8. Religious Calendar, Festivals, Popular Customs


Aijmer, Göran, New Year Celebrations in Central China in Late Imperial Times. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2003.


Aijmer, Göran. "A Family Reunion: The Anthropology of Life, Death and New Year in Soochow." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 15(2005)2: 199-218.


Aijmer, Göran. “Cold Food, Fire and Ancestral Production: Midspring Celebrations in Central China.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series 20.3 (2010): 319-344.

Abstract: This article seeks to explain the traditional celebration of Cold Food and some other springtime customs in the mid-Yangzi basin in central China. In these rituals the ancestors and their influence in the production of new rice were highlighted while, at the same time, social reproduction through women was temporarily suspended. Female generative energy was not allowed to compete with the creative force of the ancestors in the fields. Cold Food is seen as a trope on seasonal agricultural tasks. The myth of moral constancy, which accompanied the festival, was on another deeper level an iconic exploration of the preparation of the agr icultural fields. Death was seen to propel life, ancestral energy being transfer red to the living through rice.


Allio, Fiorella, "Rituel, territoire et pouvoir local: Le procession du "pays" de Sai-kang (T'ainan, Taiwan)." Doctoral dissertation, U. de Paris X, Paris-Nanterre, 1996.


Allio, Fiorella, "Procession et identité: mise en scène rituelle de l'histoire locale." Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie 10 (1998): 1-18.


Allio, Fiorella. "Marcher, danser, jouer: La prestation des troupes processionnelles à Taiwan." Études Mongoles at Siberiennes 31(1999-2000)2: 181-235.


Allio, Fiorella, "Spatial Organization in a Ritual Context: A Preliminary Analysis of the Koah-hiu(n) Processional System of the Tainan Region and Its Social Significance." In: Lin Mei-rong [ed.], Xinyang, yishi yu shehui: Di san jie guoji Hanxue huiyi lunwenji (renleixue zu) = Belief, Ritual and Society: Papers from the Third International Conference on Sinology (Anthropology Section). Taipei: Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, 2003. Pp.131-178.


Anderson, Samantha, "Gender and Ritual in South-East China." In: Arvind Sharma & Katherine K. Young [eds.], Annual Review of Women in World Religions, vol. VI. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002. Pp.122-207.


Barnett, W. Laurence. “Dealing with the Dead: Rituals of Trance, Transition and Transformation in a Taiwan Temple.” Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 2004.

Abstract: The Taiwanese experience their dead as demanding recognition. The dead will not go away. They are difficult to deal with and Taiwanese spend much time and resources on rituals focused on the dead. In this study I examine four principal rituals performed at Kitchen God Temple in Yilan County, Taiwan: Daily soul retrieval, annual Rescue Ritual, rites to placate the discontented dead during the Ghost Festival, and birthday celebrations for the gods. I argue that the living ritually produce the dead as the source of their own productivity (children produce parents) and the embodiment of unfilled fantasies of autonomy and relatedness. By seeking to close the symbolic gap in social relations created by death through the re-integration of named dead into kinship relations, or denying the generic discontented dead such sociality, the living reproduce a certain kind of family in which individual desires are subordinated to the collectivity and juniors submit to seniors. The conceptual issues that inform this study are the production of the person as praxis, exchange, gender, and the place of the dead in Taiwan society, all within an approach that privileges the transformative power of ritual activity.


Bartlett, Beatrice S., "Court and Countryside: the Traditional Chinese New Year's Dragon Dance." Yale-China Review 3(1995)1: 4-9.


Berezkin, Rostislav. "Baojuan (Precious Scrolls) and Festivals in the Temples of Local Gods in Changshu, Jiangsu." Minsu quyi, no. 206 (2019): 115–175.


Boretz, Avron A., "Righteous Brothers and Demon Slayers: Subjectivities and Collective Identities in Taiwanese Temple Processions." In: Paul R. Katz and Murray A. Rubinstein [eds.], Religion and the Formation of Taiwanese Identities. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Pp.219-251.


Boretz, Avron. Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters: Ritual Violence, Martial Arts, and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011.

Abstract: Demon warrior puppets, sword-wielding Taoist priests, spirit mediums lacerating their bodies with spikes and blades—these are among the most dramatic images in Chinese religion. Usually linked to the propitiation of plague gods and the worship of popular military deities, such ritual practices have an obvious but previously unexamined kinship with the traditional Chinese martial arts. The long and durable history of martial arts iconography and ritual in Chinese religion suggests something far deeper than mere historical coincidence. Avron Boretz argues that martial arts gestures and movements are so deeply embedded in the ritual repertoire in part because they iconify masculine qualities of violence, aggressivity, and physical prowess, the implicit core of Chinese patriliny and patriarchy. At the same time, for actors and audience alike, martial arts gestures evoke the mythos of the jianghu, a shadowy, often violent realm of vagabonds, outlaws, and masters of martial and magic arts. Through the direct bodily practice of martial arts movement and creative rendering of jianghu narratives, martial ritual practitioners are able to identify and represent themselves, however briefly and incompletely, as men of prowess, a reward otherwise denied those confined to the lower limits of this deeply patriarchal society. Based on fieldwork in China and Taiwan spanning nearly two decades, Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters offers a thorough and original account of violent ritual and ritual violence in Chinese religion and society. Close-up, sensitive portrayals and the voices of ritual actors themselves—mostly working-class men, many of them members of sworn brotherhoods and gangs—convincingly link martial ritual practice to the lives and desires of men on the margins of Chinese society. (Source: publisher's website)


Bujard, Marianne & Christian Lamouroux. "La fête du Roi de la Médicine à Yaoxian (Shaanxi)." Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient 85(1998): 422-428.


