The Tenacity of Chinese Folk Tradition 9789814376495

A new synthesis of the work of two studies: the first (Folk Religion in an Urban Setting) investigates the religious org

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Table of contents :
PREFACE
Introduction
Study I - Folk Religion in an Urban Setting
Study II - Urban Chinese
A Measure of the Tendency towards National Gods
Some Explanatory Notes
When Traditional Behavior is Lost
Summary and Conclusion
INSTITUTE OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
THE AUTHOR
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The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

Established as an autonomous corporation in May, 1968, the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre for scholars and other specialists concerned with modern Southeast Asia . The Institute's research interests are focussed Qn the many-faceted problems of Modernization and Development and Political and Social Change in Southeast Asia. The Institute is governed by a 24-member Board of Trustees on which are represented the University of Singapore and Nanya!lg University, appointees from the Government, a~ well as representatives ft:om a broad range of professional and civic organizations and groups. A ten-man Executive Committee oversees day-to-day operations; it is ex officio chaired by the Director, the Institute's chief academic and administrative officer.

" Copyright subsists in this publication under the United Kingdom Copyright Act, 1911 and the Singapore Copyright Act (Cap. 187). No person shall reproduce a copy of this publication , or extracts therefrom, without the written permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore."

The Tenacity of Chinese Folk Tradition Two Studies of Hong Kong Chinese

by

M.I. Berkowitz

Occasional Paper No. 33 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Price:

S$4.00

Professor Morris I. Berkowit.z's "The Tenacity of Chinese Folk Tradition - Two Studies of Hong Kong Chinese" is the thirty-third publication in the Institute's Occasional Papers series. This ser1es was inaugurated in 1970 and for the most part consists of discussion and other papers presented at the Institute's Occasional and In-House seminars. Professor Berkowitz's analysis of the vitality of Chinese folk tradition promises to be of interest to not only specialists but the larger public as well. Perhaps more important, let's hope it will stimulate further work and discussion along these lines as the whole question of peasant religious and other beliefs and practices in China remains a fruitful area of investigation. In the meantime, while wishing Professor Berkowitz and his study all the best, it is clearly understood that responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in the work that follows rests exclusively with Professor Berkowitz and his interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the Institute or its supporters. 14 July 1975

Institute of

D1rector Southeas~

Asian Studies

PREFACE This paper reports the work of two studies in (hopefull y) a new synthesi s. I had the good fortune to engage in these earlier studies with fine colleagu es, and this paper is very much dependen t upon these earlier and continuin g collabor ations. Study I, as identifie d here, was done in associati on with Frederick P. Brandaue r and John H. Reed, and Study II with John Reed again. The late Edd1e K.K. Poon was helpful in both instances although our major efforts together were in a slightly differen t sphere. Througho ut both studies we were aided by numerous enthusia stic students from the Chung Chi College of the Chinese Universi ty of Hong Kong Sociology Departme nt, as well as other assistan ts and associate s. Both studies were financia lly and morally assisted by the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Culture and Religion : the first study had the financia l aid of the Chinese Universi ty of Hong Kong . My wife, Janice Berkowit z, has continuo usly for a decade part1cip ated in these studies as idea generato r, data manipula tor, record clerk, editor, and encourag er. If on a very few occasion s her spirits have faltered it is totally understan dable. Unfortun ately, any of the faults of the analysis containe d in this paper cannot be blamed on my colleagu es or my wife, or the Institute of Southeas t Asian Studies, Singapor e, which provided the facilitie s in which it was written. 2 July 1975

M.I. Berkowit z

The Tenacity of Chinese Folk

Tradition

Introduction Peasant religious pract i ce in China (and elsewhere around the world ) is confusing to the observer because of It is only as one moves towards the its very localness. more intellectualized religious traditions, the more integrated, rationalized and verbalized traditions, that at least superficial similarities begin to appear . Even if the practices of individuals undoubtedly have widely varied psychological impact upon them as individuals, the outward practices (going to church, praying, etc . ) have a deceptive appearance of uniform1ty for great numbers of people. This allows the appearance of integrated hierarchica l organizations of practitioners who are in the "business" of religion as professionals, since the number of adherents to what is apparently the same set of practices can be very large and can therefore support large religious organizations. The very localized peasant traditions do not allow this, however . The importance of ties to the local soil and the local deities prevent a greater adherence to a non-localized "church", except in some cases as a nominal affiliation, frequently imposed by conquest. Carlo Levi, during his year of exile in a small town in Southern Italy (nominally Roman Catholic) put it this way~l This passive brotherliness, this sympathy in the original sense of the word, as suffering together, this fatalistic, comradely, age-old patience, is the deepest feeling the peasants have in common, a bond made by nature rather than by religion . ... The deities of the State and the city can find no worshippers here on the land, where the wolf and ancient black boar reign supreme, where there is no wall between the world of animals and spirits, between the leaves of the trees above and the roots below .... They live submerged in a world that rolls on independent of their will,

