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Prefatory Matter


Preface to the First Edition

This study is based on field materials collected during my residence in a Hokkien-speaking1 village in southwestern Táiwān between autumn 1966 and summer 1968. It is appropriate to begin by describing my situation in Táiwān and some of the particular problems I had in the course of my researches. My language preparation for this work was two quarters of intensive Mandarin accomplished in summer programs at Stanford University. This preparation was very substantially less than would have been beneficial. Two quarters of summer-school Mandarin (a total of about five months) does not equip one adequately for productive work with written materials among Hokkien-speaking people. No small amount of field time —probably somewhere between a third and a half— was therefore spent directly or indirectly on language, and precautions taken against misunderstanding had to be much more elaborate than might have been necessary. Far too many interviews during all but the last month or two of my residence had to be conducted in Mandarin or with a Hokkien-Mandarin translation.2

Footnote 1. Taiwanese are native speakers of Hokkien. Since 1945, compulsory universal education in Mandarin has made that language very widespread among people under thirty or so. Among other things, this means that one can do fieldwork with Mandarin. But it also means that the ability of many informants to converse in Mandarin subverts the anthropologist's study Hokkien. And one can of course do better fieldwork in Hokkien. I suspect that this is an important problem in most bilingual fieldwork situations.

Footnote 2. Interviews conducted in Hokkien were not simultaneously interpreted, but either conducted by an assistant and later written out from his notes and from memory, or else tape recorded and later written out. I was able understand just enough to follow the general trend and be certain that most points were covered. This proved to be preferable to the acute unnaturalness of simultaneous or intermittent translation. English was of course not used at any point for any purpose other than my own diary.

The situation in the village itself was extremely good. I had the confidence and enthusiasm of an influential village eider and his well educated, Mandarin-speaking son, who made it his business to introduce me to numerous friends both in the village itself and in the surrounding area. People seemed pleased with my interest in Taiwanese culture from the very beginning, and wondered only that Americans had not come to study their fascinating village many years ago. I had also the interest and enthusiastic assistance of the local police and township officials, which made access to census and other records comparatively easy. Nearly universal courtesy, interest, and cooperation of local people makes Táiwān a truly pleasurable place to do research.

The first three months or so in the village were spent poring over Taiwanese textbooks. These are inevitably in romanization, and Taiwanese equally inevitably are unable to read romanization. Accordingly, there was little possibility of a teacher able to work with me with these textbooks. I am convinced that this was much the wrong way to proceed. Nevertheless, it had a number of advantages, even if I would not do it again. One was that it established me as relatively harmless (in case there were village people who were initially more suspicious of my motives than I thought).3 Another was that my incubation over textbooks suggested very strongly that I was what I had announced myself to be —a student— -and the status of student is very highly respected in China. And third, it meant that I was "at home" to a large number of young, Mandarin-speaking visitors, and through them I was rapidly learning a good deal, probably more than I realized.

Footnote 3. So far as I know, the only suspicion entertained about me among Taiwanese I met was that I might secretly be a Christian missionary hoping to win converts in the village.

At the end of this three months I engaged a research assistant from a nearby town and with him began serious census taking and interviewing. By midsummer I was ready to hire another man, as well as a temporary girl to interview village people on subjects more intimately related to the role of women and the raising of children, and the summer of 1967 was a kind of perpetual seminar on Taiwanese culture among the four of us, each with his tasks to do. Both of the men continued in my employ virtually until I left Táiwān in late July 1968.

The principal target of my research was religion, and in pursuit of material we traveled more than ten thousand miles by motorcycle nearly all of it within Táinán city and Táinán county. However, I wanted to collect as many other data and other kinds of data as possible. Because I had not intended to work with religious material before I went to Táiwān, I did not have explicit hypotheses to test. Obtaining and comprehending religious information was in any case difficult enough that I am not sure I could have fitted available data to any prefabricated hypotheses anyway. The result of my disorganization and wide-ranging objectives has been that I have notes on many things, but that many of them are superficial, and on few topics are they extensive.

As the reader will readily discover for himself, there are places where the argument becomes a bit chancy as the data grow thin. I am very aware of this problem, and I have tried to parade it rather than hide it, because I think it is best for anthropologists to be both honest and explicit about such matters, generally a good deal more honest and more explicit than is comfortable.

