1. Popular Religion: General Studies


Anderson, E.N., "Flowering Apricot: Environmental Practice, Folk Religion, and Daoism." In: N.J. Girardot, James Miller & Liu Xiaogan [eds.], Daoism and Ecology: Ways Within a Cosmic Landscape. Cambridge, MA: Center for the Study of World Religions, distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001. Pp. 157-183.


Bai Bin. “Religious Beliefs as Reflected in the Funerary Record.” In: John Lagerwey and Lü Pengzhi [eds.], Early Chinese Religion: Part Two: The Period of Division (220-589 AD). Leiden: Brill, 2010. Pp.989-1073.


Baker, Hugh. Ancestral Images: A Hong Kong Collection. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011.

Abstract: This new revised edition collects in one place the articles from the three volumes of Hugh Baker's Ancestral Images originally published in 1979, 1980 and 1981. The 120 articles and photographs explore everyday life, customs and rituals in Hong Kong's rural New Territories. They investigate religion, food, language, history, festivals, family, strange happenings and clan warfare. The book documents much that can no longer be found. But it also provides an understanding of a world which has not yet entirely disappeared, and which still forms the background of life in modern urban Hong Kong and its neighbouring cities. Esoteric nuggets of information are scattered through the book: How do you ascend a pagoda with no staircase? How can you marry without attending the wedding? When is it wrong to buy a book? Hugh Baker answers these and many other questions in this well-rounded picture of a vibrant, quirky people painted with affection and informed by many years of scholarship and research. (Source: publisher's website)


Barrett, Timothy H. “Speaking up for Superstition: A Note on the Ethics of Chinese Popular Belief.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41, no. S1 (2014): 709-722.

Abstract: Most Chinese religious practice and belief in times past, and even throughout much of the Chinese world today, falls into the still current category of superstition. Assessing the ethical notions that tend to obtain within this vast area of religious life is not easy, but it needs to be done for practical reasons, not least because the legal consequences of moral actions arising from the body of beliefs concerned are starting to come before courts outside China itself. Once the assumptions of a very different worldview affirming the existence of an unseen spirit world are taken into account, the deeds of believers in this worldview can be discussed from the point of view of ethics. Philosophers might do well to pay more attention to this topic. (Source: journal)


Berezkin, Rostislav. “From Imperial Metaphor to Rebellious Deities: The History and Modern State of Western Studies of Chinese Popular Religion.” Sino-Platonic Papers, no.243 (2013). For free download at http://www.sino-platonic.org/.


Berling, Judith A., A Pilgrim in Chinese Culture. Negotiating Religious Diversity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997.


Berling, Judith A., "When They Go Their Separate Ways: The Collapse of the Unitary Vision of Chinese Religion in the Early Ch'ing." In: Irene Bloom & Joshua A. Fogel [eds.], Meeting of Minds: Intellectual and Religious Interaction in East Asian Traditions of Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. Pp. 209-237.


Chang, Wen-Chun. "Religious Attendance and Subjective Well-being in an Eastern-Culture Country: Empirical Evidence from Taiwan." Marburg Journal of Religion 14.1 (2009): online.

Abstract: This paper investigates the relationship between religious attendance and subjective well-being in an Eastern-culture country. The findings of this study indicate that religious attendance has positive relationships with happiness as well as domain satisfactions with interpersonal relationship, health, and marital life, but it is not significantly related to the satisfaction with personal financial status. Interestingly, for believers of Eastern religions, those who have a higher level of relative income tend to have higher levels of satisfaction with financial status and health status, but are less satisfied with being free of worry and interpersonal relationship. Moreover, for the adherents of Eastern religions, those who have a higher educational attainment appear to report lower levels of overall happiness and the satisfaction with being free of worry. It appears that the differences in the religious practices and organizational settings between Eastern religions and Western Christianity lead to different patterns of the relationships between religious attendance and various measures of subjective well-being.


Chau, Adam Yuet. “Modalities of Doing Religion.” In Chinese Religious Life, edited by David A. Palmer, Glenn Shive, and Philip L. Wickeri. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp.67-84.


Chau, Adam Yuet; G. Lowes Dickinson. “Modalities of Doing Religion and Ritual Polytropy: Evaluating the Religious Market Model from the Perspective of Chinese Religious History.” Religion 41.4 (2011): 547-568.

Abstract: This article examines the Chinese religious landscape through the lenses of ‘modalities of doing religion’ and ‘ritual polytropy’ and explores the implications such different conceptualisations might bring to the religious-market model. It argues that in Chinese religious culture one can identify five modalities of doing religion (the scriptural/discursive, the self-cultivational, the liturgical, the immediate-practical and the relational), each cutting across broader, conceptually aggregated religious traditions such as Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. Instead of competition between membership-based churches, there is more typically competition within each modality, especially the liturgical modality. Religious pluralism in China is not manifested as the co-existence of, and competition between, confession- and membership-based denominations and churches, but rather as the co-existence of, and competition between, various ritual-service providers with different (though sometimes convergent) liturgical programmes. (Source: journal)


Chau, Adam Yuet. “Religious Subjectification: The Practice of Cherishing Written Characters and Being a Ciji (Tzu Chi) Person.” In: Chinese Popular Religion: Linking Fieldwork and Theory: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on Sinology. Taipei: Academia Sinica, 2013. Pp.75-113.

Abstract: When looking at a particular religious tradition we can heuristically distinguish two crucial aspects. One aspect is the system of ideas, symbols, and ritual practices that make up this particular religious tradition. The other aspect is the mechanisms through which people mobilize this system of ideas, symbols, and ritual practices and are in turn mobilized by it. This second aspect we can call religious subjectification, i.e., how a certain kind of person (i.e. religious subject) is made through the dynamic interaction between “the system” and “the individual.” Religious subjectification as a model for understanding religious life works best when we look at religious initiatives that consciously aim at transforming people’s thinking and behavior and thus interpellating people into particular kinds of religious subjects. In this article I will use two cases to illustrate this kind of formation of religious subjects: the practice of cherishing written characters and lettered paper (xizizhi) and “being a Ciji person” (zuo cijiren). (Source: article)


Chau, Adam Yuet. “The Commodification of Religion in Chinese Societies.” In Modern Chinese Religion II, 1850-2015, edited by Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey, 949-976. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2016. (Handbook of Oriental Studies, section 4: China, vol.32)


Ching, Julia, "The Ambiguous Character of Chinese Religion(s)." Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 11(2001)2: 213-223.


Clart, Philip, "Sects, Cults, and Popular Religion: Aspects of Religious Change in Post-War Taiwan." British Columbia Asian Review 9(Winter 1995/96):120-163.


Clart, Philip. "The Concept of 'Popular Religion' in the Study of Chinese Religions: Retrospect and Prospects." In: The Fourth Fu Jen University Sinological Symposium: Research on Religions in China: Status quo and Perspectives, edited by Zbigniew Wesolowski, SVD. Xinzhuang: Furen Daxue chubanshe, 2007. Pp. 166-203.


Clart, Philip (ed.). Chinese and European Perspectives on the Study of Chinese Popular Religions. Taipei: Boyang Publishing, 2012. (See Editor's Introduction and table of contents here.)


Clart, Philip. “’Religious Ecology’ as a New Model for the Study of Religious Diversity in China.” In: Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought, ed. by Perry Schmidt-Leukel & Joachim Gentz, 187-199. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.


Clart, Philip. “Conceptualizations of ‘Popular Religion’ in Recent Research in the People’s Republic of China.” In Yanjiu xin shijie: “Mazu yu Huaren minjian xinyang” guoji yantaohui lunwenji, ed. Wang Chien-chuan, Li Shiwei, Hong Yingfa, 391-412. Taipei: Boyang, 2014.