Chan, Hong Y. "The Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore: Getai (Songs on Stage) in the Lunar Seventh Month." Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 356. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070356

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.


Chan, Kwok-shin. “Temple Festivals, Social Networks, and Communal Relationships: The Development of a Local Cult in Macau.” In China Networks, edited by Jens Damm and Mechthild Leutner, 118–126. Berlin: Lit, 2009. (Berliner China-Hefte/ Chinese History and Society, vol. 35)


Chan, Selina Ching. "Creepy No More: Inventing the Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Cultural Festival in Hong Kong." Review of Religion and Chinese Society 6, no. 2 (2019): 273-296.

Abstract: Ever since the classification of Hong Kong's Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Festival as a national-grade intangible cultural heritage in 2011, a series of conservation activities have been initiated by some local Chaozhou communities, ngos, and the Hong Kong government. One of these activities is the Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Cultural Festival, and this paper discusses the heritagization of religious festivals by examining the invention of this festival. The Cultural Festival reveals how the elite-cum-businessmen attempt to educate the general public, to promote the festival so as to reverse its decline in popularity, and to celebrate ethnic culture and Chinese culture. To overwrite the old-fashioned stereotypical creepy images associated with the traditional Hungry Ghosts Festival, new programs featuring spectacular and fun elements have been invented. This paper delineates how these newly invented programs highlight and promote moral and cultural meanings and capture the attention of the general public, especially the younger generation, thereby attracting wider participation in the festival. I will discuss how the spectatorial, participatory, and educational aspects of the Cultural Festival are meant to attract domestic visitors as well as international tourists. Nevertheless, the majority of worshippers and local organizers do not have a significant role in the Cultural Festival. (Source: journal)

Chan, Selina Ching. “Heritage Conservation and Ethnic Associations: The Chaozhou Hungry Ghosts Festival in Hong Kong.” In Heritage and Religion in East Asia, edited by Shu-Li Wang, Michael Rowlands, and Yujie Zhu, 125–147. London: Routledge, 2021.


Chau, Adam Yuet. "Hosting Funerals and Temple Festivals: Folk Event Productions in Rural China." Asian Anthropology 3(2004): 39-70.


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.


Chen, Chiung-Chi.  "From the Sublime to the Obscene: The Performativity of Popular Religion in Taiwan." PhD diss.,  University of California, Los Angeles, 2006.

Abstract: Through ethnographic fieldwork, this dissertation examines the continuities and changes in performing arts associated with popular religion over the last three decades in contemporary Taiwan. Performances, especially music and theatrical forms, have been intricately associated with and have played an active role in constructing popular religious culture; they have also been shaped by prevailing religious practice. Drawing on theories of performativity enunciated by theorists Magaret Drewal, Stanley Tambiah, and Maurice Bloch, this dissertation focuses on two drastically contrasting types of performances at Taiwanese temple festivals: one is traditional moralizing ritual opera that can be traced back at least to the 17th, century and, although having undergone enormous change in its performance practice, is still vigorously performed; the other is striptease shows accompanied by contemporary Taiwanese pop music, which emerged in the early 1980s and became ubiquitous not only at temple festivals but also at weddings and funerals throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
            I analyze these performances as modes of social action in which meanings are multiple, variously interpreted by participants and spectators. By contextualizing these performances and their transformation over time, I suggest that we cannot reduce them to merely a moral degradation. Rather, it is potentially more critical to see the phenomenon as an unspoken social critique of the rough and chaotic transition to capitalist and industrial society in Taiwan. The analysis draws on original fieldwork research conducted among musicians, temple patrons, theatrical troupes, and worshippers in Taiwan during the years 1995-1999 and in 2002-2003. In addition, periodicals, newspapers and historical documents are used to construct the trajectory of transformation over time.


Chen, Chiung Chi. "Spectacle and Vulgarity: Stripper Dance at Temple Festivals in Contemporary Taiwan." TDR: The Drama Review 55, no. 1 (2011): 104–119.

Abstract: Starting in the early 1980s, female striptease shows mounted on the backs of trucks, known as “electronic festooned vehicles” (EFVs), have been popular entertainments offered to the deities at temple festivals. The EFV takes the “realities” of contemporary Taiwanese society—sexism, capitalism, and social hierarchy—and re-presents them in an evocative/provocative form.


Chen, Mei-Chen. "What to Preserve and How to Preserve It: Taiwan's Action Plans for Safeguarding Traditional Performing Arts." In Resounding Taiwan: Musical Reverberations across a Vital Island, edited by Nancy Guy, 145–164. London: Routledge, 2022.

