One of Dr Chau's scholarly and outreach ambitions is to stop people from asking the question: How many religions are there in China? It would be preferable for them to ask instead: How do people do religion in China? In examining the ways in which Chinese people have been engaged in religious activities historically as well as today Dr Chau has identified five ‘modalities of doing religion’. Read more . . .
The Western, liberal model of religious pluralism and inter-faith dialogue is premised on equality between ‘religions’ that are understood to be equivalent/analogous to one another (i.e. Protestantism = Catholicism = Islam = Buddhism = Hinduism, etc.). As soon as we admit that in reality the diversity of religious life in the world is more in the ‘modalities of doing religion’ rather than in the abstract systems of religious ideas constructed by religious elites and religious-studies scholars, such a model of religious pluralism no longer holds. Read more . . .
The Chinese religious landscape has undergone tremendous transformations under socialism in the past six decades or so. How do we understand the mechanisms and processes of these transformations? One of the most important things to keep in mind while trying to answer this question is to understand religious traditions as always changing and transforming, therefore we should not posit a pre-revolutionary past that was unchanging or can serve as a stable reference point. Read more . . .
Hosting (zuozhu 做主) is one of the most important idioms through which Chinese people ‘do’ religion (note: hosting is not the same as hospitality). They host deities, ancestors as well as ghosts at fixed times during the annual ritual calendar. The spirits are invited to enjoy a feast of ritual offerings as an expression of gratitude to their blessings and then are sent back. Such ritual practices belong to what Dr Chau has called ‘relational modality of doing religion’. Read more . . .
When looking at a particular religious tradition we can heuristically distinguish two crucial aspects. One aspect is the system of ideas, symbols, and ritual practices that make up this particular religious tradition. The other aspect is the mechanisms through which people mobilise this system of ideas, symbols, and ritual practices and are in turn mobilised by it. Read more . . .
Do you know that a basket of mangoes can change the course of history? That’s exactly what happened on the fifth of August 1968, when Chairman Mao gave a basket of mangoes to the Workers’ Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team sent to university campuses to quell the escalating armed Red-Guard factionalism (the mangoes had been given to him by the Pakistani foreign minister). Read more . . .
This project is about forms of powerful writing in Chinese religious and political life. By powerful writing is meant writings and inscriptions that congeal and exude power that are recognised by their audience as far more forceful than ordinary writing. These writings and inscriptions usually appear in well-defined forms and in well-defined social contexts, where figures or institutions of authority deem it appropriate and necessary to resort to writings and inscriptions to exert power. Read more . . .
The practice of cherishing written characters (xizizhi 惜字紙) has a long history in China. Many late imperial morality books (善書) included xizizhi as one of the many merit-generating practices that people should be engaged in. Xizizhi often appeared as an item in ledgers of merits and demerits (功過格). Read more . . .
PhD Research Projects
The Reform of the Shuilufahui (the Grand Water and Land Ritual) in Contemporary Taiwan (Dharma Master Changzhi, PhD student)
Paper-Offering Craftsman Households in Rural Shandong Province (CHEN Zi, PhD student)
Overseas-Chinese Returnee Communities in Shandong Province (LI Xiafei, PhD student)
The State Management of Householder Daoist Priests in Contemporary China (Alexandra Forrester, PhD student)
Rituals of Commemoration for Fallen KMT Soldiers in Contemporary China (Jacqueline Zhenru LIN, PhD student)