Ann: Symposium on Text, Context, and Acts: Chinese Popular Religion in Practice at University of Rochester

Shin-yi Chao's picture

A symposium on

Text, Context, and Acts: Chinese Popular Religion in Practice

University of Rochester, NY

Rush-Rhees Library

Sept. 29-30 starting 9am


The starting point of this workshop is texts: texts in written, spoken, and visual forms such as vernacular liturgical manuals, folklore, stelae, and rock reliefs. It aims at exploring Chinese religious beliefs and practices from the perspective of popular religion. Discussions on institutional religions are not excluded since they arguably wield influence on popular religion and vice versa. While the workshop will give the methodological priority to texts, our focus is not the intellectual “metadiscourses” but an apprehension of ordinary practitioners’ beliefs and practices.

Texts imply context. Studying texts entails studying the contexts in which they are composed, reproduced, dissimilated, and received. The workshop will expound, insofar as possible, how text came into being; how it took the form(s) in which we find it; how it was made public; and how it was received.

Reception is not a passive acceptance but an active engagement. A reader is actively involved in interpreting a text upon receiving it. The interpretation is the reader’s own choice. In the meantime, the choice was formed with impacts from the context in which he or she lives. Furthermore, reception should also be understood as to include the impacts texts produced. While the intended meaning of a text is surely “picked and chosen” by the audience at reading, watching, and hearing through their own frameworks of experience. Such experience is in a large portion shaped by society. Texts express both authorial intention and social interaction. What is equally important is that their reception of the texts would also change their framework of experience.

Official languages

English and Chinese


This symposium is part of the Humanities Project, University of Rochester. The symposium also received generous support from the Office for Global Engagement and the Department of Religion and Classics, University of Rochester.

Paper titles and authors

Water-and-Land Dharma Service (Shuilu fahui) in the Ba-Shu Area during the Song Dynasty – with a Focus on the Cliff Relief in Dazu

HOU Chong

Shanghai Normal University


A Survey of the Chayan (“Tea Banquet”) Religious Ceremony in Changshu Area, Jiangsu Province, in History and Presence

CHEN Yongchao

Peking University


The Principles Behind the Growth of Local Deities: A Study of Legends and Beliefs about Erlang in Hongdong, Shanxi Province 


Peking Normal University


Living Stela: Studying Stela in the Taishan Area through Contemporary Pilgrimages

YE Tao

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences


Temple Stela as “Texts Acts”

Adam Y. Chau

Cambridge University


Inscribing Lineage, Power, and Transmission: Daoist Temple Steles in Nanyang, 1500s-1940s

Xun Liu

Rutgers University


The Heavenly Master Institution in Late Imperial and Modern Times

Vincent Goossaert

Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique


Storied Stones: The Lived Religion of Daoist Communities

Gil Raz

Dartmouth College


The Worship of Lady Wei Huacun in North China

Shin-yi Chao

University of Rochester


Focusing on Altars: Confucian Discourse on the Imperial Cults

Thomas Wilson

Hamilton College


Convergence of Fears: The Spread and Impacts of the Dooms-day Prophecy in Chinese Society in 1923  

FAN Chun-wu

Fo Guang University


For details, please contact Shin-yi Chao <>