Arrault, Alain; Lina Verchery (trans.). A History of Cultic Images In China: The Domestic Statuary of Hunan. Hong Kong, Paris: Chinese University Press of Hong Kong, Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, 2020.

Abstract: In what period did objects of worship appear in China? Could there be a possible convergence between written testimonies and archaeological remains? How was the production of icons understood, especially in light of its eventual condemnation in iconoclastic discourse? This history of cultic images designed for religious worship in China remains to be written. The statue collections over the course of 16th to 20th centuries in central Hunan of southern China will give us insight into the local artistic tradition of statue-making, and the dynamics of multifarious religious practices consisting of a hybrid of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucian, Shamanism, and so forth. The documents contained inside these effigies, as well as the inscriptions found on the statues themselves, provide first-hand information that has not been filtered down through theological or philosophical discourses. Moreover, this art of domestic statuary—which is found far from palaces, large temples, monasteries, and painted or sculpted grottoes—is, indeed, still alive.


Berezkin, Rostislav. "The Precious Scroll of Miaoying in the Performative Context of Southern Jiangsu Storytelling." CLEAR 42 (2020): 93–117.


Berezkin, Rostislav. "The 'Penitence of Merciful Ullambana" and the Mulian Story in the Buddhist Ritual Context of Late Imperial China." Manuscripta Orientalia 26, no. 1 (2020): 14–25.


Berezkin, Rostislav, and Vincent Goossaert. “The Wutong Cult in the Modern and Contemporary Suzhou Area.” Journal of Chinese Studies, no. 70 (2020): 153–200.

Abstract: This article explores the living Wutong cult in the Suzhou area. In continuation with its long history, this spirit-possession cult still has fortune-bringing and exorcistic di- mensions. The authors combine historical and ethnographic approaches to the Wutong beliefs with a focus on the pilgrimage to cult's centre at Shangfangshan (a sacred site in Suzhou) and the domestic worship of the Wutong in the Changshu area. This provides us with a perspective on this cult as built by ritual specialists and common believers. In both forms of worship, the baojuan storytelling is actively employed, and the Baojuan of the Grand Dowager (transmitted as manuscripts) thus appears as a key scripture of local beliefs. With the analysis of textual and ethnographic evidence, we move beyond the established argument about these infamous deities, which con- sists of questioning whether the Wutong are essentially immoral, and to what extent the attempts at taming and standardizing them have succeeded. We uncover the am- biguity of the Wutong, who are presented as dangerous and kind at the same time in the local sources. The scriptures of the cult, notably the Baojuan of the Grand Dowager, acknowledge this ambiguity, which underpins the gods' power, and develop ritual means to deal with it.


Berndt, Andreas. Der Kult der Drachenkönige (longwang) im China der späten Kaiserzeit. Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2020.

Abstract: Gottheiten des spätimperialen Pantheons wurden zumeist mit bestimmten Funktionen verbunden, welche sich ihrerseits an den Lebensumständen und den Bedürfnissen der damaligen Menschen orientierten. Auf diese Weise wurden Kulte und deren Inhalte geprägt, aber auch verändert. Am Beispiel der vorrangig als Regengottheiten verehrten Drachenkönige untersucht das vorliegende Buch, wie verschiedenartige Umweltbedingungen auf deren Kult einwirkten und ihn den Gegebenheiten zweier Regionen anpassten.

Billioud, Sébastien. Reclaiming the Wilderness: Contemporary Dynamics of the Yiguandao. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Abstract: A syncretistic and millenarian religious movement, the Yiguandao (Way of Pervading Unity) was one of the major redemptive societies of Republican China. It developed extremely rapidly in the 1930s and the 1940s, attracting millions of members. Severely repressed after the establishment of the People's Republic of China, it managed to endure and redeploy elsewhere, especially in Taiwan. Today, it has become one of the largest and most influential religious movements in Asia and at the same time one of the least known and understood. From its powerful base in Taiwan, it has expanded worldwide, including in mainland China where it remains officially forbidden. Based on ethnographic work carried out over nearly a decade, Reclaiming the Wilderness offers an in-depth study of a Yiguandao community in Hong Kong that serves as a node of circulation between Taiwan, Macao, China and elsewhere. Sébastien Billioud explores the factors contributing to the expansionary dynamics of the group: the way adepts live and confirm their faith; the importance of charismatic leadership; the role of Confucianism, which makes it possible to defuse tensions with Chinese authorities and sometimes even to cooperate with them; and, finally, the well-structured expansionary strategies of the Yiguandao and its quasi-diplomatic efforts to navigate the troubled waters of cross-straits politics.


Broy, Nikolas. "American Dao and Global Interactions: Transnational Religious Networks in an English-Speaking Yiguandao Congregation in Urban California." In Transnational Religious Spaces: Religious Organizations and Interactions in Africa, East Asia, and Beyond, edited by Philip Clart and Adam Jones, 263–282. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2020.


Broy, Nikolas. "The Filial Sectarian: Confucian Values and Popular Sects in Late Imperial China and Modern Taiwan." In New Religious Movements in Modern Asian History: Sociocultural Alternatives, edited by David W. Kim, 139–163. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020.