1

C. Levi, Chri s~ Stopped at Ebo Zi , trans , Fran c es Frenaye York: Farrar, Stra us 1 1947), pp . 77-8.

~New

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where man is in no way separate from his sun, his beast, his malaria .••• This passage describes peasants in a Chinese village equally well, and helps highlight the underlying similaritie s in world-wide peasant traditions. There are also similaritie s running through different strata of Chinese traditions - the so-called "great" and In the studies "little" traditions of traditional China. differences and s similaritie these of some here, reported to show, attempts 1 Figure began to figure prominently . in over-simpli f1ed terms, where similaritie s tend to appear and where one tends to find differences . The two studies reported here throw some light on where and how these occur. Intellectua lly, one can envisage one such diagram for each village of traditional mainland and overseas Chinese people resulting 1n an uncountable number of "little" traditions, all converging towards a more unified (but hardly unitary) "great" trad1tion which itself finally culminates in the Imperial cultic practices relating to ancestral veneration, fertility and so on. Quite plainly, it is the various "national Gods", as I have called them later in this paper, which run through the entire structure and provide the link between the parts of the soc1al structure. There is little in the way of unifying social content, in my view,in the village traditions, or 1n the great philosophic al traditions: both fa1l to penetrate with any degree of importance into the other segments of the tradition. The similarity between the two traditions seems to be due to the fact that the great philosophie s of Confucianism and Taoism are, at least partly, intellectua lized translation s of what peasants had been doing. in China before these great they are systems appeared in their rationalized form: representat ions of practices (certainly formalized and made more coherent) rather than independent overlain intellectua l traditions. Buddhism is another matter, and perhaps not so But for our purposes in this paper it simple a one. needs only be pointed out that Chinese Buddhism represents a major transformat ion of Indian Buddhism, a transformat ion which has largely taken the form of adapting Buddhism to China, rather than converting the Chinese to traditional In its Chinese transfigura tion, Buddhists Buddhism. adapted Chinese deities to Buddhist beliefs and strongly

-

Figure 1:

3 -

Relationship between Varying Aspects of Chinese Religious Traditions ~

of

Chinese Religlous Tradition

Apptvho serious worship .

17

Many o f these e Lhni c gr oup memb e rs c annot commun i cate a c ross di alect lines and i t pays t o bear that in mi nd - it would be hard to conceptual i ze a purposive commun i ty dialog ue which resulted in growing r e l ig i ous consensus .

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formal religious rites. None of the minor Gods have been accorded any of that kind of elaboration . One is beginning to see a nationalisa tion of orientation as opposed to a localizatio n of orientation . I •

A Measure of the Tendency towards National Gods We demonstrate d this clearly in a Guttman Scale which we constructed as a measure of . Chinese -religiosity which would not be ethnicity-s pecific c.lB Our aim was to find a way to measure this tendency towards the centre which would go beyond the ethnic and dialect groups because, after all, these are innumerable and, in their individual settings, very different. We cannot go on sayi.n g these people are religious because in this tradition they do "x, y and z" and in that tradition they do "a, band c". This is a scale which measures this beginning homogeniza tion, which we are quite sure will not work among rural peasants because b'f the· local nature of their Gods ~ I make no claim for anything but the ability to judge the level of religiosity among urbanized Chinese living in tight quarters with other ethnic groups of their own general cultural background. The scale should be used only with caution on other groups of people.l9

18

The Guttman -technique has been described in various ways. Essentially it involves selecting and ordering a series of items so that if you have an attribute or attitude described by an item, you will also have all attributes or attitudes described by items preceding the given item in the otdering. One might think of it as a series of gates requiring a series of passes " A particular individual can enter only so far as he has the correct passes. A person having passes for inner gates, but lacking passes for the outer gates could be thought of as b'eing in error since he cannot get to the innei gates c A good security system has few persons who have errors in their passes. Likewise, a good scale has few errors or is said to have high reliability or reproducibili ty. For a discussion of Guttman scaling see Allen L.. Edwards • Teahniques of Attitude Saa-t e Appleton-Cent ury Crofts, 1957), pp o 172-199. Const~uction (New York:

19

Some f~rther comments about the scale should be made , The index measures only a behavioural conunitment to the Chinese tradition . It does not judge whether people are t·eligious or non-religious . Secular behaviour l.S used as the countable critetion of traditionalism , as inaer attitudes are difficult, if not impossible, to specify.

