“Diffused religion” and “institutional religion”: why is Religion in Chinese Society classic?
【Abstract】This paper explores the origin, development and Chinese translation of two terms, “diffused religion” and “institutional religion,” proposed by C. K. Yang in his book Religion in Chinese Society. Influenced by Joachim Wach’s concepts “identical religion” and “special religion,” Yang first used “diffused religion” and “specialized religion” to analyze Chinese religion. Later, he replaced “specialized religion” with “institutional religion.” In the past decades, the two terms have been fully discussed in the Chinese academia, but there are many misunderstandings with regard to these terms. One of the factors contributing to the misunderstanding is that scholars mistranslated the terms. Although Yang himself had translated the terms into Chinese, his version had been largely ignored. This paper probes how mistranslation led to the misunderstandings towards Religion in Chinese Society, and why this book is classic in the field of religious studies in China.
【Keywords】 Religion in Chinese Society; institutional religion; diffused religion; C. K. Yang;
. ① Some reviewers pointed out that the independence of Buddhism and Taoism in traditional China is also questionable. They are also mixed with various secular institutions. Indeed, the independence of Buddhism and Taoism has been greatly reduced under the situation of political bishops obeying. But relatively speaking, Buddhism and Taoism have independent clergy and have clear qualifications for their members. From this perspective, it is reasonable for Yang to list Buddhism and Taoism as institutional religions. [^Back]
. ② In the Chinese version of Religion in Chinese Society (Yang, 2007), “syncretic” is translated as “混合型的.” This is debatable. Taiwan scholar Ding (2004) translated it as “综摄性的,” which is adopted in this paper. Syncreticism is mainly used in the sociology of religion to describe the fusion tendency of religious groups in doctrine and theology, which corresponds to “exclusivism.” In the Jewish-Christian tradition, sects often establish their borders through exclusivity. However, sects in China often show their completeness by integrating more doctrines, that is, the fusion tendency embodied in such propositions as “the unity of three religions” and “the unity of all religions.” In the West, “syncretic sects” may be an ill-spoken concept because sects are naturally exclusive. However, in China, it is no problem to use the two words together, because China’s syncreticism and sectarianism can be combined (Berling, 1980: 1–13). As for C. K. Yang’s “diffused religion” is obviously completely different from the “syncretic sect.” The former emphasizes the mixing of religion with other social institutions. The latter only emphasizes the integration of Chinese traditional sects in doctrine. The syncretic sects have independent structural status and organization and belong to institutional religions. [^Back]
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