the contrary, when Protestant missionaries arrived in China, their main task was that of translating the Bible in Chinese. On the Catholic side, notwithstanding the precious and copious writing and translating activity of the Jesuits who published and distributed many books in Chinese in the seventeenth century, particular relevance was given to oral preaching and to the use of texts as catechisms, collections of biblical episodes, lives of saints, and prayer books.
In 1931 the Franciscan missionary Gabriele Allegra arrived in China and decided to translate the complete Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek texts into the Chinese language. Eleven volumes were published between 1946 and 1961, and the single volume was published in 1968. This version, known as the Sigao shengjing, is the one still used today in the Catholic liturgy.
The aim of this proposal is to analyse the features of this first complete Catholic Bible version in Chinese and to present the translating solutions of some peculiar words and key concepts. The study will give an outline of the linguistic choices made to transmit the Catholic doctrine to Chinese people from the second half of the twenty-first century.

Magdaléna Rychetská, “Cooperation or Resistance? Christian Mission in Authoritarian Chinese Societies”

In Chinese societies, Christianity is a foreign religious system that historically came to these Chinese societies together with colonial rules. Even today, some Chinese refer to Christianity as yangjiao 洋教, a term meaning a foreign religion. The paper is interested in political and social cooperation and negotiation of the observed Christian groups in the selected environment. The two different settings are the contemporary People´s Republic in China (1945–now) ruled by the communist government and the Republic of China in Taiwan during the period of martial law (1949–1987). The paper does not only confirm the domination-resistance model of church-state relations but instead focused on what different means are available for the religious groups during the process of negotiations. The paper is interested in how Christian churches attempt to protect and promote their interests in authoritarian Chinese societies. I argue that religious specialists established in an authoritative Chinese environment have to face at least two types of pressure—demands of an authoritarian rule and a social pressure requiring their assimilation to the local culture. One of the main interests of both mentioned churches is to create a well-established mission and stable parishes. The findings suggest that to accomplish their objective, the churches have for a long time endeavoured to localise the church (bendihua 本地化) and to create a bond between Christian beliefs and the local culture. Another part of the adaptation to the local environment is also to cooperate with the government.

Aleksandrs Dmitrenko, “The Image of Christianity in Chinese History Textbooks (1900–1949)”

The image of Christianity in Chinese history textbooks (1900–1949)
The present study focuses on the image of Christianity in Chinese history textbooks on World and China’s history. In the world history textbooks, Christianity is first of all associated with the figure of the Pope. Despite the fact that there were different Popes, the role of these leaders of the Roman Catholic Church continues to be presented as utterly negative. The Church is associated with authoritative power, which was fighting with different Emperors for political power. The Church is also represented as the power that obstructed people from development in the sciences. The Protestants are presented as the people who opposed both the Church and the State authoritative power. Nonetheless, this led to religious wars, and their image can hardly be interpreted as a positive one.
In the history of China, European presence in China is associated with aggression. In this context, even the image of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) is hard to interpret as positive. It is stated that he brought to China “western learning” (xixue 西學), wore Chinese closes, spoke Chinese and respected Chinese customs. Nevertheless, textbooks stay quite neutral in assessing his actions or influence. In the context of the Boxer rebellion (1898–1901), missionaries are described as the representatives of the Western.

Translating Integration

Conceptual Boundaries of the Sinicisation of Islam, Lived Experiences of Chinese Muslims, and the Power of the Party-State
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised by Yee Lak Elliot Lee, Ruslan Yusupov, and Jia He
  • Wlodzimierz Cieciura, Chair
  • Yee Lak Elliot Lee, “Genealogy of ‘Islamic(ate) Culture’ in the Pearl River Delta: Secular Empowerment or Religious Marginalisation?”
  • Ruslan Yusupov, “The Ethical Distance: Islamic Taboos, Everyday Sociality, and the Question of Integration in a Chinese Hui Muslim Town”
  • Wlodzimierz Cieciura, “’Chinese Mosques Must Look Chinese’: Sinicisation of Islam and the Changing Standards of Religious Islamic Architecture from Reform and Opening Up Era to Xi’s ‘New Era’”
  • Jia He, “Crossing Over Minzu, Ethnicity and Islam: Rethinking Intermarriage through the Lived Experiences of Hui intermarried Han in Ningxia, Northwest China”
  • André Laliberté, Discussant

Integration of Muslim populations has been a central problem, not without tension, contradiction, or rejection, in the nation-building process of China. With the policy directive for mutual adaptation between religion and socialism, discourses on Sinicisation of Islam has dominated the public sphere of China since the current leadership. The party-state requires religions to exploit doctrines that is beneficial to social stability and the country’s developmental path while retaining core beliefs, rituals, and institutions. However, as discursive traditions, religions, and in our case, Islam would have to reinterpret and create new discourse or “language” with suitable appropriation of and referencing to concepts within and beyond the existing discursive traditions. It is in this sense that we talk about translation. Nevertheless, considering plausible untranslatability, misrepresentation, and contestation, there are conceptual boundaries and limitations leading to possible paradoxical outcomes due to novel discourses directing the integration of Muslims in China. This is not unprecedented in the modern history of China and has been having profound implications in the lived experiences of Muslims. At the same time, Chinese Muslims are not merely passive objects in this process of translation. Rather, they (re)produce and live in ways that continuously redefine boundaries and forms of Islam in Chinese societies. Intrigued by the contemporary development while remaining informed by history, this panel brings together anthropologists and historians on Chinese Islam to engage with this very problem of Chinese Muslims’ integration via the translation of their very existence into party-state authorised and enforced discourses.

Yee Lak Elliot Lee, “Genealogy of ‘Islamic(ate) Culture’ in the Pearl River Delta: Secular Empowerment or Religious Marginalisation?”

