Ritual Economy and Religious Revival in Rural Southeast China

The "Wenzhou Model" is often touted in China as a successful model of rural economic development and rural industrialization. Based on privatized household production, flourishing commodity markets, and rapid urbanization and industrialization, the local people of Wenzhou have rapidly transformed themselves from being one of China's poorest rural areas in the 1970s to one of its most prosperous today. This talk showed how the Wenzhou Model as described by economists and sociologists has ignored a highly visible phenomenon: the ritual economy and revival of expenditures on popular religious activities. Mayfair Yang suggested that the ritual economy cannot be ignored in any analysis of rural economic prosperity. Slides from anthropological fieldwork in 1991 to 2008 illustrated the many dimensions of ritual economy: deity temples, religious processions and festivals, Buddhist and Daoist temples, Protestant and Catholic churches, life-cycle rituals, and lineage ancestor rituals.

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