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The scale is composed of composite items, rather than s1ngle response items. The first item on our scale was a series of questions which asked, basically, have you converted in any way, to any degree, to a religion other than traditional Chinese practides. 20 In Hong : Kong the long history of British influence has included Christian missionary work; those converted mark the least traditional Chinese among our sample of 200 people. The number of people in that category who have accepted another religious belief is zero. Conversion efforts after 150 years in Hong Kong are not terribly effective. Among middle-class Chinese there has been a great deal of very sincere conversion, but our~ . was a group of lower socio-economic origin. Adopting Christianity, It then, is the first item and it draws 11 no 11 ansvvers. gains some positive responses from some people who have a son or daughter attending a Christian schooL. They go out for a picnic on Easter with their daughter because it makes her feel better about her conversion ~ That is as close as we get to a convert among the adult members. The second item (we are going from the easiest traditional practices to fulfil to the most difficult) is the performing of certain Chinese traditional or cultural, rather than religious, practices.21 There is a difficult continuum between cultural and religious practices, which seems to be there, but which usually defies my analytic efforts. ~'le classified as cultural practices the fact of using certain kinds of traditional implements and utensils, the occasional lighting of incense before the Door God, or other minor observances. These are very minimal observances of Chinese tradition as opposed to something which could more rigo.r ous ly be defined as Chinese religion. We get some response of people -v1ho do these minimal things and nothing else. They number about 50 people or a quarter of those with whom we are dealing. 20

The wording is significant in this context , Most Chinese do not consider themselves "religious", and do not distinguish their "religious" behaviour from their traditional Chinese 11 practices", another good indication o£ the unity of the folk tradition o All of life is life, and · there are few discriminatory categories .

21

The difficulty in distinguishing them has been discussed in the footnote above.

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The th1rd 1tem concerns certa1n behav1ours related We used f1ve items of wh1ch to venerat i ng ancestors. conformance w1~h an y two would get a ros1t1ve score for veneration of ancestors, or fil1al plety . Th1s 1s a loose cr1ter1on because refugees have a peculiarly d1fficult problem 1n venerat1ng ancestors . The1r ancestor temples are a l most always 1n Ch1na, a~d some We of them are pol1t1cal refugees and cannot go back. var1ous on behav1ours accept as equivalents certa1n days usually devoted to ancestral veneration, even 1f they don't go back and clean the graves, attend the family reun1ons 1n the ancestor hall, and partic1pate 1n the clan r1tuals , Any two 'out of the five poss1blel posit1ve responses are enough for a pos1t1ve score 1n this behav1oural category , The fourth 1tem in our scale concerns whether or not the loca1 temple (basically a temple where soothsayers and prophets give adv1ce and predicL the future! 1s used by our respondents . This pract1ce 1s very common 1n the Chinese ·t radi t.lon . Temples frequently have assoc1ated fortune-tel lers who work for a fee 1n the Our cr1terion of attendance 1s whether or temple grounds. used at least once a year . 1s temple not the After this the fourth scale type lS midway 1n the scale~ and there we have religious response by approx1mate ly 50% of our total number of people. They are not. very relig1ous by these traditional measures, because the1r rel1gion is part of everyday life and they do not dist1nguish between the two. They're relig1ous 1n the sense of believing, but not worshipp1ng ; they acknowledge the presence of God in many act1vities of everyday life; but because they do not separate their rel1g1ous from their mundane experiences they do not count th1s as relig1on . The fifth cr1terion measure is the presence of deit1es in the home . On empirical invest1gac1 on we discover that 53% of our people do not have any deitles In traditional represented by images in the1r homes. village society this would not have been tolerated by their fellow v1llagers. V1llagers, fellow clansmen, and fellow lineage group members would have 1ns1sted for the repute and well-be1ng of the village, that every house of the village would conca1n at least one God. Anyth1ng less than that would have been sacrelig1ou s, forbidden, and the neighbours would have subjected you to extreme soc1al pressure towards conform1ty.

-

Fi gure 2:

Sc ale. Type

19 -

Scalo g·r am Anal ysis of Traditional Practices

Did no t Trad itional Venera tion Visi t s Wong Adopt Prac tices Tai Sin of Christiani t y Ancesto r s Temple

Deities

Visits Temples Respondents Mo r e t han Once a Year

Type I (Least Traditional) Type II

X

Type Ill

X

X

Type IV

X

X

X

Type V

X

X

X

X

Type VI

X

X

X

X

X

Type VII (Mos t Tr ad itional )

X

X

X

X

X

*

10 errors un-interpretable, coefficient of reproducibili ty - ' 9'7 .

