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Peng Mu, Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China,Routledge, 2020.

Published: 2020-10-28


Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China, Mu Peng, Routledge, 2020

hardback: ISBN: 780367347772

ebook: ISBN: 9780429327896






Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China


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.


Mu Peng is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Folk Literature at Beijing

Normal University.


Routledge Religion in Contemporary Asia Series

Edited by Bryan S. Turner

Professor at the City University of New York and Director of the Centre for Religion and Society at the University of Western Sydney




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4.      Digital Culture and Religion in Asia

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5.      Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines

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6.      Catholics and Everyday Life in Macau Changing Meanings of Religiosity, Morality and Civility

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Milad Milani


8.      Modernist Reformers in Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism, 1865–1935

Peripheral Geoculture in the Modern World-System

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9.      Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China

Mu Peng



Religion and Religious Practices in Rural China


Mu Peng










First published 2020 by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN

and by Routledge

52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 2020 Mu Peng

The right of Mu Peng to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced

or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A catalog record for this title has been requested

ISBN: 978-0-367-34777-2 (hbk)

ISBN: 978-0-429-32789-6 (ebk)

Typeset in Times New Roman by Lumina Datamatics Limited





List of maps vi

List of figures vii

A note on units of measurement and Romanization xi

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction xv

1  Words and things: A theoretical map 1

2  Dixia, difu, and diyu: The contour of the yin world 38

3    Encountering death: Funeral rituals in practice 71

4    Bai, offering incense and hosting: Communicating

with the yin world 119

5  Doing handicraft: Bridging the yin and yang 159

6    Esoteric knowledge: Imitating masters 194

7    Reflection: I just could not bai 221

Glossary 227

Index 235



Copyright © 2019 School of Chinese Language and Literature Beijing Normal University