Making money in the name of nurturing Dao: the religious business of Longhushan Daoist Complex and its legitimacy

PhD Mid-Term Review


XIE Shengjin


China in the World Building (188), Fellows Lane, ANU


Thursday, 25 January, 2018 - 15:00 to 16:30

Venue: CIW Library, Building 188, Fellows Lane

For centuries prior to 1949, it had been a common practice for Longhushan Daoist Complex (LDC) to provide religious products, especially ritual service in exchange for money, just as many freelance Daoist priests and other Daoist institutions had done. But with the dissolution of LDC in 1949, its practice of this kind consequently came to a halt, and it is not until 1980s when the Chinese Daoist Association decided to restore religious activities in Longhushan that LDC restarted this practice again. Over the past 30 years, the money LDC made each year through offering ritual services and other religious goods increased very quickly, just as the Chinese economy did.

In this chapter, I explore what products LDC has supplied and will supply in the future and how LDC Daoist clerics defend the legitimacy of its business by highlighting the importance of money in nurturing dao. I argue that by and large, the religious goods of LDC can be classified into two sorts, one for the laity and one for religious specialists (such as freelance Daoist priests, diviners and geomancers) who intend to make a living under the cloak of Daoism. Both sorts of products generate considerable amount of income to LDC. However, although money is indispensable to nurture dao in terms of the role money plays in sustaining LDC that is crucial in promoting Daoism, the LDC Daoist clerics’ purpose of nurturing dao through money is more secular than religious, and therefore nurturing dao with money does not fully legitimize LDC’s business.

About the speaker

Xie Shengjin is a PhD Candidate in the College of Asia & the Pacific at the Australian National University. He received a Bachelors degree in sociology in 2010 and a Masters degree in anthropology in 2013 from Peking University. His doctoral research focuses on the secular dimension of contemporary Daoist clerics of Longhushan 龙虎山 Daoist Complex (LDC) in Southeast China, especially how LDC clerics provide religious goods to gain economic benefits and how their commercially-oriented religious activities affect their interactions with the state and society.



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