Cheu Hock Tong, "The Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods in Malaysia. Myth, Ritual, and Symbol." Asian Folklore Studies 55(1996)1: 49-72.


Chia, Jie L. „State Regulations and Divine Oppositions: An Ethnography of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Singapore.“ Religions 11, no. 7 (2020): 330. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070330

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.

Chittick, Andrew. “Competitive Spectacle Competitive Spectacle during China’s Northern and Southern Dynasties: With Particular Emphasis on ‘Dragon’ Boat Racing.” Asia Major, Third Series, 23.1 (2010): 65-85.


Choi Chi-Cheung, "Reinforcing Ethnicity: The Jiao Festival in Cheung Chan." In: David Faure & Helen F. Siu [eds.], Down to Earth: The Territorial Bond in South China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995.


Chow Wai-yin. "Religious Narrative and Ritual in a Metropolis: A Study of the Daoist Ghost Festival in Hong Kong." In: Elise Anne DeVido and Benoît Vermander [eds.], Creeds, Rites and Videotapes: Narrating Religious Experience in East Asia. Taipei: Taipei Ricci Institute, 2004. Pp.187-211.


Cohen, Erik. The Chinese Vegetarian Festival in Phuket: Religion, Ethnicity and Tourism on a Southern Thai Island. Bangkok: White Lotus, 2001.


Cohen, Erik. “Kuan To: The Vegetarian Festival in a Peripheral Southern Thai Shrine.” In: Pattana Kitiarsa [ed.], Religious Commodifications in Asia: Marketing Gods. London: Routledge, 2008. Pp.68-88.


Cooper, Eugene. “Market, Popular Culture, and Popular Religion in Contemporary China: the Market / Temple Fairs of Jinhua.” In: Asian Popular Culture in Transition, ed. Lorna Fitzsimmons & John A. Lent. London, New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. 15-37.


Cooper, Gene. The Market and Temple Fairs of Rural China: Red Fire. London & New York: Routledge, 2012.

Abstract: During the early communist period of the 1950s, temple fairs in China were both suppressed and secularized. Temples were closed down by the secular regime and their activities classified as feudal superstition and this process only intensified during the Cultural Revolution when even the surviving secular fairs, devoted exclusively to trade with no religious content of any kind, were suppressed. However, once China embarked on its path of free market reform and openness, secular commodity exchange fairs were again authorized, and sometimes encouraged in the name of political economy as a means of stimulating rural commodity circulation and commerce. This book reveals how once these secular "temple-less temple fairs" were in place, they came to serve not only as venues for the proliferation of a great variety of popular cultural performance genres, but also as sites where a revival or recycling of popular religious symbols, already underway in many parts of China, found familiar and fertile ground in which to spread. Taking this shift in the Chinese state’s attitudes and policy towards temple fairs as its starting point, The Market and Temple Fairs of Rural China shows how state-led economic reforms in the early 1980s created a revival in secular commodity exchange fairs, which were granted both the geographic and metaphoric space to function. In turn, this book presents a comprehensive analysis of the temple fair phenomenon, examining its economic, popular cultural, popular religious and political dimensions and demonstrates the multifaceted significance of the fairs which have played a crucial role in expanding the boundaries of contemporary acceptable popular discourse and expression. (Source: publisher's website)


Dai Yanjing, Keith Dede, Qi Huimin, Zhu Yongzhong & Kevin Stuart, "'Laughing on the Beacon Tower': Spring Festival Songs from Qinghai." Asian Folklore Studies 58(1999): 121-187.


DeBernardi, Jean. “Commodifying Blessings: Celebrating the Double-Yang Festival in Penang, Malaysia, and Wudang Mountain, China.” In: Pattana Kitiarsa [ed.], Religious Commodifications in Asia: Marketing Gods. London: Routledge, 2008. Pp.49-67.


DuBois, Thomas David. “Local Religion and Festivals.” In Modern Chinese Religion II, 1850-2015, edited by Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely, and John Lagerwey, 371-400. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2016. (Handbook of Oriental Studies, section 4: China, vol.32)


Eng, Irene & Yi-min Lin, "Religious Festivities, Communal Rivalry, and Restructuring of Authority Relations in Rural Chaozhou, Southeast China." Journal of Asian Studies 61(2002)4: 1259-1285.


Feuchtwang, Stephan. "Hopes, Fears and Excitement: the Authority of a Local Festival." In: Lin, Tsong-yuan [ed.], Proceedings of the International Conference on Anthropology and the Museum = Renleixue yu bowuguan guoji xueshu yantaohui lunwen zhuanji. Taipei: Taiwan Museum, 1995. Pp. 101-118. [Note: on a Mazu festival in Guandu]


Feuchtwang, Stephan, "The General and the Immortal: The Authors and the Authority of Custom." In: Anders Hansson, Bonnie S. McDougall, and Frances Weightman [eds.], The Chinese at Play: Festivals, Games, and Leisure. London: Kegan Paul, 2002. Pp. 34-54. (Note: On temple festivals in Shiding, near Taipei.)