Burton-Rose, Daniel. “Establishing a Literati Spirit-Writing Altar in Early Qing Suzhou: The Optimus Prophecy of Peng Dingqiu (1645-1719).” T’oung Pao 106 (2020): 358-400.


Campany, Robert Ford. The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.

Abstract: Dreaming is a near-universal human experience, but there is no consensus on why we dream or what dreams should be taken to mean. In this book, Robert Ford Campany investigates what people in late classical and early medieval China thought of dreams. He maps a common dreamscape—an array of ideas about what dreams are and what responses they should provoke—that underlies texts of diverse persuasions and genres over several centuries. These writings include manuals of dream interpretation, scriptural instructions, essays, treatises, poems, recovered manuscripts, histories, and anecdotes of successful dream-based predictions. In these many sources, we find culturally distinctive answers to questions peoples the world over have asked for millennia: What happens when we dream? Do dreams foretell future events? If so, how might their imagistic code be unlocked to yield predictions? Could dreams enable direct communication between the living and the dead, or between humans and nonhuman animals? The Chinese Dreamscape, 300 BCE–800 CE sheds light on how people in a distant age negotiated these mysteries and brings Chinese notions of dreaming into conversation with studies of dreams in other cultures, ancient and contemporary. Taking stock of how Chinese people wrestled with—and celebrated—the strangeness of dreams, Campany asks us to reflect on how we might reconsider our own notions of dreaming.


Chan, Hong Y. "The Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore: Getai (Songs on Stage) in the Lunar Seventh Month." Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 356.

Abstract: This paper examines the interaction between state power and the everyday life of ordinary Chinese Singaporeans by looking at the Hungry Ghost Festival as a contested category. The paper first develops a theoretical framework building on previous scholars' examination of the contestation of space and the negotiation of power between state authorities and the public in Singapore. This is followed by a short review of how the Hungry Ghost Festival was celebrated in earlier times in Singapore. The next section of the paper looks at the differences between the celebrations in the past and in contemporary Singapore. The following section focuses on data found in local newspapers on Getai events of the 2017 Lunar Seventh Month. Finally, I identify characteristics of the Ghost Festival in contemporary Singapore by looking at how Getai is performed around Singapore and woven into the fabric of Singaporean daily life.


Chang, Kuei-min. "Between Spiritual Economy and Religious Commodification: Negotiating Temple Autonomy in Contemporary China." The China Quarterly, no. 242 (2020): 440–459.

Abstract: This research investigates the contentious use of temple assets amid wide- spread local state-led religious commodification in contemporary China. Based on a comparative analysis of 22 historic temples, this paper argues that given the choice, temple leaders strive for property-management autonomy, which they negotiate on two fronts. Externally, owing to the immobility of historic temple assets, temple leaders avoid antagonizing local state agents by demonstrating political conformity and the temple's economic contribution. Internally, they seek to build a donation-based merit economy to sustain the monastic institution. Since such autonomy must operate within the authoritarian state's regulatory framework, the restrained contestation of the religious leadership actually helps to strengthen state control over religion.


Chau, Adam Yuet. "Temples and Festivals in Rural and Urban China." In Handbook on Religion in China, edited by Stephan Feuchtwang, 132-155. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.


Chia, Jie L. „State Regulations and Divine Oppositions: An Ethnography of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Singapore.“ Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 330.

Abstract: Studies of popular Chinese religions in Singapore have mostly focused on the relationship between Chinese religious practitioners and state regulations delimiting land for religious uses. Local scholars have also studied the state's active construction of a domain within which local religions can operate, often rationalized as a means of maintaining harmonious relations between ethnic and religious groups. However, little attention has been paid to the symbolic spatial negotiations that exist between the gods and the Singaporean state. Through an ethnographic study of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival as organized by the Choa Chu Kang Dou Mu Gong (蔡厝港斗母宫), I analyze the tensions between the impositions of state authority upon the temple's annual festival and the divine authority of the Nine Emperor Gods, as reproduced in the festival's rituals and in the bodies of their spirit mediums. Borrowing Marshall Sahlins' idea of inclusive "cosmic polities," I argue that the Nine Emperor Gods, devotees, and state actors do not exist in separate "secular" and "divine" dimensions but rather, co-participate in the same complex society. By serving as a fertile ground upon which the divine bureaucracy of the Nine Emperor Gods is reproduced, the festival's articulations of divine sovereignty provide a potent challenge to state-imposed imaginations of space and expand devotees' understandings of agency from state-defined and into the larger cosmological order.


Choi, Chi-cheung. "Ancestors Are Watching: Ritual and Governance at Peck San Theng, a Chinese Afterlife Care Organization in Singapore." Religions 2020, 11, no. 8 (2020): 382.