Davis, Edward L., Society and the Supernatural in Song China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.

Abstract: Society and the Supernatural in Song China is at once a meticulous examination of spirit possession and exorcism in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and a social history of the full panoply of China's religious practices and practitioners at the moment when she was poised to dominate the world economy. Although the Song dynasty (960-1276) is often identified with the establishment of Confucian orthodoxy, Edward Davis demonstrates the renewed vitality of the dynasty's Taoist, Buddhist, and local religious traditions. (Source: publisher's webpage)


Dell’Orto, Alessandro. “Luoghi, poteri e rappresentazioni: Visioni del mondo e religione popolare in Taiwan tra antropologia e storia.” In Quinto Simposio Internazionale di Sinologia dell’Università Fu Jen: “L’incontro fra l’Italia e la Cina: il contributo italiano alla sinologia” (with Chinese translation), edited by Antonella Tulli & Zbigniew Wesolowski, 567-618. Xinzhuang: Fu Da chubanshe, 2009.


Dobbelaere, Karel. “China Challenges Secularization Theory.” Social Compass 56 (2009): 362-370.

Abstract: The author proposes a reflection on challenges that the three anthropological articles in this issue present for secularization theory. The first two discuss “performances” of religion in two different Chinese cultural periods: welfare services offered by recognized religious associations in the People’s Republic of China and the judicial rituals in colonial settings. The author suggests similarities with such “performances” in western culture. The second part of the article discusses some issues raised by Szonyi in his comparison of recent social research literature on Chinese religion and sociological literature on secularization: a critique of the concept of “modernity” in relation to secularization; a reflection on the possibility of establishing a secularization theory with universal validity; how to integrate rational choice theory and secularization theory; the validity of secularization in view of individual religious sensitivity; and secularization as an ideology and a discussion of the so-called “privatization of religion” in secularized settings. (Source: journal)


DuBois, Thomas, "The Sacred World of Cang County: Religious Belief, Organization and Practice in Rural North China During the Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries." Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 2001.

Abstract: Since the late nineteenth century, the villages of Cang County, located in southern Hebei Province, have undergone enormous political, social, and economic change. Yet throughout this period, personal and public religious life have remained matters of highest importance. This dissertation combines traditional archival sources with the authorís fieldwork to outline the religious needs and devotion of the individual, the history of local religious institutions and networks, and interaction between religious organization and local society in Cang County during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The dissertation begins with an analysis of personal religious mentality, asking how the individual comes to know the sacred and what he or she comes to expect of it. An analysis of religious vows (yuan) in the city of Tianjin and in rural Cang County demonstrates the place of morality and devotion in an overtly functional ritual regimen. The place of spirit healers (xiangtou) in Cang County, and their interaction with other healers, particularly village doctors, demonstrates both the contingency of belief and the characteristic manner by which religious knowledge is spread through the medium of miracle tales.

Religious institutions generally did not demand exclusive belief or affiliation, and popular religiosity freely drew upon different sects and teachings as sources of inspiration. Formal teachings such as Buddhism made a great impact on local belief, but by the twentieth century, monks were few and their teaching nearly indistinguishable from local religiosity. Sectarian groups, long characterized as subversive and secret, also left an important mark on local religious life. Each teaching had distinct doctrine, organization and social appeal. Teachings such as Zailijiao were oriented towards the development and public expression of personal morality, particularly of the local mercantile elite. Yiguandao addressed millenarian longings, thus finding a ready audience during times of trial, particularly the Japanese occupation. Others, such as Tiandimen and Taishangmen were grounded in everyday ritual practice, and have thus retained their popular appeal throughout the period.

Outside of religious networks, the organization of local society shaped the diffusion and of religious knowledge. The concentration of religious resources (such as temples and specialists) within the village, influenced the votive lives of individual peasants. However, although the village supported these resources and expressed a sense of common welfare, the ritual use of these resources was primarily by the household. [Source: author.]


DuBois, Thomas David. The Sacred Village: Social Change and Religious Life in Rural North China. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i Press, 2005.

Abstract: Until recently, few villagers of rural North China ventured far from their homes. Their intensely local view of the world included knowledge of the immanent sacred realm, which derived from stories of divine revelations, cures, and miracles that circulated among neighboring villages. These stories gave direction to private devotion and served as a source of expert information on who the powerful deities were and what role they played in the human world. The structure of local society also shaped public devotion, as different groups expressed their economic and social concerns in organized worship. While some of these groups remained structurally intact in the face of historical change, others have changed dramatically, resulting in new patterns of religious organization and practice.

The Sacred Village introduces local religious life in Cang County, Hebei Province, as a lens through which to view the larger issue of how rural Chinese perspectives and behaviors were shaped by the sweeping social, political, and demographic changes of the last two centuries. Thomas DuBois combines new archival sources in Chinese and Japanese with his own fieldwork to produce a work that is compelling and intimate in detail. This dual approach also allows him to address the integration of external networks into local society and religious mentality and posit local society as a particular sphere in which the two are negotiated and transformed. [Source: publisher's website]


DuBois, Thomas David. “Local Religion and the Cultural Imaginary: the Development of Japanese Ethnography in Occupied Manchuria.” American Historical Review 111.1 (2006): 52-74.


Faivre, Gilles, Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine: table analytique et index de l'oeuvre du père Henri Doré S.J. Paris: Librairie-éditeur You-Feng, 1997.


Falkenhausen, Lothar von, "Archaeology and the Study of Chinese Local Religion: A Discussant's Remarks." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 10(1998): 411-425.

Abstract: Avec comme base de sa réflexion quelques articles du présent volume des Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie et du volume conjoint en chinois, l'auteur examine quelques orientations grâce auxquelles la recherche archéologique pourrait aider à une vision plus globale des religions locales. Il aborde ainsi les questions suivantes: (1) Comment intégrer textes et documents matériels; (2) quelle est la relation entre l'inscription et son support - une dimension sémantique trop souvent sous-estimée en épigraphie; et (3) comment tenir compte de l'utilisation rhétorique de l'espace dans un site religieux. [Source of abstract: article]


Fan Lizhu, "Popular Religion in Contemporary China." Social Compass 50(2003)4: 449-457.


Fan, Lizhu, and Na Chen. “The Revival and Development of Popular Religion in China, 1980-Present.” In Modern Chinese Religion II, 1850-2015, edited by Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey, 923-948. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2016. (Handbook of Oriental Studies, section 4: China, vol.32)


Feuchtwang, Stephan, Popular Religion in China: The Imperial Metaphor. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 2001.


Feuchtwang, Stephan; Shih Fang-Long; Paul-François Tremlett. "The Formation and Function of the Category 'Religion' in Anthropological Studies of Taiwan." Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 18(2006)1: 37-66.


Feuchtwang, Stephan. The Anthropology of Religion, Charisma and Ghosts: Chinese Lessons for Adequate Theory. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

Abstract: It has been said that Chinese government was, until the republican period, government through li. Li is the untranslatable word covering appropriate conduct toward others, from the guest rituals of imperial diplomacy to the hospitality offered to guests in the homes of ordinary people. It also covers the centring of self in relation to the flows and objects in a landscape or a built environment, including the world beyond the spans of human and other lives. It is prevalent under the republican regimes of China and Taiwan in the forming and maintaining of personal relations, in the respect for ancestors, and especially in the continuing rituals of address to gods, of command to demons, and of charity to neglected souls. The concept of ?religion’ does not grasp this, neither does the concept of ?ritual’, yet li undoubtedly refers to a figuration of a universe and of place in the world as encompassing as any body of rite and magic or of any religion. Through studies of Chinese gods and ghosts this book challenges theories of religion based on a supreme god and that god’s prophets, as well as those like Hinduism based on mythical figures from epics, and offers another conception of humanity and the world, distinct from that conveyed by the rituals of other classical anthropological theories. (Source: publisher's website)


Gaenssbauer, Monika. Popular Belief in Contemporary China: A Discourse Analysis. Translated by Alexander Reynolds. Bochum: projekt verlag, 2015.