Yisilan/Huijiao wenhua, i.e., the suffixing of “culture” to “Islam,” is a prominent usage in China by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. One would find it being employed for a wide range of material manifestations and practices, from historical mosques, the Five Pillars of Islam, to names of Islamic associations. It is on this discursive conception of culture that political directives on religious Sinicisation of the party-state has been built upon in order for translation and integration between Chinese culture and Islam to be conceivable. Yet, the aim of this paper is to problematise the power neutral assumption that underlies cultural translations and abstractions of forms of life into “cultures.” Focusing on the Guangzhou–Hong Kong Islamicate networks, this paper attempts to reconstruct a genealogy of the incorporation of “culture” into Chinese Muslims’ repertoire since the early 20th century. I demonstrate that there was an earlier sense of “culture” related to literacy, alongside a civilisational sense, followed by the emergence of a civil/socio-spatial sense. This paper argues that the shift corresponded to the changing emphasis from the creation of modern Chinese nationals to a normalisation of the marginal existence of Islam. It was by employing this secular discourse of “culture” that Muslims and the state justified the existence of Islam in China; whereas it simultaneously reinforced the marginal position of Islam in different social realms and lived experience of Muslims. This paradox provides a vantage point for reconsidering the secularity of “culture,” simultaneously questioning the limits of secular translation in China and beyond.

Ruslan Yusupov, “The Ethical Distance: Islamic Taboos, Everyday Sociality, and the Question of Integration in a Chinese Hui Muslim Town”

In 2014, when Chinese social media publics saw pictures of Hui ethnic minority Muslims in Shadian town of China’s Yunnan province successfully banning the sale and consumption of alcohol, they condemned the practice as illegal and demanded immediate intervention of the state. The assumption that underlined this online hysteria was that religious taboos are incompatible with, and thus go against the commonsense reality in which the existence of alcohol is undeniable. Through an analysis of indigenous practices informed by the Islamic conception of “haram,” this paper reveals a modality of prohibition, one in which the effort is directed to construct certain ethical distance with the forbidden substance rather than banning it altogether. Insofar as the presence of alcohol is required for that distance to be actualised, haram actually serves the very means by which such virtues as tolerance and patience are cultivated, thereby securing the form of everyday sociality that flourishes across religious and ethnic differences. I then contrast such sociality to the understanding of haram with which the Chinese local government initiated the ban on alcohol, only to reveal that the government bid to recognise indigenous ways of life in the name of ethnic diversity actually creates the very boundaries that the state aimed at eliminating by that recognition. The focus on the disparity in understandings of haram, I suggest, not only sheds new light on the conventional anthropological definitions of taboo but is also critical for how we think about the place of Islam in China.

Wlodzimierz Cieciura, “‘Chinese Mosques Must Look Chinese’: Sinicisation of Islam and the Changing Standards of Religious Islamic Architecture from Reform and Opening Up Era to Xi’s ‘New Era’”

Mosque architecture in China proper has been an area of contention between traditionalists, preferring the more sinicized architectural aesthetics, and modernists who looked to the Middle East and Muslim-majority countries for inspiration. In the last forty years, the latter has been in the ascendancy with most new mosques built in China resembling more the idealised “dome and minaret” type of structure rather than the traditional architecture, which had developed in the centuries of Islam’s presence in the Chinese cultural landscape. Countless old mosques throughout China have been demolished and replaced with modern ‘Middle Eastern’ buildings, often with government’s support and encouragement in the hope of turning this architecture into a visible sign of China’s tolerance towards Islam and of the country’s willingness to promote trade and political relations with Muslim majority countries. However, this has changed since Xi Jinping’s arrival at the helm of the Communist Party, and his attempts at controlling and transforming most forms of religious practice and expression. In the Islamic sphere, one of the first areas to experience this new push for “sinicisation” of religion has been the mosque architecture. Domes and minarets are being dismantled, and more ‘Chinese’ designs are promoted in the official discourse of the Islamic Association. This paper will look into this discourse and try to find an answer as to how this “sinicization” of Islam is being reconciled with Xi’s ambitions of a “New Silk Road” and Chinese Muslims’ aspirations to “religious authenticity.”

Jia He, “Crossing Over Minzu, Ethnicity and Islam: Rethinking Intermarriage through the Lived Experiences of Hui intermarried Han in Ningxia, Northwest China”

According to the Chinese party-state, only marriages that cross over minzu (ethnic-nationality) is called “intermarriage”, and they are encouraged as an expression of the modern Chinese nation. As a separate minzu recognised by the state, Huizu—people that have their ethnic-nationality deduced and solidified from their historical “Muslim-ness”—is therefore target of these intermarriages. Nevertheless, there are “emic” understandings of intermarriage other than the state discourse. Based on primary fieldwork on the lived experiences of Hui intermarried to Han in Ningxia, I present different types of what intermarriage means for the Hui individuals. For instance, intermarriage between a Hui and a Han who converted to Islam; between a Hui and a Han without the latter’s conversion; between two Huis who have different understandings towards Hui identity resulted from affiliations with different Islamic traditions (jiaopai) and/or discursive disaffiliation from Islam. These different types of intermarriage differ and/or overlap with each other depending on how a particular understanding of Hui identity is lived out by individuals. By highlighting the meta-discourse of minzu policy with regard to intermarriage, this paper complicates the understanding of intermarriage and reveals the power of state discourses down to personal level of intimate relationship. Furthermore, the paper aims at demonstrating the nuanced boundary making processes where state, minzu, Islam and marriage inform each other, so as to reflect on its implication for Sinicization of Islam from a bottom-up perspective.

