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1. RESEARCH INTERESTS
I am a historian of Chinese popular religion, specializing in the interaction between religion and local society. My research is based on a wide range of sources, including government archives, local gazetteers, stele inscriptions, private writings, temple records, canonical and liturgical texts, and works of literature. Because much of my scholarship focuses on social organization and ritual, I also use data collected during field research to augment historical sources.
My dissertation, published as a book by SUNY Press in 1995 (Demon Hordes and Burning Boats: The Cult of Marshal Wen in Late Imperial Chekiang), focuses on the cult and festival of Marshal Wen, a popular plague-fighting deity who was widely worshipped in the province of Zhejiang during the late imperial era. I have also published a book on the cult of a popular Taoist immortal named Lü Dongbin, in which I examine the growth of his cult at the Palace of Eternal Joy (Yongle Gong) in Shanxi province (Images of the Immortal: The Cult of Lü Dongbin at the Palace of Eternal Joy; University of Hawaii Press, 1999, Chinese version published in 2009).
My research interests include Taiwanese history, and I have published a book about an anti-Japanese religious rebellion that erupted in southern Taiwan during the summer of 1915 (When Valleys Turned Blood Red: The Ta-pa-ni Incident in Colonial Taiwan; University of Hawaii Press, 2005; Chinese version published in 2006).
I have also engaged in collaborative research with Chinese scholars and local experts from Zhejiang to collect archival materials and field data from two counties in this province. We have published three volumes containing the results of our research.
My most recent research has concerned the history of judicial rituals and dispute resolution in Chinese society. This project focused on rites such as oaths and indictments, which have been performed at temples throughout China from ancient times to the present. My book-length study of these beliefs and practices, Divine Justice -- Religion and the Development of Chinese Legal Culture was published in early 2009.
2. WORK IN PROGRESS
*Ethnic history and local economic development in Nantou County, Taiwan. This project examines the historical development of villages located in the Puli Basin of Taiwan’s mountainous Nantou County, particularly in terms of their ethnic groups, family structures, economic development, and religious traditions. I am also undertaking a project on spirit-writing and local identity in Puli.
*1898-1948: Fifty Years that Changed Chinese Religions. This cooperative research project undertaken with Vincent Goossaert proposes to systematically explore how the fifty years from 1898 to 1948, turned Chinese religion into what it is now: a modern, globalized religious culture. Currently funded by a three-year Academia Sinica Thematic Project Award (2011-2013), the project focuses on one given region, namely Zhejiang province plus the greater Shanghai area that served at its center during this period. We have identified three major forms of religious change in this region that previous research has overlooked: 1) Mutations of the communal structures of religion; 2) Innovative productions of religious knowledge; 3) New types of elite religiosity. By elucidating these forms of change, the project intends to place religion at the core of understanding Chinese modernization and modernity
*The Tao among the Miao: The Transformation of Religious Traditions and Ethnic Identities in Western Hunan during the Modern Era. This research project, currently funded by a five-year Academia Sinica Investigator Award (2010-2014), explores the historical development of Taoism and other religious traditions in western Hunan during the modern era, including the ways in which they have changed over time and their role in processes of identity formation among of this region’s various ethnic groups, including the Miao (Hmong), Han, and Tujia. Taoism played a crucial role in the formation of this area’s diverse ethnic identities, but not merely in the sense of the adoption of an exogenous religious culture. Instead, the religious history of western Hunan seems to have been marked by a form of reverberation between many different cultures.
Monographs, Collected Essays
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