Daoism in Modern China : Clerics and Temples in Urban Transformations,1860–Present book cover
1st Edition

Daoism in Modern China
Clerics and Temples in Urban Transformations,1860–Present

ISBN 9781138889415
Published May 31, 2021 by Routledge
278 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book questions whether temples and Daoism are two independent aspects of modern Chinese religion or if they are indissolubly linked. It presents a useful analysis as to how modern history has changed the structure and organization of religious and social life in China, and the role that Daoism plays in this.

Using an interdisciplinary approach combining historical research and fieldwork, this book focuses on urban centers in China, as this is where sociopolitical changes came earliest and affected religious life to the greatest extent and also where the largest central Daoist temples were and are located. It compares case studies from central, eastern, and southern China with published evidence and research on other Chinese cities. Contributors examine how Daoism interacted with traditional urban social, cultural, and commercial institutions and pays close attention to how it dealt with processes of state expansion, commercialization, migration, and urban development in modern times. This book also analyses the evolution of urban religious life in modern China, particularly the ways in which temple communities, lay urbanites, and professional Daoists interact with one another.

A solid ethnography that presents an abundance of new historical information, this book will be of interest to academics in the field of Asian studies, Daoist studies, Asian religions, and modern China.

Table of Contents


Part I Historical overview

1. Urban Daoists, from 1860 to the present.

V. Goossaert

2. The Martial Marquis Shrine: Politics of Temple Expropriation and Restitution, and Struggles of Daoist Revival in Contemporary Nanyang.

Xun Liu

Part II Spirit-writing temples and their networks

3. The Jin’gaishan Network: A lay Quanzhen Daoist Organization in Modern Jiangnan.

V. Goossaert

4. The Dao in the Southern Seas. The Diffusion of the Lüzu Cult from Meizhou to Bangkok.

Yau Chi-on

Part III Householder urban Daoists

5. The Modern Transformations of the Old Eastern Peak Temple in Hangzhou.

Fang Ling

6. Zhengyi Daoists and Daily Life in the Baoqing Pier Neighborhood in Modern Hankou.

Mei Li & Xun Liu

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Vincent Goossaert is Professor of Daoism and Chinese Religions at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, PSL, France.

Xun Liu is Professor of History at Rutgers University, USA.


The volume combines historical research and fieldwork to investigate cases that document how certain Daoist institutions, clerics, and lay followers attempted to retain a religious and social presence in China’s big cities through the Taiping wars of the 1850s; the anti- superstition activities that began in the late nineteenth century; the restrictions and prohibitions of religious activities after 1949; the lifting of some of these prohibitions in 1982. A concise overview of patterns for temple organization and the stratification of clerics provides the background (Gossaert). The Quanzhēn clerics of the once very popular Martial Marquis Shrine in Nanyang failed in the 1980s to persuade the authorities to restore the temple (Xun Liu). In northern Zhejiāng, the J□□ngaishān network of spirit- writing temples in honor of Lǚ Dongb□□n is run by lay Daoists and relies on the members’ financial contributions. Services used to include rituals and also free clinics and schools. Forced to close down in 1955, a revival began in 1989 and is ongoing (Gossaert). A similar Lǚ Dongb□□n temple was set up in Meizhōu in Southern China, copied in Chaozhōu by Meizhōu migrants and also in Bangkok by settlers from Chaozhōu. After 1980, the temple in Meizhōu was restored with the help of the Bangkok community (Yao Chi- on). In Hangzhou, the famous Old Eastern Peak Temple was razed down in 1958 and rebuilt in the 1990s due to the initiative of religious associations that, in a private capacity, organize pilgrimages and processions that make the temple’s restoration acceptable to the local authorities (Fang Ling). In Hankǒu (Wǔhan), Zhengy□□ Daoists have been and are active in a migrant community. They perform rituals at people’s homes and in public places, train successors, negotiate the state’s changing regulatory framework, and cooperate with Quanzhēn Daoists at the local temple and the official Daoist Association (Mei Li and Xun Liu). The volume is addressed to the specialist. All contributions discover original and significant aspects of social and religious life.
Barbara Hendrischke, University of Vienna

The historical and ethnographic detail is this edited volume is impressive and valuable as a record of the history of modern Daoism. Scholars of Chinese religion, especially those focusing on the modern period and Daoism, will find this book worthwhile, and the book is recommended as a library acquisition.
Jean DeBernardi, University of Alberta, USA