Abstract: Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng 新加坡廣惠肇碧山亭 (hereafter PST) is a non-profit organization registered under Singapore's Societies Ordinance, founded in 1870 by Chinese immigrants from three prefectures of Guangdong province: Guangzhou 廣州, Zhaoqing 肇慶 and Huizhou 惠州. Until the mid-1970s, it managed more than 100,000 graves spread over 324 acres of land. After the Singapore government acquired its land for urban development PST continued its service to the departed by managing a columbarium that accommodates urns and spiritual tablets. PST's governing body is formed by regional associations of the three prefectures although these associations receive neither dividends nor shares from PST. Besides annually celebrated activities such as ancestral worship at halls, grave sweeping at tombs every spring and autumn and the Hungry Ghost festival PST has, since 1922, organized irregularly a Grand Universal Salvation Ritual (the Wan Yuan Sheng Hui 萬緣勝會) for both ancestors and wandering spirits. The ritual was held not only to generate income but was also designed to serve the afterlife of the homeless overseas migrants and also as an informal sanction to regulate the behavior of committee members. Based on PST's institutional archives and participant observations, this paper analyzes the ritual over a period of 90 years. It argues that formal institutional behavior is checked and balanced by informal sanction constructed in the form of ancestors watching from above. This paper further argues that while filial piety is an essential Chinese cultural value, the Chinese people of Singapore rely on institutions such as PST to integrate their ancestors with individual characteristics into collective ancestors taken care of by the institutions, releasing them from the burden of daily ancestral worship. Religious charity and filial piety are equally important.


Clart, Philip; David Ownby and Wang Chien-chuan, eds. Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Clart, Philip. “Text and Context in the Study of Spirit-Writing Cults: A Methodological Reflection on the Relationship of Ethnography and Philology.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 309–322. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Ebrey, Patricia Buckley, Ping Yao, and Cong Ellen Zhang, eds. Chinese Funerary Biographies: An Anthology of Remembered Lives. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2020.

Abstract: Tens of thousands of epitaphs, or funerary biographies, survive from imperial China. Engraved on stone and placed in a grave, they typically focus on the deceased's biography and exemplary words and deeds, expressing the survivors' longing for the dead. These epitaphs provide glimpses of the lives of women, men who did not leave a mark politically, and children—people who are not well documented in more conventional sources such as dynastic histories and local gazetteers. This anthology of translations makes available funerary biographies covering nearly two thousand years, from the Han dynasty through the nineteenth century, selected for their value as teaching material for courses in Chinese history, literature, and women's studies as well as world history. Because they include revealing details about personal conduct, families, local conditions, and social, cultural, and religious practices, these epitaphs illustrate ways of thinking and the realities of daily life. Most can be read and analyzed on multiple levels, and they stimulate investigation of topics such as the emotional tenor of family relations, rituals associated with death, Confucian values, women's lives as written about by men, and the use of sources assumed to be biased. These biographies will be especially effective when combined with more readily available primary sources such as official documents, religious and intellectual discourses, and anecdotal stories, promising to generate provocative discussion of literary genre, the ways historians use sources, and how writers shape their accounts.


Fan Chun-wu (trsl. by David Ownby). “The Religious Texts of the Moral Studies Society: Print Publications, Photographs, and Visual Presentations.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 82–125. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Goh Ze Song, Shawn. 2020. "Making Space for the Gods: Ethnographic Observations of Chinese House Temples in Singapore." Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 349.

Abstract: Space for religious use is highly regulated in Singapore. Specific plots of land are reserved for religious groups to bid for, and create, "official" spaces of worship. However, religious practices continue to exist within "unofficial" sacred spaces, such as house temples and wayside shrines, negotiating and resisting the overt management of religion by the Singapore state. Scholars, including Vineeta Sinha and Terence Heng, demonstrate how sacrality infused into everyday secular urban spaces defies neat binaries of "sacred/profane" and "legal/illegal", and how Chinese house temples or sintuas—temples located within public housing flats—sustain sacred spaces, despite being technically illegal under housing regulations. Drawing upon a series of ethnographic observations conducted over a year of four sintuas and their activities in Singapore, this paper explores the different ways through which sintuas produce sacred space as a response to spatial constraints imposed by the state. These include (1) re-enchanting everyday urban spaces during a yewkeng—a procession around the housing estate—with the help of a spirit medium; (2) using immaterial religious markers (e.g., ritual sounds and smells) to create an "atmosphere" of sacredness; (3) appropriating public spaces; and (4) leveraging the online space to digitally reproduce images of the sacred.


Goossaert, Vincent. "Divine Codes, Spirit-Writing, and the Ritual Foundations of Early-Modern Chinese Morality Books." Asia Major, 3rd ser., 33, no. 1 (2020): 1–31.

Abstract: In China's early-modern period (11th–14th centuries), a large number of divine codes (guilü 鬼律, or tianlü 天律) were revealed to adepts in the context of the new exorcistic ritual traditions (daofa 道法) of that period. Their texts prescribed how hu-mans and spirits should behave; and laid out the mechanisms of divine punishments in case of any breach. After introducing the corpus of these codes, the article ex-plores the moral charter they outline for priests. It argues that this moral discourse is contiguous with that of a genre called morality books (shanshu 善書), and shows how priestly codes gradually entered general circulation and thereby became morality books. An important link between the two genres is spirit-writing. During the early-modern period priests used spirit-writing for producing ritual documents (including moral exhortations from the gods), but later the technique became generalized and was used to mass-produce morality books.