X

· Er r ors *

15

1

15

2

18

5

15

3

21

2

13

6

8

11

--

-

105

25

-

20 -

We discover that there is a sharp break between those houses which have no household Gods and the Thirty-f1ve percent of presence of one, two 1 or three. the households have one God only, which, when 1t lS al o ne, is almost inevitably the Earth God, that is, the God o f Prosperity. When there are two it lS most frequentl y the Earth God plus the Kitchen God. Where there are three it is often the two previous mentioned and a Goddess of Mercy. This is a small sub-Guttman scale withln a Guttman scale. The last item reflects anyone who VlSits any temple See the complete scale below . more than once a year. By the time you reach Scale Type VII, our last step, you have people who are affiliated extremely closely with the classical Chinese village tradition , As noted before, this is not the great traditlon but Let me summar1ze the village, the peasant tradition. all this. Some Explanatory Notes We are uncovering (I hope in adequate detail), a progression in religious practice from extreme locai1sm towards universalism . We are able to look more closely at the process through which one moves from local1sm towards non-localism or theological religion, as 1t 1s I don't think that the processes wh1ch often called. Becker identifies as a sacred-secu lar transit1on are as revealing as they could be without further lntenslve investigatio ns of actual people in the process of transition.2 2 The central process involved, as far as I can now see, is the gradual removal of the God figure (the deity figure or figures) from the network of social interaction to a network of non-participato r~ action, where the relevance of the God to everyday life declines, and his characteris tics and a"Ctention become

22

Nyce provides a not too sophisticated study of ~prooted Chinese villagers in Malaya. See R. NycE, Ch ines e New Vill age s iri Malaya (Singapore: Malaysian Sociological Research Inst~ t ute , 1973), pp . 89-99, 168-170 . The original work is by Howa r d J . Becker, Modern Sociological Theory i n Continuity and Change (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 195 7) , pp . 138-84 .

-

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further and further removed fr om da il y l1 fe cond1ti o ns. We see l i ttle relevance on the da ily l1 fe l e vel of attent1on to rel1gion .

23

I don't th1nk, however, that it i s "the c1ty" or " i ndustrial i zat1on" wh i ch e xp l a ins these changes. These t wo variable s s ee m to me to h a v e been o verly emphasized. I th i nk, ra ther, that it i s the mob 1 l ity of people and their inabilit y to t1e God to where t he y are, to what t h e y are doing, and to how the y are behaving, in their d ay -to-day life that i s the basis of the changes. As 9eople move from their prior bases, there is a need to 11ave a God who can go with y ou; this, by necessity, makes 1tirn more removed from where you are because where y ou are i s n o longer a place where y ou can assume stability, p e rmanence and lack of change. In Levi's v olume, Christ Stopped at Eboli, quoted earlier, he found that folk religious practices in relation to Gods o f the local i t y (of a Western variety) were far more prominent i n the religious behaviour of the local people than the great overarching God of the Roman Catholic Church . He ascr i bed this to the distance from the source of power. I think he fails to recognize that he has found a village rooted i n snace and time, where the needs and the interests of people and the immediacy of the i r concern mak es the Christ figure less than relevant, in comparison to the local God who protects and works wi th y ou hand-inhand, here and now, and who therefore becomes the most i ntimate, the most relevant God figure in your life space . Ultimatelyf one must explain these data in some terms wh i ch roughly encompass all of them,but do not dist o rt them. There seems to me to be a common thread running through them which at least tempts one towards explanat ion: the relationship to precarious l and-based existence, as opposed to a sophisticated land-removed existence. 24 23

We see t his in Lenski's work on Detroit where he de t e c ts f a r more identifications with ethnicity as re l igion rather than r eligion as religion , Gerhard Lenski, The Religious Facr.or, Ancho r Books ed i t ion (New York: Do ubled ay, i 96 3) , p 21

24

It is pla i n that c ontemporary me chanized farme r s whose relationsh i p to t he soil is mod1fied by the int r~ sl o n o f instruments and rides over rather than wal ks i n 1r - h1s att i tudes towards his soi l are v e ry different a s a consequence.

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Among the Ch1nese !"easants s tudled, two things stand out: first, they had an ititimate connection with the soil, a connection of such quality as to be close to indescribable in English. Second, they had little e l se in the way of resource to use in confronting the problems of existence. Th~se two factors should be analyzed sequentially. In the first instance. the soil is much more than simply a way of securing a livelihood; it represents both symbolically and in actuality a major source of psychological identity. The soil is not only where one lives, it is also the place where the bones and spirits of one's ancestors are mixed with the land i tself . It represents both life and death, as well as cont1nuity and change . In many discussions between two newly introduced Chinese, very shortly after beginning conversation, each will determine where the other's "native place" is. The information does not relate to where one lives, it relates to the ultimate source of one's identity, and encompasses the whole of one's being . It establishes an i mportant part of the speaker's status in life " Among traditional Chinese, all over the world, it will evoke an answer which stirs up memories, traditions, and folk~tales, and allows people to quote long and detailed genealogies ~ Native place is where the heart and soul reside, regardless of where the physical body is located n Native place is as real to most Chinese as their present residence, even though for many, there may have been no actual residence there for several generations: there is where 9ne belongs, here is temporary, ephemeral and fails to include· the whole man. When this question evokes only a sh.rug, the person is no longer as traditional as he may wish to be thought , Native place is the well spring of one's be i ng: when it loses importance to the individual, he is slid i ng away from his traditional Chinese beliefs and practi c es o Secondly, our peasant migrants had few resources other than their skills as farmers / fishermen o I have elsewhere called them "special purpose people:'', peop l e for whom wrestling a living from the envir o nment 1s a consummate skill, but who lack personal resources necessary for life in other ( and frequently less demanding ) situations , 25 The peasant farmers of Asia seem able t o grow crops in granite, so sophisticated is the i r knowledge, but seem able to do little else whi c h the modern wor l d valu&s. Also, their knowledge is bound to loc a l e: the 25

See Berkowitz and Poon, op . ait .

