Heaven, Earth, Sovereign, Ancestors, Masters: Some Remarks on the Politico-Religious in China Today

Thoraval, Joël. Heaven, earth, sovereign, ancestors, masters : some remarks on the politico-religious in China today. CCJ Occasional Papers, September 2016, 5. En ligne. 15 p. URL : <halshs-01374321>


The starting point of this study is the perspective offered by Emilio Gentile on modern “politics as religion”. This vantage point is briefly illustrated by the case of contemporary “popular Confucianism”. However, in order to show the extent to which the Chinese religious situation does not lend itself readily to such an approach, the author considers a “popular” cult that reemerged in China after Maoism, namely, the widespread veneration of five entities: Heaven, Earth, Sovereign, Ancestors, Masters (tian, di, jun, qin, shi). Comparing modern interpretations (whether political, scholarly or popular) of these practices sheds some light on the problematic nature of secularizing projects targeting this enduring cosmological vision.


Maître de conférence à l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Joël Thoraval est décédé le 7 mars 2016. Ses recherches portaient sur l’anthropologie culturelle de la Chine et sur l’histoire de la pensée chinoise contemporaine (en particulier la question du confucianisme moderne).

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