Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Invited Seminar: 宗教救度團體及其在華人社會的發展

中國社會科學院世界宗教研究所副研究員, 當代宗教研究所副主任,《宗教人類學》輯刊主編
16 March 2012

Prof. Chen Jinguo the World Religions Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing gave a very detailed and informative talk on the development of what has been termed “Religious Salvation Movements”. Prof. Chen began by briefly reviewing the way that Chinese and foreign scholars have analyzed the way concepts of salvation developed within religions in China. He explained that the increasing importance of Christianity during the late Imperial Era placed pressure on the Chinese popular religious system. According to Chen, some scholars have even recognized that in reaction to Christian influence in China, popular religion began to adopt forms of Christian practice and theology into their own system, which some scholars describe as “localization” or “bentuhua.”

To highlight the development of such practice and their importance for Chinese society, Prof. Chen focused his empirical discussion on the historical development of Yiguan Dao, which is described very much as a “blend” or syncretization of Taoist, Buddhist and popular Chinese ritual practices. The speaker separated the history into three main periods, starting from the Late Imperial Era up to the its present wide spread practice in Taiwan. During this period though, this fairly isolated “cult” opened itself up to accepting followers from all over the world. Today there are now upwards of 30 million Yiguan Dao practitioners.

Prof. Chen’s fieldwork in S.E. Asia describes the path of transmission of Yiguan Dao into that part of the world and how it has become an important social cohesive force within Chinese communities there. On the one hand it has become integrated into the education system for overseas Chinese, thus instilling Yiguan Dao principles in children at a young age. But perhaps more importantly Yiguan Dao has had important implications for establishing networks between business owners and the larger Asian market system. Shared foundational belief of Yiguan Dao between strangers in Taiwan and S.E. Asia helped establish a sense of trust between business owners. Moreover, practitioners have been able to create a large international network (which Prof. Chen likened to Mormon influence within Amway) of strong business ties. Thus the spread of the religion and its adaptation has developed an important social purpose in the global market place.

PhD Student

救渡團體一詞源自學者Prasenjit Duara提出的Redemptive Societies,意指民國湧現的一些宗教組織,它們結合基督教和伊斯蘭教與傳統的三教,並將其組織現代化。Duara認 為把這些組織歸類為邪教或異端學說會忽略他們在中國現代宗教歷史上的重要影響,因此「救渡團體」可以理解為近現代中國的宗教復興運動。救渡團體的出現是由於西方宗教進入中國所產生的文化碰撞而引發的宗教本土運動,故帶有混雜的個性。它們吸納了基督宗教的成份,也糅合中西宗教的觀念。其混雜性表現在其不恒穩 的宗教氣質上面,左右移動於理性主義和靈性信仰之間。以一貫道為例,它從以往扶乩的靈性實踐轉向強調講經說法、推動慈善;另外,它們也重整其神靈體系,以文明上帝替代舊有的神明。有別於民間信仰,救渡團體是跨地域性的,特別是在東南亞的華人社會也有一定的影響力。華人作為區域的少數族群,救渡團體扮演了復興、維護華人文化的角色,同時也建立對自己文化與族群的認同和歸屬感。另一方面,講者指出活躍於東南亞華人社會的救渡團體一般都是以儒為宗,而且組織裡的 領導階層多為社會上的成功人士。他提出這種儒商結合是有歷史根據的,可追溯至明代當時的棄儒就賈的現象。由此,他認為救渡團體擁有一種新生資本力量,並反 駁一般人對於救渡團體存有的「落後」、帶有抵抗性的印象。

M.Phil Candidate

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