For decades, scholars have struggled to come up with theories and typologies that would explain how these different levels coexist and interact, and yet create what is undoubtedly a coherent whole that we may call Chinese religion. Half a century ago, C.K. Yang produced one of the most influential explanations of this difference when he divided Chinese religion into institutional and 'diffused' varieties. The former consists of identifiable sects and teachings; the latter is the mix of practices and beliefs that exist outside of formal institutions (Yang 1961). Others have drawn the line at the presence of written texts, with scriptures being the hallmark of elite, institutional religion, from which the oral, performed religion of the masses derived (Granet 1975). Another division comes at the point of legality. Beginning in the late 1300s, the Chinese imperial state formalized a very specific definition of proper (zheng) religious practices, texts and cults, with everything else categorized either as illicit (yin) or heretical (xie). Legal religion was thus largely a product of the state order, while those practices and texts classified as heretical became a haven and gathering point for anti-state activity, particularly when combined with apocalyptic predictions (de Groot 1903; Zhao 2007). Each of these definitions have merit, but they all share a common trait in that they focus on a knowable quality of religion as being institutional, textual or legal, and then define by default everything else, often the religious experience of the great majority of the people, by the absence of that quality.
|Title of host publication||Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia|
|Editors||Bryan S Turner, Oscar Salemink|
|Place of Publication||Abingdon and New York|
|Publisher||Routledge Taylor & Francis Group|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|