The time–space tactics of Chinese Buddhist and Taoist believers under state–religion tension

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationChina Information
Online published22 Dec 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 22 Dec 2021


This study explores the experience of elderly rural Buddhist and Taoist believers in communist China where the ruling party has maintained decades-long regulatory control over religion. Based on ethnographic observation and oral histories, the analysis begins with how the actors made sense of and coped in their relationship with the state during the fieldwork period (May–June 2020) when state regulations restricted public religious practice because of COVID-19. The analysis then looks back on how practitioners experienced tightening state ideological control from the early 2010s to before COVID-19; further back at the religious revival during the opening and reform (1980s–2010s); and finally, the Cultural Revolution period (1960s–70s) when strict atheistic measures were imposed. Their narratives reveal the practical logic (habitus) which practitioners used to mediate their resistance against and compromise with the authoritarian state. Specifically, four logical modes that involve actors’ different time–space tactics were identified, namely state–religion disengagement, state–religion enhancement, religious (dis)enlightenment, and karma. The implications of these ostensibly conflicting modes of thinking in mediating the actors’ resistance–compliance interface in contemporary China are discussed.

Research Area(s)

  • Chinese Buddhism and Taoism, habitus, practical logic, resistance, state–religion tension