Defining Chinese Folk Religion: A Methodological Interpretation

Asian Philosophy 21 (2):153 - 170 (2011)
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The major dilemma of defining Chinese folk religion was that it could be defined neither by its belief contents nor characteristics, as these might also be found in other religious traditions. The fact that it did not involve any authoritative doctrine, scripture or institution has also made treating it as a religion problematic. To solve the problem, I survey the major theories proposed by both Western and Chinese scholars concerned with the methodological issues of defining this nameless religion, and develop an alternative approach that can distinguish Chinese folk religion from any other existing religious tradition. Basically, this approach eliminates the limitations of two existing models by defining Chinese folk religion on two aspects simultaneously. I also conclude that Chinese folk religion, based on the sociological perspective, can be seen as a religion, and should be taken into consideration while developing certain theological models



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