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slope of the land in each field, the amount of clay in the sub-soil, the necessary amount of p l oughing are not. articulated understandings, they exist i n the hands and eyes and spirit of the peop~e themselves as untransferable t i es to that particular pie c e of soil. They are part of .that soil, just as t heir fathers before them were part of that soil: the soi l i s i ncomp l ete without them, and they are incomplete wi t hout t heir soil. Urbanization begins when one takes the man from the soil and the soil from the man e It is no wonder that these men and women see God in close connection with their soil: that they see God as immediate, direct, and present. That fer til ity in all things stem from God and that he must reside locally (how else could he know about the dikes that break and the fields that are rocky) , .:·.pr'.e side _:_o_ver, every event .. o£ ~. family ·. li~e ' an·d follow ·;, c l osely upon the problems of the uncontrollable nature of life. Even though Chinese peasants are consummate artists in t i lling their soil too many things are outside of the i r control: too many disasters wait upon them at every turn, disasters which can destroy them and over which they cannot. hope The frequently mentioned to exercise rational control . Oriental "fatalism" is not so real as many authors like to think: one works desperately hard to make it possible to survive, one does not take lightly one ' s respons i bilities to make it possible for the F-ertilit y Gods to work for you: but in some years there is just too l i ttle water and everything dies . The peasant accepts that judgement only after having done everything in his power to avert it. t~at more can he do at his level of technolog i cal skills? He has done far more fo r his soil than any Westerner would do in terms of exertion of skil l and energy: at the end point he accepts- the only · other al t ernatives are culturally unpalatable, to go berserk, or to damn the Gods who usually provide ~ To do t he former is futile and counter-producti ve, piling disaster upon d i saster; to do the latter is to mortgage the future when a sense of history reassures you that things wi l l be back to normal sooner or later. One accepts the inevitab l e and goes on ~ The traditional villager needs his Gods i n o r der to deal with these uncontrollable, unspec i fiab.le for c es of unpredictable ra i ns, drought, locusts, etc . As modern technology provides other ways to deal wi t.h them, such as dams and irrigation systems, the Gods would need to be

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called upon in fewer and fewer instances, and wou l d not be seen as operating in such detailed ways. The Gods of the fields and the ancestors, the Gods of the kitchen and prosperity, . all serve to point out and highlight this interdepend ence between man , ancestors, It is a firmly interwoven soil, and the supernatura l. remove one part distorts to and system of relationshi ps or destroys the entire system. But in the resettled situation, one sees a populat1on of rural-origi n people indiscrimin ately mixed up ethn i cally, lack1ng any of the traditional ties to place, struggl1ng to adapt to an urbanism and a modernism where old skills and attitudes do not often contribute to - success . Here in this JUmble of languages and traditions, free choice of behaviour becomes a manifest possibility , and it manifests itself i n the dissolution of traditional ties to place 1 then to people, One, therefore, can see and simultaneou sly to tradition. 1n the resettlemen t block an incredible variety of rel1gious behaviour, ranging from the completely non-religio us to the continuing devotion to many traditional practices which may not even have been practised previously. Therein lies the possibility of developing unidimensio nal scales, which can only be uncovered in situations where variability This phenomenon is significant ly to of behaviour exists. note technically - the unidimensio nal scale assumes variability along the dimension measured. Where behaviour lS uniform one expects no scale to appear , The tantalizing question is why do certain people lose their traditional religions faster than others, while some seem not to give them up at all? Unfortunate ly, def1nitive answers to that question cannot be given . As we have attempted to show in another work, the various roads to adaptation in a resettled environment are indeed var1able and it is only through the accumulatio n of pos1tive experiences (that is experiences and life s1tuations which favour adaptation in the sense of i ntegration with the dominant situation) that adaptation takes place , 26 But the specific behaviours and experiences wh1ch are effective for any one indiv1dual may differ from those effective for other individuals although there is a main stream or central tendency. At least, this is

26

Berkow i t z and Poon, op . ei t .