Frick, Johann, "Neujahrsbräuche im Westtale von Sining." In: Johann Frick, Zwischen Himmel und Erde. Riten und Brauchtum in Nordwestchina. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 1995. Pp.233-273.


Goossaert, Vincent. "The Local Politics of Festivals: Hangzhou, 1850-1950." Daoism: Religion, History & Society 5 (2013): 57-80.


Hua Zhiya. "Renao (Heat-noise), Deities' Efficacy, and Temple Festivals in Central and Southern Hebei Province." Cambridge Journal of China Studies 8, no.3-4 (2013): 1-18.

Abstract: There is a tradition of holding temple festivals in villages in central and southern Hebei Province. This tradition was once suspended after the establishment of P.R.C., but it revived and thrived after the reform and opening-up. Temple festivals are a kind of renao (heat-noise) events in rural life, and the organizers of temple festivals pursue the effect of renao as much as possible. Renao is a popular life condition welcomed by people; meanwhile, it can be regarded as an important exterior indicator of the efficacy of deities. Hence holding temple festivals and make renao at them provides an opportunity not only for people to experience and enjoy renao, but to acknowledge, publicize, and even produce the efficacy of deities. These sacred and secular rewards can partly account for the enduring resilience and vitality of the local tradition of holding temple festivals. (Source: journal)


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. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070350

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.

Johnson, David, "Confucian Elements in the Great Temple Festivals of Southeastern Shansi in Late Imperial Times." T'oung Pao 83 (1997) 1-3: 126-161.


Johnson, David, "A 'Lantern Festival' Ritual in Southwest Shanxi." In: Daniel L. Overmyer [ed.] (with the assistance of Shin-yi Chao), Ethnography in China Today: A Critical Assessment of Methods and Results. Taipei: Yuan-Liou Publishing Co., 2002. Pp.287-295.


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]


Katz, Paul R. "Festivals and the Recreation of Identity in South China: A Case Study of Processions and Explsion Rites in Pucheng, Zhejiang." Journal of Ritual Studies 19(2005)1: 67-85.


Kennedy, Brian L. & Elizabeth Nai-Jia Guo. "Taiwanese Daoist Temple Parades and Their Martial Motifs." Journal of Daoist Studies 2 (2009): 197-209.


Lagerwey, John, "Festivals and Cults among the Hakka." China Perspectives 4(1996): 28-34.


Liu, Huan-yueh. "Placating Lost Souls and Praying for Them to be at Peace--the Mid Prime Festival of Universal Salvation in Worship of Lonely Ghosts." Translated by Lin Pei-yin. Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series 14 (2004): 119-128.


Nygren, Christina. Gastar, generaler och gäckande gudinnor. Resande teatersällskap, religiösa festivaler och populära nöjen i dagens Japan och Kina. Stockholm: Carlsson Bokförlag, 2000. [English title: "Ghosts, Generals and Gorgeous Goddesses. Travelling Theatres, Religious Festivals and Popular Amusements in Contemporary Japan and China."]


Peng Mu. “The Invisible and the Visible: Communicating with the Yin World.” Asian Ethnology 74, no. 2 (2015): 335-362.

Abstract: In the absence of the institutional propagation of religious knowledge, how do people form an understanding of the yin world (yinjian), the Chinese spiritual realm where ancestors, spirits, and ghosts dwell, in contrast to the yang world (yangjian) where we live? Based upon fieldwork conducted in 2005, 2006, and 2010 in rural Chaling, Hunan, this article explores how the annual observance of the Ghost Festival, the time when souls are said to return to the world of the living, instills beliefs about the yin world. Elaborating on spirit mediums through whom villagers communicate with deceased family members, it examines how spirit possessions shape and are shaped by villagers’ understanding of the yin world. Traditions and assumptions engrained in local life enable a dialogue between the dead and the living, while the depictions of the afterlife through spirit mediumship embody images and visions of the yin world, making the invisible visible. (Source: journal)


Poon Shuk Wah, "Refashioning Festivals in Republican Guangzhou." Modern China 30(2004)2: 199-227.

Abstract: Influenced by the concept of evolution, the Republican regime branded popular religious beliefs and practices as superstition, believing that the eradication of superstition was crucial to the making of modern citizens. Government policies not only affected the development of popular religion but also reshaped the relationship between the state and the common people. Tracing the changes of the Double Seven Festival and the Ghost Festival in Republican Guangzhou, this article aims to show the complexities of the contestations between the state and the common people in actual religious settings, particularly the interaction between official culture and traditional festivals. It argues that although new national symbols successfully found their way into common people's religious lives, helping to give a nationalistic outlook to traditional festivals, underneath the expansion of an official culture, a rich variety of local traditions persisted. By appropriating official symbols, the common people refashioned and preserved their religious traditions. [Source: article]


Rack, Mary, "The Mu Yi Festival: Contesting Interpretations of a Territorial Temple Cult." In: Anders Hansson, Bonnie S. McDougall, and Frances Weightman [eds.], The Chinese at Play: Festivals, Games, and Leisure. London: Kegan Paul, 2002. Pp. 55-68. (Note: On a local cult in Yaxi village, near Jishou, western Hunan province.)