Abstract: This publication offers a fresh and unique approach to the topic of popular belief in contemporary China. It focuses on the posi­tions of participants in the Chinese language discourse rather than taking the current state of research in the Western world as the starting point for ist exploration. This study lays open the discursive thread in the People’s Republic of China about indigeneity and the critical reception by Chinese academics of Western research approaches. Many Chine­se authors have begun to question the ability of Western theories to adequately explain phenomena in China. This book also deals with discursive strategies of Chinese academics aimed at the legitimation of popular belief and in support of a scientific treatment of popular belief in the People’s Republic of China. The author gives a comprehensive overview of the broad range of positions within this rapidly unfolding social and aca­demic sphere. (Source: publisher's website)


Gerritsen, Anne Tjerkje, "Gods and Governors: Interpreting the Religious Realms in Ji'an (Jiangxi) during the Southern Song, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties." Thesis (Ph.D.), Harvard University, 2001, 349p.

Abstract: This dissertation examines the religiosity of the common people in Ji'an Prefecture (Jiangxi Province) during the Southern Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. I use the term "religiosity" to refer to the multiple ways in which the people of Ji'an interpreted and manipulated the realm of higher forces that affected their lives and deaths. This religiosity is of particular interest because the sources demonstrate that many "social actors" on the local scene attached great importance to this religiosity. Many regional and national groups of "actors" represented in local society were interested in asserting their authority over the religiosity of commoners by suggesting their own interpretations of the religious realm. This dissertation chronicles two processes of change; the gradual change in the religiosity of the common people, and the changing ways of manipulating this religiosity and their different rates of success.

Religiosity during the Southern Song dynasty is based on the availability and diversity of options. The importance of access to a range of options means that boundaries within which interpretations of the outer realm exist are constantly shifting, while the communities within which such interpretations exist are also fluid. The analysis of Yuan dynasty sources suggests a high degree of continuity between the Southern Song and Yuan. By the later Ming the diversity of options still exists, but the importance of an integrated community within which a tradition of practice is shared also begins to feature. I suggest that the emphasis on cohesion and small-scale integration in Ji'an does not appear in written sources until the middle of the Ming dynasty.

Throughout this period both representatives of the central government and local literati attempted to impose their own interpretations of the religious realm on local population. While government-based narratives of local religiosity change dramatically throughout this period, the effect of that change is much less noticeable on the local level. Analysis of literati narratives yield a more significant change. Throughout the Southern Song and Yuan dynasties literati use religion to give themselves a voice of authority in local society. This gradually diminishes during the Ming dynasty. [Source: Dissertation Abstracts International]


Goh, Daniel P.S. "Chinese Religion and the Challenge of Modernity in Malaysia and Singapore: Syncretism, Hybridisation and Transfiguration." Asian Journal of Social Science 37.1 (2009): 138-162.

Abstract: The past fifty years have seen continuing anthropological interest in the changes in religious beliefs and practices among the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore under conditions of rapid modernisation. Anthropologists have used the syncretic model to explain these changes, arguing that practitioners of Chinese "folk" religion have adapted to urbanisation, capitalist growth, nation-state formation, and literacy to preserve their spiritualist worldview, but the religion has also experienced "rationalisation" in response to the challenge of modernity. This article proposes an alternative approach that questions the dichotomous imagination of spiritualist Chinese religion and rationalist modernity assumed by the syncretic model. Using ethnographic, archival and secondary materials, I discuss two processes of change — the transfiguration of forms brought about by mediation in new cultural flows, and the hybridisation of meanings brought about by contact between different cultural systems — in the cases of the Confucianist reform movement, spirit mediumship, Dejiao associations, state-sponsored Chingay parades, reform Taoism, and Charismatic Christianity. These represent both changes internal to Chinese religion and those that extend beyond to reanimate modernity in Malaysia and Singapore. I argue that existential anxiety connects both processes as the consequence of hybridisation and the driving force for transfiguration.

Goossaert, Vincent, "Le destin de la religion chinoise au 20ème siècle." Social Compass 50(2003)4: 441-448.


Goossaert, Vincent. Bureaucratie et salut: Devenir un dieu en Chine. Genève: Labor et Fides, 2017.

Abstract: La « divinisation de soi » constitue en Chine une option originale dans l’éventail des possibles destins posthumes de l’individu. Dans ce livre, Vincent Goossaert réévalue le modèle d’un au-delà chinois peuplé d’ancêtres, et remet en lumière une alternative tout aussi crédible, si ce n’est plus enviable : celle pour l’homme de devenir un dieu. Ce faisant, le livre retrace les grandes étapes de l’histoire des conceptions et pratiques religieuses de la divinisation, de l’Antiquité à nos jours. Loin de la vision répandue d’un imaginaire funéraire essentiellement tourné vers le culte des ancêtres, la Chine se présente ici comme un terrain d’expérimentation des destins individuels au-delà de la mort. (Source: publisher's website)


Goossaert, Vincent. “Historiens et anthropologues repensent la diversité religieuse en Chine.” Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident 45 (2022): 15–34.

Abstract: La société chinoise est reconnue par les spécialistes de la diversité religieuse comme un cas remarquable de diversité ancienne et toujours très vivace. Pourtant, les travaux de sciences sociales portant sur la diversité religieuse en Chine appliquent largement des théories développées en Occident. Cet article présente l'état actuel des modèles et théories dans lesquelles est étudié le pluralisme religieux chinois et propose d'esquisser les développements les plus prometteurs qui rendent pleinement compte de la diversité religieuse réelle sur le terrain. Il développe notamment deux outils analytiques : les quatre dimensions de la société et les cadres liturgiques. Il montre ensuite que ces outils mettent en relief la forte propension de la société chinoise à la division régulée du travail religieux.


Haar, Barend J. ter, "Buddhist Inspired Options: Aspects of Lay Religious Life in the Lower Yangzi from 1100 until 1340." T'oung Pao 87(2001): 92-152.


Haar, Barend ter. Religious Culture and Violence in Traditional China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Abstract: The basis of Chinese religious culture, and with that many aspects of daily life, was the threat and fear of demonic attacks. These were inherently violent and could only be counteracted by violence as well - even if this reactive violence was masked by euphemisms such as execution, expulsion, exorcisms and so on. At the same time, violence was a crucial dimension of the maintenance of norms and values, for instance in sworn agreements or in beliefs about underworld punishment. Violence was also an essential aspect of expressing respect through sacrificial gifts of meat (and in an earlier stage of Chinese culture also human flesh) and through a culture of auto-mutilation and ritual suicide. At the same time, conventional indigenous terms for violence such as bao 暴 were not used for most of these practices since they were not experienced as such, but rather justified as positive uses of physical force.


He, Jianming. “Compilation of Local Chronicles and New Directions in Research of Chinese Religious History.” Studies in Chinese Religions 2, no. 1 (2016): 1-17.

