This book explores how, unlike in the West, the daily religious life of most Chinese people spreads without institutional propagation. Based upon more than a decade of field research in rural China, the book demonstrates the decisive role of rites of passage and yearly festival rituals held in every household in shaping people’s religious dispositions. It focuses on the family, the unit most central to Chinese culture and society, and reveals the repertoire embodied in daily life in a world envisioned as comprising both the “yin” world of ancestors, spirits, and ghosts, and the “yang” world of the living. It discusses especially the concept of “bai”, which refers to both concrete bodily movements that express respect and awe, such as bowing, kneeling, or holding up ritual offerings, and to people’s religious inclinations and dispositions, which indicate that they are aware of a spiritual realm that is separate from yet close to the world of the living. Overall, the book shows that the daily practices of religion are not a separate sphere, but rather belief and ritual integrated into a way of dwelling in a world envisaged as consisting of both the “yin” and the “yang” worlds that regularly communicate with each other.
1. Words and Things: A Theoretical Map. 2. Dixia, Difu, and Diyu: the Contour of the Yin World. 3. Encountering Death: Funeral Rituals in Practice. 4. Bai, offering Incense and Hosting: Communicating with the Yin World. 5. Doing Handicraft: Bridging the Yin and Yang. 6. Esoteric Knowledge: Imitating Masters. 7. Conclusion or Reflection: I Just Could Not Bai
Much work on contemporary religion in Asia considers the subject from the perspective of the great religions, often focusing on the development of official beliefs, and the development of formal institutions. The books in this series, on the other hand, examine the actual practice of religion in everyday life in modern Asian societies. They reveal a very rich picture of varying religious practices, many of them new and non-traditional. The religions of Asia are undergoing much radical change not only communal religious revivalism, but also an explosion of urban piety, popular preaching, charismatic churches, and on-line religion. The books cover a wide range of subjects in the countries of East, Southeast, South and Central Asia. The series welcomes innovative approaches to theory and methods in the study of religion and religions, and work which considers religion in relation to culture, politics, ethnicity or gender.
Bryan S. Turner has had a long and distinguished career as a leading scholar of religion, having worked previously in various universities in Singapore, The Netherlands, Germany and the United States. He is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center CUNY USA, and is currently Professor of Sociology at the Australian Catholic University, Honorary Professor at Potsdam University Germany, and Honorary Fellow at the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham, UK.