Mortality and Eternity

Reexaminations of Temporality in Chinese Texts
9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room 4

  • Organised by Ernest Billings Brewster
  • Chaired by Joachim Gentz
  • Yiran Zhao, “Sick Body, Temporal Experience, and the Literary Self in Honglou meng
  • Ernest Billings Brewster, “What is Lost in Death? Xuanzang on the Temporality of the Physical Senses and the Mind”
  • Heejung Seo, “The Relationship between Space and Time in Zhuangzi 庄子—Focusing on the Concept of Death”
  • Yinlin Guan, “The Eternity and its Ethics in the Laozi

What is death? Is there life after death? How do we live, and live fully, with the awareness of our own mortality? The papers in this panel aim to illuminate how Chinese thinkers—within the domains of philosophy, religion, and literature—have grappled over time with the universal questions that are raised by the examination of the temporality of life. They engage with it on both a psychological level in terms of dealing with the anxiety and fear in facing the inevitability of morality, and a physical level in terms of grappling with the physical suffering involved in aging, sickness, and dying. The first paper probes how the teaching of Laozi on “staying with weakness” (Chi.: shou ruo 守弱) can be used to enhance the quality and longevity of life. The second paper investigates how Zhuangzi links his conceptualisation of space and time in the cosmos to human mortality. The third paper investigates how the theories about the constitution of the physical senses and the mind developed by Xuanzang address the existential anxiety that is related to mortality. The fourth paper examines how the theme of the sick body of Daiyu, the protagonist of Honglou meng, functions as a symbolic site of temporal experience and self-imagination. Taken together, this collection of papers reexamines how great Chinese thinkers, across two millennia, address the profound question of the temporality of life.

Yiran Zhao, “Sick Body, Temporal Experience, and the Literary Self In Honglou meng

Often described as having a naturally weak constitution, Lin Daiyu, the female protagonist in Honglou meng, may well be one of the most famous literary portraits of a patient of Chinese literature.  While Daiyu’s sick body tends to be associated with her ethereal beauty rather than a disturbing substance, the narrative devotes much more effort to depict how she is consistently perplexed and afflicted by it. Throughout the novel, the crucial anxiety over her sick body lies not in its physical pain, nor its performance in the household, but in its engagement with temporal experience and self-imagination: how through which its subject perceives changes and imagines herself over time, and how this could affect the way she thinks and acts. This paper hypothesises that the sick body of Daiyu functions as a crucial symbolic site where the existential qualities of selfhood and temporality are intricately connected. I start from the emplotment of Daiyu’s bodily deficiency in the mythical scheme, to manifest how her sick body could be read as a model of temporal engagement in the world of mortals. Then I look at two important modes when Daiyu’s sick body encounters temporality and selfhood, namely, simulating a death scenario and perceiving changes over temporal succession. My method is to analyse the narrative strategies and devices for making these significations explicit and visible. A careful examination of these literary connotations inscribed on Daiyu’s sick body is crucial to a better understanding of the novel’s temporal complexity in terms of constructing the literary self.

Ernest Billings Brewster, “What is Lost in Death? Xuanzang on the Temporality of the Physical Senses and the Mind”

This paper examines the Chinese scholar-monk Xuanzang’s (602–607) investigation into the nature of mortality. Xuanzang looks to Buddhism to grapple with dying and his fear of it. In his efforts to master his fear of dying, Xuanzang returns to the ancient Indic scriptures that describe the impermanence of life and the idea of no-self (Sanskrit.: anātman; Chinese: wu-wo無我). Tranquility comes to Xuanzang in his recognition that death marks a transition in the cycle of death and rebirth rather than the end of a person. Essentially, the doctrine of no-self means that the individual contains no singular or unchanging core that becomes reincarnated after death. For Xuanzang, the definition of death as the loss of an immortal soul is antithetical to the Buddhist ideal of liberation, the relinquishment of clinging to a permanent self. The doctrine of no-self presents a thorny question, however: when the individual dies, who or what dies? I will argue that Xuanzang’s development of the Buddhist doctrine of the faculties (Sanskrit: indriya; Chinese: gen根), the inherent mental and physical powers of sentient life, provides a rigorous account of the nature of death’s deprivation that is congruent with the Buddhist doctrine of no-self.

Heejung SEO, “The Relationship between Space and Time in Zhuangzi庄子 –Focusing on the Concept of Death

This article aims to examine the relationship between Space and Time in Zhuangzi’s thought of death through the fundamental interaction between Self (wo 我) and Things (wu 物) in the Zhuangzi Text. In Qiwulun chapter, Zhuangzi abandoned the attempt to recognize the truth. Nevertheless, for ordinary people in real life realizing truth is more important than merely knowing about the truth. In other words, if one succeeds in denying epistemological knowledge that is formed between oneself and things, and fundamentally reconstructs it as an empirical relationship, then all those problems that people are facing aren’t questions of cognitive knowledge, but about life itself. However, in order to return to life, one must disengage oneself from the concepts of space, time, and mortality thus can step into the life of “absolute freedom (独有)”, while at the same time, also can acquire the most practical gain, anming 安命. Once one has achieved the state “to rest content in one’s fate (安于命)” or obey one’s fate, one can cope with any suffering in his/her life that is caused by haphazardness or inevitability of death and achieve real freedom.

Yinlin Guan, “The Eternity and its Ethics in the Laozi

Death, being faced by all mankind in the human world, needs to be dealt with by any philosophy or religion, since it has a close relation to the issues of the existence of mankind as well as the meaning of the lives. As the end of life, death calls upon human beings to scrutinize, reflect and introspect on their existence and morality. The Laozi, in chapter 50, claims that human beings come forth and live, they enter the world and hurtle towards death. Contrasted with the eternity of the dao, human beings easily perish are destroyed. “How to live their lives for mankind?” becomes a radical question to answer. In this paper, I intend to argue that the Laozi emphasizes that human beings should act and live in accordance with the dao for the sake of prolonging their life-span, since the existence of the human being for the Laozi is the prerequisite of morality, social values and so on. Furthermore, I will argue that the doctrine of the dao, such as staying with the weakness 守弱, are so as to preserve the feature of the eternity and persistence of the dao. Having emulated the dao and cultivated themselves accordingly, human beings should live a long and simple life.