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The present essay is an attempt to expose and explore certain regularities that have emerged from some of these data both while I was in Táiwān and as I have considered them after my return. It is a first approximation of a systematization of certain logical principles that seem to lie beneath a number of kinds of Taiwanese religious expression. Two competent and companionable research assistants helped me in my research work in Táiwān: Mr. Chern Jau-yann [Chén Zhāoyàn] 陳 昭 彦 and Mr. Lii Maw-shyang [Lǐ Màoxiáng] 李茂祥. In addition, Miss Hwang Shiow-menq [Huáng Xiùmèng] 黄秀孟 (the present Mrs. Wang Gong-tyan [Wáng Gōngtián] 王宮田) conducted interviews among the village women during the summer of 1967 and assisted also in the collection of proverbs and other material. To these loyal fellow workers I wish to express my heartfelt thanks.

Much assistance and stimulation were offered me while I was in Táiwān by Professor Chen Chi-lu [Chén Qílù] 陳奇祿 of National Táiwān University and by Dr. Ling Shun-sheng [Líng Chúnshēng] 凌純聲; Dr. Li Yih-yuan [Lǐ Yìyuán] 李亦園, Dr. Liu Chi-wan [Liú Zhīwàn] 劉枝萬, Mr. Wang Sung-hsing [Wáng Sōngxīng] 王菘星, and Madame Inez de Beauclair, all of the Institute of Ethnology of Academia Sinica. Much day-to-day advice, reinforcement, and companionship were offered by other friends living in Táinán city, particularly Mr. Chen Shao-ting [Chén Shàotíng] 陳少庭, Rev. and Mrs. Peyton Craighilll, Dr. and Mrs. William L. Parish, and Dr. and Mrs. Kristofer Schipper. To all of these distinguished friends I am most grateful.

Much of the material presented here was incorporated into a Ph.D. dissertation (Jordan 1969) submitted to the Department of Anthropology of the University of Chicago. For assistance in preparing that dissertation and in generally organizing my thoughts about what I had seen, particular thanks must be expressed to Professor Melford E. Spiro, my research adviser while I was in Táiwān, and to Professor Nur Yalman, who gave generously of his time, helping me to make the long and painful move from field notes to insights after my rectum. Professors Victor Turner and Kenneth Starr discussed my material at some length with me in Chicago, and I have benefited from criticisms offered by both. To all four teachers I wish to express thanks. Where I have followed their advice my work bas been better for it. Where I have not followed it, it has never failed to stimulate much thought and the reconsideration of many problems.

Professor Spiro and Dr. Thomas W. Johnson have read earlier drafts of the present work, and I have benefited from discussing it with them.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Raymond Ford of the University of California Press for rendering successive drafts progressively more readable and for seeing the work through the printing, to Mr. Charles Y C. Liu [Liú Yàojì] 劉耀紀 who wrote the characters appearing through the book, and to Dr. John W. Haeger, who did the calligraphy for the cover.

By far my largest debt is to the people of the village I shah call Bǎo'ān, who accepted me in their midst and generously gave me their time, their knowledge, their trust, and their interest that I might pursue what must have seemed at times most obscure and curious ends. It is the life of Bǎo'ān that this work describes, and what there is of real interest here is what the people of Bǎo'ān were generous enough to show me. In a very real sense this is their work, more than mine, and I am most grateful for the part I have played in it.

It is not possible to acknowledge individually the help of village people. The catalog would be far too long for a brief introduction. If I were to single out one or two village friends who were most valuable in providing for my needs and educating me in the ways of the Taiwanese countryside, I should unhesitatingly select my gracious landlord, Mr. Guō Cháoxìng 郭朝性. and his family, especially his son, Mr. Guō Dēngchāo 郭登超. Their assistance to me in Táiwān was indispensable, and I am most grateful.

This research, as well as the bulk of my training in graduate school, was supported by National Institute of Mental Health grants 5-Fl-MH-24,257 and 1-R04-MH-13526-01I. A small grant from the Academic Senate of the University of California, San Diego, financed the preparation of the pictures and diagrams. This public support is gratefully acknowledged.

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Preface to the Second Edition

This book attempts to present an overview of folk religion as it is lived by farming people in the village of Bǎo'ān in southern Táiwān. The book is not devoted to a catalogue of religious rites or religiously tinged customs of that village, still less of its festivals or the hagiographies of its gods. Rather the goal is to extract the underlying logic of collective religious life in Bǎo'ān and to create a model that reveals the significance of the individual parts to the whole system.

