(PhD, EPHE, Paris, 1997) was a research fellow at CNRS (1998-2012) and is now Professor of Daoism and Chinese religions at EPHE, PSL; he has served as dean of its graduate school (2014-2018). His research deals with the social history of Chinese religion in late imperial and modern times. He is co-editor of T’oung Pao, a leading journal in sinology established in 1890.
Modern Chinese Elite Religiosity as a Toolkit for Withstanding Disasters
A large number of religious handbooks circulated in late imperial and modern China (1600-1950), providing educated readers with a variegated toolkit of ritual and spiritual techniques aimed at dealing with both immediate and salvational concerns. A good part of these texts were instructions from the gods, revealed through spirit-writing. Much of this literature tells about withstanding disasters, at various levels, from individual illness and physical danger, to social breakdown and imminent apocalypse. It offers ways to ensure one’s survival: maintaining mental and physical health, guarding against vengeful ghosts and demons, begetting healthy sons, performing a good death, and securing one’s apotheosis among the gods. The lecture will explore this ritual toolkit and use narratives to show how educated Chinese used it to withstand small- and large-scale disasters.