Abstract: This paper primarily investigates new trends in research on Chinese religious history based on local chronicles that are now being explored. It looks at three aspects from local chronicles including the numerous accounts of temples; various writings and illustrations (inscriptions, poems, etc.); and the relationships between the three teachings (Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism) in the lives of common people and regional environments, analyzing and pointing out that research on Chinese religious history is shifting towards a focus on multidimensional historical research centered on temples; a departure from an earlier focus on linear history which was centered on individuals and thought. Research is trending towards a multidimensional dynamic history, from an earlier research model based on a one-track static history. It is also trending towards an explanatory model of social history focused on the actual needs of common people and their lifestyles, which is a change from past explanatory models of intellectual and political history which were focused on ideology and politics while related to great issues such as the relationships between the three teachings, and religion and politics. This paper in the end explains that local chronicles, which contain extremely rich and valuable historical information on Buddhism and Daoism in the regional societies of China throughout the ages, reveal historical data on Chinese religions which is truer and more vivid and concrete than the Buddhist and Daoist canons as well as various types of ‘official histories.’ (Source: journal)


He, Qimin. “Religious Traditions in Local Communities of China.” Pastoral Psychology 61.5/6 (2012): 823-839.

Abstract: All religions in China are closely linked to the traditional religion based on the patriarchal clan system. This bedrock faith of the Chinese, as it interacts with native religions and foreign religions, has fundamentally influenced the religious psychology of all Chinese people. Following a brief introduction to China's religions, this article discusses folk religions as the main expression of traditional patriarchal religion, as well as their function and impact in contemporary society. The article then outlines relations between the multiple religions and cultures of ethnic groups in pluralist China to help the reader better understand the interaction between religious and cultural traditions of the Chinese people. (Source: journal)

Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, "Strange Notes on Modern Statistics and Traditional Popular Religion: Further Reflections on the Importance of Sinology for Social Science as Applied to China." In: Lutz Bieg, Erling von Mende & Martina Siebert [eds.], Ad Seres et Tungusos: Festschrift für Martin Gimm zu seinem 65. Geburtstag am 25. Mai 1995. Wiesbaden: Harassowitz Verlag, 2000. Pp.171-189.


Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten. "Religious Individualisation in China: A Two-Modal Approach." In Religious Individualisation: Historical Dimensions and Comparative Perspectives. Edited by Martin Fuchs et al., 643-668. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2019. 


Hu, Anning. “Folk Religion in Chinese Societies.” Ph.D. diss., Purdue University, 2012.

Abstract: This dissertation consists of three main chapters which investigate folk religion in Chinese societies (mainland and Taiwan). Field research performed in many parts China has documented the revival of folk religious practices and beliefs, but until now few rigorous quantitative studies have been performed to investigate its demographic characteristics, longitudinal trajectories, and civic functions. This dissertation studies these aspects of Chinese folk religion. Chapter 2 examines the number of folk religion adherents and their demographic characteristics in both mainland and Taiwan. The results suggest that in spite of the dramatic social, political, and cultural changes in modern times, the adherents of folk religion still substantially outnumber the believers of institutional religions in Chinese societies. Chapter 3 revisits Weber's classic discussion about disenchantment and recent theoretical development in the religious market approach about the failure of folk religion on a free religious market. In particular, Chapter 3 examines the longitudinal trends of different types of folk religion in Taiwan between 1990 and 2009. The findings highlight the decline of communal folk religion and the growth of certain types of individual folk religion. Chapter 4 focuses on the civic functions of different types of folk religion. Members of sectarian folk religion are found to be more likely to get involved in volunteering within religious organizations while participants of individual folk religion have significantly higher propensity to donate to both religious and secular organizations.

Hu, Anning; Yang, Fenggang. "Trajectories of Folk Religion in Deregulated Taiwan: an Age, Period, Cohort Analysis. Chinese Sociological Review 46, no.3 (2014): 80-100.


Hu, Baozhu. Believing in Ghosts and Spirits: The Concept of Gui in Ancient China. London: Routledge, 2020.

Abstract: The present book by Hu Baozhu explores the subject of ghosts and spirits and attempts to map the religious landscape of ancient China. The main focus of attention is the character gui 鬼, an essential key to the understanding of spiritual beings. The author analyses the character gui in various materials – lexicons and dictionaries, excavated manuscripts and inscriptions, and received classical texts. Gui is examined from the perspective of its linguistic root, literary interpretation, ritual practices, sociopolitical implication, and cosmological thinking. In the gradual process of coming to know the otherworld in terms of ghosts and spirits, Chinese people in ancient times attempted to identify and classify these spiritual entities. In their philosophical thinking, they connected the subject of gui with the movement of the universe. Thus the belief in ghosts and spirits in ancient China appeared to be a moral standard for all, not only providing a room for individual religiosity but also implementing the purpose of family-oriented social order, the legitimization of political operations, and the understanding of the way of Heaven and Earth.


Hymes, Robert, Way and Byway: Taoism, Local Religion, and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.

Abstract: Using a combination of newly mined Sung sources and modern ethnography, Robert Hymes addresses questions that have perplexed China scholars in recent years. Were Chinese gods celestial officials, governing the fate and fortunes of their worshippers as China's own bureaucracy governed their worldly lives? Or were they personal beings, patrons or parents or guardians, offering protection in exchange for reverence and sacrifice?

To answer these questions Hymes examines the professional exorcist sects and rising Immortals' cults of the Sung dynasty alongside ritual practices in contemporary Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as miracle tales, liturgies, spirit law codes, devotional poetry, and sacred geographies of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. Drawing upon historical and anthropological evidence, he argues that two contrasting and contending models informed how the Chinese saw and see their gods. These models were used separately or in creative combination to articulate widely varying religious standpoints and competing ideas of both secular and divine power. Whether gods were bureaucrats or personal protectors depended, and still depends, says Hymes, on who worships them, in what setting, and for what purposes. [Source of abstract: publisher's webpage]


Jackson, Paul Allen. “Logographic Elements of Daoist Religious Language: A Case Study of Two Temples in Southern Taiwan.” Huaren zongjiao yanjiu/Studies in Chinese Religions 1(2013): 135-173.


Jin, Ze. “Dissemination and Aggregation: Some Reflections on the Transformation Processes Affecting Folk Belief in China.” Studies in Chinese Religions 1, no. 4 (2015): 306-322.

Abstract: The relevance of investigating the religious life of the common people in China has long been underestimated. This paper first examines the concepts of folk belief and folk religion and their characteristics based on historical and empirical materials. Then it addresses the possible patterns affecting the changeable religious elements – dissemination and aggregation. Finally, it describes the differing dynamics of integration within certain specific religions. The author argues that the social permeability of ‘little traditions’ and ‘great traditions’ has provided a substantial orientation for the establishment of people’s religious lives, and may also serve as a lens through which we may better understand the processes of social transformation in China. (Source: journal)


Johnson, David. Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2010.

Abstract: This book is about the ritual world of a group of rural settlements in Shanxi province in pre-1949 North China. Temple festivals, with their giant processions, elaborate rituals, and operas, were the most important influence on the symbolic universe of ordinary villagers and demonstrate their remarkable capacity for religious and artistic creation. The great festivals described in this book were their supreme collective achievements and were carried out virtually without assistance from local officials or educated elites, clerical or lay. Chinese culture was a performance culture, and ritual was the highest form of performance. Village ritual life everywhere in pre-revolutionary China was complex, conservative, and extraordinarily diverse. Festivals and their associated rituals and operas provided the emotional and intellectual materials out of which ordinary people constructed their ideas about the world of men and the realm of the gods. It is, David Johnson argues, impossible to form an adequate idea of traditional Chinese society without a thorough understanding of village ritual. Newly discovered liturgical manuscripts allow him to reconstruct North Chinese temple festivals in unprecedented detail and prove that they are sharply different from the Daoist- and Buddhist-based communal rituals of South China. [Source: publisher's website]


Johnson, Elizabeth Lominska, "Child and Family in Chinese Popular Religion." In: Harold Coward & Philip Cook [eds.], Religious Dimensions of Child and Family Life: Reflections on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Victoria, B.C.: Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, 1996. Pp.123-139.