Reiter, Florian C., "Wells (ching) and What They Meant to the Chinese." In: Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer [ed.], Das andere China. Festschrift für Wolfgang Bauer zum 65. Geburtstag. Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 1995. Pp.237-255.


Seiwert, Hubert. "Ancestor Worship and State Rituals in Contemporary China: Fading Boundaries between Religious and Secular." Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 24, no. 2 (2016): 127-152.

Abstract: The paper argues that the distinction between religious and secular realms of society is not as clear-cut in modern societies as it appears in theories of functional and institutional differentiation. The data used are mainly from China with a short excursion to the United States. The starting point is ancestor worship, which is a central element of traditional Chinese religion. The significance of ancestor worship in Chinese history and culture is briefly explained to illustrate on the one hand its central importance as a ritual practice and on the other hand the ambiguities of interpretation. On this basis, some theoretical considerations about the existence of ancestors are presented. This is followed by a report on contemporary temple festivals focusing on the worship of Fuxi, a mythic figure considered to be the first ancestor of the Chinese people. The next step is the description of official state rituals devoted to the worship of the very same mythological hero in contemporary China. Against this backdrop, the last part of the paper discusses the theoretical questions of classification and distinguishing between the religious and the secular. (Source: journal)


Shih, Shu-ch'ing. "The Procession of Lord Guan Di." Translated by Hwang Yingtsih. Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series 14 (2004): 73-78.


Siu, Kin Wai Michael, "Lanterns of the Mid-Autumn Festival: A Reflection of Hong Kong Cultural Change." Journal of Popular Culture 33(1999)2: 67-86.


Siu, Kin-wai Michael, "Red Packet: A Traditional Object in the Modern World." Journal of Popular Culture 35(2001)3: 103-125.


Stafford, Charles, Separation and Union in Modern China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Abstract: In this original and readable book, Charles Stafford describes the Chinese fascination with separation and reunion. Drawing on his field studies in Taiwan and mainland China, he gives a vivid account of raucous festivals of reunion, elaborate rituals for the sending-off of gods (and daughters), poetic moments of leave-takings between friends, and bitter political rhetoric about Chinese national unity. The idioms and practices of separation and reunion - which are woven into the fabric of daily life - help people to explain the passions aroused by the possibility of national division. In this book, the discussion of everyday rituals leads into a unique and accessible general introduction to Chinese and Taiwanese society and culture. [Source: publisher's website]

Contents: Introduction: an anthropology of separation; 1. Two festivals of reunion; 2. The etiquette of parting and return; 3. Greeting and sending-off the dead; 4. The ambivalent threshold; 5. Commensality as reunion; 6. Women and the obligation to return; 7. Developing a sense of history; 8. Classical narratives of separation; 9. The politics of separation and reunion in China and Taiwan; Conclusion: the separation constraint.


Sutton, Donald S., "Transmission in Popular Religion: The Jiajiang Festival Troupe of Southern Taiwan." In: Shahar, Meir & Robert P. Weller [eds.], Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. Pp.212-249.


Sutton, Donald S., "The Uses of Ritual in a Chinese Festival: The Jiajiang Troupe in Southern Taiwan." Journal of Ritual Studies 11(1997)1: 45-60.


Szonyi, Michael, Practicing Kinship: Lineage and Descent in Late Imperial China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002. (Note: See especially ch.5 "Rituals of the Ancestral Hall: New Year's Day and Lantern Festival")

Abstract: Presenting a new approach to the history of Chinese kinship, this book attempts to bridge the gap between anthropological and historical scholarship on the Chinese lineage by considering its development in terms of individual and collective strategies. Based on a wide range of newly available sources such as lineage genealogies and stone inscriptions, as well as oral history and extensive observation of contemporary ritual practice in the field, this work explores the historical development of kinship in villages of the Fuzhou region of southeastern Fujian province.

In the late imperial period (1368-1911), the people of Fuzhou compiled lengthy genealogies, constructed splendid ancestral halls, and performed elaborate collective rituals of ancestral sacrifice, testimony to the importance they attached to organized patrilineal kinship. In their writings on the lineage, members of late imperial elites presented such local behavior as the straightforward expression of universal and eternal principles. In this book, the author shows that kinship in the Fuzhou region was a form of strategic practice that was always flexible and negotiable. In using the concepts and institutions of kinship, individuals and groups redefined them to serve their own purposes, which included dealing with ethnic differentiation, competing for power and status, and formulating effective responses to state policies. Official efforts to promote a neo-Confucian agenda, to register land and population, and to control popular religion drove people to organize themselves on kinship principles and to institutionalize their kinship relationships. Local efforts to turn compliance with official policies, or at least claims of compliance, to local advantage meant that policymakers were continually frustrated.

