Ritual Alliances of the Putian Plain. Volume One

Historical Introduction to the Return of the Gods


Making ingenious use of a wide variety of sources, and old as well as modern technical resources, Kenneth Dean and Zheng Zhenman here set a new standard for an histoire totale for a coherently well-defined cultural region in China. At the same time it deals in-depth with the ongoing negotiation of modernity in Chinese village rituals.
Over the past thirty years, local popular religion has been revived and re-invented in the villages of the irrigated alluvial plain of Putian, Fujian, China. Volume 1 provides a historical introduction to the formation of 153 regional ritual alliances made up of 724 villages. Early popular cults, Ming lineages, Qing multi-village alliances, late Qing spirit-medium associations, 20th century state attacks on local religion, and the role of Overseas Chinese and local communities in rebuilding the temple networks are discussed. Volume 2 surveys the current population, lineages, temples, gods, and annual rituals of these villages. Maps of each ritual alliance, the distribution of major cults and lineages, are included.

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Kenneth Dean (Ph.D. Stanford 1988) is Lee Chair and James McGill Professor of Chinese at McGill University. His publications include Taoist ritual and popular cults of Southeast China (Princeton, 1992) and Lord of the Three in One (Princeton, 1998).
"...the overall impression is that this is the product of awe-inspiring labours, and that it provides the raw material for a host of dissertations and books...Together [HO4 22, HO4 23 V.1, and HO4 23 V.2] make the persuasive case that without due consideration to religious life as a vehicle for communal organization and sociality and as a resource for individual and communal self-expression and identity, our analysis both of historical and of contemporary China remains needlessly impoverished."
Michael Szonyi, Harvard University, Pacific Affairs: Vol. 85, No. 1 - March 2012

"Dean, Zheng, and their team are still at work, and these volumes represent only the most thoroughly mapped of a series of Putian monographs that are increasingly essential for students of Chinese religion, local history, state and local relations, and emigration during late imperial China and up to the present."
Donald Sutton, Carnegie Mellon University, The Journal of Asian Studies, Volume 70/1, February 2011
'Ritual Alliances est l'un des livres les plus fascinants et importants parus depuis une décennie, dans le domaine des religions chinoises sans aucun doute, et peut-être des sciences sociales du religieux dans leur ensemble.(...) La masse des données, déjà digérées, systématisées, modélisées, forme le deuxième volume de Ritual Alliances : mille soixante pages décrivant chaque village (quels temples, quels cultes, quels rituels, quels réseaux). Il y a là une source d'informations systématiques qui servira aux chercheurs, occidentaux et chinois, pendant longtemps, mais aussi un modèle méthodologique pour quiconque songe sérieusement à étudier une société locale dans une civilisation à écriture.(...) Mais le plus beau est la façon dont ces données sont synthétisées en une histoire, formant le volume 1. Dans un récit de trois cent trente neuf pages, dense mais clair, Dean raconte l'invention d'une société sur un parcours de dix siècles. (...) On ne peut sans doute pas demander au non-spécialiste de la société chinoise de lire de très près le tome 2, mais on ne peut qu'encourager très vivement l'ensemble des chercheurs en sciences sociales des religions à lire le tome 1 ; ils y trouveront tous un immense profit.'
Vincent Goossaert, Bibliographical Bulletin des Archives de Sciences Sociales des Religions
All those interested in contemporary China, Chinese religion, ritual and modernity, regional history, Chinese popular culture, Daoism and local cults, and comparative religion and globalization.
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