Jordan, David K., Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Folk Religion in aTaiwanese Village. Third edition. San Diego, CA: Department of Anthropology, University of California-San Diego, 1999. (Published as a WWW document. Access via http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan or directly at http://hops.ucsd.edu/~jordan/scriptorium/gga/ggacover.html)


Katz, Paul R., "Identity Politics and the Study of Popular Religion in Postwar Taiwan." In: Paul R. Katz and Murray A. Rubinstein [eds.], Religion and the Formation of Taiwanese Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Pp.157-180.


Katz, Paul R., and Vincent Goossaert. The Fifty Years That Changed Chinese Religion, 1898–1948. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2021.

Abstract: In recent years, both scholars and the general public have become increasingly fascinated by the role of religion in modern Chinese life. However, the bulk of attention has been devoted to changes caused by the repression of the Maoist era and subsequent religious revival. The Fifty Years That Changed Chinese Religion breaks new ground by systematically demonstrating that equally important transformative processes occurred during the period covering the last decade of the Qing dynasty and the entire Republican period. Focusing on Shanghai and Zhejiang, this book delves in depth into the real-life workings of social structures, religious practices and personal commitments as they evolved during this period of wrenching changes. At the same time, it goes further than the existing literature in terms of theoretical models and comparative perspectives, notably with other Asian countries such as Korea and Japan.


Lagerwey, John, "Questions of Vocabulary, or, How Shall We Talk about Chinese Religion?" In: Lai Chi Tim [ed.], Daojiao yu minjian zongjiao yanjiu lunji. Hong Kong: Xuefeng Wenhua Shiye, 1999. Pp.166-181.


Lagerwey, John, "Du caractère rationnel de la religion locale en Chine." Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient 87(2000)1: 301-315.

Abstract: La thèse soutenue dans cet article est que le comportement religieux chinois, tel qu'on l'observe à l'échelon local, suppose un système symbolique commun qui est « approprié à la situation socioéconomique ». Basé sur un travail de terrain dans les parties habitées par les Hakka du Nord-Est de la province de Guangdong, il examine une vallée « idéal-typique » coupée par une rivière qui divise un village monolignager d'un village plurilignager. Il y a une « logique profonde de l'occupation lignagère de l'espace », qui est fondamentalement monopolistique et conduit, si le lignage arrive à ses fins, d'un ancêtre fondateur unique à un lignage dominant qui a chassé tous les rivaux de l'écosystème que constitue la vallée. C'est dans ce contexte que le souci intense, lors de la construction d'une maison ou d'une tombe, de la captation symbolique du pouvoir spirituel du paysage au moyen de la géomancie prend tout son sens. Si les ancêtres représentent le lignage comme entité « publique », sociale, ce sont les dieux qui représentent la vallée comme un tout, c'est-à-dire comme un écosystème social partagé. Les dieux les plus importants sont les dieux villageois du sol, qui protègent le village des envahisseurs surnaturels. Il arrive souvent que des villages, représentés par leurs dieux du sol, appartiennent à des alliances plus larges formées autour de divinités hébergées dans des temples. Les processions à travers le territoire du dieu font partie intégrante des célébrations communautaires. Les démons, enfin, sont des puissances spirituelles qui, contrairement aux dieux, ne sont pas attachées à un lieu précis et doivent être régulièrement « invitées », nourries, et chassées en des lieux rituels en aval du village. Cet espace religieux surpeuplé reflétait un espace socioéconomique surpeuplé, situation qui engendrait « une approche stratégique et opportuniste de la survie »."

The basic thesis of this essay is that Chinese religious behaviour as observed on the local level involves a symbolic system common to all that is "appropriate to the socio-economic context." Based on fieldwork in the Hakka parts of north-eastern Guangdong, the article examines an "ideal-type" valley bisected by a river which divides a uni-lineage from a multi-lineage "village". There is an "inner logic of the lineage occupation of space", a logic which is essentially monopolistic and leads, if the lineage is successful, from a single founding ancestor to a fully articulated major lineage which has driven all rivals from the valley ecosystem. It is in this context that the intense concern, when building a house or a tomb, with symbolic capture of the spiritual power of the landscape by means of geomancy makes sense. If the ancestors represent the lineage as a "public", social entity, it is the gods who represent the valley as a whole, that is, as a shared social ecosystem. The most important are the village earth gods, who protect the village against supernatural invaders. Not infrequently, villages represented by their earth gods will belong to larger alliances built up around gods housed in temples. Processions throughout the god's territory are a standard part of communal celebrations. Demons, finally, are spiritual forces who, unlike gods, are not tied to a fixed place and must be regularly "invited", fed, and driven away at ritual sites downstream from the village. This overcrowed religious space reflected an overcrowded socio-economic space, a situation that engendered "a strategic, opportunistic approach to survival".


Lagerwey, John. China: A Religious State. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010.

Abstract: Over the last forty years, our vision of Chinese culture and history has been transformed by the discovery of the role of religion in Chinese state-making and in local society. The Daoist religion, in particular, long despised as "superstitious", has recovered its place as "the native higher religion." But while the Chinese state tried from the fifth century on to construct an orthodoxy based on Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, local society everywhere carved out for itself its own geomantically defined space and organized itself around local festivals in honor of gods of its own choosing—gods who were often invented and then represented by illiterate mediums. Looking at China from the point of view of elite or popular culture therefore produces very different results. John Lagerwey has done extensive fieldwork on local society and its festivals. This book represents a first attempt to use this new research to integrate top-down and bottom-up views of Chinese society, culture, and history. It should be of interest to a wide range of China specialists, students of religion and popular culture, as well as participants in the ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue between historians and anthropologists. [Source: publisher's website]

Lagerwey, John. “Village Religion in Huizhou: A Preliminary Assessment.” Min-su ch’ü-i / Journal of Chinese Ritual, Theatre and Folklore 174 (2011): 305-357.


Lagerwey, John. "The Continent of the Gods." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 188-208.

Abstract: It first occurred to me some thirty years ago that Shenzhou 神州, translated "continent of the gods," was a perfect way of talking about "China in the Daoist mirror." It made it possible to think of China as a series of concentric spaces, going from the self to the cosmos, all structured in the same away around nodal points occupied by gods. Because it revealed a dense organization at every level, this space-based approach led me as well to call into question the classic distinction between "diffused" and "organized" religion. Subsequent work, both historical and in the field, gradually enabled me to see this as a long evolutionary history which begins with elite attacks on spirit-medium religion in the Warring States and culminates with the emergence of popular religion in the Song. This religion includes popular versions of the Three Teachings, but it is built around the local, anthropomorphic gods whose primary task was the protection of bounded territory and whose natural servants were the ever-maligned spirit-mediums. (Source: journal)


Lai Pan-chiu, "Chinese Religions and the History of Salvation: A Theological Perspective." Ching Feng 40 (1997) 1: 15-40.


Li, Shiwei. “A Survey and Evaluation of Postwar Scholarship of Popular Taiwan (1950–2000).” Chinese Studies in History 44.1-2 (2010/11): 38-75.

Abstract: Most of the best Chinese-language scholarship on redemptive societies, and on religion in general, has been done by Taiwanese scholars, both because religion in Taiwan has been subject to less state intervention than on the main- land, and because scholarship on Taiwan is both freer and more open to Western influence. Although Li Shiwei’s article is not focused squarely on the subject of redemptive societies, he offers a comprehensive and valuable overview of the last half century of work on Chinese popular religion by Taiwanese scholars, a useful shortcut to a very useful body of knowledge. (Source: journal)


Liao, Hsien-Huei, "Popular Religion and the Religious Beliefs of the Song Elite, 960--1276." Thesis (Ph.D.), University of California, Los Angeles, 2001, 338p.