Papers on Religion II

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Stefania Travagnin
  • Laura Lettere, “The Missing Translator: A Study of the Biographies of the Monk Baoyun 寶雲 (376?–449)”
  • Anna Sokolova, “A Missing Buddhist Biography: Li Yong 李邕 (678–747) and His Stele Inscription for Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667)”
  • Xingyi Wang, “Yuanzhao’s Method of Meditation in Pure Land Practice”
  • Jin Sun, “The Relevance of ‘Ghost or Monster Pregnancy 鬼胎’ to Tantric Bhuddism”
  • Pi-fen Chung, “Ancient Indian Astrological Traditions and Tibetan Elements on the Tangut Astral Maṇḍala”

Laura Lettere, “The Missing Translator: A Study of the Biographies of the Monk Baoyun 寶雲 (376?–449)”

This study examines the biography of the monk Baoyun 寶雲 (376?–449) and lists all the titles of the translation projects in which Baoyun was involved. By comparing the information provided by different Buddhist catalogues, several discrepancies between the information on Baoyun provided by Buddhist bibliographer Sengyou 僧祐 (445–518) and by later accounts became evident. While in Sengyou’s catalogue Baoyun is incidentally mentioned as taking part in many translation projects and praised for his knowledge of Indic languages, later biographic accounts and catalogues do not provide recognition of Baoyun’s many contributions. By comparing the information provided by sixth-century catalogues and hagiographies, this study will evidence a shifting characterization of the monk Baoyun’s figure, with particular reference to the importance of his role as translator. This study will focus on these discrepancies and explain the possible reason that led to a marginalization of Baoyun’s role as translator. This study provides a list of Baoyun’s translations based on information derived by historical catalogues; by means of a TACL database search, it will trace internal evidence for Baoyun’s authorship of the translations, thus evidencing connections among apparently unrelated texts.

Anna Sokolova, “A Missing Buddhist Biography: Li Yong 李邕 (678–747) and His Stele Inscription for Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667)”

This paper explores the vinaya monastic community which was active in the prefecture of Zizhou 淄州 (Henan Province) during the mid-Tang dynasty. This community was led by hitherto unknown disciples of Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667) who is regarded as the de facto founder of the vinaya ‘school’ in China. The first recorded biography of Daoxuan was a stele inscription composed by the scholar-official Li Yong 李邕 (678–747). No longer extant, this inscription was the main biographical source on Daoxuan until the Song Dynasty as well as Zanning 贊寜’s (919–1001) primary source for his entry on Daoxuan in the Song gaoseng zhuan 宋高僧傳 (Biographies of Eminent Monks [Compiled] under the Song Dynasty). This paper investigates the intricate network in which Li Yong’s stele inscription for Daoxuan was commissioned and composed. I explore how Li Yong spent several years in Zizhou following his exile from Chang’an. I argue that a group of monks from Zizhou commissioned Li Yong to compose a number of stele inscriptions for Daoxuan himself as well as several of the latter’s disciples and associates who served as national preceptors in the court-sponsored monasteries of Chang’an. Moreover, I argue that some members of the Zizhou group entrusted Li Yong to add their own biographies to his eulogies for these prominent masters. The conclusion is that Zizhou’s monastic community not only helped to establish the vinaya tradition but also cemented Daoxuan’s reputation as a “patriarch” of the vinaya “school.”

Xingyi Wang, “Yuanzhao’s Method of Meditation in Pure Land Practice”

The belief and practice of Amitābha’s Pure Land, often traced to Lushan Huiyuan 廬山慧遠 (334–416) and cultivated through the efforts of Shandao 善導 (613–681), has long attracted scholarly attention. Yet the way in which Amitābha’s Pure Land idea and practice spread widely across all major Buddhist schools and showed considerable social mobilization in the Song, remains insufficiently studied. This paper is structured around Yuanzhao’s 元照 (1048–1116) writings on his sudden conversion and on his idiosyncratic understanding of Pure Land belief. I argue that Yuanzhao’s sudden awakening to Pure Land belief marks his most important divergence from Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667). Yuanzhao deemed that the observation of Vinaya rules alone had ceased to be regarded as adequate for liberation. Working out of his own experience of personal transcendence and influenced by the interest in seeking rebirth in the Pure Land shown by Tiantai thinkers in his circle, Yuanzhao created his own meditative practise of Pure Land Buddhism. He conceptualized the practice of following monastic behaviour codes together with Pure Land practices to form his unique vision of an ethical religious life. However, this combination of ethically disciplined self-formation with faith beyond good and evil was not without cost. When Yuanzhao’s works were brought back and studied by the Pure Land school in Kamakura Japan—which maintains a clear distinction between self-power (Jap. jiriki 自力) and other-power (Jap. tariki 他力)—he was seen as indecisive in his reliance on both.

Jin Sun, “The Relevance of ‘Ghost or Monster Pregnancy (鬼胎)’ to Tantric Buddhism”

“Having a connection with gods, ghosts or monsters 鬼交” is a disease name which was first seen in the Chinese traditional medical books in Wei and Jin Dynasties. The patients were mainly women. People with this disease will experience some symptoms of mental disorder, such as falling into a trance state, suddenly feeling sadness, irritability or fear, tending to be alone, talking to themselves, singing, or claiming to see or hear the voice of gods, ghosts or monsters. Therefore, the patient was thought to be having a connection with gods, ghosts or monsters. And the symptoms mentioned above were considered as the signs of being communicating with them. In many cases, the connection especially refers to sexual relationship.
The interpretation of this disease in medical books had changed slightly over time. For instance, in Song Dynasty, patient with irregular menstruation was thought to be pregnant with a ghost or monster`s child. And this situation was called “ghost or monster pregnancy 鬼孕 “at that time. According to the book Yi jian zhi 夷堅志, records of anomalies in Song Dynasty, woman who had a “monster pregnancy” was treated by reciting the Mahāmāyūrī-vidyārājñī tantra. This paper will discuss the relevance of the “ghost or monster pregnancy” to Tantric Buddhism.

