A Different Kind of Religious Diversity
China has always been a religiously diverse country, but this diversity is more evident as different “modalities of doing religion” (explained below) rather than as discrete confessional religions. For the vast majority of Chinese people historically and today, the presence of a wide variety of modalities of doing religion is simply a fact of their daily lives. However, “religious diversity” as a concept is alien to most Chinese people since their approach to religion is primarily instrumental and occasion-based (what can be called an efficacy-based religiosity) rather than confessionally-based, and their experience of religious diversity is embodied in the employment of different religious service providers on various occasions rather than abstract systems of religious doctrines and teachings. Being an anthropologist rather than an intellectual historian, I will look at the issue of religious diversity in China from the perspective of ordinary people engaging in religious activities on the ground rather than religious elites engaging in high-power debates. This chapter will be divided into three parts. First, I will explicate what I have called “five modalities of doing religion” in China. Second, I examine two of the five modalities, the liturgical and immediate-practical modalities, in more detail and illustrate how so much of religious life in China can be seen in terms of the provision and consumption of ritual services. Third, I discuss the implications of such an efficacy-based religiosity for our understanding of religious diversity.
KeywordsReligious Tradition Religious Identity Religious Diversity Funerary Ritual Ritual Specialist
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- 8.I have modified the expression that was first coined by Michael Carrithers, “On Polytropy: Or the Natural Condition of Spiritual Cosmopolitanism in India: The Digambar Jain Case.” Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 4 (2000): 831–861.Google Scholar
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