The Taoists of Peking, 1800-1949: A Social History of Urban Clerics

The Taoists of Peking, 1800-1949: A Social History of Urban Clerics

by Vincent Goossaert


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By looking at the activities of Taoist clerics in Peking, this book explores the workings of religion as a profession in one Chinese city during a period of dramatic modernization. The author focuses on ordinary religious professionals, most of whom remained obscure temple employees. Although almost forgotten, they were all major actors in urban religious and cultural life.

The clerics at the heart of this study spent their time training disciples, practicing and teaching self-cultivation, performing rituals, and managing temples. Vincent Goossaert shows that these Taoists were neither the socially despised illiterates dismissed in so many studies, nor otherworldly ascetics, but active participants in the religious economy of the city. In exploring exactly what their crucial role was, he addresses the day-to-day life of modern Chinese religion from the perspective of ordinary religious specialists. This approach highlights the social processes, institutions, and networks that transmit religious knowledge and mediate between prestigious religious traditions and the people in the street. In modern Chinese religion, the Taoists are such key actors. Without them, "Taoist ritual" and "Taoist self-cultivation" are just empty words.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674025059
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/31/2007
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #284
Pages: 395
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Vincent Goossaert is Vice Director of Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris and Lecturer at the University of Geneva.

Table of Contents

Tables, Figures, and Map

Note on Dates


Part I: Peking Taoists in Their Context

1. Peking Taoists in Their Context

Part II: A Sociological Profile of Peking Taoists

2. The Taoist Temple Clergy

3. The Taoists of the Baiyun Guan

4. Monastic Leadership

5. Taoists and the Court: Chaplains and Eunuchs

Part III: The Social Roles of Peking Taoists

6. The Liturgical Functions of the Taoist Clergy

7. Taoist Masters and Spiritual Teachings


Appendix A. A Brief History of Taoist Death Rituals

Appendix B. The Taoist Canon in Late Imperial and Modern Peking

Reference Matter



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