Pi-fen Chung, “Ancient Indian Astrological Traditions and Tibetan Elements on the Tangut Astral Maṇḍala”

This paper approaches a significant and particular topic: astral image and atrological thoughts. It involves a series of cross-cultural issues: Tangut, Tibetan and artistic traditions, ancient Indian astrology, which have been little discussed in academic circles due partially to the relative obscurity of the primary sources. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to explore the possible explanation of the origin of Tangut mandala of Tejapraba Buddha and Nine Planets.
In 1908, Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (1863–1935) and his companion made a most sensational discovery in the ruins of the Tangut city of Khara-Khoto in western Inner Mongolia, where they found over 3,500 paintings, scrolls, manuscripts and books. Amongst this vast collection of paintings, there was a peculiar type of depiction of astral images. Obviously, this study of astral images provides clues for exploring how the Tangut people adjusted their religion and culture through the acceptance of the knowledge of Buddhist art from China and Tibet, and then adapted the content to a new socio-political environment.
The astral maṇḍala exhibits an early Tibetan-inspired astral image based on its style and composition. It bears the distinctive Tibetan style, compositional scheme and ancient Indian iconography. In other words, the structure of this maṇḍala highlights close connection between Tangut and Tibetan artistic traditions.
The source of this maṇḍala has never been clear. An astral maṇḍala with such compositional features seems to have no Chinese or Tibetan precedent. Whether it should be considered as a copy from India or even a Tangut creation is still a moot point. It is difficult to assess because our knowledge of the Tibetan elements of Tangut astral paintings during the period is fragmentary.
It is worthy to note, however, that the astral maṇḍala originates from Vedic tradition of India and Babylonian astrology. Hence, the emphasis on the divergent theories aims to afford a complicated background to decode the schema and iconography of the Tangut astral maṇḍala.
To date, there are few texts in relation to the discussion of direction and colours of planets that hinder the investigation of the Tangut astral mandala. The solution to overcome the obstacle is to utilize Indian astrological works. They provide valuable knowledge to scrutinize the configuration of this astral mandala.

Papers on Religion I

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room F

  • Chaired by Jacob Tischer
  • Shyling Glaze, “A 17th-Century Caodong Monk: Yongjue Yuanxian and Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan”
  • Anja Ahčin, “Dragon, Mythical Creature—Sacred Animal or Devastating Monster? The Comparison of the Chinese and the Slavic Dragon”
  • Sophie Ling-chia Wei, “The Many Lives of Shan Hai Jing—Jesuit Translators’ Re-Interpretation of the Classic of Mountains and Seas
  • Katja Wengenmayr, “Towards a Global Philosophy of Religion: Searching and Finding Niches in Political-Religious Discourses in China”
  • Maja Maria Kosec, “Chinese Religion in Cuba: From Guan Gong to San Fancon and Back”

Shyling Glaze, “A 17th-Century Caodong Monk: Yongjue Yuanxian and Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan”

Yuanxian’s life illustrates an initial Confucian who in his 40s determined to become a devoted Buddhist master and then further transformed into an unyielding upholder of Buddhism and altruist. He demonstrated an ideal of engaging both the Buddhist’s super-mundane and Confucian’s mundane teachings simultaneously for the well-being of the common people.
Yuanxian closely associated himself with communities; condemned the merciless practice of female infanticide and provided indispensable teachings for society through his prolific writings. Battles between the Qing and the Southern Ming troops raged continuously for many years around the Fujian area. This period of warfare caused horrible conditions of mass starvation with reports of the cannibalization of dead bodies and even small children stolen away to be cooked in cauldrons. Two years before his death at the age of 80, Yuanxian selflessly offered humanitarian aid to the war refugees in the Fujian area with food, medicine, and shelter. He and his disciples from the Gushan monastery buried more than two thousand of the deceased refugees and continued to offer humanitarian aid for more than a month despite his poor health and advanced age.
Yuanxian’s humane actions became the foundation of “Humanistic Buddhism” in Taiwan. He transformed the Mahayana Buddhist teaching of compassion into a reality for suffering people and had an influential impact on mundane society. I believe his merciful actions had great impact on later generations especially in the formation of “Humanistic Buddhism” in Taiwan.

Anja Ahčin, “Dragon, Mythical Creature—Sacred Animal or Devastating Monster? The Comparison of the Chinese and the Slavic Dragon”

The powerful divine dragon is deeply rooted in various facets of Chinese culture and society. It is known as a symbol of luck and prosperity and also as a symbol of imperial power. It is the controller of rain, rivers, lakes, seas. However, it is more than that. It is a divinity. In Slavic cultures, dragons are mostly bad omens, signs of a devil, and evil. Before Christianity, the dragon was an ambivalent creature. It was also the protector of livestock. Although the god Veles was showing himself as a dragon, people were not just afraid of him, but they also worshipped him. Nowadays, the dragon is connected with evil in most cases. This image derives from Christianity, which adopted the dragon as a terrible monster from Mesopotamian myth of creation. Chinese traditional thought is based on a holistic world view which does not separate dualistic concepts of matter from an idea, or the creator from the created. Moreover, the dragon represents nature, so with worshiping it Chinese also worship nature. Psychoanalytical, Jungian, approach among others comprehends the dragon as a shadow or our fears that we need to become aware of and integrate them into our personality, as only then we can become an integral, mature personality. With manifestation of the archetype of the dragon I wish to illuminate the latter perspective as well as to show the importance of leaning on the tradition and ancient symbols.

Sophie Ling-chia Wei, “The Many Lives of Shan Hai Jing—Jesuit Translators’ Re-Interpretation of the Classic of Mountains and Seas