The first edition of this book was published by the University of California Press in 1972, but was always priced a little too high to find a ready market. Eventually it fell out of print. In Táiwān, on the other hand, several inexpensive "pirate" editions have continuously found readers, who have sometimes written me gratifying letters expressing satisfaction that the book is brief and yet manages to encompass so much of traditional Chinese religion in an understandable general statement. The enthusiasm of such readers and the continuing success of Táiwān "pirate" editions has led to the present legal Táiwān printing, for which I am grateful to Caves Books of Táiběi.4

Footnote 4. In order to keep the work easily available for American college classes, a new American printing is simultaneously being made available through Kinko's Publishing Group of Santa Barbara. [1999 correction: That edition never appeared; Kinko's discontinued the series almost before it was begun and abandoned the publication business. DKJ]

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The present printing differs from the original only in correcting couple of trivial but embarrassing errors. (I wish I could say typographical errors.) It is therefore a new, corrected printing, rather than a revised edition as such. This was a deliberate decision my part. It had been over a decade since I had last read the work, and rereading it has impressed me more with the vitality of what it has to say than with the incidental fact of its being based in the Táiwān of the mid-l960's. If I were writing it a new today, it would of course be a little different. It would clearly have to reflect the great wealth of Táiwān's rural landscape, for example, its ever less purely rural character. (The household next-door to me in Bǎo'ān in the 1960's was rich in sons but poor in means, and dwelt in a wattle-and-daub house on a dirt floor. Today the walls are brick, the floor is terrazzo, and one of the sons commutes between Táiwān and Mexico selling artificial pearls. The Bǎo'ān of this book was a simpler place.) If I were writing the book today I would also reflect in it the mass of newly published information about local religion and folklore that has been emerging, particularly in Chinese, since my Bǎo'ān days. If I were writing it today I would probably elaborate (or belabor) a few points that now seem to met to be underdeveloped. I would probably also be less cute about my prose here and there. Still, rereading the book, I am convinced that nothing I have seen or read in the intervening years would lead me to change very much of it. The intellectual model it presents, so far as I can see, still works fine.

One comment should be added to keep things in perspective, however. It is important to remember that this is a book about village folk religion, that is, about a religious system unselfconsciously experienced as inevitable, like folklore or folk art. To the social scientist, this is certainly the most central part of religion. But there are also other important facets of Chinese religiosity that are not part of the scene in Bǎo'ān. For example, in a subsequent book (The Flying Phoenix). Daniel L. Overmyer and I discuss the role of sectarian societies in Táiwān and in late imperial China. Sectarianism differs from village religion in that the unit of membership is the individual believer rather than the social group, and self-conscious adherence to doctrine and concern with individual religious merit therefore emerge as significant religious motifs. Sectarianism answers religious needs that are different from most of the ones accommodated by village religion as I found it in Bǎo'ān. Similarly priests and other religious specialists are here represented only as employed by Bǎo'ān clients to provide liturgy. But the religious understandings of people specializing in religious thinking are traditionally central to the humanistic study of religion, and that is and should be true for Chinese religious thought as well. About such things this book is silent. Only hinted at here, too, are the great regional systems that sociologically integrate temples and temple centers with each other and enshrine much of local history in their complex interrelationships. (These systems are the subject of my research in the mid-1980's) Finally, the cult of ancestors, given shorter shrift in Bǎo'ān than in other places, clearly is emerging as far more complicated in some parts of Táiwān than it appeared to be when I was in Bǎo'ān. It is still unclear how ancestor-prone villages do and do not resemble Bǎo'ān, and how much the model of Bǎo'ān folk religion is displaced by more active attention to ancestors where it occurs.

Despite all these limitations, I am happy to find that readers still find this little book helpful in understanding a central part of Chinese religion as it is lived in rural Taiwan5

David K. Jordan
Táiběi
Qīngmíng Festival, 1985

Footnote 5. Review and correction of this book were undertaken while I was in the course of fieldwork on temples and regional integration as a Language and Research Fellow jointly of the Inter-University Program in Táiběi and of Committee on Scientific and Scholarly Cooperation with the United States, Academia Sinica, Republic of China.