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true in our data, although it may noL be generaliz able to other populatio ns. When Tradit1o nal Behaviou r is Lost But the question of who loses what aspects of tradition al religiou s behaviou r first, and for what I can only suggest answers, based reasons, remains. upon this research and other work, but unfortun ately cannot conclude that these answers are anything more than suggesti ve. The first, and most signific ant, variable , seems to be sex and age; whether the individu al in question is male or female, and young or old c In general, females carry on the tradition al religiou s patterns , in all situation s which we have observed , far more rigorous ly They are the main partic1p ants at temples, than males do. in religiou s festivals (although not in the organiza tional It is striking how many sphere), and in househol d rituals. women can be seen burning paper offering s on the streets, and equally striking how reluctan tly the men join them - perhaps putting in a brief and often embarras sed appearan ce at the peripher y of the activity but only rarely playing a central This seems to have been largely true in the role in it. villages also: women's religiou s behaviou r amongst Chinese peasants was more overt and public, men's more covert and private, where it existed at all e Only in ancestor worship did men truly come into their own < Even here 1 however 6 women seem to have taken over many tradition ally male activitie s, even some from which women are tradition ally At the various ceremoni es for grave cleaning barred. and sweeping it is women and children who do most of the work while men, if they attend at all, may say a few prayers, and then busy themselv es with more practica l affairs: drinking a bottle of beer, chatting with their friends, nibbling some of the food brought a ·long by the Older women 1 reinforce d women, playing with their children ~ by the habits of years, seem to be more observan t than younger women, although this may have been a result of their marital status and desire to set a good example The for the children and teach them proper behaviou r. variable s of age and marital status are far too in~er~wined to extricat e the main effect: we observed so few single women in either the resettled village situation or the resettlem ent estate as to make any attempt to disentan gle It may indeed be these variable s quite meaningl ess.

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meaningless among this generation of Chinese to speak ~out unmarried a dult women in any case - 1t lS a status Wlthout honour or position.2 1 The second variable which seems to explain the retention of traditional pract1ces is the degree of enmeshment of indi v1duals within a mean1ngful ethn1c community which supports traditional practices. Among some of the resettlement estate dwellers there is no viable ethnic community and hence none of the social support and cohesion for the performance of appropriate rites. Among other ethnic groups where the number of eo-ethnic residents is relatively high and the "dynamic density" also high, the support for tradit1onal practices seems strong . This becomes manifest when one recognizes the importance to all numerically strong groups of using symbols in or on their household which demonstrate their ethnicity - the certain kind of lantern for the Swatow It is those people of lesser density people, for example. in the resettlement estate (Shanghainese, for example), who seem to shed the traditional practices first . This may be a result of the people being of different p ersuasion when they first arrived in their new homes, but there is no way to disentangle that possibility, and the trend seems too consistent for that to be the case . There are, of course, individuals of these backgrounds whose relig1ous persuasions are very traditional~ but they are in a small minority. It is important to recognize that some proportion of all of our subjects undoubtedly practise their re li qi ons the way they do through a very subtle form It is vital in many of coercion rather than conviction. social groups, in order to maintain one's position in the group, to at least minimally "go along" wi t h the dominant practice, regardless of personal preference . Where the group has value to the individual that coercion in Hong Kong jobs can be found through ethnic is real:

27

Over-interpretation is dangerous here also . Many of the older women observed in the mixed ethni c situation were raised as young women in urban Hong Kong, but still pra c t i se in a t:r a ditionall y v illage sLyle . This indicates quite cl early that the young non-believer may lat:er be come an o l de r believer . The presence of these younger women does no t sign i fy t he death of the tradit i on .

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groups, some measure of economic security can also be I found, as well as support in times of trouble. suspect that some of the nominal religious behaviour represents an attempt to no~ lose the support of the group: membership has value and the public accession In to the minimal demands for piety is not demanding ~ the villages of China this coerc~on was real enoughf if one wanted to retain membership and good standing one Pressures, subtle and not sa performed as requ~red. subtle, could be brought to bear to guarantee min~mally Participation in acceptable standards of performance. village ritual, particularly that related to the worship of the Earth Gods was a minimum expectation, although ~n the villages which I have studied what went on behind the closed doors of one's house was one's own bus1ness as long as it was not totally offens~ve to the rest of the comrnun1ty. Conformity l.n public practice however, was, and 1s, highly valued. The th1.rd most important var1.able seems to be the degree to which one's l1fe l.S l.ntegrated Wlth a traditional Chinese life style or Wlth a non-trad~tlonal I did not say Western spec1f1caliy Chinese l1fe style. because there are many non-Chl.nese l1fe styles 1n Hong Kong, generated by Chinese people, which cannot be considered either traditionally Chinese or Western. A maJor inroad into traditl.onal practl.ces 1s the education of ch1ldren: English-medl.um and Ch1nese-med1um schools represent distinct choice points 1n a ch1.ld's life, and they are frequently made by parents on apparently fortuitous grounds - the nearness of schools, whether you know someone else who has sent his children there, the cost of tuition, the presumed ab1.l1.~y of the child and the repute of the school. Miss1onary schools (both Buddhist and Chrl.stianJ are available and also tend to dr1ve a wedge between the child and hl.s trad1tl.onal Children who go to m1ss1on schoo~br1ng religious v1.ews. their new teachings home and frequently apparently affect That the religious and other behaviours of the family. this does not happen as frequently as the m1SSlonar1es It does happen . The s1mple might like is not the point. exposure rends the family and calls into quest1on many of the practices of the past. Similarly, working in Western enterpr1.ses makes a substantial difference to the family prov1der or prov1ders, although this seems to vary depending on the nat.ur·e of

