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The Meaning of the Jiao Rite in Anli in the Early 19th Century: Internal Relationships and Social Stratification

Articles
Li-wan HUNG (Academia Sinica)
Year: 
2017
Volume: 
15
Number: 
1
Page: 
83-125
Abstract: 

The jiao (cosmic renewal) ritual is an important element in the popular religion of Han people in Taiwan. The jiao ritual as practiced among the indigenous people of Anli in central Taiwan in the early nineteenth century was affected by Han influences but had its own distinctive features. This article uses documents concerning the performance of the ritual in Anli to explore the social impact of the establishment of the Anli Administrative Community (Anli xingzheng shequ), as part of the penetration of the region by the Qing empire. Various features of the performance of the ritual, including the location, the selection of an auspicious date, the scope of participation (defined by administrative region rather than by ties of kinship, geography or ancestral origin), and financing by donation rather than capitation, were distinctive from Han practices.

The Anli Administrative Community was established after the suppression of the Dajiaxi she incident (1731-1732) in western Taiwan. With the support of the Qing authorities the new organization comprised a number of tribal groups. The elites of these various groups led the performance of the jiao rite, reflecting the trans- tribal relationships that developed under the overall administrative structure. But the records list donations from both individuals and groups under the donors' respective tribes, indicating that affairs of everyday life remained centered on individual tribal groups and villages. Tribal members still identified with their own groups rather than the unified Anli administration network or a shared tribal affiliation. However, responsibility for various religious functions was taken by elites who had attained examination degrees or held official duties in the tribe. This phenomenon closely resembled the practice among the Han people whereby social and cultural elites play leadership roles in religious affairs. This similarity indicates that there was already considerable social stratification within the Anli community, a departure from the more egalitarian ways of traditional tribal societies.

This article illustrates on the one hand how tribal peoples inAnli negotiated the differences between Han customs and their traditional practices, and on the other the challenge posed by the reshaping of tribal power and its consequences for economic and social life in the aftermath of Qing penetration of the region. A focus on the jiao ritual shows how prior to widespread conversion to Christianity, religious life in Anli was already being shaped by the integration of Han customs and indigenous traditions, as well as revealing internal relationships and social stratification within the Anli community. Although the Qing empire had enormous institutional impact on tribal power structures and social status, its impact was different at the level of psychology and identity. Social and cultural phenomena are not so easily changed as institutions.

Journal of History and Anthropology