Abstract: This study explores the interaction between the elite and popular religion during the Song. Its central concern lies in the question of how concurrent intellectual and religious trends could have been reconciled within the culture of the Song elite. My main contention is that rather than dissociating themselves from the supernatural realm or making genuine efforts to put it under control, many of the Song elite like the rest of the society upheld a deep-rooted belief in the power of the supernatural world. Yet due to their unique social, cultural, and political status, the beliefs and practices of the Song elite were not exactly identical to those of the common people. Implicit divergences of beliefs and practices between the elite and the common people remained abiding features underneath their commonly shared beliefs. The Song elite significantly contributed to the development and proliferation of popular religion through their personal piety and patronage. To demonstrate the above argument, this study will examine four key aspects of the elite's religious beliefs and practices: their appeals for divine aid, encounters with ghosts and demonic forces, obsession with death and the afterlife, and recourse to divination. Why they believed in supernatural powers, how they justified personal actions violating Confucian principles, and what reactions they made to supernatural interventions will all be closely investigated through their own testimonies and daily practices. By examining the religious views and actions of the elite in both the public and private spheres, this dissertation attempts to develop a new perspective for the study of the religious life and role of the elite and a novel conception of the formation and development of popular religion. [Source: Dissertation Abstracts International]


Lin, Wei-Ping. "Local History through Popular Religion: Place, People and Their Narratives in Taiwan." Asian Anthropology 8 (2009): 1-30.

Abstract: This paper explores how popular religion can offer a different interpretation of history than the macro politico-economic perspective. It draws on ethnography from rural Taiwan to discuss how the local people have their own ways of understanding history. The author examines religious narratives, the revelations of spirit mediums, and changes in the governance of temples to show how the social histories of the region and the wider society are reconstituted locally. These religious narrations and practices, grounded in ideas of place and in the social relations between deities and their adherents, are important means of constructing local identity and conveying people’s agency.


Lin Wei-Ping. Materializing Magic Power: Chinese Popular Religion in Villages and Cities. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, vol. 97. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2015.

Abstract: Materializing Magic Power paints a broad picture of the dynamics of popular religion in Taiwan. The first book to explore contemporary Chinese popular religion from its cultural, social, and material perspectives, it analyzes these aspects of religious practice in a unified framework and traces their transformation as adherents move from villages to cities. In this groundbreaking study, Wei-Ping Lin offers a fresh perspective on the divine power of Chinese deities as revealed in two important material forms—god statues and spirit mediums. By examining the significance of these religious manifestations, Lin identifies personification and localization as the crucial cultural mechanisms that bestow efficacy on deity statues and spirit mediums. She further traces the social consequences of materialization and demonstrates how the different natures of materials mediate distinct kinds of divine power. The first part of the book provides a detailed account of popular religion in villages. This is followed by a discussion of how rural migrant workers cope with challenges in urban environments by inviting branch statues of village deities to the city, establishing an urban shrine, and selecting a new spirit medium. These practices show how traditional village religion is being reconfigured in cities today. (Source: publisher's website)


Lopez, Donald S., Jr. [ed.], Religions of China in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.


Madsen, Richard. “Religious Revival.” In: You-tien Hsing & Ching Kwan Lee [eds.], Reclaiming Chinese Society: The New Social Activism. London: Routledge, 2010. Pp.140-156.


Malek, Roman, Das Tao des Himmels. Die religiöse Tradition Chinas. Freiburg: Herder, 1996.


Menegon, Eugenio. “Le fonti per la cultura popolare nella Cina tardo-imperiale: alcuni documenti nell’Archivio Romano della Compagnia di Gesù.” (The sources for popular culture in late imperial China: some documents in the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus). In Lo studio delle fonti per la storia cinese, edited by Maurizio Scarpari, 68-90. Venezia: Cafoscarina, 1995.


Menegon, Eugenio & Gina Cogan, “Religious Change in East Asia, 1400- 1800.” In The Cambridge History of the World, vol.6. The Construction of a Global World, 1400-1800. Part 2. Patterns of Change, ed. Jerry Bentley, Sanjay Subrahmanyam and Merry Wiesner-Hanks, 387-422. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.


Meyer, Christian. “‘Religion’ and ‘Superstition’ in Introductory Works to Religious Studies in Early Republican China.“ Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung 33 (2009): 103-125.


Morris, E.B., "Philosophic and Religious Content of Chinese Folk Religion." Chinese Culture 39(1998)2: 1-28.


Nadeau, Randall & Chang Hsun, "Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors: Religious Studies and the Question of 'Taiwanese Identity'." In: Philip Clart & Charles B. Jones [eds.], Religion in Modern Taiwan: Tradition and Innovation in a Changing Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. Pp.280-299.


Nadeau, Randall L. "A Critical Review of Daniel L. Overmyer's Contribution to the Study of Chinese Religions." In: The People and the Dao: New Studies in Chinese Religions in Honour of Prof. Daniel L. Overmyer, edited by Philip Clart & Paul Crowe. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2009. Pp. 23-35.


Overmyer, Daniel L., "Chinese Religions as Part of the History of Salvation: A Dialogue with Christianity." Ching Feng 40 (1997) 1: 1-14.


Overmyer, Daniel L. , "From 'Feudal Superstition' to 'Popular Beliefs': New Directions in Mainland Chinese Studies of Chinese Popular Religion". Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 12(2001): 103-126.

Abstract: C'est environ à partir de 1990 que les chercheurs chinois ont commencé, pour la première fois depuis cinquante ans, à publier des études sur les traditions religieuses des Chinois ordinaires ; certaines d'entre elles assez générales et recourant à un style populaire, d'autres plus sérieuses et détaillées. Avec l'aide de deux collègues chinois, l'auteur a rassemblé cinquante deux ouvrages sur le sujet. Cet article est un compte rendu critique des ouvrages qui, dans cet ensemble, présentent le plus de valeur pour la recherche universitaire. Cette évaluation nouvelle de la religion populaire est à la fois un phénomène culturel et académique. Ces livres traduisent les débuts d'un changement quant à la perception autochtone de la culture chinoise dans son ensemble et aux sujets sur lesquels un chercheur peut légitimement poursuivre ses recherches. Il n'est pas exagéré de dire que c'est la première fois dans l'histoire chinoise que les activités et les croyances religieuses des gens ordinaires font l'objet d'autant d'attention et de publications. Bien sûr, une ambivalence demeure à propos de la légitimité de ces traditions, et la qualité de ces études est variable, mais, l'existence même de ces livres est importante. Nous pouvons nous réjouir de ce phénomène tout en gardant à l'esprit une perspective critique sur les travaux publiés. Ceux-ci restent, avant tout, un bon départ. (Source: journal)


Overmyer, Daniel L., "Religion in China Today: Introduction." The China Quarterly 174(2003): 307-316.


Overmyer, Daniel L. “Local Religion in North China in the Twentieth Century: The Structure and Organization of Community Rituals and Beliefs.” Zongjiao renleixue / Anthropology of Religion 4 (2013): 3-24.

Palmer, David A. "Religion and Chinese Society." Quest 4(2005)2: 142-154.


Palmer, David A. "Folk, Popular, or Minjian Religion?" Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 155-159.


Palmer, David A. "Cosmology, Gender, Structure, and Rhythm: Marcel Granet and Chinese Religion in the History of Social Theory." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 160-187

Abstract: This article interrogates the near-complete absence of China as a source of materials and inspiration for constructing theoretical concepts and models in mainstream sociology and anthropology. I outline the story of the largely forgotten mutual engagements, influences, and missed connections between the work of the French sociologist and sinologist Marcel Granet (1884–1940), whose work revolved around Chinese religion, and key figures in the history of sociological and anthropological theory, exemplified by Durkheim, Mauss, and Lévi-Strauss. My purpose is to restore Granet—and, through Granet, China—in the genealogy of classical anthropological and social theory. This involves showing how Granet's work was informed by the theoretical debates that animated his mentors and colleagues in the French sociological school, and how he, in turn, directly or indirectly influenced subsequent theoretical developments. It also involves raising questions about the implications of connections that were missed, or only briefly evoked, by theoreticians in subsequent generations. These questions open bridges for advancing a mutually productive dialogue between the study of Chinese cosmology, religion, and society, and theory construction in sociology and anthropology. (Source: journal)


Paper, Jordan, The Spirits are Drunk. Comparative Approaches to Chinese Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.


