Religion in ChinaTies that Bind
Religion in China
Ties that Bind

In recent years, there has been an astonishing revival of religious practices in China. Looking beyond numerical counts of religious practitioners, temples, and churches, anthropologist Adam Yuet Chau's vivid study explores how religion is embedded in contemporary Chinese lives and society, from personal devotion to community-wide festivals.

Covering Buddhism, Daoism, and folk religion, as well as Christianity and Islam, this ethnographically rich book provides insights into the contemporary relevance of religious traditions in Chinese societies. By considering the ways in which Chinese people ‘do’ religion, Chau reveals how religious practice plays a critical role in establishing and maintaining a wide range of relationships: between people, spirits, and places; ritual service providers and their customers; the state and religious groups. He argues that relationality is the key anchor of religious lifeworlds, and this insight demands an entirely new way of approaching religion everywhere.

This lively account will appeal to those studying or curious about Chinese or East Asian religions, and serves as a perfect gateway to understanding religious practices in China today.

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  • May 2019
  • 200 pages
  • 155 x 211 mm / 6 x 8 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9780745679150
  • Paperback $22.95
  • 9780745679167
  • Open eBook $18.99
  • 9781509535682
Table of Contents
  • Map
  • Chronology
  • Acknowledgements
  • Notes on Orthography and Pronunciation
  • Introduction: Relationality at the Heart of Religion in China
  • 1. Understanding Religious Diversity: Five Modalities of Doing Religion
  • 2. Interacting with Gods, Ghosts and Ancestors
  • 3. Festivals and Pilgrimages
  • 4. Ritual Service Providers and Their Clients
  • 5. Communities and Networks
  • 6. State–Religion Relations
  • Conclusions
  • Notes
  • Suggested Further Readings
  • References
  • Index
About the Author

Adam Yuet Chau is University Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at St John’s College.

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“A wonderfully lucid and readable introduction to Chinese religious practices. Chau invites the reader to look at how Chinese people do religion and presents an astonishingly wide spectrum of religious activities. A real treat!”
Peter van der Veer, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

“In this highly readable survey of popular religiosity in contemporary China, Chau clears the path to understanding religion not through the frequently superimposed categories of scripture and faiths, but through the effervescent and solemn ways in which Chinese ‘do’ religion.”
Prasenjit Duara, Duke University

"[A] rich recourse for both teaching and research on Chinese religion in years to come."
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Reviews Online

"Chau provides a fresh lens for understanding religious dynamics in China that […] focuses on the important social function of religion, regardless of confessional differences, in shaping and reshaping Chinese society. An excellent piece of serious academic work that opens new doors for the study of Chinese religion. It should not be missed by serious students of the field."
Pacific Affairs

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