Because kinship was constituted in a complex of representations, it was never stable or fixed, but fluid and multiple. In offering this new perspective on this history of Chinese lineage practices, the author also provides new insights into the nature of cultural integration and state control in traditional Chinese society. (Source: publisher's webpage)


Tam, Wai-lun, "Local Temple Festivals and Chinese Culture." Ching Feng 42(1999)1-2: 111-134. [Note: On pre-1945 temple festivals in three communities in Fujian, Jiangxi, and Guangdong]


Tam Wai Lun, "Religious Festivals in Northern Guangdong." In: John Lagerwey [ed.], Religion and Chinese Society. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press / Paris: École française d'Extrême-Orient, 2004. Pp.817-836.


Tan, Betty O.S., "The Contextualization of the Chinese New Year Festival." Asia Journal of Theology 15(2001)1: 115-132.


Teather, E.K., "Time Out and Worlds Apart: Tradition and Modernity Meet in the Time-space of the Gravesweeping Festivals of Hong Kong." Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 22(2001)2: 156-172.

Abstract: This paper focuses on Hong Kong's Gravesweeping Festivals, Qingming and Chongyang. The practices carried out in urban cemeteries at these Festivals are over two thousand years old, and represent "time out" from modern "clock time". They are examined in the context of Giddens' (1985) reworking of Hagerstrand's time-space geography, and of Douglas' (1966) discussion of pollution. It is suggested that the cemeteries are regarded as dangerous places because they represent liminal spaces. Giddens' dimension of span enables a distinction to be made between, on the one hand, the long-established cultural significance of the grave, and, on the other, the recentness of the urban cemetery. The dimension of form (redefined from Giddens' original concept), applied to some details of cemetery landscapes, reveals the "worlds apart" of the non-material worlds of the spirits and of fengshui. By considering the Festivals in the light of Giddens' dimension, character it emerges that the Gravesweeping Festivals are, as they have been for centuries, firmly embedded in Hong Kong's social system, where routines of ancestor veneration continue to renew and strengthen the family bonds that are at the heart of Confucian values. Furthermore, their continued observation may well represent practices that are of deep ontological significance to the predominantly immigrant community of Hong Kong. (Source: A&H Search)


Thiriez, Régine, "Festivals and Photography in the Last Decades of Imperial China." In: Anders Hansson, Bonnie S. McDougall, and Frances Weightman [eds.], The Chinese at Play: Festivals, Games, and Leisure. London: Kegan Paul, 2002. Pp. 88-108.


Wang Chien-ch'uan. "The White Dragon Hermitage and the Spread of the Eight Generals Procession Troupe in Taiwan." 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. 283-302.


Wang Kefeng, "History of Lion Dance." Chinese Literature, summer 1995, pp.138-144.


Wang Mingming, "The Fa Zhu Gong Festival: The Birth of a God or the Reproduction of Locality in a Chinese Village." In: Anders Hansson, Bonnie S. McDougall, and Frances Weightman [eds.], The Chinese at Play: Festivals, Games, and Leisure. London: Kegan Paul, 2002. Pp. 12-33. (Note: On a temple cult in Meifa village, Anxi county, Fujian.)


Wang Yaofeng, Yue Yongyi. "Belief or Leisure: The Evolution of Miaofeng Mountain Temple Festival in the Last Century." Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11, no.1 (2016): 27-47.

Abstract: The Miaofeng Mountain temple festival is based on Bixia Yuanjun, known as Laoniangniang, belief in Beijing-Tianjin area. The paper discusses its historical changes and transformation through methods of text analysis and fieldwork. The historical changes of Miaofeng Mountain temple festival are organized as follow: 1) its origin, 2) the space-time distribution, 3) the ritualized behavior and interactive mode of incense organizations (Xianghui) and unorganized discrete pilgrims when offering incense and sacrifices, and 4) the impact brought by the participation of special forces represented by the Bannermen and the royal family of Qing dynasty. The driving force behind the contemporary transformation of Miaofeng Mountain temple festival is mainly tourism economy, leisure culture and the decline of the sanctity of the goddess beliefs. Changes were found in temples, managers, the time of the temple festival, the roads to the mountain, the composition and mind set of the Xianghui, etc. (Source: journal)


Yoshihara Kazuo. “The Hungy Ghost Festival Celebrated by a Dejiao Organization in Bangkok: An Interpretation of the Social Significance.” In Xuezhe guan Dejiao 学者观德教. Edited by Chen Jingxi 陈景熙 and Zhang Yudong 张禹东, 67-87. Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2011.


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.


Yu, Zhejun. "Volksreligion im Spiegel der Zivilgesellschaftstheorie: Gottbegrüßungsprozession in Shanghai während der Republikzeit." Doctoral dissertation, University of Leipzig, Germany, 2010. Download here.

