Funerals and Religious Modernity in China

In: Review of Religion and Chinese Society
View More View Less
  • 1 The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • 2 香港中文大學人類學系

Login via Institution

Modernity in China has involved the establishment of religion as a separate sphere of life, rapid urbanization, and the rise of the profession of funerary work. This paper examines the intersection of these three trends. On the one hand, the professionalization of funerary work takes place outside of religious institutions. It involves the commercialization of funerary work, the separation of the spaces for funerary ritual from the spaces of everyday life, and the need for professionals in a context where death itself is separated from the dynamics of living. On the other hand, because life itself is sacred and death vividly poses questions of the meaning of life, funerary ritual takes on a sacred tone and religious elements enter the proceedings no matter how nonreligious the professionals and the bereaved claim to be. The dynamics of religious modernity, or “the religious question in China,” involves the simultaneous compartmentalization of religion and the breaking of the boundaries between the religious and the nonreligious. These dynamics are at the heart of contemporary, urban Chinese funerals.

  • Asad Talal . 1993. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bell Catherine . 1992. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Colijn Bram . 2016. “Protestant Funerals in Contemporary Xiamen: Change, Resistance and Proselytizing in Urban China.” Review of Religion and Chinese Society 3 (1): 2552.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Descola Philippe . 2013. Beyond Nature and Culture. Translated by Lloyd J. . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Dickson Bruce . 2008. Wealth into Power: The Communist Party’s Embrace of China’s Private Sector. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Durkheim Emile . 1956. Education and Sociology. Translated by Fox S. D. . Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

  • Durkheim Emile . 1973. Moral Education: A Study in the Theory and Application of the Sociology of Education. New York: Free Press.

  • Durkheim Emile . 1992. Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. Translated by C. Brookfield. New York: Routledge.

  • Goossaert Vincent , and Palmer David A. . 2011. The Religious Question in Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Kipnis Andrew B. 2016. From Village to City: Social Transformation in a Chinese County Seat. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Kipnis Andrew B. 2017a. “Governing the Souls of Chinese Modernity.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7 (2): 217238.

  • Kipnis Andrew B. 2017b. “What Terms to Use? A Response to Stephan Feuchtwang and Magnus Fiskesjö.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 7 (2): 249253.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kipnis Andrew B. 2017c. “The Universality of Sex and Death.” American Anthropologist 112 (4): 759761.

  • Laqueur Thomas W. 2015. The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Liu Lucia Huwy-Min . 2015. “Dying Socialist in Capitalist Shanghai: Ritual Governance and Subject Formation in Urban China’s Modern Funeral Industry.” PhD diss., Boston University, Department of Anthropology.

    • Export Citation
  • Jun Lu 卢军. 2015. 现代殡葬教育:二十年 1995–2015 [Contemporary Funerary Education: Twenty Years, 1995–2015]. Changsha, 长沙:长沙民政职业技术学院 [Changsha Social Work College].

    • Export Citation
  • Tsai Kellee S. 2007. Capitalism without Democracy: The Private Sector in Contemporary China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  • Watson James L. 1988a. “Funeral Specialists in Chinese Society: Pollution Performance and Social Hierarchy.” In Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, edited by Watson James L. and Rawski Evelyn S. , pp. 109134. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Watson James L. 1988b. “The Structure of Chinese Funerary Rites: Elementary Forms, Ritual Sequence, and the Primacy of Performance.” In Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, edited by Watson James L. and Rawski Evelyn S. , pp. 310. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Whyte Martin K. 1988. “Death in the People’s Republic of China.” In Death Ritual in Late Imperial and Modern China, edited by Watson James L. and Rawski Evelyn S. , pp. 289316. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 180 179 6
Full Text Views 45 45 3
PDF Downloads 33 33 1