Religion and Chinese Society Vol. 1: Ancient and Medieval China; Vol. 2: Taoism and Local Religion in Modern China, edited by John Lagerwey. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2004. xxxiv + 516 pp.; vii + 411 pp. US$80.00 (hardcover).
Religion and Chinese Society derives from a landmark conference held in mid2000 in commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO). Some twenty-one of the seventy-two papers from the conference appear in the 900-odd pages of these two volumes; others have appeared in volume 12 of Cahiers d'Extrême-Asie (2001), volume 87 of the Bulletin de I'EFEO (2000) and in various issues of Taiwan zongjiao yanjiu. The papers in Religion and Chinese Society range across the length and breadth of studies of religion in China, beginning in the late Shang and ending in contemporary times: the first volume is entitled "Religion in Ancient and Medieval China" and the second, "Taoism and Local Religion in Modern China"-"modern" is interpreted here to begin in the Yuan.
As fine as the papers in this collection are, there are few that bear on the specialist interests of The China Journal. Among these few are Pierre-Henry de Bruyn's study of the origins of the major Daoist pilgrimage centre of Wudang Shan, two essays on the now most visible branch of Daoism in China, the Quanzhen or Complete Realisation school, Monica Esposito's article on the Longmen branch of Quanzhen in the Qing dynasty, Vincent Goossaert's on the Quanzhen clergy from 1700 until 1950, and Richard von Glahn's historical and sociological study of local religion in the Lake Tai basin. Two essays that are of greatest interest are Tarn Wai Lun's "Religious Festivals in Northern Guangdong" and Thomas DuBois's "Village Community and the Reconstruction of Religious Life in Rural North China".
Tarn's essay analyzes the local religious situation of the region of Guangdong centred on Shaoguan on the eve of the 1949 revolution. The research involved "close cooperation with ... retired cadres or school teachers, that is, individuals with a relatively high degree of education who were old enough before 1949 to have participated themselves in the traditional social life and festivals of that period". Tarn makes the point that the local gazetteers limited themselves to listing what the magistrate needed to know, and often did not acknowledge religious activity that took place at the local level-just the place where, arguably, religious observances had the most salience. …