Shan Hai Jing 山海經 (The Classic of Mountains and Seas) is a classic which documented extraordinary geographical survey of elusive places, including mountains and rivers, in ancient China. Not only were rare and precious animals and plants listed and described but also the sacrificial rites toward the Mountain spirits were explained in detail. As the Jesuits set their foot in China and proselytized the monotheism in Christianity to convert Chinese people, it will be very valuable to investigate how they translated and transformed Shan Hai Jing in their encounters with this mysterious classic. The three dominating factors, geography, chronicles and myths, in Shan Hai Jing certainly attracted the eyes of the Jesuits. Gabriel de Magalhāes 安文思 (1609–1677) employed the geographical elements in Shan Hai Jing and wrote his Portuguese work, Doze excellencias da China 中國十二絕 (Twelve excellences of China), which was later translated and disseminated back to Europe. Matteo Ricci 利瑪竇 (1552–1610) might also make reference to the descriptions in Shan Hai Jing on his map, Kun yu wanguo quan tu 坤輿萬國全圖 (Great Universal Geographic Map). The next generation of Jesuits, the Jesuit Figurists in the Qing Dynasty, further adjusted their accommodation policy and they were obsessed with finding God’s symbols and mysterious messages embedded in Chinese classics. Especially Prémare and Foucquet,  the two main Figurists, linked the chronicles and myths in Shan Hai Jing with the Bible stories in their hand-written manuscripts and used it as a piece of historical evidence to parallel Chinese myths and history with the chronicles in the Bible. They aim to persuade Chinese readers to believe that the dawn of Chinese civilization has the same origin with the one in the West. Due to the lack of scholarship on the Figurists’ study and association with Shan Hai Jing, a further examination will be conducted in this paper and the Figurists’ accommodation policy could be re-assessed. A close-up examination of the passages these Figurists picked deliberately in Shan Hai Jing for their translation and re-interpretation reveals their inclination to align with the interests of Chinese readers and their priority on Chinese history and myths. Their concurrent efforts of interpreting the mythical elements in Zhuangzi 莊子 (Book of the Master Zhuang), Huainanzi 淮南子 (Book of the Master of Huainan), and Liezi 列子 (Book of the Master Lie) will also be analyzed in this paper. Shan Hai Jing thus has many lives, with its many facets transformed in the hands of the Jesuits, to fit their purpose of proselytization.

Katja Wengenmayr, “Towards a Global Philosophy of Religion: Searching and Finding Niches in Political-Religious Discourses in China”

After religious studies were re-established at Chinese Universities in 1979, Chinese scholars also focus on the revival of religions in the Post-Mao era. Some Western observers claim that religious studies have always been under the tutelage of the CCP. The Party mainly encourages the scholars to decrease the hegemony of Western knowledge and to study the valuable contributions of religions in China. This leaves the impression of scholars as passive receivers of political instructions. In my paper, I argue that this narrow description does not fit with the reality. In order to draw a more complex picture of the relation between religious studies, political and public sphere, I will analyse the activities of two religious studies scholars: He Guanghu 何光沪 (1950, Renmin University) and Wang Zhicheng 王志成 (1966, Zhejiang University).
Both scholars are active outside the religious studies sphere. He Guanghu engages with Christian and liberal intellectuals to express agenda on the further development of China and tries to establish himself as political adviser. Wang Zhicheng established his own Yoga institute and offers courses on yoga philosophy and practice. He Guanghu and Wang Zhicheng developed their own systematic approach on a global philosophy of religions to engage with official discourses on modernity and reinterpret the role of religion in China. They aim to show the global relevance of religion in modern societies and the global interconnectivity of religions in contrast to the propagated sinicisation of religions in religious studies and more currently in state discourses.

Maja Maria Kosec, “Chinese Religion in Cuba: From Guan Gong to San Fancon and Back”

The question of religious practices inside the Chinese diaspora in Cuba is becoming increasingly debated inside the field of Chinese studies in Latin America, with scholars such as Jose Baltar Rodriguez arguing the only case of Chinese religious syncretism in Cuba has been the Confucian ancestor Guan Gong, which became a new Sino-Cuban diety San Fancon. Frank Scherer later argued San Fancon was merely a result of decontextualised Confucianism within the project of re-ethnicization of the Chinese diaspora in Cuba. However, these works have not adequately addressed the issue of the understanding San Fancon from the perspective of Santeria, the religion it is actually forming a part of today. My paper addresses the issue of whether San Fancon, within Santeria, is even perceived as a worshiped Confucian ancestor. Specifically, I will be looking at the materials about Guan Gong produced in Cuba before the 1990’s and contemporary Cuban testimonies in order to show that the differences are noticeable. I will discuss the narrations of historical background of Guan Gong and its syncretisation process inside most sinological sources, and juxtapose them against the interpretations produced by the followers of Santeria, in order to reveal the previously neglected importance of the impact of social status of Chinese immigrants on this process. In conclusion, this article, by closely examining the actual believes and practices in Cuba, sheds new light on the neglected aspects of how San Fancon within the framework of Chinese studies is widely different from the San Fancon in Santeria.

Modulating Mahāyāna

Encountering Theravāda and Contesting Chinese Buddhist Tradition and Orthodoxy in the Southern Sinosphere
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised by Jens Reinke
  • Chaired by Ann Heirman
  • Jens Reinke, “(Re)inventing the Past: Ven. Suifo 隨佛 and His Original Buddhism Society (Zhonghua yuanshi fojiao hui 中華原始佛教會)”
  • Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu, “Transnational Networks, Localisation, and Hybridisation: The Practice and Influence of Chinese Buddhism in Contemporary Myanmar”
  • Ester Bianchi, “Theravāda Practices within Contemporary Chinese Buddhism: The Case of mahasati Meditation in Sichuan Shifosi 石佛寺”

Buddhism is often portrait as a religion that is subdivided into distinct traditions, schools and lineages, each of them separated by impermeable boundaries. However, on the ground the situation is often more ambiguous. This panel considers the issue by examining three case studies situated within the southern sinosphere, a transnational space linking southern China, Taiwan, and the ethnic Chinese diaspora communities in Southeast Asia. The southern sinosphere is marked by a high degree of Buddhist cross-traditional diversity, encounter, and interaction. To explore these dynamics, the contributors to the panel investigate how a Taiwanese Buddhist organization (re)invents the “original Buddhism” of the historical Buddha by merging Theravāda, Mahāyāna, and modernist Chinese renjian Buddhist elements, they examine how Theravāda meditation is integrated into a Chinese Mahāyāna monastery in Sichuan, as well as look at how Chinese Buddhists in Myanmar negotiate the Theravāda mainstream society. The panel problematizes oversimplifying notions of Buddhist traditions as clearly separated entities. It approaches the issue through a sample of historical and ethnographic case studies. By looking at how Chinese Buddhists navigate notions of tradition and orthodoxy, the panel brings attention to the ways modern and contemporary Buddhist transnationalism shapes and reconstructs the religious identity of Chinese Buddhists today. It thereby creates new insights into the dynamics that inform the development of contemporary Chinese Buddhist religiosities under today’s global condition.