Abstract: Gottbegrüßungsprozession (????, oder Gottempfangsprozession) ist die eines der wichtigsten volksreligiösen Rituale, die zu den bedeutendsten Zeremonien des Religionslebens des chinesischen Volks zählen dürften. Der Ausgangspunkt meiner Forschung ist die 1995 veröffentlichte Studie Demon Hordes and Burning Boats: The Cult of Marshall Wen in Late Imperial Chekiang von Paul Katz, in der „Zivilgesellschaft und Volksreligion“ zum ersten Mal in der Forschung über die chinesische Kultur thematisiert. Um Katz’ Schwächen in der Studie zum Marschall Wen - sowohl an Quellen als auch in Theorie - auszugleichen, folgen ich in meiner Arbeit vertiefend zwei Grundlinien und damit sie grob in zwei Teile teilen, nämlich einen theoretischen und einen empirischen Teil. Im theoretischen Teil müssen zwei Fragen beantwortet: Was ist Zivilgesellschaft? Wie könnte die Zivilgesellschaftstheorie für diese religionswissenschaftliche Forschung nützlich sein? Um eine präzise Arbeitsdefinition geben und eine operationalisierbare Fragestellung aufstellen zu können, verfolge ich zunächst im ersten Teil die Begriffsgeschichte von „Zivilgesellschaft“ und „Öffentlichkeit“ im abendländischen Kontext zurück. Ein dreieckiges Problemfeld zwischen Staat, Privatsphäre und Ökonomie, zwei Ansätze der Zivilgesellschaftstheorie (der analytisch-deskriptive und der Idealistisch-präskriptive) werden zusammengefasst. Sieben Merkmale (öffentliche Assoziationen, Autonomie, Pluralität, Legalität, zivilisiertes Verhalten und utopisches Potenzial) und sechs Modelle (Das Trennungs-, Oppositions-, Öffentlichkeits-, Unterstützungs-, Partnerschaftsmodell und die globale Zivilgesellschaft) werden in der Forschung angeführt. Anschließend setze ich mich mit der Zivilgesellschaftsdiskussion im chinesischen Kontext auseinander. Aus der „Modern China Debate“ in den U. S. A. und der daran angeschlossenen chinesischen Diskussion wird eine Bilanz gezogen. Die „teleologische Annahme“ und der „China-Hat(te)-Auch-Komplex“ werden herausgefunden, die in einer historischen Forschung nicht legitimierbar sind. Danach wird die bisherige Erörterung über die Beziehung zwischen Zivilgesellschaft und Religion kurz zusammengefasst. Zum Ende des theoretischen Teils beschließe ich auf den idealistisch-präskriptiven Ansatzes zu verzichten. Die Zivilgesellschaftstheorie als Idealtypus im Weberschen Sinn benutzt, um die Kulturbedeutung der volksreligiösen Feste in China zu erkennen. Besonders die Organisation und die politische Auseinandersetzung der Prozession sollen in Betrachtung der Zivilgesellschaftstheorie gezogen werden, um die chinesische Gesellschaft besser zu verstehen. Im empirischen Teil der Arbeit werden Regionalbeschreibungen, Archivakten und Zeitungsartikel als Hauptquelle benutzt. Weil bisher keine systematische Forschung im Bereich der Religionswissenschaft zur Gottbegrüßungsprozession vorliegt, wird zuerst eine ausführliche Einführung in die Prozessionen in China gegeben, um ein zuverlässiges Bild von den Prozessionen innerhalb der chinesischen Religionslandschaft entwerfen zu können. Die Etymologie, die Arbeitsdefinition und die kosmologische Ordnung hinter der Prozession werden anschließend vorgestellt. Ich schlage vor, die Prozession als das Kennzeichen der kommunalen Religion Chinas anzusehen. Durch einige Sammelbände zur Folklore in China wird dann deutlich belegt, dass zahlreiche Gottbegrüßungsprozessionen ab Anfang der Qing-Zeit bis in die Republikzeit hinein kontinuierlich in fast allen Provinzen Chinas stattfanden. Danach werden die gesetzlichen Verbote in der Kaiserzeit dargestellt. Die Forschungsgeschichte zur Prozession und deren Problematik werden daraufhin zusammengefasst. Nachdem die Grundform bzw. die alternativen Formen, der Aufbau des Umzugs, Gottheiten, Dauer und Häufigkeit der Prozessionen in einem weiter begrenzten geographischen Raum, nämlich dem heutigen Shanghai, und zeitlich Raum, nämlich der Republikzeit (1912-49), dargestellt werden, werden die Haltung der Regierung und die mediale Präsentation solcher Prozessionen während der Republikzeit rekonstruiert, um die potenzielle Spannung zwischen dem Staat und den religiösen Gemeinschaften als eine der wichtigsten kollektiven Einstellungen zur Prozession zu zeigen. Die Zwischenfälle in der Nachbarregion werden wiedergegeben. Sodann werden drei detailreiche historische Fallbeispiele stichprobenartig angeführt und analysiert, um die weitere Behandlung der Fragestellung empirisch zu untermauern. Das erste historische Fallbeispiel ist der Stadtgott-Inspektionsrundgang. In diesem Fallbeispiel werden besonders die Finanzierung, die Aktivisten und Organisationen berücksichtigt, um ein Licht auf die Durchführung und Verwaltung der Prozessionen zu werfen. Darüber hinaus werden die Streite, Auseinandersetzungen und Konflikte zwischen den lokalen Behörden und dem Aufsichtsrat des Stadtgotttempels beleuchtet, um deren Verläufe, Hintergründe und Ursachen zu erforschen. Das zweite Fallbeispiel handelt sich um die Prozessionen und die Konflikte in Pudong von 1919 bis 1935. Die Verbote, die Gegenmaßnahmen der Regierung und die Verstöße gegen das Prozessionsverbot werden ausführlich geschildert, um die tatsächliche Ursachen der Konflikte zu finden. Zum Schluss des Kapitels wird die Polizei als Beispiel der damaligen Staatsmacht analysiert. Das dritte Fallbeispiel ist die Prozession im Dorf Jiangwan. Im Jahr 1935 wurde die dortige Prozession von der lokalen Feuerwehr schikaniert. Die Nachwirkung und die direkte Einmischung der Parteidirektion werden auch detailreich dargelegt. In der Schlussfolgerung der Arbeit werden die Beteiligten der Prozession in drei Gruppen, nämlich den Schaulustigen, den Aktivisten, den Unterstützer und die Förderer, eingeteilt. Ihre unterschiedlichen Funktionen und Motivationen getrennt zusammengefasst. Die andere Partei, die Kontrolleure der Prozession, wird anschließend behandelt. Alle historischen Beschreibungen werden im Spiegel der Zivilgesellschaftstheorie, v. a. der sieben Merkmale und sechs Modelle, evaluiert. Außerdem bringe ich zwei Einwände gegen die Dichotomie von C. K. Yang vor.