Graham, Fabian. Voices from the Underworld: Chinese Hell Deity Worship in Contemporary Singapore and Malaysia. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020.

Abstract: In Singapore and Malaysia, the inversion of Chinese Underworld traditions has meant that Underworld demons are now amongst the most commonly venerated deities in statue form, channelled through their spirit mediums, tang-ki. The Chinese Underworld and its sub-hells are populated by a bureaucracy drawn from the Buddhist, Taoist and vernacular pantheons. Under the watchful eye of Hell's 'enforcers', the lower echelons of demon soldiers impose post-mortal punishments on the souls of the recently deceased for moral transgressions committed during their prior incarnations. Voices from the Underworld offers an ethnography of contemporary Chinese Underworld traditions, where night-time cemetery rituals assist the souls of the dead, exorcised spirits are imprisoned in Guinness bottles, and malicious foetus ghosts are enlisted to strengthen a temple's spirit army. Understanding the religious divergences between Singapore and Malaysia through an analysis of socio-political and historical events, Fabian Graham challenges common assumptions on the nature and scope of Chinese vernacular religious beliefs and practices. Graham's innovative approach to alterity allows the reader to listen to first-person dialogues between the author and channelled Underworld deities. Through its alternative methodological and narrative stance, the book intervenes in debates on the interrelation between sociocultural and spiritual worlds, and promotes the de-stigmatisation of spirit possession and discarnate phenomena in the future study of mystical and religious traditions.


Haar, Barend J. ter. “Giving Believers Back Their Voice: Agency and Heresy in Late Imperial China.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 16–54. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Heller, Natasha. “Using Mazu to Teach Key Elements of Chinese Religions.” Education about Asia 25, no. 1 (2020): 26–31.


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.


Ji, Yiwen. „The Hainanese Temples of Singapore: A Case Study of the Hougang Shui Wei Sheng Niang Temple and Its Lantern Festival Celebration.“ Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 350.

Abstract: Shui Wei Sheng Niang (水尾圣娘) Temple is located within a united temple at 109a, Hougang Avenue 5, Singapore. Shui Wei Sheng Niang is a Hainanese goddess. the worship of whom is widespread in Hainanese communities in South East Asia. This paper examines a specific Hainanese temple and how its rituals reflect the history of Hainanese immigration to Singapore. The birthday rites of the goddess (Lantern Festival Celebration) are held on the 4th and 14th of the first lunar month. This paper also introduces the life history and ritual practices of a Hainanese Daoist master and a Hainanese theater actress.


Jiao, Yupeng. "The People's Living Guanyin Bodhisattva: Superstition, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare, Rural Economic Control, and Huidaomen in the Early PRC." The Chinese Historical Review 26, no. 2 (2020): 175–196.

Abstract: During the Republican era and the PRC, both regimes labeled religious practices outside official institutionalized religions as "superstition" (mixin). In the early PRC, the CCP labeled superstitious activities with mass participation as "mass superstitious incidents." This article examines a mass superstitious incident in Chongqing in 1953 in which more than fifty thousand people participated. In this case, local residents, especially local merchants, advertised an old woman as a Living Guanyin Bodhisattva with supernatural disease-curing powers to expand their economic interests. The incident was also a result of poor healthcare infrastructure management. Key organizers in the incident were severely punished, in part because they were scapegoats for the problems of the new national policy of State Monopoly for Grain Purchase. The incident also had a strong contagion effect that led to various similar "superstitious incidents" in the vicinity that were eventually suppressed under the name "huidaomen."


Kim, David W. “Intenational Moral Association (IMA): A Chinese New Religious Movement in Modern Korea.” In New Religious Movements in Modern Asian History: Sociocultural Alternatives, edited by David W. Kim, 165–185. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020.


Knepper, Timothy, and You Bin, eds. Religions of Beijing. London: Bloomsbury, 2020.

Abstract: Religions of Beijing offers an intimate portrayal of lived religion in 17 different religious communities in greater Beijing. Students at Minzu University of China spent one year immersed in the routine and practices daily, "writing with" the experiences and perspectives of their practitioners. Each chapter has been translated into English, with students at Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) facilitating this process. The result is a bi-lingual book (Mandarin, English) that reveals to Chinese- and English-speaking readers the vibrant diversity of lived religion in contemporary Beijing. Each chapter focuses on the histories, practices, spaces, and members of its community, telling the overall story of the renewed flourishing of religion in Beijing. The book is also enriched with over 100 photos that portray this flourishing renewal, capturing the lived experience of ordinary practitioners. Together, the words and photographs of Religions of Beijing draw the reader into the stories and lives of these communities and their members, providing a first-hand look at the contemporary practice of religion in greater Beijing. The religions covered are Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam and folk religion.


Li, Yiwen. "Navigating Voyages in Real and Religious Life: The Big-Dipper Belief and Shipbuilding in Premodern China." Religions 11, no. 8 (2020): 398;


Lim, Alvin E. H. "Live Streaming and Digital Stages for the Hungry Ghosts and Deities." Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 367.

