Academic journal article Anthropologica

[Temple of Memories: History, Power & Morality in a Chinese Village]

Academic journal article Anthropologica

[Temple of Memories: History, Power & Morality in a Chinese Village]

Article excerpt

This study is developed around a single culminating event: the rebuilding, in 1991, of the Confucian temple in the town of Dachuan in southwestern Gansu Province. Gansu is a poor province; it is also ethnically diverse, and has had an especially violent history during this century. Jun Jing approaches his examination of this event by focussing on social memory, the collective reconstruction and interpretation of the past. In his words, "this study offers a bottom-up approach to the problem of remembrance in a country where mass amnesia and selective remembrance have been vigorously promoted by state authorities."

The structure rebuilt as a Confucian temple previously had been used for the worship of Confucius and other ancestors. The majority of the former residents of Dachuan, and many people in neighbouring villages, claimed descent from Confucius and collectively constituted a higher-order lineage. They had been formally acknowledged as members of the Kong clan in the 1930s, and elders still cherish childhood memories of sayings and legends associated with this heritage. The status and power resulting from this claim of illustrious descent resulted in the persecution of many Kong people during the revolutionary period, the memory of which was too sensitive for the survivors to discuss directly. The community itself was almost destroyed when it was displaced by reservoir construction in the early 1960s. Its members were forcibly evicted, causing suffering that never has been officially acknowledged. One of the most traumatic memories of this period, one rarely mentioned, concerns the fact that the living had to neglect their ancestors as they fled the rising waters. Only the most recent were exhumed and moved, in a haphazard and disrespectful way, and those members of the community who stayed in the area had to build new houses on the high ground of a graveyard, directly on top of old graves.

The former Confucian temple was demolished in 1974, the final act of a series of attacks beginning in the 1950s. It was only during the past decade, as the changing political environment again permitted certain kinds of religious practice, that the villagers dared to rebuild their temple and re-establish open public worship. …

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