Purdue University



Folk Religion and Local Community: Field Researches on Three Villages in Hunan Province


Lecturer, Sociology, Hunan Normal University



Since the reform and opening up of the Chinese mainland, there has been a comprehensive revival of folk religion, which had been designated as " superstition” and had previously been suppressed.  For example, there has been reconstruction of a large number of rural temples and recovery of a variety of folk ritual activities that mark folk religion. This study focuses on two problems: What has been the dynamical mechanism of the revival of folk religion? What has been the influence of aspects of the folk religion on rural communities?

This research adopts the methods of interview, participant observation and collection of documents. Two to three villages with different types of temples were selected as field research sites in Hunan Province. The research adopts the sociological approach with folk religion as the dependent variable and also as the independent variable. In the former, the revival of the dynamical mechanism of folk religion on three levels will be explored: micro (community elite), meso (community faith traditions and power structure) and macro (policy). In the latter, the influence of folk religion on the life of the people, the morality level, village politics, public good, community welfare, and community identity will be explored.

This study will communicate with a certain number of related important researchers, such as C.K.Yang about the status and function of diffused religion, Kenneth Dean about the Local Communal Religion in the southeast of China, Adam Chau about the Black Dragon King Temple in the north of Shaanxi, and Jing Jun about the Confucian Temple of northwestern China. As a conclusion, the study will focus on the responses to these theoretical questions, such as the character and function of folk religions, folk religion and rural governance, and folk religion and civil society.

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