Abstract: Many Chinese temples in Singapore provide live streaming of getai (English: a stage for songs) during the Hungry Ghost Month as well as deities' birthday celebrations and spirit possessions—a recent phenomenon. For instance, Sheng Hong Temple launched its own app in 2018, as part of a digital turn that culminated in a series of live streaming events during the temple's 100-year anniversary celebrations. Deities' visits to the temple from mainland China and Taiwan were also live-streamed, a feature that was already a part of the Taichung Mazu Festival in Taiwan. Initially streamed on RINGS.TV, an app available on Android and Apple iOS, live videos of getai performances can now be found on the more sustainable platform of Facebook Live. These videos are hosted on Facebook Pages, such as "Singapore Getai Supporter" (which is listed as a "secret" group), "Singapore Getai Fans Page", "Lixin Fan Page", and "LEX-S Watch Live Channel". These pages are mainly initiated and supported by LEX(S) Entertainment Productions, one of the largest entertainment companies running and organising getai performances in Singapore. This paper critically examines this digital turn and the use of digital technology, where both deities and spirits are made available to digital transmissions, performing to the digital camera in ways that alter the performative aspects of religious festivals and processions. In direct ways, the performance stage extends to the digital platform, where getai hosts, singers, and spirit mediums have become increasingly conscious that they now have a virtual presence that exceeds the live event.


Ma, Xu. "Temple and Text: Re-imagining Women's Social Spaces in Late Imperial China." PhD diss., University of California, Irvine, 2020.


Matthews, William. "Fate, Destiny and Divination." In Handbook on Religion in China, edited by Stephan Feuchtwang, 156–183. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.


Matthews, Williams. "The Yijing Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 112–117.

Abstract: Since the early days of economic reform in the 1980s, China has witnessed a revival of religious beliefs and practices. One of the most pervasive is fortune-telling, which has flourished by offering a means of decision-making in a rapidly changing and uncertain society. This article describes a popular method of fortune-telling using the classical text of the Yijing. It shows how fortune- telling's naturalistic worldview provides an excellent method for people to navigate day-to- day economic decisions by forecasting fortune in a way that is trustworthy and morally blameless, serving as a compass for uncertain times.


Murray, Gerald, and Haiyan Xing. "Religion and Climate Change: Rain Rituals in Israel, China, and Haiti." Religions 11, no. 11 (2020): 554;


Ng, Emily. A Time of Lost Gods: Mediumship, Madness, and the Ghost after Mao. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2020.

Abstract: Traversing visible and invisible realms, A Time of Lost Gods attends to profound rereadings of politics, religion, and madness in the cosmic accounts of spirit mediumship. Drawing on research across a temple, a psychiatric unit, and the home altars of spirit mediums in a rural county of China's Central Plain, it asks: What ghostly forms emerge after the death of Mao and the so-called end of history? The story of religion in China since the market reforms of the late 1970s is often told through its destruction under Mao and relative flourishing thereafter. Here, those who engage in mediumship offer a different history of the present. They approach Mao's reign not simply as an earthly secular rule, but an exceptional interval of divine sovereignty, after which the cosmos collapsed into chaos. Caught between a fading era and an ever-receding horizon, those "left behind" by labor outmigration refigure the evacuated hometown as an ethical-spiritual center to come, amidst a proliferation of madness-inducing spirits. Following pronouncements of China's rise, and in the wake of what Chinese intellectuals termed semicolonialism, the stories here tell of spirit mediums, patients, and psychiatrists caught in a shared dilemma, in a time when gods have lost their way.


Ng, Emily. "Spectral Revolution: Notes on a Maoist Cosmology." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 104–111.

Abstract: This essay describes the cosmological role of Mao in ritual and spirit mediumship in rural China. It considers the occulted forces hosted by the Chairman's image and words, across movements of display, concealment, and circulation. Here, the Party-state has a cosmic double, and Maoist anti-religious policies are not what they seem.


Olles, Volker. “Verborgene Tugend: Liu Yuan über Laozi. Teil V einer Reihe kommentierter Übersetzungen von fünf Inschriften aus der Liumen-Tradition in der daoistischen Anthologie Chongkan Daozang jiyao.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 171, no. 1 (2020): 173-190.


Ownby, David. “Text and Context: A Tale of Two Masters.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 173–216. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Oxfeld, Ellen. "Life-Cycle Rituals in Rural and Urban China: Birth, Marriage and Death." In Handbook on Religion in China, edited by Stephan Feuchtwang, 110–131. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.


Qu, Ray X. L. “Popular Religion Temples in Fujian, Southeast China: The Politics of State Intervention, 1990s–2010s.” Modern China 2020 (Online prepublication),

Abstract: This article presents an ethnographic examination of state intervention in popular religion temples in Fujian, southeast China. Specifically, it surveys the state presence in four temples, explores how and why the local state adopted a varied approach to religious organizations in the same religious tradition, and examines the mutually legitimating relations of state and religion. State-religion relations are constantly changing, highly variable, and context-bound. The state-religion interactions in Fujian demonstrate that to a certain extent the uneven revitalization of temple-based popular religion shaped, and was shaped by, the degree of state presence. I argue that the performance-based legitimacy of the nation-state has been fortified through local-state projects devoted to religious tourism, intra- religious competition, and the Taiwan issue, and that the Chinese state has the potential to influence a reemerging traditional form of authority at the local level through varying degrees of state presence in religious organizations.