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the job at hand , An employee in a Western-owned factory is only minimally in contact with the Western worl d and its ways, while an employee of a Western bank or commercial house is intimately exposed. A worker in a hotel or other part of the tourist industry frequently ru!Ds shoulders with many Westerners and can earn premium wages if he begins to master the Eng li sh l anguage . One sees the effects of this very plainly among shopkeepers . In the shopping areas most remote from the tourist infested parts of the city it is not worthy of corrroent to see a traditional God-shelf with the image of a favoured deity represented as well as some fruit and i ncense sacrifices: one still occasionally sees these t hings in t .he unusual shop where tourists congregat e , but t he frequency is very small . This is either a concession t o the tourist (for fear it may o£fem-d or in some way "put him off") or it represents a d i munit i on of tradi.tional practice: I suspect the latter exp lanation is more The down-town shops are owned by wealthy realistic . Chinese, better integrated into the Western community, for the most part, and they undoubtedly want to have little to do with "supersti ti on". One should perhaps not over-interpret this point of integration with a supporting community because the environment of the resettlement estat es is t ota lly subvers·ive of traditional behaviour patterns, in all reafms ,'· not only the religious. The non-agricultu ral environment, high~rise living, .. irmnersion in an urban and industrial neighbourhood, the necess ity for sharing toilet and washing facilities with neighbours who are neither kin nqr friends, and the absolute lack of privacy all militate against any survival of any traditional agricultural village based traditions. What . is s urprising is that survival persists of any of these tradi ti ons, not that some part of the population is drifting away , That the supporting communities of fe'llo-;·7 ethnic group members has any chance to retain any semblance to traditional practices is the amazing thing, not the obverse . One sees this clearly in the ethnic symbolog i es wh ich flourish in Hong Kong resettlement areas: special garb which are in fact uniforms, emblems for doors which exclude some and include others, clan associations and language associations which struggle to maintain meaningful content in the lives of the various ethnic groups. Even gambling parties, informal l oan associations, and women's clubs (the ·English term is out of plac e here, but there is no good equivalent ) are organ i zed along

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29 -

ethnic lines and function as social control mechanisms for the behaviour of members . For many of the young people, t hese things no longer have much meaning, as far as we can observe . The gangs of adolescent boys and girls who hang around on the stairwells and ground floor teashops of the estat es wear western clothes, speak Cantonese and seem to discriminate very little on ethnic grounds. To many of the local dwellers they are the scourge of t he area, and frequently indeed do commit crime o But there are also chi l dren who stay with the tradition and are wil ling to carry on with their family way of life, refusing the lure of western _ clothes, easy money, sexual ·adventurism, and rebellion against tradition. In a way , the children are the forewarning of the future . That the o l der resettlement estates can survive without blowing apart is a notab l e thing: it should not need to be said that such incredible population densities, with such pr i mi t ive fac ilities and so few social amenities . would have been exp l osive mixtures in almost any population . It is a t .r .:l,. but e t o t he fundamenta l dignity of Chinese cultural traditions that civ iliz ed life has been able to go on under these circumstances, now extending over twenty years for some families . The restraint, tolerance, patience, and goodwill of the Chinese people have perhaps never been so sdre ly tried as under these physical and social conditions i but the people for the most part - have made good lives for themselves, accepting that which is and working c,Jith good humour to secure even marginal '' improvement s. If the younger generation cannot supply for itself the same qualities which the older generation possesses - in; such abundance these estimates will become qu~mires of socia l disorder - and preliminary evidence from police reports seems to indicate that there is where they are going . 28 Whatever may turn out to be the case, and the forecast certainly is not promising, it wou l d be reasonable to maintain that it was precisely the cultural habits engendered by an earthy folk religion, as well as other attributes of the rural tradit i on, which

28

Recognition of the problem has stimulated p lans for modificati ons of the older resettlement blocks into mo re connnodio us apa rtments with amenities - the first act ua l modifications s ta r te d i n 1974.