Jens Reinke: (Re)inventing the Past: Ven. Suifo (隨佛) and His Original Buddhism Society (Zhonghua yuanshi fojiao hui 中華原始佛教會)

Contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism in Western language scholarship is primarily represented by studies on Taiwanese renjian Buddhist mega organizations such as Fo Guang Shan, Tzu Chi, and Dharma Drum Mountain. However, these groups are not the only representatives of contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism. This presentation examines the endeavours of the monastic Suifo 隨佛 (Bhikkhu Vūpasama Thera). Suifo is an ethnic Chinese who is originally from Myanmar/Burma. He is ordained in the Theravāda lineage of the Burmese monastic Ledi Sayadaw U Ñaṇadhaja (1846–1923) and is the founder of the transnational “Original Buddhism Society” (Zhonghua yuanshi fojiao hui 中華原始佛教會) with branches in Taiwan, USA, Australia, and Malaysia. Suifo claims to have restored the original Buddhism of the First Buddhist Council convened in the same year as the historical Buddha passed away. His “original Buddhism” links elements from the Theravāda tradition, Chinese Mahāyāna, as well as modernist Chinese renjian Buddhism. This presentation will examine how Suifo and his organization negotiate the Mahāyāna/Theravāda divide in terms of doctrine, religious practice, and monastic regulations. It thereby aims at problematising conventional understandings of affiliations to Buddhist tradition but also shows the diversity of developments within contemporary Taiwanese Buddhism.

Melody Tzu-Lung Chiu: Transnational Networks, Localisation, and Hybridisation: The Practice and Influence of Chinese Buddhism in Contemporary Myanmar

Mahāyāna and Theravāda are the two major traditions of Buddhism in contemporary Asia. Although both traditions share many similar teachings, there are long-term disputes between the two, touching on doctrine, ritual, religious practices, and the ultimate goal, among other matters. Mahāyāna Buddhists have often termed Theravāda Buddhism as the “vehicle of the hearers,” reflecting the role of the Buddha’s early followers who sought to become Arhats through hearing and practising his teachings. On the other hand, Theravāda Buddhists typically hold strong views of their religious identity, taking their own traditions to be Orthodox Buddhism while criticising various aspects of the Mahāyāna tradition which they claimed lack doctrinal basis. The study explores the position of Chinese Mahāyāna monastics in current socio-cultural contexts of Thailand where the Theravāda lineage has been historically dominant. It is thus worth examining present-day Chinese Buddhist monks’ and nuns’ religious life, precept observance, and/or ritual practice via the multiple-case qualitative study in Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar. This research significantly provides an overview of how the local Theravada ethos inevitably affects Chinese Mahāyāna Buddhists’ experiences of the religious minority in the host country. Another issue arising from this study involves localisation, assimilation, and hybridisation. It is worth noting that the indigenous Theravāda ethos inevitably affects the descendants of immigrants/overseas Chinese monks and nuns. Therefore, careful attention to cross-traditional interaction and adaptation (both Theravāda vs. Mahāyāna and Chinese vs. Burmese) is crucial to contextualising my study.

Ester Bianchi: Theravāda Practices within Contemporary Chinese Buddhism. The Case of mahasati Meditation in Sichuan Shifosi 石佛寺

In the last decade, a true fever for Theravāda meditation has arisen in China. In some cases, Theravāda meditation is being practised regularly in Chinese Buddhist monasteries, thus attempting to compromise with Chinese Buddhism rather than opposing it. In this paper, I will present the case study of the Shifosi 石佛寺, a Chinese nunnery located in Deyang Guanghan (Sichuan) and inhabited by a small community of Han Chinese nuns. Headed by Xuzhi 续智 (b. 1969), the nunnery has become the stable meditation centre of the mahasati meditation (zhengnian yunzhong chan 正念動中禪) in China since 2016. Mahasati is a modern form of dynamic vipassanā which was conceived by Luangpor Teean Jittasubho (1911–1988) from Thailand. Luangpor Thong (1939–), one of the two principal heirs of Luangpor Teean and Xuzhi’s personal master, devoted himself to the spread of the tradition abroad, also addressing the Sinitic world (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and eventually Mainland China). Inside the Shifo nunnery, mahasati is practised in a Chinese Buddhist context and within other Chinese Buddhist practices, insofar that the religious calendar, ordination, and Vinaya lineages, morning chanting services and ritual meals etc. are all taken from the Chinese Mahāyāna tradition. The aim of this study is to analyse and evaluate these practices which are developing in many Chinese Buddhist monasteries, thus favouring forms of hybridity in an ecumenical Pan-Asian perspective.

Political-Religious Relationship of the Contemporary Era in China

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room 4

  • Organised by Tingjian Cai
  • André Laliberté, Chair
  • André Laliberté, “Religious Change in China: The Impact of Welfare Regime Retrenchment and Expansion”
  • Juliette Duléry, “’Go Ye into All the World, and Preach the Gospel to Every Creature’: The Politics of Evangelical Protestantism in the Chinese Context of State Surveillance”
  • Kaige Wang, “Confucianism in Modern China’s State-Building”
  • Tingjian Cai, “Four Scenarios for the Future of Political-Religious Interaction”

The Chinese modernisation and secularisation, i.e. the introduction of new terms like “religion” and new understandings on state-building, has not led to the full elimination of its tradition, but rather to a mixture of Chinese tradition and modern (socialist) state construction, the result of which could be clearly observed in the political-religious field, as religious revival causes intensified political-religious interactions. The purpose of this panel is to analyse the political-religious relationship in China against the background of the globalized trend of religious revival, according to, but not limited to, a variety of logic and dichotomies, such as the “state-lead vs. religion-follow”, orthodoxy-heterodoxy, religion-superstition, and the strengthening of the socialist-corporatist regulatory structure of the Chinese state. Different kinds of interactions between the state and certain religions e.g. Protestantism, as well as quasi-religious phenomena e.g. Confucianism, will be illustrated on the panel. On this basis, the functional logic of the current (problematic) political-religious interactions will be analysed e.g. from the perspective of relations among welfare state, economic development and religious changes and, the possible scenarios for the future political-religious interactions in China will be further presented. The panel will be organised by Cai Tingjian (University of Munich). The chair will be held by Prof. André Laliberté (University of Ottawa), and panellists are Prof. André Laliberté (University of Ottawa), Juliette Duléry (University Paris-Diderot), Wang Kaige (College of Chinese Culture), and Cai Tingjian (University of Munich).

