Interrituality in Contemporary China as a Field of Tension Between Abstention and Polytropy

  • Bram Colijn
Part of the Interreligious Studies in Theory and Practice book series (INSTTP)


This chapter explores interrituality in the context of contemporary China. Since the end of Maoism and the initiation of political reforms in 1978, a greater freedom exists for Chinese people to organize and participate in communal rituals. In this context, in the region called Southern Fujian, both a revival of popular religion and a wave of conversion to Protestant Christianity are taking place. My ethnographic research explores how practitioners in these different ritual systems live together as spouses; as parents and children; as grandparents and grandchildren. I refer to such households as ‘pluriprax households.’ Due to their conflicting ritual obligations, members of pluriprax households in Southern Fujian commonly face complex choices to abstain from each other’s communal rituals or to engage in polytropy, that is to enact rituals from multiple ritual systems. Considering the fact that polytropy was once the norm, how did abstention become a salient way to engage with the religious Other in modern China? This question is important because of the rapid pluralization of China’s religious landscape in recent decades. The chapter zooms in on the ethnographic example of a recently married couple who converted to Protestant Christianity and illicitly abstained from the ancestral lineage’s annual ‘incense division’ procession during Spring Festival. This example forms the basis to discuss how interrituality in contemporary China may be envisioned as a field of tension between abstention and polytropy.


Protestant Christianity Modern China Polytropy Pluriprax households Abstention 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bram Colijn
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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