Secularization, Sacralization and Subject Formation in Modern China

Part of the Global Diversities book series (GLODIV)


Modern Chinese history can be recounted in terms of three seemingly contradictory narratives: forced secularization; religious resilience and revival; and the sacralization of the nation and its secular state. Secularization, de-secularization and sacralization have been simultaneous and often mutually reinforcing processes. Reviewing the relationship between Chinese political movements and religious impulses in the late imperial, Republican, Mao and Reform-eras, we argue that this apparent paradox derives from a uni-linear understanding of secularization vs. desecularization. China’s encounter with secular modernity cannot be adequately understood as a trend towards a “more” or “less” religious society, but ought to be described in terms of a changing configuration of four “poles” of religious subject formation: the sacred–profane and the enchanted–secular. This shifting configuration has led to the sacralization of the Communist Party, the profanation of society, and the growth of an “enchanted underbelly” of religious networks and practices in the local interstices of the nation-state.


Secularization Sacralization Enchantment China Religion Communist party of China 


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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