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A Note on Romanization and Other Conventions

Romanized Chinese

Chinese words have been unavoidable in the text. Whenever possible I have used an English gloss in the discussion, followed by the Chinese term at the first occurrence of the gloss and occasionally thereafter as it seemed necessary to clarity. The Chinese in such cases is given in characters only, since it are intended only to allow Sinophone readers to identify the underlying term. In other cases (including names of people and places) only the Chinese word would do, and I have used it in a romanized form. Readers who do not know Chinese can ignore all Chinese characters, of course, but do need to understand the romanized words.

Romanized words used in the text are divided into those in Mandarin and those in Hokkien.6 In the 1972 and 1985 editions of this work, Chinese place and dynasty names followed traditional "English" spellings, while other romanized Mandarin words followed the then-official National system of romanization (Guóyǔ Luómǎzì 國語羅馬字).

Footnote 6. Hokkien refers to the group of Chinese dialects of southern Fújiàn generally called Mǐnnán 閩南 in Chinese. Alternative English designations are Fukienese, Fujianese, Amoy, and Taiwanese. Hokkien dialects are spoken not only in Fújiàn, but also in Táiwān and in numerous Asiatic overseas Chinese communities. For a discussion of Mandarin and Hokkien in Táiwān, see Jordan 1969a.

In this edition, in contrast, all Mandarin words, including place names, that do not appear in direct quotations have been changed to the Hànyǔ Pīnyīn system that has now become the international standard for Mandarin. Hokkien words continue to be written in the unofficial but standard "Mission" romanization, familiar to all students of Hokkien.7 A small number of Cantonese words have been used, and these are clearly marked as such. The romanization is that used in the dictionary of Qiáo Yànnóng (1965). Chinese characters are provided in the text at the first occurrence of each romanized term other than bibliographic references. A reference table at the end repeats many of Chinese words used in the text, plus place and dynasty names, but excluding personal names, and provides Mandarin and Hokkien pronunciations and Chinese characters.

Footnote 7. I have described both systems and compared them with other romanization systems in another work (Jordan 1971a).

I have preferred Mandarin to Hokkien romanizations because Mandarin is the more widely used "dialect" outside Táiwān, and Hokkien terms would be less immediately recognizable to many readers. It should be understood, however, that my knowledge of Mandarin is very heavily influenced by the Mandarin usages peculiar to Táiwān, and despite care and attention to the differences it is not impossible that in some cases Mandarin terms are rather calques on the Hokkien than bona fide northern Chinese usages. When the Mandarin deviates conspicuously from the Hokkien, I have tried to explain the difference or use the Hokkien.

All Mandarin words and phrases begin with a capital letter, whereas Hokkien words or phrases never do, even in titles, or when beginning a sentence. I write Mandarin Jiātíng and Sāi, but Hokkien ka-têng and sai. Most romanizations are italicized, with the exception of proper names.

Foreign scholars consistently omit tone marks on Mandarin and Cantonese, although until the 1960s tone was always included for Hokkien. Failing to include the tone diacritics seems to me to represent a failure to take Chinese seriously as a living language, as well as being a deliberate disservice to foreign students of Chinese. In this work all romanized Chinese words, except in direct quotations from other sources, have tone indicated.

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Bibliographic Citations

In citations from the literature, Chinese authors writing in Western languages or translated into Western languages have been treated as Western authors and are cited in the spellings used in the works in question. (One work in romanized Hokkien is considered a Western-language book for these purposes.) Names of authors writing in Chinese are romanized in Mandarin. For works in Chinese, both the surname and the given name of the author appear in citations to avoid the ambiguity created by many authors with the same surname. Since Chinese possible surnames are limited in number, this device eliminates classification together of many different authors sharing the same surname.

Each of these conventions is directed to the solution of a problem I have had to face when reading works by other writers, and I believe that each of them makes the work of the reader easier, the message of the author clearer, and the text of the book more accurate than most other procedures that could be adopted.

In principle it would be easy to provide direct links in the on-line edition from each bibliographic citation to the associated item in the bibliography. In practice it results in an ugly mess of underlining on nearly every screen of text to support something that most readers will make little use of. I have accordingly left out the links, and kept the bibliography tamely to a separate file, as in a book. If I get ambitious, perhaps I will figure out a way to keep it in a separate window for those readers who prefer it that way.


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