Schluessel, Eric. "Exiled Gods: Territory, History, Empire, and a Hunanese Deity in Xinjiang." Late Imperial China 41, no. 1 (2020): 113–157.


Schumann, Matthias. "Redemptive Societies." In Handbook on Religion in China, edited by Stephan Feuchtwang, 184–212. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.


Schumann, Matthias. “Science and Spirit-Writing: The Shanghai Lingxuehui 靈學會 and the Changing Fate of Spiritualism in Republican China.” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 126–172. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Tan, Chris K.K. "The Macabre Affective Labour of Cadavers in Chinese Ghost Marriages." Made in China 5, no. 2 (2020): 118–123.

Abstract: Recently, Chinese newspapers have captured the attention of their readers with stories of criminals robbing graves and murdering people to sell the corpses for use in 'ghost marriages' (yinhun 阴婚). The state casts ghost marriages as 'superstition', but the practice remains as a way for people to attempt to sooth the angst of the spirit of the deceased and its living relatives. In fact, the lifeless corpse used in yinhun must be considered alive during the ritual for the ghost marriage to achieve its spiritual and social efficacies. As such, yinhun cadavers perform a sort of macabre affective labour.


Tsang, Martin. "La Caridad, Oshún, and Kuan Yin in Afro-Chinese Religion in Cuba." In Religious Diversity in Asia, edited by Jørn Borup, Marianne Q. Fibiger, and Lene Kühle, 271–289. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Wang Chien-chuan (trsl. by David Ownby). “The Composition and Distribution of the Scriptures of the Tongshanshe 同善社, with a Focus on the Ten Thousand Buddha Scripture (1917–1949).” In Text and Context in the Modern History of Chinese Religions: Redemptive Societies and Their Sacred Texts, edited by Philip Clart, David Ownby, and Wang Chien-chuan, 55–81. Leiden: Brill, 2020.


Wang, Dean K. L. "The Cult of the Underworld in Singapore: Mythology and Materiality." Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 363.

Abstract: Myths provide hagiographic and iconographic accounts of the gods, which shape rituals that are performed in cults associated with these gods. In the realization of iconographies and ritualization of narratives in myths, material objects play an active role. This article examines the pattern of worship in the cult of the Ah Pehs, a group of Underworld gods whose efficacy lies in the promise of occult wealth, and focuses on the material aspects such as offerings and paraphernalia associated with these gods. Though ritual texts and scriptures are absent in the Ah Peh cult, symbols in the form of material objects play a crucial role. These objects are also considered as synecdoche for the gods in certain cases. The first part of this paper presents a case study of the autonomous ritual of "Burning Prosperity Money", which reveals the cycle of occult exchange between gods and devotees. The second part involves an imagery analysis of the material objects central to the cult, and argues that in the system of reciprocity with the gods, material objects common to the everyday life are reinterpreted and enchanted with a capitalist turn, resulting in the development of occult economies within the local Chinese religious sphere.


Wang, Xiaoxuan. Maoism and Grassroots Religion: The Communist Revolution and the Reinvention of Religious Life in China. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Abstract: Maoism and Grassroots Religion explores grassroots religious life under and after Mao in Rui'an County, Wenzhou of southeast China, a region widely known for its religious vitality. Drawing from unexplored local state archives, records of religious institutions, memoirs, and interviews, it tells the story of local communities' encounter with the Communist revolution, and its consequences, especially competition and struggles for religious property and ritual space. Rather than being totally disrupted, Xiaoxuan Wang shows, religious life under Mao was characterized by remarkable variety and unevenness and was contingent on the interactions of local dynamics with Maoist campaigns—including land reform, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution. The revolutionary experience strongly determined the trajectories and development patterns of different religions, inter-religious dynamics, and state-religion relationships in the post-Mao era. Wang goes beyond the image of totalistic control and suppression, to show how Maoism is relevant to religious revitalization in the post-Mao era and, more broadly, the modern fate of Chinese religions and secularism in East Asia. Maoism permanently altered the religious landscape in China, especially by inadvertently promoting the localization and even (in some areas) expansion of Protestant Christianity, as well as the reinvention of traditional communal religion. Contrary to the popular image of total suppression and disruption during the Mao years, this book shows that religious changes under Mao were highly complex and contingent on a confluence of political campaigns, local politics and community responses.The post-Mao religious revival had deep historical roots in the Mao years, Wang argues, and cannot be explained by contemporary economic motives and cultural logics alone. This book calls for a new understanding of Maoism and secularism in the People's Republic of China.