André Laliberté, “Religious Change in China: The Impact of Welfare Regime Retrenchment and Expansion”

Theories of Chinese modernisation and secularisation discussing the religious question remain silent on one of the main drivers of secularisation and religious change observed in Western and post-colonial changes: the changes in religiosity related to the expansion and/or retrenchment of the welfare state. The enormous transformation experienced by China, from the encompassing welfare regime provided by the People’s Commune to the social dislocation experienced since the period of reform and opening, as the Communist Party social policies navigate behind the developmental and productivist approaches of the residual-liberal and corporatist-conservative, have coincided with significant religious change. While welfare state theories have explored how religious landscapes have shaped welfare regimes in Western societies, or how welfare insecurity regimes have influenced the growth of religions, such issue remains understudied in China. The paper argues that advances in the study of religion and in the study of welfare regimes in contemporary East Asian societies should help fill the gap. The paper calls for a theory that incorporates findings from the political economy of welfare regimes and the regulation of religious affairs in East Asia, grounded in general theories about the relationship between social insecurity and religiosity. The provisional conclusion of this theory-building effort is that it sheds light on the Communist Party’s changes of approach to religion in the delivery of social services. It suggests that in conditions of welfare retrenchment and increasing welfare insecurity caused by migration, a skewed sex ratio, and a rapidly ageing of the population, have accompanied the growth in religiosity.

Juliette Duléry, “’Go Ye into All the World, and Preach the Gospel to Every Creature’: The Politics of Evangelical Protestantism in the Chinese Context of State Surveillance”

The tensions between Protestant groups and the Chinese Party-State have been the object of many studies, which generally portray these actors as fundamentally opposed. Yet, their relationship is far from being monolithic, due to the existence of a galaxy of Protestant groups—from registered to underground congregations, and including para-churches groups and foreign-led communities. How do evangelical groups, usually characterised by their proselyte ambitions, propagate their faith in a context of religious surveillance? This study is based on participant observations in Protestant organisations in China and on 80 interviews of Protestant actors led in Beijing, Changsha, and Shenzhen. I argue that the interactions between Protestant groups and the State are based on tacit rules of (in)visibility. The official Chinese nationalist rhetoric emphasizes traditional values of Confucianism and seeks to limit the spread of religious “others”, namely Islam and Christianity. In this context, official but also unregistered Protestant groups usually make visible their allegiance to the State, and may even adhere strongly to those values. This does not mean that they are entirely dominated by the State, but rather that they pursue their sensitive activities through private channels. As a consequence of this ambiguousness, they manage to survive in an adverse context, but at the cost of some core attributes of evangelical Protestantism—such as visibility. By focusing on the Chinese case, this research aims to contribute to the knowledge of Chinese contemporary dynamics, but also to the broader discussion on the role of religion in the development of national identities.

Kaige Wang, “Confucianism in Modern China’s State-Building

It has been widely accepted that Confucianism is both a religion and a philosophy, and also recognised as semi-religion and semi-philosophy. Different from the Western institutional religion, Confucianism can be summarised as a kind of diffused religion proposed by Yang Qingkun, as it runs through all aspects of traditional China from national ideology, spiritual temperament, political system, economic, and social thoughts to personal cultivation. Although Confucianism has been repeatedly criticised in modern China, in fact, the core logic of modern state-building follows the Confucian ideas to some extent. Pro. Tu Weiming once discussed the important role of Confucianism (emphasizing hierarchical authority, thrift and savings, education, and collectivism) on the industrialization of East Asia. It can also be found that after China’s reform and opening up, the southeast coastal areas where the countryside enterprises are the most developed are areas which have the most developed Confucianism and clan culture. China’s politics also advocates meritocracy rather than Western election democracy, etc.
In modern China, Confucian values must be implemented in a series of institutional constructions such as family, social groups, political facilities, economic systems, etc., to realise the creative transformation of traditional values, because institutions are the carriers of ideas. Let the value of Confucianism participate in the construction of the present humanistic spirit and secular ethics, to deal with the crisis and predicament caused by modern individualistic ethics, and let Confucianism truly play the role of a modern “civil religion”.

Tingjian Cai, “Four Scenarios for the Future of Political-Religious Interaction”

The Chinese modernisation and secularisation, i.e. the introduction of new terms like “religion” and new understandings on state-building, has not led to the full elimination of its tradition, but rather to a mixture of Chinese tradition and modern (socialist) state construction, the result of which could be clearly observed in the political-religious field, as religious revival causes intensified political-religious interactions. As the current political-religious interactions become more and more problematic regarding the contradictions between the rapid religious revival and political regulations, as well as between the people’s need to find a replacement for the “empty void” in the moral-spiritual sphere after Maoism and the state’s attempt to take this building of new religious-ideological agent under control, the question is raised about in which direction the political-religious interactions in China will proceed. This paper will present some scenarios for the future political-religious interactions: would China turn into a “neo-imperial sacral hegemony” which harbours great risks, but yet could settle political-social issues around a “nationalist nucleus”? Would it be a “gentle” path to recreate a Confucian framework of political-religious field, with a reactivated Confucianism subordinating and integrating religions? Less likely, but not impossible, would it be the implementation of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom against any political loyalty or interventions? Or could it be a Chinese special path which amalgamates liberty and the state’s desire for political-social order?