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have allowed these people to . make a decent life in these surroundings. The decline which we see in religious behaviour is undoubtedly associated with a similar change in non-religious behavioural domains, which would mean a shift from filiality, a shift away from sensitivity about the opinions of traditional power figures, and a shift away from highly internalized and rigid demands upon one's own behaviour. Movement towards individual rather than group decision-making and standard setting might well be the key-note to the decline of the entire cultural tradition, not just the religious part of this tradition. The fourth variable I would suggest as operating here is the ability of individuals and families to find respectable . and . fulfilling employment in order to keep families together and maintain some of the status relationships which underlie so much of traditional practice. The central relationships between husband-wife, father-children, and so on, are (or can be) horribly strained under conditions where young children and mothers of young children are forced into the labour market to find sufficient income to maintain the family at a minimum level of decency. The prestige and authority of the parent is damaged, the ability -to provide schooling and material things for children is destroyed, and the mother's presence as an educator and a source of security is removed during long periods of the day, leaving little enough except tradition itself to serve as a basis for family organization o And without a strong family system all of Chinese tradition is threatened, but particularly the religious system. The integration of family and religion is a fundamental necessity for both to survive - the ancestor cult loses meaning when one does not respect one's father, the use of fertility symbolism (so prevalent in Chinese and most other folk religion) is difficult when each child represents a crushing additional financial burden. The whole religious system stands or falls with the whole family system,29 and economic and social insecurity are the killers, simultaneously , of both. There is good evidence that because of the nature of employment opportunities in Hong Kong, because of wage levels, and because of the nature of the origina! allotment of apa~tments to families, that family structure in the

29

This is true despite the widespread fallacy about the prevalence of the extended family. See Francis L.K. Hsu, "The Myth of Chinese Family Size," American Journal of Sociology~ Vol. 48, 1943, pp , 555-62 ,

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estate 1s seriously undermined, at least 1n a goodly proportion of homes. Economic insecurity 1n the peasant village was only rarely accompanied w1th scc1al instabil1ty, so the families went hungry a s 1ntact soc1al units who were not very different from the1r surround1ng villagers~ When families migrated to avoid hunger, I am sure s1milar kinds of breakdowns as 1n the reseLtlement estate occurred, because these movements also d1sturbed both the social and economic structures of the fam1ly . Summary and Conclusion This perhaps overly rambling and disJointed paper has attempted to demonstrate only a few bas1 c po1nLs 1n my own on-going search for some cogn1tive clar1ty 1n the discussion of Chinese traditional rel1g1ous practices. The paradigm presented as Figure l summarizes much of what I think is critical in that it points up Lhe lack of communication between the 11 little 11 and "great" traditions of China . It shows quite clearly the central importance of the nationally recognized Gods and Lernple worship in unifying the Chinese cultural tradltlon, and also demonstrates the great depth of dependence on landbased ties of what should be referred to as t.he many "l1.ttle" traditions. The data gathered by my colleagues and myself po1.nt up these contentions, but further shows certain clear indications of how the village tradition withers away and is replaced by a more nationally recognized seL of practices < Specifically, _the atte.mpt to bu1ld a Gutt~man scale points up how many people reta1n the hablts of keeping Gods in the home and going to LemplesK after most other practices have begun t .o fade away , Local1z.ed, land-based practices are certainly the first to d1sappear in hostile environments. We suggest that religious affiliat1on tends to rema1n strongest among older ~emales who are 1nvoived 1r. a meaningful ethnic community, integrated w1 -r-h a Lrad1 t: ional Chinese life style, and with the means to perpetuate a family life consistent with traditional paLterns, S1rn1lar1y, it seems clear that the . total integration of the village life and the lack of sectoral differentiatlons , the see1ng of all of behaviour as being of one p1ece, is the strength of the "little" tradition but also its weakness: as a nv

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part of this encompassing life style - is threatened, all This would not be the case parts tend to be threatened. with people living a life composed of compartmentalized sectoral activities . The variety of available Gods is what seems to provide the great "survival value" of Chinese traditional Individuals with differing needs, differing religion . resources, differing life situations can all turn to one or another tradit i onally worshipped God and still all will be within the main stream of the tradition and, most important, be recognized sympathetically as being within that tradition by his neighbours. This t remendous flexibility gives to the believer a richness of alternatives which most monotheistic religions do not provide and may explain some of the persistence of traditional The most simple worshipper may find solace practices . i n the worshipping of an image of the Goddess of Mercy; the most sophisticated of non-believers may f i nd intellectual satisfaction in exploring the theological and ph i losophical literature about Her . Both are participating in the main stream of the Chinese tradition, both are finding in the traditional religion an outlet for emotional or intellectual needs, or both , both can proudly acknowledge the extent of their Chineseness, and each can ta~e pride in the presence, and value, of the other . Religions which provide such varied fare for such varied people do not easily lose their palatabi l ity and vitality under any circumstances, but continue to edify, enrich, and satisfy continuing generat i ons of believers .

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1974.

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THE AUTHOR Dr. M. I. Berkowitz is Professor of Sociology at Brock University, Ontario, Canada, and until recently was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.