“Diffused religion” and “institutional religion”: why is Religion in Chinese Society classic?

LU Yunfeng1

(1.Department of sociology, Peking University)

【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;

【DOI】

【Funds】 Key Projects of National Social Science Fund of China (13AZJ010)

Download this article

    Footnote

    [1]. 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]. 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]

    References

    Atsutoshi Hamashima, 明清江南农村社会与民间信仰. Zhu, H. (trans.) Xiamen: Xiamen University Press, (2008).

    Chen, J. Blue Book of Religions: Annual Report on Religions in China (2010) (宗教蓝皮书:中国宗教报告 (2010)). Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press (CHINA), (2010).

    Ding, R. 社会分化与宗教制度变迁—当代台湾新兴宗教现象的社会学考察. Taipei: Linking Publishing Co., Ltd, (2004).

    Fan, L., Li, X. Zhou, Y. et al. The World Religious Cultures (世界宗教文化), (6) (2013).

    Freedman, M. in Wolf, Arthur P. (ed.) Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society. Peng, Z. & Shao, T. (trans.) Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, (2014).

    Hymes, R. Way and Byway: Taoism, Local Religion, and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China. Pi, Q. (trans.) Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, (2007).

    Hao, R. in Wolf, Arthur P. (ed.) Religion and Ritual in Chinese Society. Peng, Z. & Shao, T. (trans.) Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, (2014).

    Jin, Y. & Fan, L. in Yang, C. (ed.) Religion in Chinese Society. Fan, L. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, (2007).

    Li, M. Sociological Studies (社会学研究), (5) (2010).

    Li, Y. 宗教与神话. Taipei: Lixu Wenhua, (1998).

    Lau, C. & Yang, C. K. The Chinese Society (中国社会从不变到巨变). Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, (2001).

    Lu, Y. & Wu, Y. Journal of Peking University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) (北京大学学报 (哲学社会科学版)), (6) (2018).

    Overmyer, D. 2007, Preface, C. K. Yang (ed.) Religion in Chinese Society. Fan, L. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, (2007).

    Sun, S. The Sociology of Religion (Revised Edition) (宗教社会学) (修订版). Beijing: Peking University Press, (2003).

    Sun, Y. Academia Bimestris (学海), (2) (2014).

    Feuchtwang, S. The Imperial Metaphor. Zhao, X. (trans.) Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, (2008).

    Weber, M. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Lin, R. (trans.) Beijing: The Commercial Press, (1997).

    Weber, M. Confucianism and Taoism. Wang, R. (trans.) Beijing: The Commercial Press, (1999).

    Wei, L., Fan, L. Chen, N. et al. The Religious Cultures in the World (世界宗教文化), (5) (2010).

    Yang, C. K. in Fairbank, J. K. (ed.) Chinese Thought and Institutions. Duan, C. (trans.) Taipei: Linking Publishing Co., Ltd, (1976)

    Yang, C. K. Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of their Historical Factors. Fan, L. (trans.) Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House, (2007).

    Berling, Judith 1980, The Syncretic Religion of Lin Chao-en. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Overmyer, Daniel L. 1976, Folk Buddhist Religion: Dissenting Sects in Late Traditional China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

    Sangren, P. Steven 1983, “Female Gender in Chinese Religious Symbols: Kuan Yin, Ma Tsu, and The Eternal Mother.” Signs 9 (4) .

    Sangren, P. Steven 1987, History and Magical Power in a Chinese Community. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Shahar, Meir & Robert Weller (eds.) 1996, Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

    Stark, Rodney & William Sims Bainbridge 1985, The Future of Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Sun, Yanfei 2017, “The Rise of Protestantism in Post-Mao China: State and Religion in Historical Perspective.” American Journal of Sociology 122 (6).

    Troeltsch, Ernst 1931, Social Teaching of the Christian Churches. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

    Wach, Joachim 1944, Sociology of Religion. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

    Watson, James 1985, “Standardizing the Gods: The Promotion of T’ien Hou (Empress of Heaven) along the South China Coast, 960–1960.” In David Johnson, Andrew Nathan & Evelyn Rawski (eds.), Popular Culture in Late Imperial China. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Yang, C. K. 1957, “The Functional Relationship Between Confucian Thought and Chinese Religion.” In John K. Fairbank (ed.), Chinese Thought and Institutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Yang, C. K. 1961, Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of Religion and Some of Their Historical Factors. Berkeley: University of California Press.

This Article

ISSN:1002-5936

CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 34, No. 02, Pages 75-95+243-244

March 2019

Downloads:0

Share
Article Outline

Abstract

  • 1 Introduction: debate on translation of “diffused religion”
  • 2 Institutional religion and diffused religion: C. K. Yang’s translation
  • 3 Two misunderstanding of “diffused religion” and “institutional religion” in academic circles
  • 4 “Diffused religion” and “institutional religion” as “ideal type”: origin and influence
  • 5 Discussion and conclusion
  • Footnote

    References