Paper, Jordan & Li Chuang Paper, "Chinese Religions, Population, and the Environment." In: Harold Coward [ed.], Population, Consumption, and the Environment: Religious and Secular Responses. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. Pp. 173-191.


Paper, Jordan, "Conversion from Within and Without in Chinese Religion." In: Christopher Lamb & M. Darrol Bryant [eds.], Religious Conversion: Contemporary Practices and Controversies. London & New York: Cassell, 1999. Pp.102-114.


Paper, Jordan. "The Role of Possession Trance in Chinese Culture and Religion: A Comparative Overview from the Neolithic to the Present." In: The People and the Dao: New Studies in Chinese Religions in Honour in Prof. Daniel L. Overmyer, edited by Philip Clart & Paul Crowe. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, 2009. Pp. 327-345.


Paper, Jordan. “A New Approach to Understanding Chinese Religions.” Huaren zongjiao yanjiu/Studies in Chinese Religions 1(2013): 1-33.


Peng, Mu. Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2019.

Abstract: This book explores how, unlike in the West, the daily religious life of most Chinese people spreads without institutional propagation. Based upon more than a decade of field research in rural China, the book demonstrates the decisive role of rites of passage and yearly festival rituals held in every household in shaping people's religious dispositions. It focuses on the family, the unit most central to Chinese culture and society, and reveals the repertoire embodied in daily life in a world envisioned as comprising both the "yin" world of ancestors, spirits, and ghosts, and the "yang" world of the living. It discusses especially the concept of bai, which refers to both concrete bodily movements that express respect and awe, such as bowing, kneeling, or holding up ritual offerings, and to people's religious inclinations and dispositions, which indicate that they are aware of a spiritual realm that is separate from yet close to the world of the living. Overall, the book shows that the daily practices of religion are not a separate sphere, but rather belief and ritual integrated into a way of dwelling in a world envisaged as consisting of both the "yin" and the "yang" worlds that regularly communicate with each other.


Poo, Mu-chou, In Search of Personal Welfare: A View of Ancient Chinese Religion. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998.


Poo, Mu-chou. “Religion and Religious Life of the Qin.” In Birth of an Empire: the State of Qin Revisited, ed. Yuri Pines, Gideon Shelach, Lothar von Falkenhausen & Robin D.S. Yates. Berkeley, London: University of California Press, 2014. Pp. 187-205.


Poo, Mu-chou. Ghosts and Religious Life in Early China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Abstract: For modern people, ghost stories are no more than thrilling entertainment. For those living in antiquity, ghosts were far more serious beings, as they could affect the life and death of people and cause endless fear and anxiety. How did ancient societies imagine what ghosts looked like, what they could do, and how people could deal with them? From the vantage point of modernity, what can we learn about an obscure, but no less important aspect of an ancient culture? In this volume, Mu-chou Poo explores the ghosts of ancient China, the ideas that they nurtured, and their role in its culture. His study provides fascinating insights into the interaction between the idea of ghosts and religious activities, literary imagination, and social life devoted to them. Comparing Chinese ghosts with those of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome, Poo also offers a wider perspective on the role of ghosts in human history.


Sangren, P. Steven, Chinese Sociologics: An Anthropological Account of the Role of Alienation in Social Reproduction. London: Athlone Press, 2000. [Note: A collection of essays by this author, some of which had previously been published elsewhere and are listed separately in this bibliography.]


Sangren, P. Steven, "Anthropology and Identity Politics in Taiwan: The Relevance of Local Religion." In: Paul R. Katz and Murray A. Rubinstein [eds.], Religion and the Formation of Taiwanese Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Pp.253-287.


Sommer, Deborah [ed.], Chinese Religion: An Anthology of Sources. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.


Stafford, Charles, The Roads of Chinese Childhood: Learning and Identification in Angang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Sterckx, Roel. “The Economics of Religion in Warring States and Early Imperial China.” In: John Lagerwey and Marc Kalinowski [eds.], Early Chinese Religion: Part One: Shang through Han (1250 BC-220 AD). Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp.839-880.


St. Thecla, Adriano di, Opusculum de Sectis apud Sinenses et Tunkinenses: A Small Treatise on the Sects among the Chinese and Tonkinese. A Study of Religion in China and North Vietnam in the Eighteenth Century. Translated & Annotated by Olga Dror, in collaboration with Mariya Berezovska. Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Publications, 2002.


Szonyi, Michael. “Secularization Theories and the Study of Chinese Religions.” Social Compass 56 (2009): 312-327.

Abstract: The author proposes a dialogue between recent literature on the history of Chinese popular religion and recent sociological debates about secularization theory, asking whether a better understanding of concepts, theories and evidence from one field may be productive in interpreting those of the other. The author suggests on the one hand that certain elements of secularization theory can be useful tools in understanding the modern history of religions in China and on the other that thinking about what secularization has meant in China is crucial to a comparative global history of religion and modernity. He also argues that attention to secularization both as a historical process and as a political ideology may help us to better understand the religious policies of the People’s Republic of China today. (Source: journal)


Tam Wai Lun, "Local Religion in Contemporary China." In: James Miller [ed.], Chinese Religions in Contemporary Societies. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006. Pp.57-83.


Tan Chee Beng, "The Study of Chinese Religions in Southeast Asia: Some Views." In: Leo Suryadinata [ed.], Southeast Asian Chinese: The Socio-Cultural Dimension. Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1995. Pp.139-165.


Tao, Hung-Lin; Yeh, Powen. "Religion as an Investment: Comparing the Contributions and Volunteer Frequency among Christians, Buddhists, and Folk Religionists." Southern Economic Journal 73.3 (2007): 770-790.

Abstract: The magnitude of the reward of an afterlife promised in the case of Christians is significantly greater than that in relation to both Buddhism and Taiwanese folk religions. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether these differences in the promised rewards of an afterlife across religions and the extent of the belief in the existence of an afterlife within the same religion are positively correlated with religionists' contributions to their religion and the frequency of their voluntary activities. This positive correlation is verified across different religions and within Christianity in regard to the religionists' contributions.


Teiser, Stephen F., "Popular Religion." In: Overmyer, Daniel L. [ed.], "Chinese Religions -- The State of the Field." "Part II: Living Religious Traditions: Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam and Popular Religion." Journal of Asian Studies 54(1995)2: 378-395.


Thamm, Ludwig, Glück, Geld und langes Leben. Tradition und Volksreligion im heutigen China. Regensburg: Verlag der Mittelbayerischen Zeitung, 1995.


Tsai, Wen-hui, "Folk Religion and Traditional Chinese Social Order." In: Phylis Lan Lin & David Decker [eds.], China (the Mainland and Taiwan) in Transition: Selected Essays. Indianapolis, Ind.: University of Indianapolis Press, 1997. Pp.51-63.


Tsai, Yen-zen. “How Syncretic is Taiwanese Religion?” Huaren zongjiao yanjiu/Studies in Chinese Religions 2(2013): 37-65.


Verellen, Franciscus, "Société et religion dans la Chine médiévale. Le regard de Du Guangting (850-933) sur son époque." Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient 87(2000): 267-282.