Wang Xing. Physiognomy in Ming China: Fortune and the Body. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Abstract: In Physiognomy in Ming China: Fortune and the Body, Xing Wang investigates the intellectual and technical contexts in which the knowledge of physiognomy (xiangshu) was produced and transformed in Ming China (1368-1644 C.E.). Known as a fortune-telling technique via examining the human body and material objects, Xing Wang shows how the construction of the physiognomic body in many Ming texts represent a unique, unprecedented 'somatic cosmology'. Applying an anthropological reading to these texts and providing detailed analysis of this technique, the author proves that this physiognomic cosmology in Ming China emerged as a part of a new body discourse which differs from the modern scholarly discourse on the body.


Witt, Barbara. Die "Nezha-Legende" im Roman Investitur der Götter (Fengshen yanyi): Eine literaturwissenschaftliche Untersuchung und Kontextualisierung. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2020.

Abstract: Die Hagiographie des Gottes Nezha 哪吒 gehört zu den bekanntesten Episoden der chinesischen Erzählliteratur. Sie erzählt vom Kampf des jungen Helden gegen Drachen, eine Steindämonin und seinen eigenen Vater sowie von wundersamer Geburt, aufopfernder Selbsttötung und Wiedergeburt in einem Lotuskörper. Als gelungenste Version dieser Geschichte gilt die "Nezha-Legende" des Romans Investitur der Götter (Fengshen yanyi 封神演義), der vermutlich in den 1620er Jahren erstmals veröffentlicht wurde. Barbara Witt legt in ihrer Studie eine Kontextualisierung der "Nezha-Legende" aus strukturalistischer, religionsgeschichtlicher und literaturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive vor und analysiert die darin enthaltenen Motive und Themen vor dem Hintergrund der Kultur Chinas der späten Kaiserzeit. Ausgehend von Gérard Genettes Begriff der "Transtextualität" werden dabei buddhistische und daoistische Vorläufertexte, zeitgenössische Figurendarstellungen und geläufige Handlungsstränge sowie verschiedene vormoderne Romanausgaben betrachtet. Hierbei zeigt sich, dass der Roman Investitur der Götter bewusst bekannten Elementen der Nezha-Geschichte eine eigene Bedeutung verleiht, die im Gegensatz zu zeitgenössischen Bearbeitungen des gleichen Ausgangsstoffes steht.


Yan, Yingwei, Kenneth Dean, Chen-Chieh Feng, Guan T. Hue, Khee-heong Koh, Lily Kong, Chang W. Ong, Arthur Tay, Yi-chen Wang und Yiran Xue. „Chinese Temple Networks in Southeast Asia: A WebGIS Digital Humanities Platform for the Collaborative Study of the Chinese Diaspora in Southeast Asia.“ Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 334.

Abstract: This article introduces a digital platform for collaborative research on the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia, focusing on networks of Chinese temples and associations extending from Southeast China to the various port cities of Southeast Asia. The Singapore Historical Geographic Information System (SHGIS) and the Singapore Biographical Database (SBDB) are expandable WebGIS platforms gathering and linking data on cultural and religious networks across Southeast Asia. This inter-connected platform can be expanded to cover not only Singapore but all of Southeast Asia. We have added layers of data that go beyond Chinese Taoist, Buddhist, and popular god temples to also display the distributions of a wide range of other religious networks, including Christian churches, Islamic mosques, Hindu temples, and Theravadin, which are the Taiwanese, Japanese and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries found across the region. This digital platform covers a larger area than the Taiwan History and Culture in Time and Space (THCTS) historical GIS platform but is more regionally focused than the ECAI (Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative) By incorporating Chinese inscriptions, extensive surveys of Chinese temples and associations, as well as archival and historical sources, this platform provides new materials and new perspectives on the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. This paper: (1) outlines key research questions underlying these digital humanities platforms; (2) describes the overall architecture and the kinds of data included in the SHGIS and the SBDB; (3) reviews past research on historical GIS; and provides (4) a discussion of how incorporating Chinese epigraphy of Southeast Asia into these websites can help scholars trace networks across the entire region, potentially enabling comparative work on a wide range of religious networks in the region. Part 5 of the paper outlines technical aspects of the WebGIS platform.


Yang, Mayfair. Re-enchanting Modernity: Ritual Economy and Society in Wenzhou, China. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020.

Abstract: In Re-enchanting Modernity Mayfair Yang examines the resurgence of religious and ritual life after decades of enforced secularization in the coastal area of Wenzhou, China. Drawing on twenty-five years of ethnographic fieldwork, Yang shows how the local practices of popular religion, Daoism, and Buddhism are based in community-oriented grassroots organizations that create spaces for relative local autonomy and self-governance. Central to Wenzhou's religious civil society is what Yang calls a "ritual economy," in which an ethos of generosity is expressed through donations to temples, clerics, ritual events, and charities in exchange for spiritual gain. With these investments in transcendent realms, Yang adopts Georges Bataille's notion of "ritual expenditures" to challenge the idea that rural Wenzhou's economic development can be described in terms of Max Weber's notion of a "Protestant Ethic". Instead, Yang suggests that Wenzhou's ritual economy forges an alternate path to capitalist modernity.


You, Ziying. Folk Literati, Contested Tradition, and Heritage in Contemporary China: Incense Is Kept Burning. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2020.