Yue Yongyi. "Holding Temple Festivals at Home of Doing-gooders: Temple Festivals and Rural Religion in Contemporary China." Cambridge Journal of China Studies 9, no. 1 (2014): 48-95.

Abstract: Holding temple festivals at home is a local temple festival system and practicing religious in Pear Area of North China, referring to the regular “temple festivals” people hold at home centering on shénshen (Gods). Through the ethnographic study on the family space shared by people and shénshen, the controlled possession, unbalances in the daily life of local people, shrine of spirits and the practice of efficacious reading-incense, etc., this article responds to both classic modes of Chinese rural religious study and contemporary western discourse of Chinese temple festivals’ study. The article tries to illuminate the following ideas: firstly, as a life style and a part of daily life, both Chinese rural religion and temple festivals represent a cultural system that not only embodies sacredness and carnival but is more of an extension to daily life as well; secondly, the flexibility of temple festivals. Family temple festivals are the bearing soil of temple festivals, and the relationship of encompassing the contrary is the essence among family temple festivals, village temple festivals and multi-village temple festivals; Thirdly, it is the necessity and the significance of its methodology to come back to the domestic space in the course of daily life as investigating rural religion and temple festival. (Source: journal)


Yue Yongyi. "The Alienation of Spiritual Existence: Temple Festivals and Temple Fairs in Old Beijing." Cambridge Journal of China Studies 11, no.1 (2016): 1-26.

Abstract: The wall-confined Old Beijing was a rural city in an agricultural civilization. Its ruralism is reflected by the sacredness of revering earth and also by isomorphic space aesthetics of houses, streets and the city. All kinds of temples, such as Gong, Guan, Miao, An, Ci, Tan, and Si, were distributed in Old Beijing according to their own ranks and attributes. In addition, the Three Mountains and Five Summits (Sanshan Wuding) which enshrined the Lady of Taishan (Bixia Yuanjun) were regarded to be surrounding and protecting the capital city. There were even numerous small temples in ordinary streets and lanes, such as the Nine Dragons and Two Tigers (Jiulong Erhu) in Xizhimennei Street. The once prevalent cult of Four Sacred Animals (Sidamen) has enabled the space of many households in Old Beijing to bear more or less the properties of a temple. Accordingly, temple festivals in Old Beijing were spiritual existence connected with the leisure and graceful life of the Bannermen and intensively revealed their daily life and individual values. The Western civilization has been set as the model in China by most of native elites in different periods since 1840. There has inevitably been a process of secularizing and stigmatizing the worship-centred temple festivals in Old Beijing. Temple festivals have generally deteriorated to displays of manpower and lust for material goods. With the intangible cultural heritage movement since the 21st century, temple fairs have returned to temple festivals to a limited extend. (Source: journal)


Zhao Shiyu. “Town and Country Representation as Seen in Temple Fairs.” In: David Faure & Tao Tao Liu [eds.], Town and Country in China: Identity and Perception. Houndmills & New York: Palgrave, 2002. Pp.41-57.


Zhao, Xudong and Duran Bell. “Miaohui, the Temples Meeting Festival in North China.” China Information 21.3 (2007): 457-479.

Abstract: We examine the multiple purposes and modalities that converge during a circuit of festivals, miaohui, which temples organize in recognition of local gods and which are attended reciprocally by temple representatives from the surrounding area in North China. The festivals involve intense expressions of devotion to one or more deities, while offering an opportunity for representatives of other villages to seek recognition through rather boisterous drumming and prolonged choreographed dancing. We note also the emergence of Mao as a great god whose legacy as Chairman of the CCP is projected in order to legitimate current Party leadership and their policy of reform while concurrently acting as a powerful denial of those same policies from the perspective of villagers. [Source: journal]