Abstract: La littérature taoïste narrative, avec son insistance sur la religion comme phénomène de la vie quotidienne dans des contextes sociaux variés, constitue une source précieuse pour l'histoire sociale et l'anthropologie historique de la Chine traditionnelle. Dans cet article, l'auteur examine plusieurs genres d'écrits narratifs et fictionnels de Du Guangting &endash; mirabilia, hagiographies, récits de miracles &endash; pour en dégager les observations de première main de Du sur la place de la religion dans la société contemporaine. Son témoignage sur le taoïsme en tant que foi vivante à son époque est analysé sous divers angles : liturgie, politique, conflits sociaux, clergé et société laïque, communautés taoïste et bouddhiste, famille, religion populaire, contexte social de la pratique taoïste. En conclusion, l'auteur montre que le penchant de Du Guangting pour l'observation et l'analyse des comportements religieux dans diverses situations sociales l'emporte souvent sur son intérêt pour l'exposition des doctrines et la spéculation théologique. Il s'ensuit que Du donne sur le taoïsme de la société médiévale des informations comparables, à bien des égards, aux données relatives à la vie et aux institutions religieuses recueillies par les chercheurs en sciences humaines."

"Society and religion in medieval China. Du Guangting's (850-933) observation of his own time". Taoist informal writings, with their emphasis on religion as a phenomenon of daily life in various social contexts, can provide valuable data to social historians and historical anthropologists. This paper examines several genres of informal and imaginative writings by Du Guangting &endash; mirabilia, hagiography, miracle literature &endash; for the author's first-hand observation regarding the place of religion in contemporary society. His record of Taoism as a living faith in his time is discussed under headings comprising liturgy, politics, civil unrest, clergy and laity, the Taoist and Buddhist communities, the family, popular religion, and the social environment of Taoist practice. In conclusion, it is argued that Du Guangting's penchant for observing and analysing religious behaviour in terms of social situations in many instances prevailed over his interest in doctrinal exposition or theological speculation. As a result, Du provides information on Taoism in medieval society that is in many ways comparable to data on religious life and institutions collected by modern social scientists." [Source: journal]


Weller, Robert P., "Divided Market Cultures in China: Gender, Enterprise, and Religion." In: Robert W. Hefner [ed.], Market Cultures: Society and Morality in the New Asian Capitalism. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1998. Pp.78-103.


Wong, Wai Yip. “Defining Chinese Folk Religion: A Methodological Interpretation.” Asian Philosophy 21.2 (2011): 153-170.

Abstract: The major dilemma of defining Chinese folk religion was that it could be defined neither by its belief contents nor characteristics, as these might also be found in other religious traditions. The fact that it did not involve any authoritative doctrine, scripture or institution has also made treating it as a religion problematic. To solve the problem, I survey the major theories proposed by both Western and Chinese scholars concerned with the methodological issues of defining this nameless religion, and develop an alternative approach that can distinguish Chinese folk religion from any other existing religious tradition. Basically, this approach eliminates the limitations of two existing models by defining Chinese folk religion on two aspects simultaneously. I also conclude that Chinese folk religion, based on the sociological perspective, can be seen as a religion, and should be taken into consideration while developing certain theological models. (Source: journal)

Yang, Fenggang; Hu Anning. “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 51 (2012): 505-521.

Abstract: The revival of folk (popular) religion in China in the last three decades has been noted in many publications and documented in ethnographic studies. However, until now there has been no quantitative study that provides an overall picture of Chinese folk-religion practices. This article is a first attempt to draw the contours of Chinese folk religion based on three recent surveys conducted in mainland China and Taiwan. Three types of folk religion are conceptualized: communal, sectarian, and individual. Different types of folk religion may have different social functions and divergent trajectories of change in the modernization process. At present, in spite of the dramatic social, political, and cultural changes in modern times, the adherents of folk religion still substantially outnumber the believers of institutional religions in Chinese societies. [Source: journal]


Yao, Xinzhong. “Religious Belief and Practice in Urban China 1995-2005.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 22.2 (2007): 169-185.

Abstract: Drawing on relevant data from surveys conducted in 1995 and 2005, this article explores the perceptible changes in religious beliefs and practices among the Han Chinese in urban areas during this ten-year period. Through analysing the survey data, the article attempts to examine these changes - the increasing awareness of religious others and the more revealing interaction between change and continuity - in the context of greater changes of society, economy, and politics. It concludes that, while commercialism and rationalism continue to dominate the ideological sky of urban China, spiritual beliefs and practices in various forms have also gained a strong footing in contemporary society and demonstrate a complex religiosity. [Source: journal]


Yao Xinzhong & Paul Badham. Religious Experience in Contemporary China. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007.

Abstract: This book is unique in that it provides data resulting from a four year study of religious experiencing in China today which could radically transform the understanding of the role of religion in contemporary China. The suppression of religion by communist authorities in the latter part of the 20th century is well known but, far less well-known, is the underlying resurgence of religious life within the most populous nation on earth. The research is focused on the Han Chinese who form over 90 percent of the population of mainland China and is undertaken on ten sites across the country resulting in data from 3,000 detailed questionnaires. The importance of this project is that it is ground-breaking research in an almost wholly new context. No previous research on this scale has taken place before and indeed until recently no such research would have been permitted in a state which since the Communist Revolution of 1949 has been deeply suspicious of any manifestation of religious feeling, and in which a wholly atheistic educational system has prevailed. [Source: publisher's website]

Ye Xiaoqing, The Dianshizhai Pictorial: Shanghai Urban Life, 1884-1898. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2003. (Note: See Part Four, "Religious Practices", pp. 188-224.)


Zhai, Jiexia Elisa. “Contrasting Trends of Religious Markets in Contemporary Mainland China and in Taiwan.” Journal of Church and State 52.1 (2010): 94-111.



Zhang, Chunni; Yunfeng Lu, He Sheng. “Exploring Chinese Folk Religion: Popularity, Diffuseness, and Diversities.” Chinese Journal of Sociology 7, no. 4 (2021): 575–592.

Abstract: Folk religion, as the basis of the religious landscape in traditional China, is a highly syncretic system which includes elements from Buddhism, Daoism, and other traditional religious beliefs. Due to the shortcomings of denomination-based measurement, most previous social surveys have documented a very low percentage of folk religion adherents in China, and found almost no overlapping among religious beliefs. This study offers a quantitative portrait of the popularity, the diffuseness, and the diversity of Chinese folk religion. With the improved instruments in the 2018 China Family Panel Studies, we first observe that nearly 50% of respondents claim to have multiple (two or even more than three) religious beliefs and the believers of folk religion account for about 70% of the population. By using latent class analysis, this article explores the pattern of inter-belief mixing and identifies four typical classes of religious believers: “non-believers and single-belief believers”, “believers of geomancy”, “believers of diffused Buddhism and Daoism”, and “believers embracing all beliefs”. Finally, we find that the degree of commitment varies across these religious classes. Believers of folk religion are found to be less committed than believers of Western institutional religions, but as committed as believers of Eastern institutional religions.



Zhang, Jie. “The Effects of Religion, Superstition, and Perceived Gender Inequality on the Degree of Suicide Intent: A Study of Serious Attempters in China.” Omega: an International Journal for the Study of Dying, Death, Bereavement, Suicide, and Other Lethal Behaviors 55.3 (2007): 185-197.


Zhu Haibin. “Chinas wichtigste religiöse Tradition: der Volksglaube.” minima sinica 23.1 (2011): 25-51.


Zhuo, Xinping, "Research on Religions in the People's Republic of China." Social Compass 50(2003)4: 441-448.


Zimmermann, Astrid, "Geister, Götter und Dämonen. Volksreligion in China." Das neue China 27(2000)1: 10-14.