Abstract: In this important ethnography Ziying You explores the role of the "folk literati" in negotiating, defining, and maintaining local cultural heritage. Expanding on the idea of the elite literati—a widely studied pre-modern Chinese social group, influential in cultural production—the folk literati are defined as those who are skilled in classical Chinese, knowledgeable about local traditions, and capable of representing them in writing. The folk literati work to maintain cultural continuity, a concept that is expressed locally through the vernacular phrase: "incense is kept burning." You's research focuses on a few small villages in Hongtong County, Shanxi Province in contemporary China. Through a careful synthesis of oral interviews, participant observation, and textual analysis, You presents the important role the folk literati play in reproducing local traditions and continuing stigmatized beliefs in a community context. She demonstrates how eight folk literati have reconstructed, shifted, and negotiated local worship traditions around the ancient sage-Kings Yao and Shun as well as Ehuang and Nüying, Yao's two daughters and Shun's two wives. You highlights how these individuals' conflictive relationships have shaped and reflected different local beliefs, myths, legends, and history in the course of tradition preservation. She concludes her study by placing these local traditions in the broader context of Chinese cultural policy and UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage program, documenting how national and international discourses impact actual traditions, and the conversations about them, on the ground.


You, Ziying. "Conflicts over Local Beliefs: 'Feudal Superstitions' as Intangible Cultural Heritage in Contemporary China." Asian Ethnology 79, no. 1 (2020): 137–159.

Abstract: This article addresses conflicts over local beliefs in both discourse and practice in contemporary China, especially in the process of protecting local beliefs as China's national intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in the twenty-first century. These local beliefs were stigmatized as "feudal superstitions" in revolutionary China and were revived in public since the reform era started in 1978. With influence from UNESCO, the project to protect ICH has spread all over China since 2004, and many local beliefs are promoted as China's national ICH. Drawing on my ethnographic case study of "receiving aunties (Ehuang and Nüying)" in Hongtong County, Shanxi Province, I argue that the categories of "superstition" and ICH are both disempowering and empowering, and the new naming should allow for more space for local communities to achieve social equity and justice.


Zhang, Xinli. "Tales of the Water God in the Water God Temple of Guangsheng Monastery: Folk Religion and Social Justice in the Premodern Chinese Political Tradition." PhD diss., University of Hawai'i at Manoa, 2020.


Zhang Yanchao. "The Local Promotion of Mazu: The Intersection of Lineage, Textual Representation, Confucian Values, and Temples in Late Imperial China." Religions 2020, 11(3), 123;

Abstract: This article explores the role that local elites played in the development of the Mazu cult, a local goddess cult in Putian district in late imperial China. I argue that local elites were central in the promotion and transmission of the cult. Through compiling and writing key Confucian texts featuring Mazu, they reshaped, manipulated, and represented certain aspects of her cult in accordance with their interests. As a result of the activities of local elites, Mazu became associated with the Lin lineage, an influential local lineage. In this manner, Mazu came to be seen as an expression of the lineage's authority, as well as an imperial protector embodying local loyalty to the state and a daughter who was the paradigm filial piety. In addition to the literary production, local elites, in particular the descendants from the Lin lineage, established an ancestral hall of Lin in the port of Xianliang dedicated to Mazu, further sanctioning divinely the local elites' authority and privilege in the community. I conclude that the locally promoted version of goddess worship operated at the intersection of state interests, Confucian ideology, the agency of local elites, and the dynamics of popular religiosity.


Zhu, Bo-Wei, Zheng Huang, and Lei Xiong. “Application of the Kano Model and DEMATEL Technique to Explore Sustainable Promotion Strategies for Thai-Chinese Temples as Tourist Attractions.” Religions 11, no. 4 (2020): 199;

Abstract: With the development of the modern social economy, temple tourism has become a lucrative industry. Because of their distinct architecture, rituals, and history, temples have become an important part of the sustainable development of temple economies. Thailand, a tourism-rich country in Southeast Asia, has many Chinese temples, most of which have developed into well-known tourist attractions. However, little research has explored attraction factor categories of Thai-Chinese temples as cultural tourist attractions, and also the relationships among these factor categories. This knowledge is important for assessing and developing improvement strategies of Thai-Chinese temples for achieving a sustainable temple economy. Thus, this study aims to identify appropriate ways to identify the constituent attraction factor categories of Thai-Chinese temples as cultural tourist attractions and how they are prioritized, considering the complex interaction relationships among them. The research findings show that 12 main factor categories under the three dimensions, three attributive classifications with different priorities to which the 12 categories belong, and the complex interaction relationships among factor categories are identified. Combining the priorities on attributive classifications and the priorities on interaction relationships, the sustainable improvement strategies of Thai-Chinese temples are established. This paper extends previous research on Chinese temples, offers insights into the theoretical investigation of Thai-Chinese temples as tourist attractions, and provides decision makers with an integrated and practical way to establish priorities of multiple attraction factor categories, in order to make sustainable improvement strategies of Thai-Chinese temples under the consideration of rational allocation of resources.